Traveling to Marrakech, Morocco
as previously mentioned, we arrived in casablanca and spent less than 24 hours there before i felt the panic that we weren’t experiencing the most culturally rich part of what the country offered.
i hate making decisions and it’s something i’m working on because it’s so mentally exhausting to be indecisive. thankfully my husband is a fantastic decision maker and declared “we are traveling to marrakech, morocco!” marrakech is sometimes spelled marrakesh and pronounced mare-a-kesh.
the great news about traveling and being a tourist in morocco is how inexpensive things are (especially when you’ve just arrived from london and it broke your wallet). we found an incredibly nice place to stay in marrakech (more on that later) for $60 USD a night via expedia and booked it.
it’s a 3 hour train ride from casablanca to marrakech, with each of our tickets costing $9 USD. first class tickets on the train cost $14 USD. isn’t that incredible?! we tried getting those but they sell out fast because in first class, you are guaranteed a seat. second class – be prepared to potentially stand for 3 hours because they oversell the trains. we thankfully only had to awkwardly stand for 30 minutes before two seats opened up in a car but others stood the whole time.
the view from out of the window…cacti galore! that sign reads (in both arabic and french) ’emergency exit.’
i have quite an interesting story from our train ride back, which i shall save for another day. i think it could have potentially influenced how i might be as mother, if/when that day comes.
we arrived at dusk to the train station in marrakech (there are no announcements when they get to stops so you have to pay attention to the random signs that approach before the station.)
here’s a video i took as our taxi driver was explaining that he couldn’t drive us directly to our hotel because it was down one of the very narrow streets that cars don’t fit down. he is a member of the berber tribe that lives in the nearby atlas mountains but has to work in the city because his health makes it hard for him to navigate the mountains.
we booked a riad not a typical hotel, which i would highly recommend should you visit! a riad is a traditional house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. they were specifically made so women could garden with privacy. many of them fell in disrepair and now people are turning them into hotels-like-places.
they are incredibly hard to get to once the taxi drops you off at an opening. there is no rhyme or reason as to how doors/riads are numbered so we got super turned around as the sun was setting and i was entering panic mode.
we kept walking and searching for our riad’s number, meanwhile trying to avoid looking like we were completely lost. eventually we came to some children and i thought “oh good! they are playing here, we must be safe.” then two boys asked where we were staying and through my garbled french and their english they said they could take us there.
i have never been happier to see the name of our riad…until the boys demanded money and stood in front of the door so we couldn’t pass. we gave them all of our coins, which was about $1.50 each. they demanded more. we had none.
my heart was racing, totally picturing them pulling a knife on us or something. my husband turned his pockets out and said we literally had no more, merci beau coup but move aside – NOW. they thankfully left and then the dang door was locked and i figured this was where our lives would end. at least i made it to see marrakech, right? (sometimes i tend to get a little dramatic).
after ringing the door bell, we were let into a truly beautiful building and my heart raced a little less. it was incredible. we stayed at the riad adika and i highly recommend it!
TIP: if you are staying at a riad, request to have someone from there meet you and guide you to the riad or give you detailed instructions on how to get there because the ‘streets’ are crazy.
this is absolutely one of the top places we’ve stayed. it felt very ‘moroccan’ and we had a good sized room! the people there were so friendly and welcoming, we already want to go back!
no way in hell were we venturing back out to attempt to get to food so thankfully they served us a delicious meal there! couscous comes from morocco so we feasted on that as well beef and veggies.
the next morning we talked with someone at the riad about how to get around to get to the famous souks and market of Jemaa el-Fnaa.
she handed us this map and i almost passed out. what.
we were staying at the top left and wanted to get to the yellow shape. do you see that insanity of getting through the souks and streets to get there?! many of the streets are not labeled, you just wander and hope for the best. we followed the sun, truly.
as we left, i furiously started taking photos of every alleyway we passed, trying to pretend like we’d get back just fine. it was sort of nuts but that’s adventuring, right?
we have encountered my giant husband (6’4) not fitting under certain things in other countries (like when we were in china) because people are smaller elsewhere. hilarious, always.
