8 Days in Morroco: First Impressions of Marrakech

My husband and I just got back last week from a pretty awesome eight day trip in Morocco, but I must admit that I’m glad to be back in San Francisco. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great vacation, but it was one of those trips that also made me really appreciate the comforts of home.

We chose Morocco in the first place because neither of us had been to Africa before and we were looking for a destination that was warm, exotic, and relaxing, but with plenty of adventure. Our plan was to spend two nights at one hotel in Marrakech, go on a private four day/three night desert tour, and then spend our final two nights at another fancier hotel back in Marrakech. (We had originally toyed with the possibility of spending one night in Essaouira at the end of the trip, but boy are we relieved that we nixed that idea. We were completely exhausted by the end of the desert tour, and it felt so nice to just relax in Marrakech when it was over.)

marrakech airport

Bonjour, Marrakech!

Our first two nights in Marrakech were spent at the stylish Riad Meriem, a beautifully decorated boutique hotel in the heart of the medina. The manager Hassan made us feel right at home and was always happy to pour us some Moroccan mint tea or Casablanca beer. Knowing that we’d get hopelessly lost if we even attempted to navigate the confusingly windy roads on our own, he arranged for his colleague to walk us to Cafe Arabe for our first dinner and pick us up again afterward. It felt a bit funny to have a designated escort, but we were grateful! Below are some pics that don’t do Riad Meriem justice:

riad meriem    IMG_1140

IMG_1142    IMG_1081

During our first full day in Marrakech we sought out some of the major tourist attractions such as the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa, Bahia Palace, Jemaa el Fna, and Dar Si Said, and in between we made sure to get ourselves lost within the never-ending maze of souks. In retrospect, I wish that we had hired a guide to show us around the souks with a bit more of a sense of purpose and context, but it was fun getting lost on our own nonetheless.

Courtyard of Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa

Courtyard of Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa

Beautiful tile work everywhere

Beautiful tile work everywhere

Bahia Palace courtyard

Bahia Palace courtyard

Dried fruit stall

Dried fruit stall

Marrakech shopping

Marrakech shopping

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For our second dinner, Aaron was very excited about trying the street food in the Jemaa el Fna while I was a bit hesitant due to my uncanny ability to fall ill while traveling abroad. However, I am very happy to report that we had a delicious dinner at stall 32 (thanks to the rec from Legal Nomads) and refreshing juice from stall 44 without suffering any negative consequences. Even if you don’t want to take your chances with street food, seeing the square all lit up at night is a must-see.

Braving the Marrakech street food

Braving the Marrakech street food

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

IMG_1117

Typical food stalls in Jemaa el Fna

Delicious jus d'orange

Delicious jus d’orange

As for some general Marrakech recs, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be one of those ugly tourists who completely disrespects local customs. Morocco is a Muslim country, and even big cities like Marrakech and Fez expect women to dress conservatively. At the very least, cover your shoulders and knees. Yes, I know it’s super hot out, but there’s no need to wear booty shorts or a minidress in Morocco. I was shocked by all of the people who did so nonetheless. Even though it wasn’t the cutest, I stuck to jeans and a t-shirt nearly every day.
  • Accept the fact that you’re going to get hopelessly lost at some point during your stay in Marrakech, even if you have a killer sense of direction. I don’t think I knew where I was at any point during our eight day trip.
  • Moroccans love to haggle, so be prepared to pay about one third of their initial asking price for anything in the souks.
  • Brush up on your French skills before you arrive in Marrakech. Many people speak a bit of English, but if you can communicate in French it’s much easier. Also, many signs and menus are only written in French and Arabic.
  • Only drink bottled water, and stay far, far away from raw veggies. (Your stomach will thank you later.)
  • This goes for any city, but don’t wear brand new sandals when you go sightseeing! Painful feet are the worst.
You don't want to see the "after" photo

You don’t want to see the “after” photo

Stay tuned because my next blog post will be about our four day desert tour, and the post after that will be about our final two days back in Marrakech.

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