Thinking about a vacation to Morocco, but aren’t convinced yet? If so, I have a whole slew of great reasons that Morocco should be high on your to-do list!
Morocco is one of those up and coming places, I think. It’s becoming more and more popular because it is such a weird place to visit. It’s probably the most foreign country many people have been to so it really feels like you’re a hardcore traveler exploring somewhere off the beaten path.
A lot of people don’t even know where Morocco is and if they do, they don’t know too much about it. Morocco had been on my bucket list for a while, but all I really knew about the country was that it
- had camels
- there was a desert
And if I’m being honest, I knew it was somewhere in Africa, but couldn’t have told you where exactly. But with camels in the picture how could anyone possibly say no?
33 epic reasons to visit Morocco
One // Moroccan mint tea
If you think you’ve had mint tea before – think again! Seriously, the mint tea in Morocco is out. of. this. world. We had our first glasses immediately upon arrival to our riad and had several more that evening. It is served with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and just because it’s a Tuesday. We even had it served to us in the middle of the desert after a camel ride!
The tea is poured from these adorable silver teapots into tiny glass cups with a sugar cube. And the tea isn’t anything special either, it truly is just a mash of mint leaves.
One of my goals was to drink all the mint tea and I came pretty darn close! If you’re not a tea drinker, start practicing now – you absolutely have to try some.
Two // Tajines
Trying a Moroccan tajine was so high on our list that our first meal in the country was a chicken tajine with olives. You’ll come to learn that literally anything can be served from a tajine. We had chicken, lamb, vegetables, eggs, meatballs, noodles, etc. A tajine is simply the vessel that food is cooked in so saying a tajine is Morocco’s national dish is like saying the crockpot is America’s national dish.
Nonetheless, tajines are delicious!
Three // The people
Nearly everyone we met in Morocco was so nice. Aside from the time I was harassed by a woman in the square, everyone was great. The staff at the riad and in the desert become your family, the shop owners in the souks are friendly, and overall anyone is typically willing to offer help if needed.
Four // The Jemaa-el-Fna night market
The night market is something that can’t be explained and can only be witnessed. Every night right before sunset the square transforms into rows upon rows of haphazardly built food stalls. Go into this knowing that it’s
crazy insane and you’ll have a lot of fun.
Each shop has a number, but I found them hard to read over all the guys that push menus your way. Walk around and see what there is to offer – most shops sell the same sort of food anyway. Find a guy that gives a good speech as to why their shop is the best and have a seat.
We ended up choosing our spot because the guy in the alley kept telling us “look around, it’s all the same shit anyway, just sit here”. He was really funny and had a good schtick so after about 10 minutes we gave in. You’ll notice too that several of the shops all work together, ours was under control from a pit boss like man that ran the whole corner.
I don’t know how the other stalls operate, but at ours, we didn’t even have menus, they just brought us a bunch of stuff. I remember thinking it was a little bit pricey for what we got, but it’s all about the experience.
Five // Moroccan riad
Riads are so perfect and so unique. There are hotels in Morocco, but we suggest staying in a riad! A riad is a home with 3-4 bedrooms that has a courtyard and rooftop deck. They are typically decorated in a classic Moroccan style and just feel so much homier than a hotel ever could.
We stayed at the Riad Dar Attajmil and highly recommend it. It’s centrally located and takes about 10 minutes to walk to the center of the Jemaa-el-Fna. Riad Dar Attajmil has three bedrooms on the second floor, a nice two level rooftop deck with tables and some couches, a couple of loungers, and the hammam. The center courtyard has a fountain and a huge banana tree, unfortunately, the bananas weren’t ripe yet.
The alcove off the courtyard on the main level and the rooftop were our favorite places to hang out.
Riad Dar Attajmil is located at 23 Rue el Ksour, right in the medina. Their phone number is +212 5244-26966.
Six // Taxis
Specifically, arguing with taxi drivers. That is a right of passage in Marrakech. Most of the touristy places in Marrakech are within walking distance so you can avoid the taxis altogether. However, if you have plans to see Jardin Marjorelle I suggest taking a taxi as it is quite a long walk from the medina.
Make absolutely certain you’ve agreed on a price and the drop-off point and don’t let the driver see any of your extra money. We got into quite an uncomfortable situation when the driver saw we had more money and then demanded double what we had agreed on. The best advice I can give on this is to talk to your riad staff and ask them what a typical price is for your destination. Be aware you may overpay a little bit because you aren’t Moroccan, but at least they won’t be able to gouge you.
Don’t get into the car unless you’ve agreed on the price. I can’t stress that enough.
Seven // Shopping in Marrakech
I’m not much of a bargain shopper and hate arguing about money, but Marrakech is the perfect place to learn or practice bartering. The prices of items in the souks are grossly overpriced because negotiation is expected. Keep it light-hearted and fun and once you’ve agreed on a price you can’t back out.
