The first thing to do when you decide to spend 10 days touring Morocco…
Don’t. Seriously this is not a vacation, this is an adventure for the well prepared, the detail-oriented, the purveyors of the fast life and the can-sleep-anywhere-for-short-periods-of-time travelers. Am I happy we did it? YES. ABSOLUTELY. Would I do something like this again? YES. ABSOLUTELY. Because Africa is a country worth discovery. Still, I would have liked more time to relax and take in some of my favorite sites. To be fair, a lot of what you “need” to do, you can do in one day. But I could have stayed in Fez for a week if time permitted. Where else did we go? (download our full itinerary)
Everyone said a day is all you need to visit Marrakesh and I would agree. The only pressing thing I wanted to see was YSL’s famed museum and garden. It did not disappoint. The oasis is a gift from the green thumb gods and where I would discover #MajorelleBlue – a blue so rich it definitely deserves its own hashtag. We couldn’t take pictures of the room that featured the designer’s archival pieces, the place where I died and went to fashion heaven, but we did have the opportunity to catch the “Les Marocains” exhibition by Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui. The exhibit is a photographic series that showcases Morocco’s cultural diversity. In retrospect, it would set the tone for our travels.
We went to La Maison Arabe for dinner and sampled for the first time Moroccan wine and traditional couscous. The food and ambiance is too good for words, definitely a little romantic haven in the bustling city. I wish I had the stamina and words to dedicate a post to Moroccan wine. For the sake of time, I will list the ones we tried (and loved) below. Unfortunately, you cannot order them off of Amazon:
- Le Chateau Roslane, Premier Cru – is going to go so well with my Thanksgiving dinner.
- Domaine de Sahari Reserve – so earthy and smooth, easily the best wine I’ve sampled.
- Medaillon – the more affordable wine of the bunch but still very rich.
Despite being a fishermen’s town, Essaouira does not smell of fish or the sea. The air is crisp and light. “You are lucky, normally it is very windy here!” our tour guide Hakima exclaims. We’ve been blessed the whole trip with weather anomalies that have made experiencing Morocco’s beauty effortless. Hakima gives us all the details we didn’t even bother to ask for so that we could experience this new town with the least amount of jade as possible. Things like “the town’s blue is from King David.” I love the blue, blue may be my new favorite color. “The cats are sacred.” I don’t really love cats. “We bought these trees from Cleveland, Ohio.” Waddap Lebron James. “The Magana Clock Tower doesn’t work.” Weird flex, but okay. “Essaouira has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.” Yay! History! “Game of Thrones filmed the walk of shame scene here.” Oh God no, I hope that will be the only GOT reference in Morocco (spoiler alert, it won’t be). “Essaouira is the best place in Morocco to buy Argan oil.” CA$$$HING.
We ended the tour with a three to four-hour quad ride of the coast. The dunes are just the right amount of height for thrills, and the scenery is gorgeous. Sand for miles on end.
BONUS: Bought fresh sardines and made a less-than-easy home cooked meal (picture below with a new friend who is also a chef.)
Ksar of Alt Ben Haddou
The Merzouga Desert, Sahara
“It rarely rains in the desert, consider this a blessing!” Abdul is more enthusiastic about the rain than I am. For one, I’m on a camel wearing silk pants. Very nice silk pants. And secondly, cold anything, let alone rain, is not fun… and it is freezing. I underestimated the cold, even while packing I thought it wise to replace my heat tech items with cute frilly tops because “we’re going to Africa.” Ha! That’s what I get for putting fashion above practicality.
Thankfully the cold motivated us to upgrade our quarters which meant glamping for the night (THIS IS A MUST!):
The rain interfered with star gazing but it did not stop us from admiring the sunrise.
Fez, The Spiritual City
Two days later with countless hours of driving behind us, we arrive in our Riad in Fez. Instantly the challenging trip is worth every cramp if only because I get to call this place home for two nights and treat myself to a relaxing Hammam + Massage at Spa Laroussa.
I’m super excited about Fez, more so than the other places we’ve visited. This is the place where I experience the Tannery’s smell (putrid) and buy goods from THE Old Medina, the one that boasts the longest commercial street in the world (shopaholic she is happy here). This is the place where I will eat a camel burger from Cafe Clock and find my #MajorelleBlue carpet and scarf. More importantly though this where I will find a piece of myself, a small truth, a truth that is mine alone to understand and that gives me strength and vulnerability. The truth is synonymous to light and in Fez I experience the warmest of lights. No wonder it is nicknamed the “Spiritual City”.
The answer is no; you do not get tired of seeing that much blue. In fact a random English lady told me it cured her depression and got her off the meds. I honestly believe it, and at the risk of sounding like a pop culture hypebeast – blue is in fact the warmest color. Fez may be the spiritual city, but Chefchaouen is the dreamy one.
You definitely don’t need more than a day to explore this charming city (unless you’re also looking for some visual therapy). We were able to get panoramic views of the blue sanctuary by scaling the Spanish Mosque (bring sneakers and water and an inhaler), sample Moroccan spiced coffee at a Cafe Hamsa in the main square (don’t bother googling it, this is insider information) and endless discovery of new hues of blue (important: avoid dogs at all cost).
To be honest, the only reason we even made a stop in Casablanca is because we were flying back home from the CMN airport. That being said there are a few things of note to explore: Hassan II Mosque (the second largest mosque in the world) and live talent at La Bodega de Casablanca.
Planning your own trip to Morocco? Need help with budgeting AND hopping from one location to the other? You can download our full itinerary and budgeting spreadsheet! Hit the buy now button below for all the help I wish I had sans groundwork.
Photo story by Maachew Bentley