What an eventful our Morocco adventure was. I must say that on the first day I thought that maybe we haven’t made the right decision to spend our vacation in Morocco, but after the first evening I quickly change my mind. A truly mind blowing experience. And I really understand why so many artists go there for inspiration. Best advice I could give is to just breathe, in and out and just enjoy everything that happens around you – all the good and sometimes bad things that happen. I really hope that my advices will help you! I must say that the food and restaurants were AMAZING. We didn’t have any bad restaurant experience, well maybe in 2 restaurants the food wasn’t as good as we expected but there were some other aspect of why it was good and will stay in our memories. But let me tell you that you HAVE to do your homework about which restaurants you want to visit because most of them don’t have any signs or are in some random streets, that you wouldn’t guess that there is some beautiful restaurant.
WARNING: Mostly you will read words like: amazing, beautiful, delicious and a must visit!
Note: If you want to see where each photo is taken then just place your mouse on the picture.
We spent 3 nights in Marrakech and 8 nights in Essaouira.
I’ll start with the most important thing – money exchange. After reading various reviews we settled on exchanging half of the money at the airport in Marrakech and the other half in a local bank after the 3rd day. As Moroccan dirham is a closed currency and you can only import/export certain amount of it, it is more expensive to exchange outside the country. The exchange rate was the same in both places, so wasn’t really any difference.
Car rental: Before coming here we settled on renting a car versus driving everywhere with taxi. Rented online and paid in advance, but let me tell you that if you are not a confident driver or you don’t have one; then you shouldn’t rent a car because the traffic is crazy, sometimes funny, but most of the times its really crazy because they do whatever they want to do. For example, once our taxi driver went backward in the middle of a highway for about 200m. And make sure that you stop to all the stop signs because we paid 40 pounds for not stopping. And our driver had forgotten his driving license in the riad so he had to go and get it before continuing the drive. In Marrakech we used only taxis. There is no set rate for them and I think that we overpaid on every single journey. Online I read that an average drive is 20-30 dirhams, our average was 50. And make sure you settle on a price before you start driving!
In Marrakech we stayed in Riad Pourpre Medina. Location is really good but you will need help because it’s impossible to find the place on your own at first. We got help from locals. There will be a lot of locals that will help you find your way, but be careful, as sometimes they want to earn some money of you and even if you are going the correct route, they will say that it is closed or something similar and they will show you the “right” way for couple $$. For example, when on first day we followed the SatNav, we drove directly into souks, being super confused a guy offered us to show the way. 10 min later we were at the hotel, but there was no parking, so we parked in front of his “friends” house and for 3 day car protection had to pay 150 dirhams. When he showed us the riad, we had to pay another 200 dirhams for the “way”. Didn’t haggle much, because I was a bit concerned that if they didn’t like it, they knew where my car was.
But apart from that, riad itself was really beautiful and tranquil. They got air condition, which in our case was a lifesaver because when we stayed in Marrakech it was 40 degrees. Also there is a small swimming pool (very small). Staff was amazing and helpful. I would definitely recommend staying in Riad because its really nice experience as you got a feeling like you are staying in a house not in a big hotel.
Must do’s in Marrakech:
Drink as much orange juice as you can.
Get lost in souks and take sneak peak of how some of the things are made. In souks you never know what will be around the corner.
Haggling: In Marrakech – ALWAYS! Except if you buy food, then it is considered an offence. But for everything else – YES. And don’t be afraid of walking away, because chances are that you will find another shop with exactly the same seller in a completely different part of Marrakech. Well at least that happened to us, when on our first day we met a seemingly random guy that was just walking down the road, when suddenly he started talking to us and before you know it, you are in a shop and he is selling you scarfs. As it was our first day, we said thank you and walked off, but the next day we met him again, completely at the opposite side of Marrakech, but this time more prepared to strike a great bargain and bought couple scarfs.
