- Spend an afternoon exploring the exquisite Ben Youssef Madrasa, an old Islamic college.
- Get lost in the Souks. You'll literally have no choice.
- Eat dinner at the food market in Jemaa el-Fnaa, the hectic yet fascinating main square of Marrakech.
- Have a traditional Moroccan mint tea at a Berber pharmacy.
- Try to stay in a Riad in or near the Medina.
- Go on a desert excursion to the Sahara!!
- Get ripped off or scammed by locals, especially in the Souks. Bartering is a way of life here and prices are usually double of what they'll actually take.
- Be surprised by vendors following you as you walk away if you don't take their offer. Just let them know you're not interested and they'll usually back off.
- Roam around too far at night if you're alone and especially if you're a girl. You'll create some unwanted attention for yourself. Grab a friend or make some at your hostel.
- Dress offensively. LADIES: COVER UP. It's simply out of respect for the culture and religion of Morocco, so try not to wear anything too revealing or tight. You'll want to pick up a scarf and a pair of baggy pants from the markets any way!
- Let strangers lead you around or show you the way to something as they'll most likely try to charge you.
- Take photos of people without asking. Some will be offended and may get rude.
- Spend more than $80/person on a 3 day tour to the desert.
Exotic, unique and intriguingly chaotic. This is how I would describe Marrakech. The energy radiating from this city along with the architecture, scents and colours will leave you in a traveling frenzy. That's what day 1 in Marrakech did to me, and let me just say I slept like a rock that night. Not only was I excited to explore my 44th country, there was also so much to take in! Oils, teas, spices, leather, and antiques. Beautiful ornate doors and archways. I was happily dazed and confused.
I started off in the hectic maze of the souks and somehow found my way to Jemaa el-Fnaa, where there is everything from a massive food market to snake charmers, citrus juice stands and more vendors. Here you'll be able to find any traditional Moroccan dish you'd ever want to try, and the prices aren't too bad either! Just get ready for a person from every table you pass to try and lure you to their mini restaurant. Don't feel pressured into settling for the first one though. Explore a bit and remember the numbers of the one's you like!
Definitely try some Tajine or Couscous or if you're really looking to try something new, there's plenty of snail stands and cactus fruits being sold around the square. I stuck to the Tajine and fruit...
Once you've eaten, walk around and try to stumble upon a Berber pharmacy. This is where I had one of my best experiences in Morocco. We began chatting with a guy outside of a pharmacy who invited us in for tea and told us all about their spices and oils and the benefits of each one. We even learned a bit about the Moroccan culture. Don't be thrown off, they don't want anything from you in return. They are just happy to offer you a glass of mint tea, also called 'Berber Whiskey,' and have a chat. They may even give you a little gift! I was given natural lipstick and some tea for my stomach.
Aside from Jemaa el-Fnaa, the souks and just wandering around the Medina, you'll want to block out some time to visit Ben Youssef Madrasa, the oldest Madrasa (Islamic College) in all of Morocco. It's now a historical site open to the public and a definite must see while you're in Marrakech. You'll need at least 30 minutes to try and take in half the detail put into the architecture of this place. It's mesmerizing.
Marrakech is a great place to base yourself for excursions around Morocco. The two most popular tours are to the Sahara Desert and the Ouzoud Waterfall. Unfortunately, we only had time for one excursion this time around, so of course we chose to go on a 3-day/2-night tour to the Sahara Desert. Most tours include the same itinerary, but others will try to charge you ridiculous prices. Your best bet is to book a tour through your hostel or Riad, and remember not to pay more than $80/person! I would also recommended going on the 3-day tour, as the 2-day tour doesn't take you to the actual desert. Plus you'll be spending a lot of time sitting in a van!
The general 3-day itinerary:
Day 1: Marrakech- Ait Ben haddou - Ouarzazate - Skoura Palm - Valley of Roses - Dades Gorges (1 night in hotel)
Day 2: Dades Gorges - Toudra Gorges - Erfoud - Merzouga Dunes - Erg Chebbi (1 night camping)
Day 3: Merzouga Dunes - Tazarine - Agdaz - Marrakech
All accommodation is included, but bring money along, as you'll need to pay for your own lunches & souvenirs. If you have any specific allergies, I would recommend bringing some of your own snacks along on the trip too.
Seeing the dramatic change from the Atlas Mountains to the beginning of the desert was something I would never forget. Even the architecture of the little towns were adjusting. People used only what was available to them, and each 'building' blended in with the terrain since everything was made of clay. It was a vast orange world with life size sand castles.
Like I said, you're spending a lot of time in the van, so I was more than ready to get to the desert and ride a camel! As soon as I saw the large orange dunes I was ecstatic. It's gorgeous and somewhat soothing. Plus you're riding a camel into the sunset. I must admit though, after about 20 minutes of being on the a camel you'll want to get off as it's definitely not the most comfortable thing in the world.
The night was spent camping underneath the stars in the Sahara. (I never thought I'd actually be able to say that!) I would definitely recommend going on the tour, as it's an experience you won't forget and you'll get some pretty badass photos.
For a great hostel stay, I recommend snagging a bed at the Riad Dar Radya. It's in a great location, slightly tucked away in the middle of the Medina. The owner is incredibly sweet and makes you feel right at home. We stayed here our first two nights and loved it!
However, after a long excursion to the desert and a road trip up to northern Morocco on our own, we decided to spend our last day and night in Marrakech pampering ourselves. We stayed at the Riad & Spa Bahia Salam, which I would definitely recommend. Take a look at Expedia.com or any other hotel website to find great deals on upscale hotels in Marrakech. We snagged a room at Bahia Salam for $40/night! Needless to say we enjoyed our rooftop garden breakfast overlooking Marrakech, and spent our last hours getting massages and laying by the pool. A relaxing end to a full on holiday.