Article by Lauren
Today on the blog, I wanted to share with you some travel memories in this beautiful gem, located in the centre of Morocco.
I visited Morocco almost 5 years ago on a school tour of 50 students. We travelled from Gibraltar and took a ferry boat across to Africa. The experience of half a day in the city Tetuan was...maybe not what I was completly expecting. I say this because I felt like I didn't fully experience Morocco, and now being an experienced traveller, It is always better to travel alone, or with no more than 2 other friends.
So, I decided I wanted to do another trip to this beautiful country, but this time, I wanted to explore Marrakesh! This was because although it isn't the capital, it has a lot to offer with the style, culture, tourism, Sahara close by, and overall the people who live there are very friendly.
The fact it's a more popular and touristic city made it okay to wear skirts, shorts and exposed shoulders. But, even though this was "okay." But I wanted to gain more of a culture experience. The country itself is very Islamic, and I wanted to fit-in and fully immerse myself into the style and culture. So I covered my skin in 35+ weather, wore a stylish headdress sometimes, and even wore long skirts to cover my legs! The culture is so inspiring, and It was really cool experience... but very very hot!
My friend Oscar and I travelled first to the Madrid airport by Blabla car. Now this is honestly the best way of getting around Spain. You basically make an account, put your mobile number in and start searching for potential hosts who you ride share in a car with 2-3 other people. It is really safe and effective, and if it doesn't end up working out you get full reimbursement. I have taken this ride sharing experience over 10 times being in Spain for 3 months. It is super easy and cheap!
So before arriving in Marrakesh, I had to decide if I wanted to get a hostel, airbnb or even couch surfing. My first idea was to couch surf, which would allow me to meet locals, explore, and stay in someones home for free. Then I came across another option online, and It was recommending visitors to stay in a "Riad". What is a riad, maybe your wondering? Well, its basically "a large traditional house built around a central courtyard often converted into a hotel". Our riad we stayed in was the house of a lord from the 17 century.... and I felt like a princess everyday!
You would wake up to the most magnificent views over looking the medina "centre of Marrakesh". When you walked outside of your room, there was an enchanted garden in the centre, with other rooms surrounding the courtyard. The mosaic details were unbelievable, and there were couches, narrow hallways and a gorgeous terrace above. Then when you walked downstairs, you entered the base of the courtyard, with beautiful flowers, Moroccan style furniture, lovely seating, and a breakfast nook. When you walked through this small door, there were tables with freshly squeezed orange juice, jams, bread, crepes, coffee and mint tea. This was served by some traditionally dressed Moroccan men every morning.... I felt seriously like a princess! ;)
After breakfast we would walk out our riad door into the small streets of the medina. It was super confusing at first to find what "turn" and direction we were going. There are no "street names"..... you just have to know where that one...turn, or left... right corner.... with the cat.... etc is located, haha! I basically just tried to memorise everything during our stay.
The first place we decided to go was in the center called " Jemaa El Fnaa" which is a main tourist attraction and square for entertainers, merchants and great food! This place is full of life, and It was a very unique experience.
Now, we only had the chance to stay 3 days in Marrakesh, and only 2 full days. It is definitely do-able but I would recommend staying at least 4-6 days. You could really spend an entire week there if you wanted, and make sure you get a chance to visit the Sahara desert. They have excursions that are very near the city.
After spending an entire afternoon in the market, we checked out this beautiful mosque located across the markets in Jemaa El Fnaa. It was beautiful, and on the right side of the building, there was a sacred cemetery and gardens.
After visiting the beautiful Mosque, we decided to go to the leather factory. This is where they dye and clean the fabrics. The smell... was horrid though, so our tour guide gave us "mint leaves" to help mask the smell, which didnt really help. It was an interesting experience, it is really just a dirty place, that isn't sanitary. "Wouldnt fly in Canada"... lol.
Then after we checked out the leather shops, where merchants would sell bags, carpets, and pillows. This is the place you negotiate your price for any of these items.
Morocco is all about the spice shops! You can get anything from cumin, oregano, natural herbs, teas, meat-spices, soaps, butters, perfume and even makeup! All of it is nature as well, so I definitely picked up some goodies.
After visiting spice and merchant shops , we decided to check out the beautiful Bahia Royal Palace.
Just down the street from the Palace was the beautiful Jewish Quarter. They sell everything from carpets, spices, traditional food, fabrics and beautiful products.
Now, everyone in Morocco says.. "You haven't been to Marrakesh if you have not visited the enchanted Majorelle Jardin".
Last time I visited Morocco, I rode a camel for no more then 3 minutes in Tetuan. This time, I had the opportunity to ride a camel for over an hour outside of the Medina walls. This was an unforgettable experience, with the sun blazing down, wearing head-to-toe in a traditional berber costume, and the feeling of being so high up!
After riding around on the camels for 45 minutes, we took a rest stop in a berber's home. We had traditional mint tea... soooo goood, and some Moroccan cookies. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. Definitely an unforgettable experience.
Now one of my most favourite part of this trip, was making new friends and creating memories. I always meet new friends using www.couchsurfing.com, hostelworld.com, or you can even try different facebook groups like "Backpackers Europe" as an example, or make friends at local restaurants, cafes, or on different excursions. Everyone wants to explore and travel, and if you are open-minded, you just never know who you might meet, to make your trip a memorable one.
This journey was truly enriching in culture, and even though I was with a friend you could easily travel this city alone. Never be afraid of change and new experiences and embrace every moment.
If you would like to know more, or would like to connect, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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