Last October Wil and I went to Morocco for a ten day trip. We spent time in Casablanca, Marrakech, and Essaouira. Pretty photos first, then all of my notes are at the bottom :-)
Let me preface this by saying, I feel incredibly lucky to travel the amount that we do, and I feel kind of terrible being critical, but it’s in my nature and I can’t help it. So, if you just want the pretty photos experience, that ends with the above. Or with the full gallery, if you want to see more: http://emiliajane.pass.us/morocco/
I didn’t love Morocco. I think this is part of why I waited so long to edit and blog the photos. I really wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t. If we go back, it’ll be for a pop over for a weekend from Spain or something. Which, is my recommendation if you just have to go. Stay at the absolute nicest hotel you can afford, and spend a lot of time enjoying their amenities.
The only place we went in Casablanca that I liked was Le Cabestan. In general, I wouldn’t suggest spending more than a day there if you go at all. We took the train from Casablanca to Marrakech (it was impossible to find our seats, or understand the tickets). We stayed at and LOVED El Fenn in Marrakech. They handled hiring a tour guide for us for the market as well as a driver for a day trip we took to Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson’s property). It was recommended that we sit on a rooftop on the square in the medinah to watch the sunset and listen to the call to prayer. We sipped mint tea and just listened. I don’t think I actually relaxed, the entire time that we were there. We were always on the go, and I never felt at ease.
The place I most wanted to see in Marrakech was the Mamounia Hotel. I’d seen too many instagrams from there to skip it, but it was also out of our budget to stay there. Thankfully, they offer a day pass that includes a massage, a three course lunch, and pool access all day for $100pp. Be sure to call to book that in advance. I would seriously pay that just to be allowed to walk around and take pictures, it is so beautiful. One of the hard things about Marrakech is that everything is kind of behind walls. It’s not easy to find the beautiful places unless you know where you’re going. You can wander down the darkest, creepiest alley and then end up in paradise. But like…wandering down dark alleys without knowing that paradise is at the end is kind of terrifying. Frankly, I’m used to traveling without looking like a tourist, and that was impossible in Morocco. I always felt like we were being watched.
Absolutely, without question, if you go, hire a tour guide to take you through the market. There’s so much more than you can originally find on your own, and they’ll help you haggle. Another place we went in Morocco that I’d seen photos of and heard was beautiful, was YSL’s gardens. I think I got like one decent photo there? It was a weird place and not really worth the money, in my opinion. The weird thing about going there though is that it’s outside the medinah, so you’re in “normal” Marrakech where everyone who isn’t in the tourist industry lives and works normal lives like we do. I felt like we stepped in and out of the 21st century that day.
Our last night we went to the other most beautiful hotel I could find photos of online for a cocktail, the Royal Monsour. It was also insanely gorgeous, and not somewhere you would ever find without seeking it out. If we go back, I would also check out their spa.
I had also seen photos from Kasbat Tamadot that looked really beautiful, and I thought it was on the way to Essaouira (it wasn’t) so we made lunch reservations there and went to explore. It was cool to get out into the country and see more, and our driver was really informative and spoke great English. The roads were super confusing and there were LOTS of police out doing random stops, I would not recommend driving if you don’t speak Arabic. The actual place was incredible and I would absolutely spend more time there and do one of their cooking classes. I feel like this could be a real escape.
Our last part of the trip, Essaouira, we stayed at the Sofitel. This was supposed to be the beach part of the trip…and it rained. It was cool to see another town, but I also got kind of sick so between that and the weather we went early.
I know this post was full of beautiful images that make the trip look super glamourous. And to a degree, it was. But it’s also in Africa, so if you don’t know what you’re getting into, prepare yourself for the dirt and poverty. The vast majority of these beautiful places and tile and architecture are private property. It would be hard to stumble upon these places accidentally. Also bear in mind that it is literally my job to find beautiful things and make them look even better than real life. Okay, please don’t hate me. Email if you have questions.