Before we went to Morocco I did SO much research about the prices of typical souk items. Like a disturbing amount of research, but never really found a good answer. And even having been there I can’t really give you a good answer. The best advice I can give is to start around 75% of what the listed price is and meet somewhere in the middle. Don’t get too hung up on prices though, chances are you’re wealthier than they are and the purchase of a few items can pay their rent for the month.
You can check out this post to see what we purchased and what we paid for each item.
Eight // Moroccan cooking class
One of the best things we did was take a cooking class in Marrakech! The class is taught by the riad chef, Fatima, but even if you don’t stay at Riad Dar Attajmil you can still sign up for the class.
Early in the morning you’ll meet down in the courtyard, choose a menu that consists of an appetizer and main course, and then head to the grocery market. Afterward, Fatima will show you how to make a few Moroccan dishes. When they’re ready to be served you can head up to the rooftop and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
You can read more about the cooking class here.
Nine // Grocery markets
Speaking of grocery shopping, shopping in Marrakech takes on a whole new meaning and it’s certainly not for the weak stomach.
The food markets are a very similar set up to the souks with random shops that adorn an alleyway. It’s so bizarre walking through them because you’ll have fruits in one, vegetables in another, the next one down will have meat, the one across the way is a barber, and next to that is a used appliance shop. It’s all just a mishmash of stuff placed together.
The meat shops are their own thing though. If you don’t think you can handle seeing live chickens be killed, then I would steer clear of this bit. The meat shops do have pre butchered meats, but it’s not uncommon that the back of the shops is lined with milk crates full of chickens.
Ten // Morocco’s Atlas mountains
Morocco has mountains? YES, it does! The range is called the Atlas mountains and they span Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Not far from Marrakech you’ll start to enter the Low Atlas and wind your way up to the High Atlas before coming back down on the other side on the way to the Sahara.
PSA: Like the meat markets, the mountains are also not for those with weak stomachs.
If you ever had any sort of inkling of motion sickness then I highly suggest bringing some Dramamine and either eating a light breakfast or skipping it altogether that morning. And see if you can sit in the front seat of the car. I didn’t really know what the mountains would bring and I don’t always get car sick so I wasn’t prepared. But YOU can be prepared now.
Eleven // Jemaa-el-Fna in the daylight
It’s not only the night market that is insane, the Jemaa-el-Fna during the day is crazy, too. The Jemaa-el-Fna is the main square in Marrakech and has several entrance points to the souks, riads, and restaurants. The center of the square is littered with green umbrellas – my recommendation is to very steer clear of them. If you do venture in be careful and don’t get pulled in too many different directions.
Under the green umbrellas you’ll have women and girls doing fake henna tattoos and if you’re too close to them they do get quite pushy and adamant that you sit down. We’d only been in the country maybe an hour or two and decided to walk through the square when all of a sudden some woman literally grabs my forearm and gets right in my face and starts talking at me in broken English. She kept saying I had a beautiful hand and was pulling on me while Pete was pulling my other side. After several stern “no” she took her syringe of henna and drew on my hand anyway. I was able to get away with only a little bit on me, but it was still really rude and annoying.
That was the only bad experience we had at the square so overall, it was okay. Also underneath the green umbrellas are snake charmers and men who have monkeys on chains. I am vehemently against animal abuse and using animals for tourism so we did not get anywhere near them.
Please don’t support the abuse of those animals. Having a picture of a monkey sitting on your shoulder with a chain around his neck is not cute.
Twelve // Morocco’s call to prayer
Hearing the call to prayer is really something beautiful and definitely something that can be appreciated by anyone, Muslim or not. The first time I ever heard the call to prayer was in Istanbul, Turkey. I had made it into the country pretty late so my first prayer call was the super early morning one.
Even though it’s the same call, I felt the one in Turkey was “prettier”. I think the thing with Morocco was a lot of it was broadcast through speakers and the connections weren’t always the best. Though like Turkey, the call goes off at slightly different times so it forms sort of a musical round, which is really neat.
Thirteen // Koutoubia Mosque
The Koutoubia Mosque was the only mosque in Morocco that we really “toured”. Being a non-Muslim you are not allowed inside, but there are really nice gardens to walk through and a big open square off to the other side. As I mentioned in my day one guide, the Koutoubia has an interesting history…
The Koutoubia is located right in the medina and makes an excellent landmark.
Fourteen // Alcohol
Morocco is obviously a Muslim country and Muslims don’t drink alcohol. Sooooo that makes finding a drink in Morocco kinda challenging. On our third day in the country, we stayed in and had dinner at the riad and were given a bottle of surprisingly delicious Moroccan wine.
