Morocco. What better way to celebrate your 21st birthday abroad than a trip to Africa!? To say this was a birthday to remember would be putting it lightly.
My first trip to the great continent of Africa was amazing and then some. The adventure started out on March 16th at 4am when my friends and I had to get a move on to the airport to catch our 6:40am flight. This wake up call came especially early since we were at a bar well past midnight in order to bring in the big 2-1 in style. Going on only a few hours of sleep, we hopped on the Aerobus and chugged along to the airport, ready to take on Morocco.
We arrived to Marrakech by 9am and headed straight to our accommodation, Riad 107 which I highly, highly recommend. Not only did it have typical Moroccan charm, but it was incredibly clean with friendly staff. There were personnel available 24/7 which was super helpful with everything from when we needed help with directions to breaking down our bigger bills on the street for us to when my friend got sick and needed info on where to find a doctor…they were amazing! Our room had three beds and a private bathroom which was great, too. An added bonus was that it was affordable AND included a complete breakfast every morning! A definite 10/10.
One of our first adventures was to the Bahia Palace which is a 19th century palace and gardens located in the heart of Marrakech. Its name means “brilliance” in Arabic and it is safe to say it does its name justice. It is the perfect mix between Islamic and Moroccan style with amazing mosaics, architecture and plants.
Next was the greatly anticipated camel ride! We actually did two because why not?! The first was on our wonderful day trip to the beautiful Atlas Mountains. I rode on Bianca, a true #queen of a camel. Our next encounter was in the lovely Moroccan Palmeraie where I rode Scooby Doo! She is only a couple of years old and is following in the career path of her mother and father who are both in the tourism business as well! None of us fell off or were spit at, so a success in my books (unless if you count the time the camel in front of me flicked his tail after peeing, showering me with his urine, which was actually pretty gross). Nevertheless, got to check riding a camel off my bucket list.
As I was saying before, the Atlas Mountains were beyond beautiful. From the snow-capped mountains to the sunny valleys, our day trip exploring outside of the city was memorable. We had our own personal guide and transportation throughout the day which made it possible for us to personalize each of our activities. We started out at an argan oil cooperative which was run by all women, so lots of #girlpower in the production of soaps, lotions, shampoos, and oils. We continued on to three different valleys that had amazing views. We ate lunch in a Berber village and got to go on a hike into the mountains. No doubt, a fun excursion!
Checking off #4 of the list of continents was one of the best presents I could ask for! It was truly a memorable trip. From bartering in the souks to eating enough hummus, falafel, and couscous for the next decade to exploring a new culture…Morocco, I’ll be back.
If you ever find yourself headed to Marrakech, here are some of my favorites:
- FAVORITE CULTURAL STOP: Souk Cherifa – best place to barter for Moroccan goods
- FAVORITE PICTURE POINT: Atlas Mountain waterfalls – almost too beautiful and picture perfect!
- FAVORITE MUSEUM: Saadian Tombs – burial place of about 60 members of the Saadi dynasty (not technically a museum, but cool history!!)
- FAVORITE EXCURSION: Camel ride – need I say more?!
- FAVORITE LUNCH: Le Jardin – A+ for food & atmosphere (my favorite were the Moroccan meatballs)
- FAVORITE PURCHASE: Saffron – so much cheaper than in the US or Spain…can’t wait to make some paella once I’m home!
- FAVORITE DINNER: Azar – what’s better than tapas style Mediterranean food with a kickin’ drink menu, live music, and belly dancers?!
Here’s the schedule we followed to get the most out of our four-day trip (along with some general suggestions & tips):
Flight arrives to Marrakech at 8:30am
Head to the hostel (Riad 107) to drop bags
Lunch at Le Jardin (11am)
Walking City Tour (via Viator)
Dinner at Azar Marrakech at 8:30pm
9am – Day trip to Atlas Mountains (Berber village and house visit, argon oil cooperative, camel ride, Imlil Valley, cake & tea, hike, Ait Souka Village lunch of salad, tajine, couscous, fruit, and drinks, Molay Brahim, Kik Plateau)
Drinks at the Radisson Blu hotel (Lila Restaurant)
Terrace Dinner at Nomad at 9pm
Afternoon: Hammam at Le Bain Bleu
Lunch at Café Clock
Chill time at hostel
Sunset Camel Ride (and visit to a Berber family) at 5:00pm
Dinner & Drinks at Kechmara at 9:30pm
Breakfast at hostel at 9:00am
Check out of the hostel at 12:00pm
Head to the airport
Flight boards at 1:30pm
Depart Marrakech at 2:15pm
Arrival to Barcelona at 5:35pm
- DO be generous with tips. It’s part of the culture to tip – pretty much for everything and anything.
- DO keep in mind the conversion rate from the Moroccan dirham to USD/Euro – as of today, one Moroccan dirham is equal to $0.099 of the USD
- DO take cabs – they are incredibly cheap, but be sure to insist the driver uses the meter or decide on a price beforehand to avoid being absurdly up-charged (note: a drive for three people from the Majorelle gardens to the center was 10 dirhams aka about $1)
- DON’T be afraid to really barter in the souks – try to counter first with half of what they are offering you and go from there…before bartering, decide first that you actually want the item and then set a max price you are willing to pay
- DON’T be caught without cash – just like Europe, cash is king in Marrakech (especially when you are trying to barter!)
Realization of the week: This was the first time I was in a predominantly Muslim country. A good reminder that the world is a big and diverse place and that there is great strength in being different.