In the last month of our trip we spent 2 and a half weeks exploring Morocco. We started and ended in the capital: Marrakech and explored Ouzaoud, Quazarazate, the Sahara Desert, Fez and Chefchaoen in between. We traveled by bus and train and joined a tour for a few days in the Sahara Desert. Morocco was a magical country with so much more to offer than I expected (and my expectations were high). Beaches, mountains, deserts and waterfalls as well as a stunningly interesting culture made for an incredibly exciting 17 days.
I've been asked countless times whether I felt safe in Morocco something my family had been particularly worried about before we went. The difference in culture is definitely a shock, but it is hardly a dangerous place. If, as a woman, you respect their culture and cover yourself up you will be treated no differently to men and although the constant hassling and haggling may get exhausting as long as you stay alert and don't fall into any of their tourist traps you will come out of Morocco unscathed and enlightened.
I would recommend 4 full days to really explore Marrakesh although you could stay for far longer. We stayed for 6 nights to begin with and went to Ouzoud on our second last day but there were people in our hostel that had been in Marrakesh for several weeks.
Everything about Marrakech – old city walls, riads, crumbling palaces, noisy souks, skilled artisans – is unique. The ambiance lends it a distinct character, which is different from both Asian and European capitals. Moroccan people are warm (for the most part), and the food is amazing. It was definitely a challenging destination but it was full of life and adventure and the stressful times made for great stories.
We visited in November which I believe to be the perfect time of year. It was warm during the day and cold at night so we didn't have to brave any desert heat and there weren't too many other tourists around.
Where to explore
Marrakesh is a city of hidden treasures in the sense that everything is behind doors and walls. Make sure you visit Jardin Majorelle; a garden designed by Yves Saint Laurent before he died. Its on the outskirts of the city (in the new city, outside the old city walls) you can get a bus or taxi there as taxis are incredibly cheap and we got a little lost after catching the bus. Entry is $12 pp which is expensive for Morocco but it made for a beautiful afternoon so I still recommend it.
Whilst in the old city make sure you see both palaces, El Badi (the old palace ruins) and the intact palace Bahia, both cost around $1.80 to enter and are beautiful to explore around for an hour or 2.
Ben Youseff Madrassa was one of my favorite places in Morocco, hidden away behind a massive wall in a dark alley way. Entry was $3 and was well worth it to explore the labyrinth of door ways and stand in the beautiful tiled atrium.
No time in Marrakesh is complete without spending at least a few hours haggling with locals in the souks. My few hours turned into a few days and although I didnt buy as much as I wanted to I had an amazing time imagining my life at home filled with all this colour and sparkle. Shopkeepers occasionally pester tourists, but it is nothing a firm no can’t tackle. Getting very, very lost is inevitable but when it does happen try not to let it show as the locals prey on lost tourist and lead you to places and try and con you out of your money (not fun). Whilst shopping you should pay a 5th of the price of what they first offer and sometimes even less as they tell you ridiculous numbers just to see what they can get out of you. Never pay more than what you are willing to as there will always be another stall with exactly the same thing just around the corner. I bought an anklet from a man for $7 and he had originally told Ebbs $80. You just have to catch them in a good mood. If you can, leave all your actual shopping until the last day as I found by that time I had really got the hang of bargaining and new exactly what everything was worth.
The Djema El Fnaa square at sunset will take you to another universe; the sounds, the smells and the smoke rising through the darkening air. Gypsies, snake-charmers, wandering minstrels, magicians, folk-singers and ventriloquists populate the square and fill the spaces in front of the bustling food markets. After wandering around find yourself a rooftop cafe to have dinner (or if you're like us go back to the same restaurant everyday for lunch and dinner because it was only $3pp).
I assure you just walking around the streets of Marrakesh will keep you intrigued and entertained for days. We also spent a lot of time on the rooftop of our magical hostel talking with other people and reading.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Rainbow Marrakesh hostel which cost $7 a night including a basic breakfast. It was an amazing hostel in a traditional Moroccan riad with a beautiful rooftop that overlooked the city and on to the Atlas Mountains in the distance. The hostels in Morocco are very tight nit because of the craziness outside, so we made lots of friends from all over the world. If you want to stay somewhere different, anywhere near Djema El Fnaa square is well located accommodation. On our second time in Marrakesh we stayed in a different hostel (didn't like it as much but was still fine) on the other side of the square called Hostel Rouge. It was run by the same family that owned the Rainbow hostel and cost $7 a night as well.
Where to eat
Ebbs and I ate almost all our meals at Snack Toubia a small restaurant just off the square. The food was cheap and delicious and the Moroccan soup was to die for (especially at 40 cents a bowl)
Around the corner from hostel was an amazing Mexican cafe that mixed Moroccan flavor with Mexican presentation. All meals were around $4 and were perfect for lunch or dinner.
There are two supermarkets within Marrakesh, the main one being a 20 minute walk from the hostel. We went there to buy bottles of water (you cant drink the water here) beer, noodles, fruit and chocolate.
Make sure you try a Tangine at least once while you are in Morocco, after his first spoonful Ebbs claimed it was the most flavorsome thing he had ever eaten. We had one everyday and although they are delicious I was sick of them by the end of the trip.