I kicked off my 2020 gap year travels last week with a trip to Marrakech for 5 days! It was an experience to say the least!
Before this I had never been outside Europe and had only really experienced European cities which are culturally all quite similar so this felt like a quite a big deal because culture in Morocco is very very different. Nevertheless I had a fab time and definitely learnt a lot which has given me the confidence to visit more places outside Europe now.
This may be quite a long post as I have a lot to say about my experience and, as always, lots of photos to share so you may wanna grab a cuppa…
A note about Marrakech and Morocco…. if you didn’t know already, it is a Muslim country which means that they do have different views and laws about things, many of which I didn’t agree with but you have to respect other peoples cultures. For example it’s a dry country so you can’t drink or buy alcohol, very very few places actually serve it and also you do have to be mindful of what you wear out of respect. It’s not a law, like the alcohol ban, but it’s not appropriate to wear clothing that shows your shoulders or your knees, especially if you’re a women. It was only like 20 degrees for a few hours a day as it is winter but in the summer it gets up to 40 degrees so I imagine this would be a hard rule to follow.
People definitely act a lot differently in the streets and towards tourists. In the old city they had a place called The Souks which are narrow streets filled with shops of souveniers and other traditional Marrakech decorations and the shop owners like to hassle you. They’ll try get your attention as you walk past which does get a bit annoying after a while. This included a lot of catcalling which I personally hate. I also had so many comments about my eyes because they’re blue and being and looking English definitely put myself in the spotlight a bit. The purple hair doesn’t help either…
They also have a massive market called Jama El F’na which is a tourist hotspot and was packed. I didn’t take any photos because I was worried about my camera get taken or damaged because you have to watch out for pickpockets. People also were grabbing my arms trying to get me to buy things and you get people asking you for money, trying to sell things they find on the floor and you also get taxis following you and shouting at you. I know all of this may sound horrible but it’s just their culture and you have to accept it. Also after a couple of days I was kinda used to it and thankfully I did go with my Mum so I had someone to walk with, but I didn’t enjoy that side of Marrakech.
Onto the more exciting tourist bits:
Museu de Marrakech
I will be honest that this was no Tate Modern but it was still pretty good! Architecturally it was gorgeous, all the mosaics were stunning. It was a great way to kill an hour or so and see some Morrocan art and drawings! There was basically no information around any of the pieces of art like you normally see in a gallery but I noticed there were people going around with tours guides, which I am assuming would have been extra to pay for. But it’s a worth a visit nonetheless.
I absolutely loved it here because it was nice to sit in the piece and quiet and get away from the hustle and bustle of the old city and go somewhere full of tourists if I’m honest! You can walk all around the park in the middle and there are the remains of the the rest of the palace around the edge which is not photographed and there is also information and history on the palace which was very interesting. I mostly just loved sitting and soaking in the sun here! You could also go up to the top of the palace walls and get a gorgeous view of the city.
The city doesn’t feature many tall buildings so you can pretty much see this wherever you are which is useful if you’re lost. Like most mosques in Morocco this is not open to non-muslims but the grounds surrounding them are gorgeous! There’s plenty of places to sit and people watch but you have to watch out for people trying to sell you things because they will try to give you free things and then charge you, so just say no to everyone to be safe and they’ll eventually go away.
A few times a day people get called to prayer and they have speakers in the top of every tower in every mosque in the city where they read/sing a prayer. It was annoying to start but you eventually got used to it, it was an interesting wake up call at like 6/7 am every morning!
This was definitely a highlight of the trip and one of my favourite places that we went to and is worth the walk to because it’s located out in the new city. The bright blue and yellow building definitely contrasts the greenery surrounding it. The house is actually now a museum that I didn’t go into but heard it was lovely inside. I spent about an hour outside on a bench reading whilst my mum went inside, it was so peaceful there! It was quite busy because I think that it’s a popular attraction.
Definitely one of the highlights of the trip was the day trip that we did out to the Kasbah (below) which we book while we were there. It only cost us 20 euros each because the person gave us a discount and it was sort of worth it. Let me explain. So we were picked up at 7.30am and spent 4 hours in a full mini bus through the Atlas Mountains and spent 2 hours at the kasbah, then 30 minutes in the city of Ouazarete and then 4 hours back, so it was a lot of driving. However these views from the mountains, were insane! Definitely something that I won’t forget!
ait benhaddou kasbah
This kasbah is located right at the edge of the Sahara desert and is famous because a few films have been shot there including Gladiators, Indiana Jones 3 and some scenes from Game of Thrones in season 3. It was basically full of tourists and we had a tour guide included that gave us some history of the place which was very interesting.
The views were insane from the top because all you could see was desert all around and it was a lovely sunny day as well!
yves saint laurent museum
This is located next to the Jardin Majorelle because Yves Saint Laurent actually bought the gardens so the museum features a lot of his work. However you weren’t allowed to take any photos and there wasn’t much in the museum if I am completely honest but it was interesting to see all of his work up close including the famous Mondrian dress. It was interesting to learn about his time in Marrakech and you can actually see a lot of Moroccan influences in some of the collections.
I did love the Love posters which you can see in the gardens and it explained that he made one every year as a new year card for his friends and family. They are all collages and I just love the retro feel of them, he did one every year from 1970 to 2007!
This is another gardens located outside in the new city and it is definitely worth the long walk to get there! It is basically a massive square pool, that I don’t think you can swim in, with a house on one side where you can just about make out the Atlas Mountains in the background. I bet this place is gorgeous at sunrise and sunset! It’s another place that is great to sit and people watch, which we did a lot during this trip.
I have to say that Moroccan food is amazing, it tastes like nothing else I’ve had! I ate so many vegetable and chicken tajines (which are gluten free, yay) with sides of chips which I don’t think are Moroccan… we went to Bakchich everyday which was located in the Souks and I would definitely recommend if you are in that area.
Coffee is not really a thing over there, they mostly drink mint and green tea which tastes so much better than the stuff we get in the tea bags. It’s made from scratch with fresh mint leaves and you normally serve it with sugar, and I could drink it all day everyday and I am definitely going to have to find a recipe to see if I can make it perfectly at home.
Another thing I loved was all the cats because they were everywhere and were so adorable! There was one that came and sat with us most dinnertimes and kept trying to get our food until the staff shooed him away, they are not afraid to jump up onto the table to get food. We also had one that kept coming into the hostel and sitting with us at breakfast, I really wanted to bring one home!
I feel like this has been a lot to take in because there’s just so much to say about the place. It was such an amazing experience that I am glad I got to do. Would I go back? Maybe not anytime soon but definitely one day in the future to see how much things have changed in the hope that they do change.
Would you ever visit Marrakech? Have you been to Morocco before?