I would recommend always to have a price in mind what you want to pay and a strategy how you will achieve this price, as I always get very excited when haggling and most times I buy something extra that I didn’t want, because it was so much fun to strike a bargain.
With regards to our daily adventures; I will write in order how we spent each day.
And I must say that all restaurants and places where we have been are the must visit places! And you have to understand that the portions are HUGE. Its like you are visiting your granny, you want to try everything but at the same time you are exploding.
On Sunday we took caleche (horse drawn carriages, for last 200 years the caliche has been a fixture in Marrakech streets). There are several places around the city where you can see rows of caleches, but we used the main square of Djemaa el Fna. We paid 200 dirhams for 3 persons, although they first asked 500. But you have to settle the price before you get in the carriage. You have to really bargain and understand how much you are willing to pay. Our carriage ride was about an hour. I really suggest that the first thing you do is take caleche because it’s really helpful to understand the city and its madness.
Our first restaurant was- Dar Yacout- http://www.daryacout.com/
Such a beautiful place and ambience. The service is amazing but oh my God the portions are HUGE, GIGANTIC, but so delicious. I think that with those portions you could feed at least 8 people (we were only 3). Definitely DON’T eat anything before you are coming here. And book a table by the pool. The live music gives extra atmosphere points.
We started with Jardin Majorelle- http://jardinmajorelle.com/ang/ No surprise off course. I personally have been dreaming about Jardin Majorelle for at least 5 years and finally my dream has come true. I wasn’t disappointed and I must say I was really pleasantly surprised by how cool was the museum. Definitely visit it!
Saadian Tombs- http://www.tombeaux-saadiens.com/en/ You won’t spend there a long time but definitely worth a visit. The lavishly decorated doors and carved wooden screens, colorful tiles and elaborate carvings.
Palais Bahia (the beautiful)- http://www.palais-bahia.com/en/ The palace was built by two different men; a father and son who have served in gran viziers Alawite Cherifian. I was really surprised how big and beautiful the place is. The pictures don’t do any justice. One of my favorite places in Marrakech! The craftsmanship is outstanding.
Medersa Ben Youssef- http://www.medersa-ben-youssef.com/en/ Was an Islamic school. Was founded in 14th century however completely rebuilt in 1560s. Nearly 900 students were once housed here. You can explore the small rooms. Home to some of the most beautiful architecture and cravings are mind-blowing.
After exiting the school, a local Moroccan asked whether we would like to go to a “leather festival” that is only happening for 3 days in Marrakesh and today is the last day, so we should feel lucky. As we had some time to spare, we thought why not. He said that it is only 5-10min away from here and tried to explain the way, but the suddenly he asked whether another local who was just passing by, could show us the way for free. He agreed. 15 min later we were still going. We couldn’t see any festivals but saw plenty of ghettos, but our guide said that even his mother from Atlas Mountains has come to Marrakesh just for this festival, so we were very interested and kept going. After another 5 minutes we finally arrived and couldn’t believe our eyes. The “festival” was a leather tannery. We were given mint leaves to use as a “gas mask” from the horrible smell, they wanted to show us the whole tannery, but after a minute or so we understood that we have seen enough and wanted to leave. Next thing you know, we ended up in a leather shop, we had a quick look and went away, the owner seemed friendly and didn’t ask for any money for the visit, but outside we had our tannery guide waiting for us and who asked 50 dirhams, we tried to give him 20, but he got angry, so we just gave the rest and went away. After googling “leather tanneries in Marrakesh”, I understood that this is pretty common, that a “random” passerby just happens to be going that way and is so helpful that he shows the way and then afterwards you pay for the visit to another guy. Didn’t regret going as I have never seen how a tannery works, but I was a bit anxious going through the ghettos, so wouldn’t suggest going alone.
Al Fasia- http://www.alfassia.com/our-restaurant/ Before visiting this restaurant, I read that this is one of the best restaurants and we weren’t disappointed. Also locals said that it has the best food.
