With so much to see and do – and a culture that is so interesting and distinct from our own – Morocco is a haven for those craving new travel experiences. From hiking up mountains to riding camels in the Sahara Desert, the adventurer will never be bored in this beautiful country. Here's my wanderluster's guide to Morocco.
My Wanderluster's Guide to Morocco
Where to go? Marrakech. All of the colours, the smells, the people, the atmosphere and the clash of Berber and Arabic cultures in this melting pot of a city makes it a vibrant place to visit.
The souks (markets) are one of the best things about Marrakech, offering an atmosphere unlike any other and a variety of different products and materials, all served up in tiny walkways brimming with culture, colour and many differing aromas.
Visiting the souks is a definite must if you want some gap year trousers for an unmatchable price, or exotic spices to use in your cooking at home. Make sure to buy some real Moroccan argan oil so you will be instantly transported back to your magical Marrakech adventure whenever you use it at home – it’s also really good for your hair too!
The souks can be very busy which makes it a perfect place for pick pockets, so keep an eye on your belongings! It is also worth noting that some of the locals will zip through the souks on their motorbikes so keep alert whilst you are browsing the stalls.
Another beautiful place to visit is the Yves Saint Laurent garden – Jardin Majorelle. It boasts vivaciously coloured buildings and stunning plants right in the middle of the city, making it an enchanting escape from the busy streets of Marrakech.
If it’s a slower pace of life you desire, with beautiful beaches to boot, Essaouira is the place for you! A cooler temperature, cloudless skies and golden sands make it the perfect spot for a chilled weekend after the buzz of Marrakech. Don’t be fooled though – there are still many things to do. From Sunday souks to amazing restaurants, Essaouira is laid-back in a very fashionable way.
What To Do in Morocco?
If you do nothing else whilst you are in Morocco, visit the Sahara Desert! There are lots of different tours you can find online, or you can book through your tour provider if you are going on a package holiday. The basic structure of the trip I took (which was organised by the company I was volunteering with) was a bus ride from Marrakech to the edge of the Sahara (a very long bus ride but definitely worth it!).
Then we were greeted by a group of Berber men who led us by camel to our camp for the night (think of all the Joanna Lumley-esque pictures you could take!). We then had a meal and some traditional Moroccan mint tea, sang songs around a camp fire and lay under the stars. It was the most amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone. It gets you out of the busy city, away from your phone and propels you into the heart of the Berber culture.
If this makes you hungry for even more adventure and you have brought a decent pair of walking shoes in your backpack, climbing up to the top of the Atlas Mountains may be the thing for you!
Check Intrepid Travel, Trip Advisor or with your tour provider for a chance to watch the sunrise from the top of these beautiful mountains with unbeatable views over Morocco. Bear in mind that should you want to go on any adventures whilst you are in Morocco (or anywhere) that your travel insurance must reflect this so make sure you check what your travel insurance covers – and more importantly what it doesn’t!
What to Eat & Drink
A traditional tagine – is there anything better? Whether it is a lamb tagine or a vegetable one, make sure you try it before you leave! For street food in Marrakech, visit the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) and try the cous cous and other traditional dishes. There are also lots of stands offering freshly-squeezed orange juice which is the perfect refreshment for sweltering, sticky days in the city.
Some of the vendors will even let you have a picture behind their stall to entice you into buying from them and not another stall (as they are all pitched up next to each other.) Remember not to ask for ice cubes in your drink and avoid drinking and brushing your teeth with the tap water – remember to take Imodium with you from the UK in case you slip up!
There are many restaurants in and around the square offering very reasonably priced cuisine such as falafel which, although not native to Morocco, is a classic North African dish. Stay away from western chain restaurants such as Pizza Hut as they tend to be very different from what you may expect and are not always as good as back home either. Instead, take the chance to try an independent restaurant serving traditional cuisine to truly add to your travelling experience.
Things To Know About Morocoo
Morocco has two official languages: Arabic and French. A lot of the locals are not very keen to speak English (particularly in Marrakech) so make sure to learn some key words and phrases in French and/or Arabic so that you can get by. The most important phrase to know walking around the main squares and souks in Marrakech (especially as a woman) is ‘la’ which means ‘no’ in Arabic.
There will be lots of people offering all sorts of things – and most of them you won’t want – so a simple ‘la’ in a firm voice should deter them from following you. Also, beware of henna tattooists in the square as if you stop still and are not looking they may start painting henna on your hand – and then make you pay for it. Walk with purpose and keep your wits about you though, and you will be fine.
Another thing to bear in mind is that it can get very hot in summer (up to 50 degrees Celsius in July/August.) Females are still expected to be considerate of the culture despite the heat and cover their knees, chest and shoulders as a sign of respect.
It is also worth noting that Ramadan usually falls within the summer period which means that a lot of the population will be fasting during the day and not even drinking water! Therefore, out of respect you should only eat and drink in cafes or inside, and try to cover / be discreet in the street if you really need a swig of water!
Morocco is usually included in European Travel Insurance – but it is best to check with each provider. For advice on securing the best and most relevant travel insurance for your trip, visit the FCO website here.
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