*Fun fact – Morocco is actually the second largest producer of wine in the Arab world #themoreyouknow
However, even though they make alcohol it is damn expensive. We went out to dinner one night and really just wanted a drink because we do that so frequently at home so we searched around and around. We discovered the ultra-luxe hotel- La Mamounia actually has a gorgeous cocktail bar, but their drinks come at a cost. Be prepared to pay about $20 per drink! But man, they’re good.
Walking through La Mamounia is an experience in and of itself. The hotel sits on a huge piece of land and has men with capes standing at the entrance. You’ll walk through this gorgeous lobby with tons of super glam lightning and plush comfy couches. Keep walking and walking and walking and eventually, you’ll hit the back where the bar is located.
Fifteen // The Jardin Marjorelle…
…is absolutely stunning. Bright vibrant colors, water features, and cacti galore. If you’re staying at Riad Dar Attajmil or anywhere near the medina you’ll need a taxi. Jardin Marjorelle isn’t too far in mileage, but the roads aren’t really suitable for walking.
From the Riad Dar Attajmil, you’ll walk the opposite direction that you usually do (away from the souks) and pretty quickly you’ll hit this huge door/entrance way. You’ll know you’re there when literally everyone starts asking if you need a taxi. Like I said above, make absolutely sure you agree on a price, destination, and duration for the driver.
Jardin Marjorelle is located on Rue Yves St Laurent and the phone number is 212-5243-13047. Price of admission to the gardens is 70 Dirhams. If you want to add the museum that is an extra 30 Dirhams and children under the age of 12 are free.
Sixteen // Getting lost in the medina
It happens to the best of us. I think one of the first things you should do when you arrive at the riad is to orient yourself on how to get to the Jemaa-el-Fna. Once you make it to the square try to find a permanent landmark that is next to an entrance to the souks. We liked to use Cafe Argana since it can be seen from any point in the square.
I think it was our third or fourth day in Marrakech and we ended up super lost. We were walking back to the riad and always turned left at the carpet shop. Then one day, the carpet shop wasn’t there and none of the other shops looked familiar. We tried to figure it out for about 10 minutes and after walking back and forth in front of a group of men, they ended up giving us directions.
So, when you get lost, just run with it and if you get too overwhelmed just ask a nice shop owner for directions to the square.
Seventeen // Oranges
You’ll see oranges literally everywhere and don’t be scared to eat them or drink orange juice! On our first walk through the square, we stopped for a glass of orange juice and had it several more times over the course of the trip.
Try just ‘ol basic orange juice first and then try all the other fruit mixtures. Fatima made us a really good orange, carrot, and ginger juice after a long hot day – that was delicious.
Eighteen // Being grateful…
…for scarves, water misters, and wicker fans…Morocco is SO hot.
We visited in September and the day we arrived it was over a hundred and every day after that was at least in the 90s. We had a couple rain episodes and one morning with a slight breeze. Other than that it was straight up desert.
Visiting in July or August would probably be pretty unbearable, but the Moroccan “winters” are probably gorgeous.
Nineteen // Photo opportunities at every corner
Morocco is gorgeous, no doubt about that. I think the photo-taking starts as soon as you arrive at your riad and doesn’t stop until you’re back at the airport.
You’ve got your riad, the square, gardens, palaces etc. Bring extra camera batteries and a huge memory card!
Twenty // Moroccan breakfast
Breakfast in Morocco is probably the best meal of the day. Every morning you mosey up to the rooftop and you’re served with this huge spread of food. All the mint tea and coffee you want plus fruit, pastries, jams, bread etc all prepared by the lovely riad chef, Fatima.
Make sure you record Hassan pouring mint tea – they make such a show out of it.
Twenty-one// Eating a camel burger
When we were planning our trip to Morocco, one of Pete’s must-dos was to “eat a camel and ride a camel…bonus points if it was the same one”.
We thought eating camel would be much easier than it actually was. I figured it would be like cows in the states where nearly every restaurant in the country serves hamburgers, but it wasn’t.
On our last day in Marrakech, we actually googled “where to eat camel in Marrakech” and saw a lot of Yelp reviews and other comments about this place called Cafe Clock. It was a bit of a walk from the riad but we set out on the adventure.
Shockingly, or probably not, camel is NOT good, haha. I was only able to stomach about half of the burger – like you probably expect it has this gamey, dry taste to it. I would try camel again, maybe not in a burger though. I’m a big believer in trying things twice – if you hate it both times then you truly hate it, but the first time could just be a bad experience.
How else could you prepare camel? Tacos? I could do some camel tacos.
Cafe Clock is located at Derb Chtouka in Marrakech and they are open from 9 am to 10 pm daily. If you need, their phone number is 212- 5243-78367. There is also a location in Fez if you’ll be over there instead of Marrakech.
