When I got off the plane at Marrakesh Menara Airport, it was a sensory overload. People yelling from all directions, every car communicating with honks of aggravation, and pops of bright colour around every corner. I got in the airport transfer feeling sceptical at best about spending the next week here. However, after a week of rich culture, gorgeous nature, and kind people, I left as the biggest proponent of why everyone should make Morocco their next holiday destination.
Morocco has it all. From mountains to deserts to beaches, whatever you prefer is just an hour away. Marrakesh, the capital of Morocco, is a must-see and usually the cheapest place to fly into (you can sometimes get flight deals for as little as a £50 return). Marrakesh is a bustling African city, but not in the cookie-cutter kind of way. It is full of personality and unique spots to explore. The Medina, the old city, is enclosed by a circular wall with a myriad of walls inside creating a maze you will undoubtedly get lost in without trying.
Where to stay: Staying in an authentic Riad in the Medina is essential to your Moroccan experience. These are places to stay that are located in the city walls that usually have fewer than 10 rooms and are the best way to get the local feel and meet a local Riad owner who can point you in the right direction. Once settled into your Riad, you have to spend time just walking around the city finding gorgeous murals made of tiles, little gardens tucked away in the middle of the city, a rooftop café where you can watch the sunset, and endless souks.
In a day trip there, you can walk around the magnificent coastline, eat freshly caught fish, and spend the day in the sun.
Day trips/other cities: There are plenty of day trips available from Marrakesh. One of them is the Atlas Mountains. Marrakesh sits at the base of the Atlas Mountains, so you are surrounded by dessert set in a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. In the Atlas Mountains are Berber villages which are the native north-African people of Morocco who still speak Berber instead of Arabic and French like most of the city people. 80% of Moroccan residents have Berber heritage, but only 40% still live in Berber villages. These villages are truly spectacular to see, they are made out of the mountain clay, and so blend in topically with the colour of the dirt around them. These people live with hardly any electricity or modern conveniences and yet are 30 minutes from the bustle of the capital of the country. Seeing the way these villages live gives you such an acute awareness to your, and therefore I would say that the Atlas Mountains are my number one recommendation for a day trip.
Another popular day trip is to fishing villages on the coast. One of the most gorgeous little ones is called Essaouira. In a day trip there, you can walk around the magnificent coastline, eat freshly caught fish, and spend the day in the sun. Casa Blanca is also a short trip from Marrakesh and would make for a day trip or a place to spend the second half of your time in Morocco. Finally, Fes is gorgeous but is a little farther to travel to so would make for an excellent second destination.
Sites: Marrakesh is rich with history and culture. One of my favourite places that we saw was Majorelle Garden which is a 2-and-a-half-acre botanical garden which houses the Islamic Art Museum, the Berber Museum and the Musee Yves Saint Laurent; I would say that this one is a must see. You also must spend time in the Jemaa el-Fna which is the marketplace square in the centre of the Medina and the hub of the bustling city. There is a fantastic food market here every night and lots of rooftop places that you can sit in to watch the gorgeous sunset over the city. The one thing I would warn against is that as you try to navigate the maze of the city to get there, people will ask you if you need help getting to the Jemaa el-Fna. This is a trick for money, and no matter how much they say they don’t want money they just want to help you, it’s just not true.
Safety: A common reason why people often rule Morocco out is because they are concerned about safety. However, as an American and as a woman I can tell you that there was not one time where I did not feel safe. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. Pretty much all of the places listed in this article see plenty of western tourists every year as it is one of their biggest industries. That being said, you should treat it like you would when you visit any foreign culture: be smart. It is not probably culturally appropriate to wear an outfit that you might wear in Ibiza in Marrakesh. Be respectful of the ways that their culture differs, be kind, and be aware.
As 7th week wraps up and we are all dreaming about where we can escape to that doesn’t carry the stress of trying to make it through your degree, think about making Morocco your next holiday destination.
Image credit: Hayden Langemeier