Morocco, Morocco, Morocco… a country famous for its array of colours, tagines, couscous, hot sunny days, and friendly people.
Heading into Africa, we knew we would encounter different language abilities and unfamiliar roads, so before we left we researched as much as we could, though we could never have prepared for what Marrakech had to offer.
Searching for our Hostel
Arriving in Marrakech in the evening we opted for the public bus (el budget at its finest at $1.50) to the Jemaa el fena also known as the main square in the medina (walled town) of Marrakech.
Navigating our way to our hostel, through the unmarked labyrinth of Marrakech’s alleys (without GPS) we utilized the only resource we had; photos on our smartphone. Before arriving in Marrakech we watched a YouTube video showing directions to the hostel and we had to screenshot each key landmark and then compile them together to make our way, and thankfully it worked!
Our Riad (a traditional Moroccan house converted hostel) was called Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge and it was an open, colourful, and welcoming place. It was just $12 a night, had free breakfast and was a short 5-minute walk to the square. Perfect for what we needed.
Jemaa el Fena (Main Square)
The main square in Marrakech is a sight you have to see for yourself… it will awaken all your senses. No photo or video can do it justice. There are thousands and thousands of people wandering and hustling, ranging from snake charmers to musicians, magicians, food stalls (including huge escargot bars and sheep heads), clothes markets, restaurants all mostly with rooftop terraces to watch over the madness, monkeys, you name it and I’m sure they have it going on in the square. It is a relatively safe place to be and it doesn’t get busy until the early evening but once it picks up, it goes until the wee hours of the morning.
Nearly every restaurant or café in Morocco will serve the same staple dishes, just with a small tweak here or there. The menus seem to always consist of:
- Way too much free bread and olives to start
- Tagines (beef, chicken or vegetable dish
- Couscous (beef, chicken or vegetable dish)
- Moroccan Salad – Small cut up pieces of cucumber, tomato, onion, pepper and olive oil with cumin
- Omelettes – Any time of the day, plain or vegetables
- Meat Skewers w/ Fries or Salad
- Breakfast will always be a variety of bread, condiments, tea and sometimes boiled eggs.
We had so many delicious tagines throughout our stay in Morocco, and although they are all different in their small ways, we can safely say we had enough.
Fez is an ancient city maze, six hours north of Marrakech, where every twist and turn features something totally unique, whether it be a donkey nearly running you over, live chickens squawking or hustler’s hustling their goods, there is no place to escape the mayhem, except perhaps, inside your hotel.
With the help of a guide, we explored the medina (walled village). We visited the world’s oldest university and Morocco’s oldest tanneries, where they make super soft leather, softened from pigeon poo. For lunch, we went to Berrada Family Restaurant, a place where you’re invited into the kitchen to sample each of their menu items before making your final choice.
We stayed at a youth hostel called FunkyFes, in a rather hidden location, but it had all we needed. Spacious rooms, security, friendly staff and other like-minded travellers. It was great value for money.
Chefchaoen (Blue City)
Chefchaoen or Blue City was our favourite of the all the cities we visited in Morocco. Originally painted blue as a symbol of heaven by Jewish communities in the 1930’s, the colour has stuck around in this small, hilly village of Morocco. Apparently, the blue is also a good repellent against mosquitos.
Chefchaoen, in the north of Morocco, is a pleasant escape from the pure mayhem of Fez and Marrakech. There are way fewer people walking the streets, no donkeys or motorbikes in the alleys and freshwater streams running through the town. The town also houses a much wider variety of food than the typical Moroccan fare we were getting sick of. You can only have so many tagines.
A few recommended places were:
- Molin’arte – Awesome terrace overlooking the stream, many outdoor private seating areas and the best pizza we’ve had since leaving NYC!
- Hotel Parador – If you’re looking for an alcoholic drink, this is one of the only places in Chefchaoen you can find one.
- Pizzeria Mandala – Also another pizza joint. Delicious salads and most importantly… fast Wi-Fi!
The town was relaxed and so were we. If you ever visit Morocco, make sure you visit this town.
Tips for Morocco Travelers
- Always carry hand sanitizer & tissues with you, especially if you are driving long distances and expect to use the bathroom along the way.
- Carry cash at all times, as very few places accept credit card, including hotels, tour companies and nearly everywhere. Also, you can only get out USD$200 at an ATM per transaction.
- Keep small change handy for when you use the bathroom and small purchases
- Always bargain at the souks (markets). We got a pair of pants down from a ridiculous $65 to $10. We probably could have got down to $5 if we pushed.
- Be careful of taking photos of the stalls, snake charmers, buskers, etc. you must always ask first as they get quite angry. Always ask the price before taking a photo. For the henna girls, write down the price too.
- Oh, and if you like peanut butter.. buy a jar and carry it with you! It comes in handy when there are no snacks to eat on the long car trips + to spread on the many pieces of bread given every morning! Saved our life 😉
- Don’t trust the unofficial guides. This can’t be stressed enough. Official guides have a medallion to show it. Unofficial guides will lead you to some tourist sites and then soon after to their affiliated shops. You’ve been warned!
Marriage days survived: 36