I have always dreamt of spending Christmas in a warm place, but never got the chance to do it. Having our families in two different countries we usually go to visit one of them and spend the holidays together. Last July though I was unsure about what should I get for Meme’s birthday and I have asked him to tell me a Top 3 things he would like to do/places he would like to visit/foods & drinks he would like to try and his list was: Iceland, Morocco and Islay in Scotland. Since I knew that I wanted to go for Christmas and that Iceland and Scotland would be TOO COLD, Morocco was definitely the winner this time!
We were there for 5 days, exactly the Christmas period (22-27.12). The visa process is pretty simply for EU passport holders – you fill in a form you get during the flight, get there, wait in in a queue and get the visa on the spot. It was a pretty fast process and the policemen were nice. The Menara Airport however is A M A Z I N G!!! It was recently renovated, it is super airy and well kept! There are palmtrees and mosaics everywhere!
I loved it!
Once we got the visa, we got cash out and headed out to get a taxi. (Of course) We got cheated and the taxi driver asked us for 250 MAD (dirham; =25€). We asked him to use the taximeter but he said that there is a fixed tariff from the Airport to the city centre. We gave up in the end and said ‘Okay’. We then found out that the taxi should be maximum 100 MAD. Well… I guess it is a tradition. No matter how careful we are with this, we always get cheated by the taxi drivers. It happened in Beijing as well. Since our hostel was on some of the tiny streets near the Medina, the driver dropped us off 1 minute away from there. A guy tried to be our guide and lead us to the hotel. I had heard stories of people getting arrested because they were working as unofficial guides and I didn’t want to risk it so we said no. In the end, it took us more than 1 minute though since the streets were a bit complicated.
After the check-in at the Kif Kif Hostel, we took our backpacks and went exploring. Since the Medina is HUGE and it was 30 minutes close to us, we started wandering around in awe of all the amazing things everyone was selling, the smells, the colours, the people, the food vendors and the beauty of everything. We got some crepes made by a woman on a big flat iron oven right on the street. The M’smen as they are called were some of the best things I have eaten during our trip. After wandering some more, we had panini with minced sardines meat, onions, olives, tomatoes, spices and some sauces. They are a very popular food among the locals. We knew of this popular rooftop terrace called Nomad and decided to go to there for coffee and tea. They don’t usually let you stay on the terrace if you don’t order food as well, so we got an almonds tart and Moroccan small pastries to go with our drinks.
This trip was one of those vacations for which I did not research at all for. I knew however that there should be a Berber market in Marrakech every Thursday. We couldn’t find it, instead we ended up with a guy that took us to this place where they were processing the leather from cleaning to colouring. Somehow after this we were taken to a huge shop with carpets and leather stuff. We did not buy anything and headed back to the Medina.
We were dead tired at this point and I have had a headache for the entire day so we went back to the hostel to get some sleep. Even after waking up hours later, I was still feeling very tired and the headache had gotten worse than before. It was already 6 PM by then so went for another stroll, but I was feeling worse and worse. I felt like everything around was dubious and that people were looking strangely at us, I could not stand any smell and my eyes hurt so bad, I could not relax at all and felt very tense. Soon enough I started feeling stomach sick as well so we decided to go to a super fancy restaurant for dinner, Le Jardin. That place was gorgeous and super lavish!! Their palmtrees were so beautiful and all the decorations were simply wonderful. And yet, I was feeling worse and worse and worse. I had delicious bread with a butterish spread. I guess it was butter and dates mixed together somehow. We orderded tajines and they were looking sooooo good, but I couldn’t touch food anymore. I was feeling super sick and I told Meme that I wanted to go home and if tomorrow will be the same. I wanted to go back home. This never happened to me. EVER! If you know me and how much I love to travel, you know that I would never say this! I was exhausted so we went home without finishing dinner, I bought a warm handmade knitted hat to sleep with and went to bed. We slept 12 hours and a half but I woke up fresh and rested with no headache. And most importantly: Ready for New Adventures!
The second day, as well as the others, were amazing. We visited the super lovely Le Musée de la Photographie and had tea on its rooftop terrace – don’t miss it!, bought carpets, poufs and pillow cases, handmade teacups and blankets. We got lost for hours in the mazelike alleys of the Medina and frequently stopped for coffee or for tea. I got super scared because of the snake charmers and their ‘pets’ and wished that my skin allergy to cold will go away so that I could get intricate henna tattoos on my hands. We visted the amazing Tombeaux Saadiens, the ancient Palais El Badi and Palais Royal, the gorgeous Musée Dar Si Said, the beautiful Palais Al Bahia. We also visited the garden behind the Kutubiyya Mosque. It is full of orange trees, palmtrees and fountains.
I am not one that loves to go to museums, monuments and churches or mosques. I prefer walking around the city, feeling it, smelling it, meeting its people, eating its food. So we didn’t visit so many of the dropdead gorgeous attractions of Marrakech, but I am happy that we went to see these ones and as I am reading more and more about the city, I want to go back and visit all the places I missed! Casablanca included! I have always dreamt of visiting Casablanca, ever since I was a kid. I must have probably heard this word or the song as a kid, I have no idea, but Casablanca was always this mystical thing in my mind. Unfortunately, we decided not to go in the end and prefered hanging out in Marrakech. We did a day trip to Essaouira (I will talk about it in the next article.
If I were to sum up My TOP 10 DOs and DON’Ts about Marrakech I’d say:
1. Try all the streetfood that you find! Don’t be shy!
2. Have LOTS of tea! It’s suuuuuper delicious!!!
3. Have LOTS of bread! It’s simply ah-mazing!
4. Keep an open mind, talk to people, ask questions about the local culture!
5. Buy fruits from the vendors around!
6. Try all the tajines!! I miss them so badly!
7. Buy yourself something nice! I don’t think that all vendors are up for negotiating, but try out your luck anyway.
8. Don’t ask people on the streets for directions because they will want to become your guide or ask someone else to do it and then they will ask to be paid.
9. Don’t forget to wash your hands as often as you can especially if you have a sensitive stomach. You will touch so many things and if you want to do as the locals do you will eat a lot with your hands. So wash them up.
10. Don’t stress too much and enjoy your time there!