By Carlotta Cavallari
By Carlotta Cavallari
Oh, magical Morocco! I have discovered this amazing country relatively late, in 2014, thanks to a road trip that took me from Marrakech all the way up to Tangier. I left with a big desire to go back, buy a riad and just live there permanently! It truly is an incredible country.
Here are my five reasons why you should travel to Morocco now, and a few personal tips.
From beautiful beaches to canyons, lush forests to the Sahara desert, Morocco is a million countries in one. How crazy it is that near Fez there is a mountain town modeled after a Swiss ski resort, surrounded by a timber forest? I couldn’t believe my eyes, especially since we drove into it coming from sand dunes!
Shopping, just not in Marrakech
I dare anyone to leave Morocco without a bag full of all sorts of carpets, pottery, spices, Argan-everything – and the list goes on and on. Having traveled with just a backpack each, my boyfriend and I still managed to cram a brightly colored ottoman, amazing kilim cushions, enough mint tea to last us a lifetime, a leather bag and several jars of AMLOU (the “Moroccan peanut butter”, just a thousand times more delicious) into them.
Most travelers start their Moroccan adventure in Marrakesh and tend to do all the shopping there, because of the incredibly vast souk and variety of products on offer. However, I find that it is not only the most overpriced city in the country, it is the one were stall owners haggle most tenaciously (getting you to pay exactly the price they want in most cases) and where travelers are most prone to getting scammed.
I personally loved shopping in Fez or smaller towns such as Chefchaouen – smaller souks, friendlier owners, entertaining haggling sessions and (but this is true everywhere in Morocco) amazing quality.
There are animals everywhere in Morocco! And we interacted with them throughout our trip, from the horse carriages in Marrakesh, donkeys in Fez and in smaller mountain towns, to camels and dromedaries in the region bordering the Sahara and funny Barbary macaques in the Middle Atlas mountains. And then there are the cats.
Cats basking in the sun, sleeping in tiny alleys, patiently waiting for food outside a restaurant kitchen. Yes, cats are Morocco’s national animal.
Or should I say, achingly beautiful architecture. Your eyes will be filled with wonder as you walk through the colonnade of a demurely private riad (only here modesty can be so magnificent), and contemplate the intricacies on the tile and wood works. Or when you decide that the joltingly bright Majorelle blue is indeed your new favorite color.
The sun works wonders to deliver the most delicious dates, olives, lemons, oranges and grapefruits: in Marrakech I couldn’t resist the orange juice stalls in Jamaa el Fna, truly fresh and sublime! Food in Morocco is heavily spiced and intense, which fits perfectly with the country’s very own nature. The air is pervaded with the scent of orange blossoms, spices, freshly baked bread and fresh mint.
Where Can I Stay?
The highlight of my Marrakech stay was the startlingly beautiful Riad Dixneuf La-Ksour in the Medina.
This is a Riad in the true sense of the word: an enclosed world of its own where the rooms form a square around a courtyard, one long chamber on each side, with their windows looking inward. The courtyard has a lovely lap pool set in marble – which is where you will have a delicious Moroccan breakfast (and strong coffee!) everyday before taking on the buzzing souk.
On the road we slept at Ait Ben Moro, an amazing mud Kasbah in a palm oasis (refurbished by a Spanish expat to include a fabulous pool).
The family-run guesthouses in smaller towns are usually the go-to accommodation for backpackers, due to the lack of hostels. Among the mid-price range options Casa Perleta in Chefchaouen, with rooms starting at 35£ (45 EUR) including breakfast. We especially loved basking in the sun on the roof terrace, and the food was to die for!
How Do I Get Around?
We tried several means of transportation during our travels. In large cities we usually hailed the (very cheap) official cabs (beware of gypsy cabs!), went for leisurely rides on horse carriages, or walked. From town to town we used the CTM buses, which we found very reliable and still quite affordable (a 4.5 hour journey from Fez to – with a/c – sets you back £5 or 6.5 EUR). For the majority of the trip, however, we chose to travel with a local guide, and I can’t recommend Jalil of Morocco Unplugged enough! He can provide you with the best insights and help you create the tour of a lifetime.