TIP: most people you pass will tell you are going the wrong way to the souks and offer to take you there themselves. they really just want to take you to their cousin’s souk. the souks are everywhere so you’re fine and don’t listen to them (i realllly wanted to listen to them).
we passed a man who asked if we were americans and when we said yes, he said “OBAMA!” with a huge grin on his face. we confirmed we were indeed BFFs with him, yes.
this is what it looks like before all the souks open up.
then it explodes with color. i had my nice camera in my bag but those damn kids freaked me out from the night before so i was feeling ultra paranoid, even though everyone else we encountered was friendly, welcoming and nice to us.
we made it to the market place! thank goodness for my husband’s sense of direction (and the sun rising) because it was insanity to navigate those alleyways. it’s filled with tons of vendors selling everything from traditional footwear, spices, olives, tourist trinkets, silver to moroccan argan oil.
here’s the studly navigator himself!
orange juice was 40 CENTS and the best juice i have ever had. normally i despise orange juice because of an unfortunate sickness when i was 10 (i never forget some things, as you know) but my husband convinced me to try a sip and WHOA freshness. delicious.
TIP: if you see a green cap on a water bottle, that means it’s sparkling water or ‘with gas.’ blue caps are still water, ‘no gas.’ the red caps are still, mineral water.
it’s organized chaos where you just wander around with locals and tourists alike in the market and through the souks. they even had snake charmers but we were feeling too cheap to pay to take a picture with one, which we now regret. good reminder that it’s okay to spend a little money (it was like $3) for opportunities when you’re traveling.
everything here is up for haggling, which i hate. it makes me horribly uncomfortable. just pick a fair price and let’s roll. i read in a guide book that everything is marked up at least 50%! good thing my husband likes the haggling system and sure enough, we got them down at least 50% of everything we got.
we scored a $10 USD silver platter and a $7 water bottle thing! the below photo is obviously back in our home in portland. we hang the plate on our travel wall so yay dual purpose art! those are little moroccan cookies in the dish mmmm. not super sweet but very tasty.
i read in our guidebook about experiencing a hammam. it’s similar to a turkish bath and traditionally it’s a social event where you go to be bathed and catch up on gossip with your friends. usually there is a female bath house and a male bath house. we tried this out…but as a couple’s experience!
whew. this is getting to be a lengthy post so i am going to reserve that full, funny and awkward story for my trusty newsletter subscribers so you don’t have to keep reading and reading and reading on this here post.
i am switching up my newsletter content and now it shall be delivered monthly (instead of weekly) and with exclusive personal anecdotes of lessons learned in life and my marriage that won’t be shared on the blog. a little something extra for you (i just winked – in a friendly way- at you through the computer). if you are already signed up, you don’t have to do a darn thing!
i will be sending out the full hammam story tomorrow morning so you have time to sign up right now and still be in the loop!
after that insane and weird experience, my poor husband’s stomach started hurting. he probably got water in his mouth from the shower or something. despite being in pain, he got us back to our riad without even one wrong turn! i have never been more attracted to him – for the reals.
he needed to rest and lay flat so i entertained him (by having him take photos of me for this exact moment).
i specifically bought these pants for our moroccan trip (from H&M for $7) and have dubbed them my sassy moroccan pants. they feel 100% like pajama pants but were found in the ‘outerwear’ section so it’s official that i can wear them in public.
we decided to eat at the hotel again and this time they served us the traditional dish of morocco called tagine. it’s called that because of what it’s cooked in – the earthenwear pot below is called a tagine.
it was ridiculously good. it was lemon chicken with herbs and all the couscous we could shovel in. so good!
i am so glad we spent the extra money and efforts traveling to marrakech, morroco. it was absolutely worth the travels, stress and paying for two hotels in two different cities for two nights (wtf?! i know.)
what i especially loved about marrakech were the fabulous colors, intricate patterns (love me some patterns) and the uniqueness i haven’t found in any other city. this trip especially felt like we were in a foreign country with not many people speaking english nor easy to navigate. below is the gorgeous entrance to the train station.
it pushed us out of our comfort zone and brought us closer as a couple because we were reliant on each other to navigate our way through this part of north africa. our next big international trip is happening in november…stay tuned for some exciting updates soon about that!
i’d love to hear a travel story that brought you and your spouse together!