Morocco had been on the travel list for a few years. When my travel bud Sarah and I decided that 2015 was the year to go, I couldn’t get over one thing: We were going to Africa.
Even though I had only just gone to South America the year prior, Africa felt so much more monumental, maybe because it’s so much further away. We would be going to Northern Africa, far different from other parts of Africa, which meant that it would hopefully not be my last trip to that continent.
The more we planned our trip to Morocco, the more excited I became. Because we were tacking on a trip to Portugal also, we would not have very many days in Morocco so we had to limit where we could go and what we would do. I would quickly come to realize that a return trip to Morocco would be required as there is so much to explore.
We settled on Marrakech as our focus and designed the rest of the trip from there. My initial thoughts were:
- Marrakech will be Instagram gold.
- I can use my French there!
- I better start practicing my French.
- Why can’t I get that damn Crosby Stills & Nash song “Marrakech Express” out of my head?
I was lured to Morocco because it felt so different from anywhere else I had been. More exotic, maybe? What I would learn is that I was partially right. Morocco, specifically Marrakech, was very different from other cities I’ve visited with its desert climate, camel sightings, and blend of European and North African cultures. But it was also strikingly similar to many other places in Europe or South America – the inner old city (Medina) and outer modern culture (in the Ville Nouvelle), the sheer age of the city and the way it easily mixed the old with the new, the importance of religion on shaping the city structure and the lifestyle of its inhabitants, and an architectural style that had been preserved for hundreds of years.
The most striking aspect of Marrakech, however, is the frenetic pace of the city. It is noisy. It is loud. It is hot (at least when we were there in late June where high temps circled around 104F). It is not pedestrian-friendly. On the main roads, cars dominate and sidewalks often do not exist (or are in serious disrepair). Mopeds scoot through the narrow alleyways and streets that are off-limits to cars, competing with the foot traffic in these passageways. There are so many smells, especially in the souks: spices, leather goods, sweets. Outside of the souks, the smells intensify, especially near the meat and fish markets.
Pure sensory overload.
In preparing for our trip, I didn’t understand why so many people commented on the respite they enjoyed at their hotels…until I experienced it for myself. And that’s why selecting a hotel in Marrakech is probably the most important part of planning a trip to the bustling city. Finding the perfect riad for your stay, one that will be your sanctuary is incredibly important because you will rely on that place when you and your senses need a break. We stayed at Riad Kaiss, which I would highly recommend for its attentive staff, delicious meals, and being the most perfect retreat from the craziness of Marrakech.
For more tips and recommendations in Marrakech, click here