Djemaa El Fna- by day its just big open space with snake charmers, obtrusive henna ladies and orange juice stalls. At evening it’s completely changed. There are many food stalls with aggressive gentlemen that ask you to eat at their stall. Let’s not forget belly dancers, men with monkeys, musicians and many other things. We didn’t stay very long because everyone wanted to grab our attention and at times it was getting little bit aggressive and uncomfortable.
We started our day very early at 5:00 because we went to the hot air balloon ride to watch the sunrise. I strongly suggest to use this company:http://www.marrakechbyair.com/en/index.php#_=_ the service was really professional. You can see the balloon preparation, once you’re in the balloon you can’t really feel the take off, which is amazing, because I am afraid of heights and then the pilot starts to tell you jokes and the ride is super funny as well. The landing was also super smooth, once you land, team members give you water and take pictures. Those small details are what really counts. After the ride you have breakfast in a barber tent. Then the team takes you to a camel ride and after that they transport you back to your riad.
Museum of photography- http://maisondelaphotographie.ma/ We lived near photography museum. I strongly recommend visiting it. Even if you are not into photography, because the house itself is stunning and you can get on the top of the roof, but for photography lovers this is the place to be. The photos are amazingly beautiful, full of emotions and stories.
Most of Tuesday we spent eating, because we wanted to visit 2 cool lunch places and it was our last day in Marrakech so we started with Le Jardin-http://lejardin.ma/ The interior and atmosphere was amazing you, are sitting in a garden with cool decor around you. Food was ok. I would suggest going just for the atmosphere and you can have some orange juice.
Next stop – Nomad- http://nomadmarrakech.com/menus/ This is a must for lunches and desserts. They got 2 terraces and let me tell you, desserts are to die for. Really you won’t be disappointed with the Nomad. And they have really good mojitos.
For dinner we went to La Mamounia hotel. http://www.mamounia.com/en/ La Mamounia is a luxurious masterpiece and legendary hotel. Even if you’re not staying there you must visit their beautiful gardens, eat dinner in one of the restaurants (Moroccan, French, Italian) and don’t forget to have a cocktail because they are really good. We will always remember the beautiful night in La Mamounia.
Wednesday we had to leave for Essaouira. Along the way we had a few stops.
First stop was Terres D’Amanar. http://www.terresdamanar.com/index.php
This was an excellent stop to prepare our muscles for the kite surfing adventure. First thing that we decided to try was the zip wires. Views are amazing and definitely get’s the adrenalin flowing. If you are scared of heights, I can for sure suggest it, as, myself, I am scared of looking down from anywhere that is 5 meters or higher, but this is completely different experience. Afterwards we went to the Accro park. Chose the Purple & Black tracks (the most difficult ones) and enjoyed every single obstacle. Bit difficult, but still fun. If you are afraid from heights, I would suggest trying the beginners track and then attempt other ones.
Next stop was Kasbah Bab Ourika. http://kasbahbabourika.com/ Well again you have to have a really good driver because the drive itself is crazy. You feel like you are on a wrong path and 5 cm to left or right and you can end up at the bottom of the mountain. But once you got there you completely forget about that until you have to go down again. But the views are mind-blowing once again. Maybe the food wasn’t the best we had, but definitely worth the crazy ride. But please check the times for dinner and lunches because we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner and maybe that’s why the food wasn’t as good. But we would go again because the surrounding is spectacular.
The main reason we chose Morocco is that my friends wanted to learn kite surfing. So we choose to stay in Essaouira for kite surfing, not for sightseeing reasons. I must say, Essaouira is much more relaxed than Marrakech and you got much calmer and resort vibes than in Marrakech. And there isn’t a lot of sightseeing to do. But they have really good restaurants.
I won’t write what we did each day because most of the time my friends were having lessons or we were waiting for the wind to show up, that’s why I will write things we did and in which restaurants we ate.
