Originally, my travel destination in January was to Africa, in Zanzibar. Having 24-hours to confirm my booking at the end of December, I've learnt too late that I needed a visa. It wouldn't have been a hassle of course if I proceeded to get a visa on arrival plus another visa for a couple of nights stay in Addis Ababa, but these were a bit expensive that would have affected my travel money for the whole duration of my holiday.
Having three weeks annual leave at that time, I wanted to get away for at least two weeks to somewhere sunny but still near Europe to compensate missing Zanzibar, somewhere exotic and non-European. That's how Morocco came to mind plus a colleague's recommendation...although Marrakech have always been in my bucket list before. Not a bit daunted as its' winter, booking my flights was easy-peasy. Although Marrakech is very much known, the rest of the country was not except Casablanca.
"Here's lookin' at you kid!"
Not impressed with what some reviews about Casablanca, checking some travel videos of Morocco was next. This video from YouTube gave me an idea on where to go for the whole duration of my backpacking around the country. So much to see, and from experience, I didn't want the pace that's needed to actually see a lot of places, changing cities every few days can be very tiring. An occasional one-day tour is ok.
A return travel to Marrakech wasn't the plan and seeing a cheap flight to an unknown Fes, it seemed a good idea to start there. Also, I thought it was more fun to fly to (Fes) [https://travelfeed.io/@immarojas/chouara-tannery-in-fes-visiting-one-of-the-oldest-tanneries-in-the-world-pfz7r0nl] Northeast of Morocco, then travel down by road across the mid-Atlas down to the Southeastern part to [Merzouga](https://travelfeed.io/@immarojas/come-Away-with-Me-to-the-Sahara) for some relaxation in [Erg Chebbi](https://travelfeed.io/@immarojas/living-like-the-berbers-in-erg-chebbi) After four nights, I was looking forward for my eight nights in Marrakech, not knowing that to reach it, it involved a total of eleven hours by road travel. Don't get me wrong for although the journey was long, Morocco's topography was beautiful, which included the very desert part of the Atlas mountains, crossing and reaching the highest elevations covered in snow. Although not thick in the middle of the winter, the snow have thawed in most parts as the sun can still be too hot in most days.
If adventure is what one looks for, the roads in some parts can be narrow so eye-dropping mountainsides below were very much visible if sitting by the window.
It's a long way but there are private transports for tourists that can be arranged online or at individual's accomodation. Rather than having your own car, this is the most comfortable way of transport. Although there are trains and buses, a lot of places aren't accessible via public transports and not very frequent. There are a lot of tours also to choose from without the hassle of arranging transport.
In driving around, a lot would rather hire a car in having more freedom to go anywhere and can choose the duration of stay. Also, this is a cheaper option.
I had 8 days with just one place in mind to visit while in Marrakech. Catching a bug and presented itself on arrival, going anywhere went out of the window. Except for lunchtime venturing out to eat, the first 4 days were spent recuperating in my hostel. Good thing, the hostel's breakfast was continental daily plus it have a bar for drinks and meals for dinner. Not to mention that it have a pool by the bar, it wasn't so bad to not go out.
*But oh man, it's my first time in Marrakech! *
Coming from Fes whose medina was a bit daunting to venture to, I was more excited to explore Marrakech. Founded in 1907, it's more modern a bit and the alleys are wider. I mean, you can see the sky as you wander around, in contrast to the maze of Fes. The walled city is smaller too so it's a lot easier to navigate and not that scary if you get lost.
Why do people go to Marrakech?
For people who love haggling, Marrakech don't disappoint. I swear, you can do it all day and the locals will love you.
Please ask a permission when taking a photo with the locals while in Morroco. Some ask payments or just offer if so inclined.
For a 16 days stay, my luggage can't accommodate a lot nor was I comfortable in having a lot of luggage. In saying that, I bought a backpack but just as my hand carry bag although it mostly contained herbal teas and Morrocan coffee, which I didn't mind.
Marrakech' medina is full of artisans with their handicrafts, it's souks were full of leatherwares, carpets, blankets, ornamental lamps among others. In every corner, one can just feast one's eyes and walk around the whole day and buy everything if that's even possible. The difficult part is in choosing what one wants, just be serious when haggling as the vendors do try to up their prices everytime but also they do give in to agreed amount.
Everywhere in Morroco, they have this tradition of giving their **hospitality tea. **
This is mint tea, keep in mind that the locals like it sweet so remind your host if you don't take sugar. Be very aware too that it can just be their way of welcoming you at their stall and being friendly. Either that or their intention is to sell their products. You can refuse and don't need to buy, they'll understand.
It is cheap in Morroco, plus your ability to haggle can get you affordable stuff. As I always say, make sure to have space in your luggage when going to Marrakech.
But that's just shopping.
When it comes to food, try the lamb tajine. A bit oily and salty, it's probably one of the best Morrocan cuisine, not that I remember most of the things I had eaten there, tajine is very easy to remember. Plus I love lamb. Eating out, portions are quite a lot in some places plus the Morrocan bread on each meal. There's no alcohol in the restaurants we went to, but some hostels have bars the serve alcohol. If night life is what you look for, some high end restaurants have shows of local dances. My group was just happy to stay at our hostel's bar for drinks at the end of sight-seeing although there was a live music one night.
Marrakech is the 4th biggest city in Morroco, it's also one of the best location to experience Morrocan life and culture. I mean, it have everything that the country can offer. In saying that, there are other unique places to see in Morroco like Ait-Ben-Haddou, the Monkey's fingers, Chefchaouen, the Sahara among others.
What's the best thing while travelling?
Personally, I met some cool people while in there. And so far, our adventures together were the coolest things in my travel to Morroco. Sometimes, travelling alone gives you unexpected experiences that blow your mind. I guess that brings endless possibilities if you open your mind to it.
Just like venturing away from touristy places, trying local food at the local eateries and street markets, buying local coffee mixed with awesome herbs among others. Lastly, have a local hammam, this is one thing to not miss and it's more fun when done with friends. Prepare yourself for the experience of real Morrocan culture.
All images are mine, taken with Huawei.