I've been meaning to write about Morocco for a while now. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous country. The vibrant hues everywhere you look, refreshing mint teas, addictive tagine meals, and seemingly endless souks (street markets) that sells almost everything you can ever imagine. It took us some time to plan the trip since there was limited information available on the web especially regarding the Merzouga desert tour, but we made it finally - travelled from Marrakech to Fez, with just enough time for a desert tour in between! Hopefully, the itinerary and travel tips below come in handy when it's your turn to visit this lovely multi-hued country!
Our week-long itinerary was simple - we flew in to Marrakech (via Ryanair from Barcelona) and explored the city for 2 days before embarking on a local Merzouga desert tour (3 days 2 nights) that included an amazing night spent at the desert under the stars. The tour was supposed to bring us back to Marrakech, but we requested for them to drop us at the nearest town from the desert. There, my friends and I took a local bus down to Fez, witnessing with our own eyes how dramatically the scenery (terrain and climate) changed throughout the entire ride (from desert plains to fields so lush you'd think you'd somehow winded up in Austria). We spent our last few days wandering about the souks in Fez before finally leaving for Belgium via Ryanair.
1. Don't miss the orange juice at Jamaa el Fna! This famous square and market place at Marrakech's medina quarter (old city) is probably home to the largest congregation of orange juice carts in the world. Here, freshly squeezed orange juice goes for only 4 dirham per glass and is a must-try. Too delicious, refreshing and affordable to pass up. We had these at least twice a day! At night, just before the carts wind down, slight bargains are possible - imagine the whole line of men in their orange juice carts yelling for you to patronize their carts - quite the experience.
2. Book your desert tour with local operators. Desert tours offered online are exorbitant. My friends and I took the plunge and flew to Marrakech without any bookings - it paid off! We visited a few local tour operators, did some serious bargaining, and winded up paying only 70 euros for a 3 days 2 nights desert tour that basically included all the sights that the online operator offered. Really, all you have to do is go through your hostel - the tour was offered across all hostels at 90 euros but we bargained really hard - being students definitely helped!
3. Marrakech is more prone to hard-selling than Fez. Window shopping is not something Moroccans condone in Marrakech. Be prepared for some of the most persistant sale tactics you'll ever witness even when you've chosen to walk away. Don't be surprised if the hard sell ends with some alien sounding expletives.
4. Veer away from safe-looking tourist restaurants. We've all been guilty of this. I'd recommend starting out at a more touristy restaurant for your first meal, then plunging straight into street food heaven - I'll wager you'd regret wasting your time with that first touristy restaurant. Tagines, whether chicken, mutton, or beef, are not to be missed! Meshwi (kebabs) are everywhere too and highly recommended. Snail soup is a staple street food as well - plenty decent, I'd say, though I have to admit that the soup itself didn't do much for me. Just eat what the locals eat - you only live once!!
5. Stay in a riad! Morocco isn't the kind of place I'd want to stay in posh hotels. Maybe because these riads are so gorgeous and comfortable. At Auberge Douzi, you get to enjoy breakfast at the tranquil rooftop over-looking the crowded souks - wait, have I mentioned that Moroccan butter (always served at breakfast alongside flat bread) is seriously out of this world?? Also, staying at a riad often means that the fun starts as soon as you step out of the door - straight into a wondrous and never-ending maze of souks in the old city.
6. Moroccan Hammans (bath houses) are readily available and definitely worth a try! You'll be amazed by how much grime they manage to scrub out. If you're hoping to get some of these scrub gloves back home for a DIY experience, just keep your eyes peeled strolling through the souks!
7. Children/teenagers eagerly offering directions expect monetary reward.
Other Morocco Posts
3 Days 2 Nights Marrakech-Merzouga Desert Tour (Part 1)
3 Days 2 Nights Marrakech-Merzouga Desert Tour (Part 2)
Fantastic Street Food in Fez
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