Morocco!

Tagged morocco, travel

I visited Morocco in February 2016 and it was one of my favorite trips. A friend was teaching at the American School of English in Marakech, so I stayed with her, wandering by myself during the day and going out at night with her. We also took a weekend trip to Essaouria, a beach town a few hours away. Below are some tips and places to go that I've sent to friends visiting a few times, so hopefully this is helpful!

In general

The culture is a really interesting mix of old and new. To be respectful it's best to cover your shoulders and legs, so if you're going in a hot season flowy skirts are great and carrying a scarf will work for covering up if you want to rock a tank. In newer areas it's probably less of a problem, but especially in the old city areas if you're overly exposed you'll get a lot of looks and it's just not a nice thing to do. Everyone is amazingly friendly. You should use the Arabic greeting "As-salāmu ʿalaykum" with most everyone you see or encounter, it means 'Peace be upon you'. While walking around (especially in the markets) vendors will be very pushy and assertive about buying things. All you have to do is say "La Shukran" which means 'No thank you' in Arabic. They may get excited and start asking if you speak Arabic – just keep saying it, laugh and keep walking. Laughing is very important in most interactions, especially when you're haggling with market vendors or with cab drivers. The tone of assertive and kind is how I would best describe it – be firm but friendly otherwise it verges on rude.

I found everyone I interacted with to be incredibly nice and made a lot of Facebook friends on the trip. Most people speak French and Arabic, so if you're more comfortable with French you'll be good. It's really nice if you can learn a bit of Arabic ahead of time. Most of our cab rides were spent asking drivers how to say certain words and phrases and had so much fun learning with them.

Getting around

You'll take cabs basically everywhere, and it's kind of nuts. When you go up to a cab you HAVE to establish price before you get in. They might not agree with what you want to pay, and will just drive away. That's fine, because the alternative is them ripping you off by a lot. A cab ride to most places in Marrakech should cost ~20-40 durham (that's $3) during the day. At night it's double so 40-60 durham. If you get in a cab without deciding on price they'll try to charge you anywhere up to 300 durham. If that does happen you could pay what you're comfortable with and then just get out, they won't go after you, but I also just tried to remind myself that that's $30 which I've paid for cabs in NY often.

Buying things

If you're shopping in the markets you have to haggle. They will upcharge you a lot, and it's expected for there to be some negotiation. For mostly anything you should start by offering half the price that they asked for and you'll end up negotiating to somewhere in the middle, about 2/3 the original cost. This is customary, they expect it, it's part of the culture. You're not doing anyone favors by not buying this way.

Places to go, things to do

YSL Garden
YSL Garden

The ysl garden is absolutely beautiful and one of my favorite spots. It's where you'll see the most Moroccan blue.

Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace was my favorite tourist spot – really gorgeous and interesting place, very serene to walk around. When you're in the old town it is very easy to get lost – the corridors are tiny and maze-like – so having a map of some sort would be a great idea to have all the time. Bystanders will try to give you directions, but if they do they'll expect you to pay them. If you're cool with that then 30 durham ($3) would be sufficient.


==Chez Ali==

If you've always wondered if there was an Arabian version of Medieval Times the answer is yes and it is wonderful. Called Chez Ali, you can call ahead and set up a pickup time & location because it's a bit of a drive.

La Mamounia
La Mamounia

La Mamounia is great for a treat yo'self day- it's a fancy as fuck hotel (like the fanciest in Marrakech) and you can get day passes for the spa. When I went I did the "Winter Day Pass" which included a massage, amazing three-course lunch, and full access to the spa pool, hot tub and outdoor pool and grounds for $150 (dollars)!! It's absolutely stunning and you'll feel like a goddess. I think you can reserve ahead of time, I just called and went day-of.

Essaouira
Essaouria

If you have time for a 2-3 day trip you can take a bus out to Essaouira. It's a beautiful beach town, very relaxed seafood & surfer kind of vibes, and tons of great history. We stayed at the Riad Baladin which was pretty no fuss as far as rooms go, but the owners are incredibly sweet and they'll feed you breakfast all morning long. They'll also set up reservations for anything you need: dinner, spas, anything. If you go down to the beach you can pay for camel or 4-wheeler rides around the beach and I think you should definitely do that. The camels are hilariously weird. Another popular trip to do is the desert trip out for a few days on camels, but honestly an hour was more than enough for me :)

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There are a million other places and things to do – I'd definitely recommend visiting Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city square, and try to find some story telling happening out and about. There's a cafe that hosts story tellers from a local school that if you bug me I could probably find the name of.

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I think that's all I got! Feel free to write me if you have any q's :) I'm throwing in a few more photos and videos below just for fun.

Marrakech airport
Marrakech airport, my favorite airport


Jemaa el-Fnaa, the town square

YSL Gardens
The fake-out entrance to the YSL Gardens


Pool at La Mamounia

Cappuccino with sweetbread
Lived on this breakfast


Dancing in Essaouria