We stayed at Riad Perle D’Eau. Very lovely riad, which is owned by an elderly couple that has traveled all over the world and has sooo many stories to tell that you can listen for days. The rooms were very clean and nice. On the rooftop we had our breakfast served, where you can eat very delicious breakfast whilst having the most amazing views over the ocean. The owner is very helpful and knows a lot about the area. Gave us great suggestions where to go and what to explore. Learned that taxi ride costs only 7 dirhams around here and that parking is 25 in the Bab Marrakech parking lot, but 5-10 dirhams elsewhere.
For kite surfing my friends’ chose- Explora. Very good school with excellent trainers. Unfortunately we weren’t that lucky with the wind, as out of 7 days, we only had 2 good days with descent wind, but the trainer – Achram – was so good that my friends learned how to start riding. Definitely would suggest them.
What other things you can do: Go and make some henna. Buy some grass handmade shoes, I got myself 2 pairs. One pair super colorful other pair they made just for me, because I wanted to have each shoe in different color. And they are cheap, around 15 pounds. Buy scarfs and spices. Most of the prices are fixed and cheaper than in Marrakech, which is good if you don’t want to haggle.
Go to the port and Les Remparts d’Essaouira. http://www.essaouira.com/en/visits-essaouira/les-remparts-dessaouira/
But be aware that the smell is really strong and terrible especially when it’s windy.
Had Dra- is an alternative to the souvenir markets and actually is one of the largest in Morocco. It is about 20min drive outside of Essaouira and only open on Sundays. Locals say that you have to go there to see the real Morocco. We went and it was crazy. They are selling everything, but mainly animals. On the main road it is impossible to move. And its not the most touristic place that’s why locals will stare at you all the time.
Where to eat:
Gusto Italia https://www.facebook.com/ristorantegustoitalia If you want to have more familiar food. They had great live music as well.
La Fromagerie- Takes about 15 minutes to get there from medina. Such a great place to just relax and see the day go by with locally made cheeses and tasty wines. Restaurant itself gives you vacation and adventure vibes.
La Table By Madada- http://www.latablemadada.com/en/ This is absolutely a must. I personally don’t eat see food but here all the dishes were amazingly tasty and super fresh. I’m still dreaming about my spider crab and avocado tartar. If only in all restaurants the sea food would be so good I definitely would start to eat seafood more often.
Umia- https://www.facebook.com/Umiarestaurantessaouira/ The only restaurant where we went twice. The dishes are beautifully made. The interior is simple but with interesting details. BUT the chocolate fondant is to die for. I’m usually disappointed with fondants and always trying to find the real deal and let me tell you that this is the REAL deal.
Val D’Argan- http://www.valdargan.com/fr/1/valdargan-essaouira Vineyard is 30 km from Essaouira. You can have excursion around the vineyard, combined with 3-4 wine tastings with food pairing. Who would have thought that my first vineyard visit would be in Morocco. They definitely know how to make really good vine as the owner previously had vineyard in France and now his daughter has taken over that and he is making vine here. Once again food was really good especially starters. And we also bought vine because it was that good. If only we had known that there is a swimming pool we would definitely have taken our swimsuits.
Le Jardin des Douars- http://www.jardindesdouars.com/en/restaurantlunch 20km away from medina. Stunning hotel with beautiful garden and great views. Seasonal menu. The food was tasty, but my friends didn’t like the soup, but desserts were yummy.
Caravane Café- https://www.facebook.com/CaravaneCafeArt What a place. They definitely know how to entertain the customers. There is magician, live music and fire show. You won’t go there for the most delicious food, but they did have super delicious desserts (don’t take cocktails or sangria, stick with vine) but mainly you have to go there for the atmosphere itself; such an energetic place. The owner is an artist himself and you can definitely see that in the interior.
That’s it for our tips for Morocco adventure. As I said in the beginning you have to relax and just go with the flow because it’s completely different world. Really beautiful, crazy, funny and still you can learn a thing or two. There weren’t a day that we didn’t learn something new about our selves. Place where you can see how easily you can cope under pressure.