Morocco seems to be on everyone’s bucket lists and I have to be honest, it wasn’t actually high up our list before we visited. I guess there was so much more we wanted to see before, and I personally was a little apprehensive about the cultural norms – the ways women should dress etc. I will always be totally respectful of how people choose to live, but I was nervous about getting things wrong, offending people or getting into trouble! It is a Muslim country that follows Islamic Law, so there are a few norms you have to be aware of before going. Check out our how to dress in Morocco post to find out all about this and our experience in the country on that point. Once you are aware of everything though, it’s really quite beautiful experiencing their culture, and call to prayer. (The first call to prayer will sound at around 5AM!)
In hindsight, we can safely say we are so glad we did take the time to visit this country! Out of a lot of places we have visited, we would say Morocco specifically is one to do the most research on. Really consider the things you want to do and the places you want to see, learn about the best behaviour and just go for it!
See the desert!
Marrakech is on the outskirts of the Agafay Desert, which is only a short drive away from the city. It will take about 20 minutes to get there from the city centre and all the tour operators should drive you there. The cars are not always branded or particularly professional looking, and can look a little worn and just like someones own car. Just to be precautious about who’s car you’re getting in and make sure they say your name and your tour before you get in there. Just ask “who are you here for?” if they don’t say your information immediately. A lot of tour guides will collect you from your hotel lobby too.
There are SO many desert tours to choose from, many of which you’ll be able to book at your hotel or online. We personally found the best deals on Expedia this time, and trust it to check the legitimacy of tours abroad. There are so many Marrakech tour operators to choose from if you look online, just have a read of the reviews. We decided to do a quad biking desert tour. (We were torn between this and a dune buggy!) It was absolutely incredible! They give you a short introduction, take you to your bike and let you drive in a small loop to check you have the hang of it before setting off. Quad bikes are super easy to manage and being out in the open desert was one of the best experiences of our lives! There are a huge amount of hills, and mountains (even covered in snow still!) in the backdrop. We kept hanging back a little from the group to be able to speed up to them and feel the warm air thrashing around. We can’t recommend it enough! Our tour finished with a tent in the desert where we enjoyed a fresh, hot Moroccan tea. It was much sweeter than expected and so delicious!
There are so many other tours including a day trip to the Ouzoud waterfalls; where along with the beautiful nature and optional hike, you can see wild monkeys living their very best lives. We didn’t have the time to do this but in the future it is up the top of our list! It looks absolutely stunning. One of Morocco’s real appealing parts is the beautiful nature and scenery all around, so you absolutely must factor this into your holiday!
There are some camel riding tours available, and whilst that looks like an incredible experience they do not treat their animals very nicely, they often lead sad and short lives and we would not recommend getting involved in this at all. Have a look further down the post to find out more.
Stay in a riad
A riad is a large building/house, built around a central courtyard. They often have pools, plants and gorgeous seating areas and are such a lovely place to relax. There are some fabulously priced riads to stay in in Morocco, or you could go all out and stay in one of the best just for one night, and a cheaper hotel the rest of the time. An absolute oasis and stunning place to enjoy a glass of wine, read a book, or have a dip.
Le Jardin Marjorelle
There are so very many gardens that you must see in Marrakech; we’ve included some more in this list! One of our favourites was Le Jardin Majorelle – it’s slightly out of the city centre but easy to get to on a bus or in a taxi. This is a beautifully designed garden completely immersed in royal blues, cacti and gorgeous little nooks. It was supposed to be sold for a hotel development in the 80’s, but Yves Saint Laurent bought out the gardens to preserve their beauty, and increase the popularity to visitors. It’s such a dream for pictures and a really wonderful place to visit.
