With our recent ferry trip across the strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco had me reminiscing our first adventure on the continent of Africa. You can also see a photo essay here of my perspective of the life through the city from my lens.
We’d never been to a resort together before arriving in Marrakech. I was looking for a quick 4/5 day get away and when searching the internet I came across a flight and hotel/resort deal for 4 nights. It was all inclusive with food and drinks, which Nick was totally against doing. In the end, he was very thankful we did. If you’ve never been to Africa before then it can be overwhelming, specifically Morocco.
There are a ton of hotel options that you can choose what fits your preferences or countless riads if you want a more local experience in the city centre. We chose a hotel that had a free shuttle that went into the medina (a.k.a main city centre). The reason Nick was thankful for this after (me as well) was Morocco was an experience we had never had. We’ve travelled Europe and North America, and Africa was just sensory overload. That is the best way I can try to explain it. Everyone in your face, fighting for your attention and money. We understand that is their culture, their need to try to pull in any income they can for their family, but it is extremely overwhelming. We were happy to go into the centre each day and go ‘home’ and escape the noises and senses.
So, for what we did.
We began the day by sitting and examining the map to get our bearings. Something to note when exploring in Marrakech, don’t pull out a map in a busy area. You will have a bunch of men leap out and try to pull you in the direction of anything they want, saying they will show you the way. In the end, they want your money, you are expected to tip them for their service. We tried saying no thank-you countless times in our polite Canadian tone but it did not work, you have to be assertive.
Right near us was the Koutoubia Mosque so we took a stroll around and checked it out. Absolutely stunning architecture, detail and beauty in every corner.
We decided to choose a museum to visit, this had a small entrance fee but was worth it to learn about the culture. Musee de Marrakech – Fondation Omar Benjelloun is about an hour or so to explore.
Ben Youssef Madrasa was the next stop. We hadn’t planned anything, just used the map and found our way around, stopping where we felt we wanted to check out. There was a small fee to get into this Madrasa, which means school. A former university, built in 1500’s. There is no information in this building but it is worth a look around to see the old dormitory rooms and detail in the woodwork. If you don’t feel up to it or on a tight budget you won’t miss anything if you skip it.
Bahia Palace was probably the most impressive place we visited I’d say.
The colour was dramatic and eye popping. Made visiting in the ‘winter’ not so bad since we were unable to see the fountains full and flowing.
Next was the El Badi Palace. This has a small entrance fee as well, but well worth a visit for the view of the city from the second level. The palace is in ruins now and looks similar in every corner so you won’t spend long here but again, worth it for the view of the city and mountains.
The Saadian Tombs was the last stop during our few days walking around Marrakech. It was actually a bit tough to find, we walked past it three times over the few days, hidden behind an entrance that blends into the walls.
Most important part of a visit to Marrakech is walking around the Medina and Jemaa el-Fnaa near by. The Medina is the centre; where all the fun and excitement happens. It is noisy, busy, and yet very appealing. If you don’t want to buy anything then don’t gaze anywhere longer than a couple seconds. It is very overwhelming and you will have people on you all the time, their ‘tourist game’ in full swing.
You can’t avoid this area though, if you do then you are missing out on the heart of Marrakech and the Moroccan culture. Important: visit during the day and night, it is very different. Tons of amazing street food, snacks and drinks to indulge in mainly during the evening.
One place we tried to visit was Koubba Almoravid we had heard it is worth the visit but unfortunately was closed when we walked passed on our last day. We took in the view of the aged building but after our trip I did read that it’s been closed for a year or so for renovations.