My first trip abroad in 2018 brought me to Marrakesh, also known as the red city of Morocco!
I’ve wanted to visit Morocco for years but just never had the opportunity to go. Having been dazzled by the colours and imagery of those who had gone before me, Marrakesh had definitely managed to make it on my bucket list of destinations, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Even in the 2 days of rain I experienced there, the beauty of Marrakesh was undeniable. To put it in blogger language, Marrakesh is SUPER INSTAGRAMMABLE! I felt like I wanted to take a picture in every nook and cranny of this place! So much vibrancy, so much character, and so much colour.
The people are very interesting too.
Warm, friendly, and judging by the amount of times I was called this, as I walked through the markets and town centres, some were completely convinced that I was Nicki Minaj! It may have had a little something to do with my bright blonde/grey hair, who knows! Haha! One thing I was sure about is that the 4 days that I was there was not long enough. I needed a week at least to really explore and take everything in.
Accompanied by my fellow blogger friends @sincerelyoghosa and @breenylee we spent half our trip staying at Riad Porte Royal and the other half at Riad Les Trois Palmiers. Both Riads were unique in their own way, from their location, to their design.
Riad Porte Royal felt more secluded and a little further away from the busy, bustling town centres, but I loved the fact that it felt like we had the whole Riad to ourselves, despite there being other guests staying there with us. Its design had an intimate and cosy feel, which would very much appeal to couples.
One of two of our turtle friends who live on the roof of the Riad, and liked to join us for breakfast… haha!
Riad Les Trois Palmiers was located closer to town, had easier access to local taxis, and was a walkable distance away from a few tourist places to visit in Marrakesh. The design was very colourful, with African accents. A lot bigger in comparison to Riad Porte Royal. At its centre sat 3 huge palm trees, from which its name derives.
Both Riads had such lovely, helpful staff, who were very welcoming, and gave us great service. Breakfast was provided at both Riads and were both beautifully laid out each morning, Moroccan style, and tasted delicious.
We had the pleasure of having complimentary lunch and dinner at a few local restaurants. My personal favourite places to eat had to be both Latitude 31 and Kui Zin. Other good places we ate at were, Zwin Zwin Cafe, Narwama, and Pepe Nero.
Those of us who are online addicts and can’t be anywhere without access to the internet, unfortunately, Riad Porte Royal didn’t have the best Wi-Fi connection, which I found extremely annoying! Trying to upload Instagram story clips took ages due to how slow the internet connection was. However, we found that android phone users had better luck with the Wi-Fi than us iPhone users. Why? I do not know! The Wi-Fi was a lot better at Riad Les Trois Palmiers. I’d say that the Wi-Fi in Marrakesh as a whole, no matter where you are, really isn’t the best. Connecting to Wi-Fi in local restaurants and establishments was a struggle too.
With all the amazing sites to see and places to visit, not having any Wi-Fi isn’t the end of the world. On my very last day in Marrakesh, I had the opportunity to go exploring on my own as the others had earlier flights back to London. Despite initially feeling quite apprehensive and a little scared, I managed to call a taxi, hit the streets of Marrakesh, and return back home to the Riad in one peace. During those hours of being out and about on my own, I learnt a few things about myself and the city of Marrakesh. For those of you who may be considering a lone trip to Marrakesh one day, you may find these bullet points useful:
- Speak to the locals with confidence – If the staff at your place of stay tell you that it costs 30 dirham to get from A to B in a taxi, be stern and unnegotiable when you’re calling a taxi on the side of the road about this price, because they will try and charge more when they see that you are foreign and alone. Let the taxi driver know that you are definitely only paying 30 dirham, and frankly he can either take it or leave it… in the nicest possible way. This actually applies to every exchange of money with locals in Marrakesh. People are hustlers, and being a foreign tourist, is for them, an opportunity to make some money off you to feed their families and pay their bills.
- Be aware of your surroundings and belongings – As I headed out on my own, I didn’t think I was going to be kidnapped or attacked in any kind of way, but I was very much careful about my surroundings and belongings. Especially while I was walking through the huge main market square of Jemaa el-Fnaa, which is super busy and filled with hundreds of people. Like anywhere in the world, places where there are a lot of tourists mixing with locals, can be the perfect spot for pick pockets. Even in London, busy crowded places filled with people are a pick pocket’s place of business. Keep your phone and purse somewhere safe, and consider carrying handbags, backpacks or bum bags, that are not easily accessible.
- If you get lost or need directions, ask shopkeepers or women – Locals will ask for a tip in exchange for any small amount of service they provide you. To avoid being pressured to give money, it’s better to ask for directions from shopkeepers who cannot physically leave their shop in order to take you to where you’re wanting to go, and then proceed to ask you to give you money for showing you the way. This happened a few times when we got lost trying to find our way back to our first Riad. Local young lads can literally smell that you’re lost and will insist on you telling them where you want to go, attempt to be your tour guide to that place, then ask you to give them money when you reach your destination. You can’t really knock their hustle, but if you know you don’t have money to give away, stick to getting your directions from shopkeepers and the local women. Better yet, for back up, download a few map apps that don’t require an internet connection to use them.
- Learn some basic Moroccan Arabic and French phrases – These are the most common spoken languages in Marrakesh and I found it very helpful to know how to say some basic Arabic phrases when communicating with locals. I found that not many people had a good understanding of English, and the language barrier is huge. By learning some basic phrases, you can at least try and get some mutual understanding when speaking to people. Here are the Moroccan Arabic phrases I learnt and used a lot:
Thank you: Shukran
Goodbye: Ma’a Salama
Hello: Asalam Alekum
If you did French at school like I did, visiting Marrakesh would be a great time to brush up on it!
I never knew that I would be capable of being in a foreign country on my own, not knowing a single person, and actually manage to visit the famous Jardin Majorelle (or Majorelle Garden), also known as Yves Saint Laurent’s house, and find a cute little store to buy myself some good old Moroccan mint tea to bring back to London with me. I absolutely fell in love with the mint tea in Marrakesh and the whole tradition behind it. It’s quite common to have mint tea after a meal, and it’s also served as a way of welcoming guests. It definitely doesn’t taste like regular mint tea either, it’s better!
I’m really looking forward to going back to Marrakesh at some point. There’s so much more to discover and do, and so many more nooks and crannies to take amazing pictures of, and in, for the gram! Haha!
Prior to this trip I heard so many stories of how strict Marrakesh was in terms of how women are expected to dress when out and about. To my surprise, we never experienced any hostility about how we were dressed when showing our legs and shoulders. Perhaps things may have changed a bit, and being able to show some skin, within reason, is being more accepted.
I loved the authenticity of Marrakesh. The fact that it has so much culture and tradition, and a very rural and rugged feel to it. It kind of made me feel like if I was living in the bible ages, this is what life would be like… minus the cars, but definitely with all the donkeys and horses around, the way the locals are dressed, and the way the roads, houses, and buildings are built. Things haven’t been overly modernised in terms of architecture, which is actually beautiful to see.
In fact, if was to sum up Marrakesh in one word as a whole, it would be BEAUTIFUL!
Morocco, see you again soon.
What are some of your bucket list destinations?