Morocco is one of the most captivating places I have ever visited. It was my first and only trip to North Africa, and I was fascinated by how much it differed from the other parts of the Continent. While it is not one of the easiest places to travel through, it will reward the adventurous traveler with an enticing cuisine, unique spa experience, varied yet beautiful landscape, and a rich history. Although I journeyed there in 2017, I can still feel the sand of the Sahara desert escaping my fingertips, taste the lemon chicken tajine, and sense the vibrations of the lively markets. It was a memorable trip, and today I wanted to share 6 reasons why I feel Morocco is worth adding to your list! I’m also going to be real and discuss a few cons below, so keep reading to find out more.
1. Achieve a bucket list dream by experiencing the Sahara Desert
One of the main things I was looking forward to when planning my Moroccan trip was having the opportunity to ride through the Sahara Desert and even spend a night sleeping under the stars. This dream became a reality when I booked a 2 day, 1 night tour from Marrakech to Fes through Your Morocco Tour. We covered a lot of ground and it was definitely a jam packed journey with lots of time sightseeing from our private car, but with only a week to view everything, it was well worth it. In 2017, the price was $349 per person and included a private car with English speaking driver, camel ride once we made it to the Sahara Desert, “glamping” accommodations with a Western style bathroom, dinner by a campfire, and breakfast.
To travel from Marrakech to the Desert, it took about 9-10 hours, but we were captivated by how the scenery changed from lush greenery to snow capped Atlas Mountains to the dry desert. I had never seen so many changes in a landscape in such a short duration of time. It was mesmerizing! Once we reached the Sahara Desert, it was more beautiful than I imagined. The sand dunes were endless, and I felt that I had transported back in time. Although it was slightly eerie to camp out in the pitch black desert only illuminated by our campfire and the glistening stars, I was still enveloped with peace and reminded of just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. The stars were unreal and we were lucky to have a guy interested in astrology in our camp that pointed out multiple configurations. This alone makes the trip to Morocco worthwhile.
2. Visit the blue washed city of Chefchaouen
Another unique aspect of our trip was visiting the Blue City of Chefchaouen. It is small and can be done as a day trip from Fes (hence why I did the Marrakech to Fes tour described above). It’s calming to visit a city that is encompassed by blue everywhere: walls, floors, staircases, alleys, doors; it’s literally like someone took a giant paintbrush and painted the town blue! It’s extremely popular now as people flock there to get an Instagram worthy photo, but I encourage you to actually walk around and take in the serenity of the town. People actually live behind those blue doors and courtyards so don’t go snooping too much. Be respectful and realize that you are indulging in a special experience.
3. Be surrounded by beautiful architecture
One of the main reasons I travel is to soak up architecture that is native to a place. Morocco will definitely fulfill this from extremely ancient ruins to intricate doors and courtyards. I highly recommend staying in a riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. It helps you to understand the culture a lot better than staying in a typical hotel and helps you appreciate the architectural beauty of the city before you even leave your accommodations. I recommend Riad Star in Marrakech, which was the home of Josephine Baker! They also loan you a mobile phone that you can use in case you get lost walking around the medina. We definitely got lost and used this phone to call them and tell them our exact location. They came to meet us and escort us back to the Riad, which really just goes above and beyond in terms of service.
Other places to see beautiful architecture are:
Medersa Ben Youssef
4. Engage in an invigorating spa experience
I love visiting spas all over the world, especially those that provide an experience that I may not receive elsewhere. Morocco is famous for their hammams (public bath), but I do warn you that you have to be comfortable with nudity. The hammams are separated by gender, so you will not be able to do one with your partner (unless its a private one in a hotel). I did it twice; the first time in a more public establishment and the second in a private hotel spa. The public establishment was nice and clean and consisted of a large room with maybe about 30 other women in there. As I did not speak the language, I was very confused as to what I should do, but eventually someone kind of helped me through the process. First, I changed into disposable underwear and flip flops, then sat in a steam room for about 10 minutes. Outside of the steam room was a larger room with about 5 marble slabs. Once it was my turn to lay on one of the slabs, the attendant proceeded to give me a full body scrub followed by dropping buckets of water on me to rinse it all away. This process cleanses and purifies the body and honestly is very relaxing once you get over how awkward it is. Also, I must say as a plus size woman, I did not feel embarrassed as the hammam I visited had women of all shapes and sizes. No one judged or batted an eye.
The second experience was at the spa at the Royal Mansour hotel. Not only was this spa exceptionally beautiful with a bird cage entrance, I also received one of the most heavenly massages I ever received in my life. I did this on my last day in Morocco and was definitely spoiled! The private hammam was the same in receiving a body scrub, but I was alone, so if you are nervous being around others, the private spa is the way to go.
5. Consume delectable cuisine
When you visit Morocco, you will eat so much tajine that you will be sick of it by the time you leave lol, but it is incredibly good. Tajine is actually the name of the type of pot that the food is cooked in and you can choose from a variety of meat, including lamb, beef, and chicken. I do have to say my personal favorite is the lemon chicken with olives, and I’m salivating just thinking about it! It’s a stew normally served over couscous or plain white rice and is extremely filling. I also couldn’t get enough of the mint tea when I was over there. Everywhere you go, you will be offered mint tea, usually with some small cookies. It’s such a nice way to feel welcomed into a new place. I also recommend getting the argon oil ice cream from the Nomad restaurant in Marrakech; trust me.
6. Engage in the sport of Medina shopping
The Medina is the center of the city where you will find local vendors, shops, spices, argon oil, leather, and restaurants. It’s definitely a bustling area and one where you will want to use caution. However, its an integral part of Moroccan culture and is a great place to pick up souvenirs. This is the type of place where you negotiate the price and walk with confidence because any sign of weakness will surely be taken advantage of. Simply walking through the spice market will awaken your senses, and you can even visit a tannery to see how leather is made and snag some authentic pieces at a bargain. Its a little intimidating but exciting and you can easily pass a whole day at the Medina.
Alright, so what are the cons? Well, the main issue I personally had was that my first and only time being called the N-word to my face was in Morocco! The irony of that happening in Africa. My friend left a day before me and I was out exploring on my own. I had no issues whatsoever when I was traveling with my friend, but I guess as a woman traveling alone, I was an easy target and a group of guys decided to harass me. I naturally ignored them and then was shockingly called that degrading word! Besides that, I was fine, but I walked with confidence looking straight ahead, avoiding eye contact, and in a hurried manner like I knew where I was going. Never show weakness and if anyone offers to show you a place, politely decline as they will follow you until you give them a tip. I do recommend traveling with a friend or in a group, but I have heard women travel there alone; it’s just not easy or for the faint of heart.
Have you been to Morocco? What did you think of it? If not, did this guide spark an interest in you?
xoxo, Global Midwife