I took a trip to 4 countries in May of 2018 after graduating with my Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan. It was a way for me to celebrate and also a way to start pursuing my passion for traveling. The second stop on my trip was Morocco. I stayed in Morocco for a week and a half. I got the opportunity to Marrakech, Fes, Chefchaouen, and Tangier. Today I will be talking about my time Marrakesh. Our trip to Marrakesh did not go as planned but it was still great to be able to visit such a historic city.
Marrakech is the fourth largest city in country of Morocco. It is known as the “pearl of the south” and it is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities. Morocco has so much to offer from the majestic mosques, a grand Medina, gardens, palaces and an abundance of mint tea. Below is a one day itinerary to the great North African city.
After finding our AirBnB we asked our host about the bus and we took bus 12 to the center of the city and got off at the Koutoubia bus stop Here we saw a lot of tourists and honestly probably Americans. So first we went to the Koutoubia mosque which is a 12th-century mosque in the center of Morocco.
After visiting the Koutoubia Mosque, we went to the Medina which is a market in the center of the city. There is a lot going on here. There are performers, snake charmers, people selling random figures, stores and much more. It gets really overwhelming. We ended up meeting someone who ended up essentially swindling us( he attempted to extort money out of us for no reason). We got a little lost and we looked lost as well, so a man saw us and tried to help. In the process, of him helping us find our next tourist location and finding water, he took us on a long walk to his “dad’s restaurant” but he led us to his friend’s store. The walk was super long and I warned against it to my boyfriend but he wanted to be nice. His friend overcharged us for all the things we tried to buy and yelled at us when we said we no longer wanted to buy some of the stuff. I had never been yelled at like that in my life. Then after we left his friends to store, he then tried to take us to his dad’s restaurant, but it just seemed like he was taking us down a road of no return. So as it was getting dark I just told my boyfriend to tell him that we would be turning around. But before we left he reached out his hand for money all because he took us to find water. We gave him a few dirhams but he said it wasn’t enough. So I gave him some more and just started walking in the other direction aggressively. I am glad we got out of that situation because I am not sure where he was taking us but I don’t think it would have ended well.
It is important to be careful when you are in a new place, regardless of where it is. People can tell when you look lost. Make sure that you are alert and aware of your surroundings no matter where you go.
Majorelle Garden is a botanical garden that surrounds a villa. The villa and garden are open to the public and would make for great Instagram pictures.
Fun fact: Majorelle Garden was once owned by Yves Saint Laurent from the 80s until his death in 2008.
Menara Gardens are also botanical gardens as well but these have a view of the Atlas Mountains in the background. There is also a lake and a pavilion here.
Bahia Palace is a palace surrounded by gardens that combine Islamic and Moroccan style architecture.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
Ben Youssef Madrasa is an old university that has now been turned into a museum and is considered an important Islamic site.
A Day Trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls
Ouzoud Waterfalls are waterfalls located 2 hours north of Marrakech near the Moyen Atlas Mountains. It would make for a great day trip from Marrakech.
If you are interested in doing a desert tour with a camel ride while you are in Morocco, I would suggest either starting from Marrakech or Fes. When you start from either of these locations you only need to commit two days and 1 night to the entire desert trip, whereas starting from other locations you need a lot more time because the desert is further out from these locations. Outside of Fes or Marrakech, the tour could take anywhere from 8-10 days. I would suggest making the desert trip the focus of your trip at the start location and then plan every other activity around your desert trip. This will make things a lot simpler.
The desert tour company I would recommend you use is Merzouga Tours.
A few of our friends used this company and they gave them great reviews in terms of price and quality. Besides Merzouga Tours though, there are a lot of other companies that offer desert tours.
We flew from Barcelona to Marrakech for $68 each for a one-way ticket. This was for a flight that left on a Friday, so if you travel on a less busy day that the tickets are a lot cheaper.
I stayed in an Airbnb for 2 nights and 3 days and it cost us a total of $47. We had access to a room, a bathroom, the roof, and Wi-Fi. Our host even offered to cook for us. The Air BnB we stayed at was called ‘La Maison des Sœurs’ and it was beautiful and our host was super helpful. I would suggest that you try to stay in a riad if Marrakech is the only city you will be visiting in Morocco. A riad is a Moroccan style home that has an interior garden or a courtyard. Below are some popular riads in the city:
We went to a restaurant called La table de la Koutoubia
The food was not bad but it was overpriced and clearly advertised for tourists. For the price, they did not really give us that much for food. It was a nice view of the Koutoubia mosque and a nice spot to people watch, and there was great service but other than that there was not really much else. They were one of the few places in the city that served alcohol if you are interested in drinking while there.
Here are some more affordable restaurants in Marrakech:
The official languages in Morocco are Arabic and Berber but French, Spanish, and English are also common depending on what part of the country you are in. In Marrakech, many people speak French in addition to Arabic. I speak neither of these languages so communication was a bit of a challenge. But this is where Google Translate came in handy especially when talking to our Airbnb host. So please do not underestimate the power of Google Translate, at least when you have Wi-fi. I tried finding an offline French translation app but there were none that worked well.
Before you arrive in Marrakech please make sure to set up a ride to pick you up from the airport and make sure they know exactly where you are lodging. We did not set up a ride before arriving at the airport. We tried to find a cab but they were super expensive even though our Airbnb was not that far from the airport. So we ended up finding a bus to take but it dropped us off in a random place in the center of the city. So we ended up using Google Maps to walk to our Airbnb. It took us 40 minutes from the center of the city but we eventually made it. Other than this hiccup, public transportation in Marrakech was decent. We were able to get around everywhere using the ALSA bus. However, because we went during Ramadan, thee buses would often be delayed in the evening when people were breaking their fast. Other than, the ALSA buses work well.
We used the wifi in our Airbnb and at a few restaurants, we found along the way in the center of the city. Other than that we just stayed off our phones.
Thanks for reading!