There are so many gorgeous foods to try in Morocco, including tagine, rice, dips, breads, soups and pastry. Moroccans understand spices and there are so many flavours within different dishes. Whilst a lot of things here are instantly thought as pretty meaty with less variation for people with dietary requirements, there are lots of places you can go with different needs. We found Tripadvisor really handy to find these places, and our favourite meal of the whole holiday was at a place called Entrepotes – where you sit amongst fire heated, comfy low seating and all the plants. We decided to buy a bit of everything here and sampled lots of different dishes – so good! Whether you’re saving some money on food elsewhere in the holiday or not, (there are tons of cheaper street food places and chains around,) we think it’s worth a splurge on one special Moroccan meal for sure!
Moroccan markets, also known as Souks, are stuffed full of colours, foods and spices, clothes and homewares. They are completely mad and bustling full of noise and people, and you’ll often find sellers here have a very “in your face” style to get you to come over and buy things. Whilst this is far off how markets tend to be in Europe, it’s not as bad as it sounds when you’re with others. We mainly visited to have a look at all the colours and really enjoyed the sights, before moving on to a riad. Hair is generally expected to be covered here (although not required,) and helps avoid some of the attention. I found bringing a little pashmina scarf was really handy to make sure my arms were always covered, and my hair when needed.
There is a beautiful garden nestled in between the markets called Le Jardin Secret – which is such a lovely escape from all the hustle and bustle if you need a breather. Entry is under £5 per person and there is food and drink served inside. There are tons of benches, water features and relaxing spots, and we would recommend adding this into your market visiting day!
Okay so this sounds like a random point amongst all the beauty but hear me out. If you don’t have a huge amount of time in Marrakech but want to see as much as possible, you should 100% buy the hop on hop off bus tour. It costs around £5 each for a 24 hour ticket and under £10 for a 48 hour ticket. You can buy these online in advance or from ticket sellers at some of the stops. It’s a great way to get around for a tiny price to see more of the city, and you can stay on and just take in all the views. We liked to sit at the front of the bus on the top level to see all the sights. Some taxis in Morocco will try charging you far more than your trip is worth when they see you are foreign, and this was a good way for us to cut it all out together. They do not run late at night so if you’re exploring the city later on consider other transport.
One of the bus tour stops, nearby a bunch of delicious restaurants and surrounded by an orchard of palm, olive and fruit trees is the Menara Garden. You walk up to a man made lake surrounded by walkways, seating areas and the atlas mountains in the background. It’s such a lovely place for a wander, completely free to visit and has some stunning architecture.
Experience the culture
Visit one of the many mosques and ruins in Marrakech and the beauty surrounding them. The Koutoubia Mosque is central to the city and has some stunning garden and water features surrounding it. Listen to the calls to prayer and really stop to hear how unique and strange it is to us foreigners, appreciate the way things are done here.
Experience the music in Morocco and take the time to go to a live music night. We visited a rooftop bar called the Armani Sky Bar Marrakech which had a local band playing and was one of our highlights! (If you choose to go here make sure you wander to the right one, as there are a few with the Armani name that are no where near as nice – we know from experience haha!)
Be aware – animals
It can be so special seeing the different native animals of different countries, but always do your research when they’re at question. There is much improvement for all countries to be kinder to animals in my opinion, but Morocco as a whole has far to go. Animals are often mistreated, unfed and lead very sad lives here, and we would not recommend putting any money into this at all. It can be so sad to see and was most definitely the most negative part of our trip here. We have since found a charity called Spana – visit them here – who are a UK run charity; standing for the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad. They work at educating people across different countries (including Morocco) on how and why to be kind to and look after animals. Some countries rely on working animals to run their businesses, and Spana tries to make sure these animals are happy – along with the other wildlife and creatures across countries. They also take in animals in need of help, rehabilitation and rehoming. They are on Amazon Smile, so I make sure every Amazon order I do donates a percentage to Spana, and open for other donations too. I just wanted to put this in here as they really are so important to me, and it’s good to be aware of the animal protection across countries. Please don’t put money into camel rides, horse drawn carriages and other animal activities here as they have a long way to go.