In North Africa, the Kingdom of Morocco rises as a land of contrasts: of colours, people, landscapes and languages. The official languages are Arabic and Berber language, but french is pretty common as well. The streets of the city are filled with people and shops, colourful fabrics and street food. And if you travel far enough, you can see the ocean or the Sahara Desert. Do you want to experience Morocco?
Locals attitude towards tourists
Safety and measures of caution come first. Morocco is used to tourists, and the bigger cities have a lot to offer. Also, locals are trying to take advantage of this flood of tourists.
I stayed in Marrakesh for 1 week. Everywhere on the streets were people trying to convince you to book a 1-day trip from their agency. If you’re a tourist, they will notice you. And some others will try to convince you to eat at a certain restaurant or street food stall. It can be exhausting and annoying, especially if you travel alone.
Beware of your surroundings always, don’t wear valuable jewellery, leave your passport at your hotel, take care where you exchange money. Scammers are everywhere.
A lot of blogs and my guide there was saying to not travel alone and too far from the crowded streets. Especially at night and if you are a woman. This is a Muslim country and at your first contact, it can come as a shock.
A lot of tourists go there with a group or search for local agencies to tour the country. Either way, I believe it’s the best way to explore more than 1 city, to get insights and tips about places. The locals “offering” to help you, will leave you alone if you are in a group.
I went there with a group. All trips were planned before getting there, so that made everything easier.
The landscapes of Morocco
The waves of the Atlantic ocean touch the shore of Morocco, and one great place to visit and admire the ocean is Essaouira. A colourful, fish abundant city is a perfect 1 day trip from Marrakesh.
The Atlas Mountains are bordering the dry desert. Mighty peaks, winding roads, rocky cliffs and red soil. A place for trekking and absorb the greatness of nature.
And then arrive in the desert: sand as far as the eye can see. This was my favourite experience in Morocco.
A Camel trek in Merzouga Desert
Definitely, my favourite moment from Morocco was the trip in the desert.
Although this is a very popular tourist attraction there, and many tour guides and agencies have it among their offerings, it is such a beautiful experience.
It started from this house which was literally at the beginning of the desert and from there we jumped on a camel and it was a nice 1-hour camel trek at sunset, in the desert.
We arrived at a desert camp, some tents and carpets laid on the sand, and the Berbers made dinner for us and set up a fire and played some traditional music using a few Tbilat (it looks like a drum) and Krakebs (a large iron castanet-like musical instrument). And we drank Moroccan tea under the clear sky.
For the first time, I saw a sky full of stars. It was so full of tiny spots, having no city lights to seize its greatness.
On the way back, I witnessed the sunrise from the second camel trek and that was probably one of the moments worth getting up early for. Read the entire story here (and the photos!!)
Seeing Aït Benhaddou
For Game of Thrones fans, this place is something you will want to see. This place was used to film scenes from famous movies like Gladiator, Alexander, The Mummy and much more likewise.
This ancient fortified village is a great illustration of Moroccan architecture, being made of clay. The site has still four families living there and half of dozen merchant houses, while most locals live on the other site of the river.
The village is located on the old route of the caravans, leading from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert. Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
I spend here most my trip and I can say it is another world. Although apparently most of the locals earn a living from tourism, their style may not be always the one you are used to.
Marrakesh is the fourth biggest city in Morocco, but one of the busiest cities in Africa, hosting the busiest market (soak) Jamaa el Fna. The great bazaar is a great crowd of locals selling everything from fresh food and orange juice to electronic devices, pottery, copperware, leather and other crafts. Shopping in the souks requires the skill and the ritual of bargaining.
The name of the city is believed to come from a Berber word and it means “Land of God”, and it’s referred to as a great citadel of the Muslim world. The city has become a trendy tourist destination between 1960 and 1970, and famous people began to spend significant time in the city ( Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty).
The old town area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This title led to a lot of international publicity, creating awareness.
Other places to visit in Marrakesh are Jardin Majorelle, El Badi Palace, Bahia Palace, Station Marrakesh, La Palmeraie, Souk des Teinturiers, Menara Gardens and Pavilion.
Expect spicy food, although is not hot. This is the land of oranges, lemon and olive. Some common spices used are berries, chilli, cinnamon, grains of paradise, monk’s pepper, nutmeg, and turmeric.
Moroccan common dishes are:
- Tajines (with either chicken, lamb, beef or fish, adding fruits, olives and preserved lemon, vegetables and spices, including cumin, peppers, saffron, turmeric)
- Rice cooked with saffron, raisins, spices, and almonds
- Briouat (triangular or cylinder shape pastry) filled with meat (mostly chicken or lamb) mixed with cheese, lemon and pepper.
- Couscous (small steamed balls of semolina) served with vegetables
- Pastilla (pastry pie stuffed with minced chicken or pigeon hprepared with almonds, cinnamon, spices and sugar)
- Harira (soup: flour, tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, meat (beef, lamb, or chicken), olive oil)
- Chebakia (made of strips of dough rolled to resemble a rose, deep-fried until golden, then coated with a syrup made of honey and rose water and sprinkled with sesame.)
Popular drinks available everywhere:
- Green tea with mint is served with sugar from a curved teapot spout into small glasses.
- Orange juice