When I first met Spain, I visited The Alhambra in Granada and was amazed. That Arabic style, a culture of contrast to mine, awakened in me the interest of knowing more about it. With that idea in mind , we prepared this trip to Morocco, specifically to Marrakech. The northern part of Africa, which has nothing to do with African safaris.
Before going to Marrakech
We took the plane tickets from skyscanner, the search engine for flights. From this page you can compare flights in different dates and see which fits your budget and time.
we booked a riad inside the medina (city center). The riads are traditional Moroccan houses whose rooms overlook a central patio with a fountain or pool. Unlike a hotel, these riads retain the traditional Moroccan style.
Tours can be hired in advance on the internet or be hired directly there. We recommend this second option as it is cheaper.
Arrive to Marrakech
Morocco is separated from Europe only by the Strait of Gibraltar and Marrakech, its most touristic city, is only two hours by plane from Madrid.
While Alvaro told me about how Arabs settled in Spain 13 centuries ago, we took a taxi to go to our riad, a petit taxi as they call it there, which cost us 70 Dírham (7 euros). You can also go by bus from the airport to the Jemaa El Fna square, central square of Marrakech. The trip costs only 30 Dh (3 euros).
After passing narrow streets between people, bikes, motorcycles and even donkeys we arrived to our riad.
Our room had huge doors, the interior was adorned with mirrors of gilded frames, mosaic tiles, candles with very dim lights, carpets and stone bath. A decoration of charm that made us live our thousand and one nights.
Already in the afternoon, we went out to visit the medina. First, we walked to the Jemaa El Fna square, space where everyone passes and where everything happens; women offering henna tattoos, men selling dentures, monkeys jumping on the arms of their owners, snakes dancing to the sound of the flute…
You will also see how the Moroccans have the habit of drinking tea with mint watching it. The terrace of El Cafe Restaurant France is a more than ideal place to see it, so while you drink tea, you can appreciate the sunset or listen to Islamic call to prayer from the minaret of the mosque.
We had already been told that the Arabs are good at selling. To see them in action the souk is the best place. This is a labyrinth of narrow streets full of small shops with all kinds of products. It is par excellence a bargaining place, where Moroccans are the masters of the sale. Always have some strategy to buy them.
I can only advise you so that you do not get caught unawares, that if they ask for 100 Dh for a product you offer 50 Dh and you will see how in the end they come to an agreement. Ah! And do not worry about language, although its official language is Arabic and French you can always understand somehow with them.
After getting lost in the narrow streets of the souk, believing we were leaving, we return to Jemaa El Fna square, which is a 5-minute walk from the souk. We had dinner in the Letuile restaurant, which we had been recommended (it is on a side street to the square near the exchange houses). We ate the famous Tajim special, which cost 60 Dh (6 euros) and it was very good.
The next day we went to see the main mosque of Marrakech “Koutoba”, but we only visited it on the outside because only Muslims can enter it.
Then we head towards the medersa Ben Youssef, the largest and most important Muslim school of religious studies in Morocco. It is only 5 minutes walk from the Jemaa El Fna square.
Road to the desert
We had stayed at 10 am the next day with the tour company we hired. A two day tour that included lodging, transportation, breakfast, dinners, and dromedary ride through the desert, but we were not told that it also included the best company, 1 Japanese and 8 Arabs that made this tour an unforgettable trip.
We started the route, several hundred kilometers separated us from the Sahara desert. We made some stops where we met the fortress of Ait Ben Hadu, a world heritage site, and which has literally movie landscapes. With impressive views dominating the colors of its flag: red and green. Films such as Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, Gladiator and the jewel of the Nile were filmed here, among others.
At lunchtime, we preferred to go to a different restaurant than the one offered by the tour. The price-performance was not good (typical restaurants for tourists).
Continuing our journey, we met a house of Berber craftsmen who are dedicated to the preparation of carpets based on camel wool and worm silk with natural dyes. If you are dare by some carpet you have many facilities to buy, such as payment with visa and delivery to your home city.
The next morning, we continued the journey. After a few kilometers, we stop to see some huge mountains, whose gorge is known as the throat of the devil.
Visiting the desert of Merzouga
The best of the trip started when we arrived in the desert. It was an incredible feeling to be in the middle of the Sahara, I had seen it many times in movies and those times I saw it so far … But this time it was real. There we were, roaming the desert on dromedaries, watching the sunset, all in a row, one after another. It was really wonderful.
As we walked through the desert we experienced a certain moment of tension mixed with adrenaline. A sandstorm was approaching us as if we were inside the movie The Mummy. We felt as the wind lifted the sand and began to cloud the vision of the desert and how it entered the body. The dromedaries accelerated the pace to get to our typical desert tents as soon as possible, where we could take refuge from the increasingly strong sandstorm.
It is said that after the storm always comes the calm, never better, so we went out for dinner the typical couscous and tajim at some tables that set up in the middle of the desert. And when we finished the meal, the party started.
The joy of the Arabs, their catchy tunes, all together making a round on the sand.Some of us went up to the dunes to be a little closer to the stars and to love the desert as it said “The Little Prince”:One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence, something throbs, and gleams…
The words are short to describe the emotions we feel on this trip. We leave friends that we will always carry in our hearts, anecdotes that draw you thousands of smiles and memories that will always live inside us.
I will definitely return to Marrakech to visit friends, to drink orange juice in the Jemaa El Fna square, to buy carpets, argan oil and, above all, to lose myself through the souk and the streets of the medina.
And, if you have already decided that you want to travel to Marrakech like us, we recommend reading our 8 must-see in this city.
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Kiss and hugs.