Marrakech Must – Do’s

“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” -Ralph Crawshaw

We had the wonderful opportunity to visit Marrakech, Morocco for four days. This was a perfect amount of time to really take in the city and see all the things it has to offer. Several things that I loved that you’ll find on every tourist’s list were Jamma El Fna Square, shopping in the Souks, and sipping on the traditional mint tea that is oh-so-tasty. However during our time in Morocco, we did some things that I considered to be my absolute favorite aspects of the trip that I can’t wait to share with you!

Now, before I get into the good parts, I need to address some things about Morocco first and foremost. Since this is a predominantly Muslim culture, you do need to be incredibly respectful of that, and take that into heavy consideration while in the country. I knew this going into it, so I thought I had picked out incredibly respectful, modest clothing of baggy pants, long shirts and cardigans that covered my backside. While these clothes were more than appropriate, it didn’t stop men from cat calling or making inappropriate gestures directed at me. This was really something hard for me to deal with because right now in the U.S. and in other places around the world, finally women’s rights are at the forefront of many political conversations, and more than ever the importance of equality for women is being addressed. I felt as though I was stepping decades if not centuries backwards in that aspect when I went to Morocco. Both Kelly and I felt a little uncomfortable many times as we were stared down or yelled at as we walked past men on the street. Because of this, I chose to wear a head covering for the majority of the trip. I just used a scarf that I had purchased prior to the trip at H&M and it ended up being perfect for what I needed it for. Josh acted as my scarf-wrapper for the trip! 🙂

Additionally, Marrakech is just a lot to take in. I will be completely honest, if you have to be somewhere on time, add 20 minutes to that time. You cannot simply “walk somewhere”. That means that it seems as though every step you take, someone will be stopping you, asking you to buy things, “guide” you somewhere, or inviting you to step inside their store to “only try out” the products. Before I left for Morocco, I had read countless articles and blog posts warning me of the scammers or the people who would trick you into paying them for some kind of service, and I fully believed I was prepared. We got into several unfortunate situations where we were completely blindsided by people

13063057_10154658871706686_5588390014249064949_o So, now into the good parts. Morocco is a different world, plain and simple. The intense language barrier {common languages were Arabic, Berber, + French} makes it a bit difficult to communicate unless you have some French skills to use, however we didn’t have too many problems with this because you can always resort to playing charades to try to show what you mean.

So, without further ado…

Here are  my Morocco “Must Do’s” for Marrakech .

1. Ride a camel. This had been on my “30 Before 30” list for years, so I was downright elated to be able to check this off the list. We went on a half day excursion with the company Dunes and Desert  for an extremely affordable and fun-filled time with several other travelers and three guides. They took us through the desert and we rode until we reached a traditional Berber village. There we sat outside and drank mint tea and ate msemen, a traditional Moroccan crepe that has honey and poppy seeds on top. During our break, we were serenaded with traditional Berber songs by our guides. I couldn’t honestly have asked for a better experience and would recommend this company to anyone because of how kind and genuine they all were. Honestly it was a wonderful escape since the day before this, so many people tried to scam us. It was nice to spend a morning with people who we knew were genuinely happy to be sharing their country with us.

     2. Visit the Ben Yousaff Medrasa. Formerly an Islamic college, this building was restored and reopened as a historical site for the public to visit. You can explore all the nooks and crannies of former dorms for the students and awe over the beautiful central courtyard. This place is a photo op waiting to happen since little has really been refurbished since it actually was a college. While it doesn’t really top the lists of many “To-Do” articles in Marrekesh, our Airbnb host recommended this spot to us, and I was so incredibly happy that we visited because it was one of my favorite things that we did!

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3. Enjoy a typical Moroccan hammam experience. After researching and finding several options that we were considering, we actually stumbled upon a completely new spa, Esprit Spa, right outside the souks. Once we saw how nice both the prices and the interior were, we made an appointment. The hammam was something that was on my Morocco Bucket List going into the trip, despite the fact that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. While each hammam does things a little differently we were told, I would highly recommend trying it out while you’re in Morocco. Basically, in less than eloquent words, you get a massage, scrubbed down with exfoliating beads, and get buckets of water doused all over you. Somehow, it ended up being relaxing and it felt incredible to get rid of all the dead skin that I had (the amount of dead skin that came off of me was ridiculous)! While some people opt to go in their birthday suit, I felt a little more comfortable in my swimsuit. 🙂

4. Escape from the hustle and bustle in Jardin Majorelle. Yet another recommendation from our wonderful Airbnb host, the Jardin Majorelle was an incredibly refreshing way to spend a morning in absolute peace and tranquility. The garden covers almost two and a half acres and is just breathtaking the way the garden has been curated between plants, decor, and pavilions. One of my personal favorite things about the garden is its history. Yves Saint Laurent bought the garden in the 1960’s in order to save it from  becoming torn down and turned into a hotel. Saint Laurent’s ashes are scattered in the gardens and there is a monument in memory of the fashion designer.

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All of this being said, I just want to close by saying that Morocco is full of beauty, charm, wonderful people, and stepping into the city of Marrakech feels as if you’ve stepped into another world. While there were a lot of adjustments and challenges that came with our trip, we were ultimately so much more so blessed with amazing experiences that far outweighed the bad ones. The thing about traveling is that it is actually rewarding to see some downfalls, because that shows you how real the place is. You know that you’re not living in some fantasy tourist’s dreamworld. You’re living real, authentic life and your eyes are open to the challenges, struggles, but also benefits of another culture. Ultimately, this was an extremely rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. In my opinion, this is somewhere that I traveled to where I wouldn’t want to live in the future, but I would absolutely return to again because I was so enticed and captured with the whirlwind of colors and smells that encapsulate you when you first step foot in Morocco.

Much love,

Olivia

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