Twenty-two // Riding a camel
Riding a camel was top on my Moroccan to do list! It was my first time ever on a camel and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
After we spent a few days in Marrakech we hightailed it out to the desert with a great company I talk about below. While in the desert we were given the option to ride camels and seriously, how could anyone say no? We headed out with just the two of us and a guide and wandered around the dunes for a few hours.
My camel, who I obviously named Mike, was a total sweetie. Pete’s camel was a bit of an asshole, haha. He was pretty ornery and didn’t like climbing up the dunes. About halfway through the trip we hopped off and let the camels explore on their own. We sat near some shade and took a break from the heat of the sun. Then our guide made a fire from some brush in about 1.2 seconds, which is impressive. When we go camping it takes much longer to do that and we have a lighter and usually lighter fluid haha. After he had the fire going he made us some mint tea! – I tell ya, it’s everywhere, you’ll drink so much of it.
After hanging out for a bit we rode the camels back to camp and spent the rest of the day chillin’.
Twenty-three // The Desert Luxury Camp…
…is something out of this world.
The Desert Luxury Camp is hands down the best desert camp in Morocco and it’s Instagram famous. I first heard about the camp when I was scrolling through Morocco tags on Instagram and stopped dead in my tracks at the sheer beauty of this place. Plus, my favorite travel blogger, The Blonde Abroad, has been there as well. So now, we’re like besties.
We spent 4 days in Marrakech and on the evening of the last day, the driver that was taking us to the desert called our riad and planned a time and location for pick up. That next morning, Hassan, from the riad, carted our bags out to the main street, which from the medina is a bit of a walk. Then, we were picked up and whisked away.
Once out of Marrakech we made our way through the Atlas Mountains and then began stopping at various places – the argan oil shop, the rose place, lunch, Ait Benhaddou, a traditional Berber store, the Hollywood city of Ouarzazate, and finally finishing up at a fossil store. Our driver was very nice, made jokes the whole way, and I’m pretty sure he knew everyone in Morocco.
But if I could change one thing about the desert trip it would be this – it is a LONG drive out there and it does help to break it up by stopping, but I was pretty sick of the shopping tour after a while. I really just wanted to get there. The way the camp runs though is that a new group of people come in at night and the group that arrived two days ago leaves the next morning, so I understand the timing of things. It just kinda sucks.
However, once you make that hard 90-degree turn from the highway and start driving over sand it’s like you’re rejuvenated and full of energy. I remember thinking “Oh my godddddd, finally!” Be prepared that it is quite bumpy, and going down the dunes feels like a roller coaster.
After several minutes you’ll see eyes glimmering in the distance and know that you’ve spotted a herd of camels! Just a bit later and you’re taking off your shoes and traipsing through the sand. I’ll tell ya, I still remember the first time I saw the camp all lit up at night – it’s absolutely so beautiful.
You’ll typically arrive after dinner has started so check out your tent and the camp for a few minutes and then mosey over to the dining tent for dinner. Afterward, don’t go too far because music starts! We suggest going to bed early and waking up to see the sunrise from the dunes. Then spend the next day riding camels, sand boarding, reading, playing chess, laying in the hammocks, playing volleyball – whatever you want. You’re totally unplugged so enjoy the time off.
If you’re interested in learning more or booking a stay at the camp you can do so here! Their current pricing for the main camp is 200 Euro per person per night and you’ll receive a 10% discount when you book two or more nights. Children under the age of 6 are free and ages 7-12 are 50 Euros. If you want to chat you can send them an email at [email protected] or give them a call at 212-662-344816.
Twenty-four // Le Jardin Secret
The welcomed calmness that is Le Jardin Secret. This is the perfect little oasis in the middle of crazy Marrakech. It’s also everything you want Jardin Marjorelle to be – quiet, relaxing, and peaceful. I’m pretty sure like zero tourists know about Le Jardin Secret – I’d never seen it come up on searches and we only heard about it from one of the ladies at our riad. She recommended we visit because it’s beautiful and she much preferred it to Jardin Marjorelle. And it actually isn’t too hard to find- we had lunch at Le Jardin cafe, which about 10-15 minute walk away from the garden.
The garden is a mix of Islamic and an exotic garden. You’ll find several water features, pagodas, a couple turtles, benches, and lots of plants. Wander around and explore, then sit down on and soak up the sweet sweet silence. A quiet Marrakech is a rarity.
The garden is located at Rue Mouassine 121 in the medina. They open at 9:30 am and close between 5:30 and 7:30 pm depending on the time of the year. Entrance to the garden is 50 Dirhams, children between the ages of 6-12 are 30 Dirhams and children under age 6 are free. The phone number is 212 0524 39 00 40.
Twenty-five // Moroccan hammam
Experiencing a traditional Moroccan hammam was one of the other things on my to-do list! And it absolutely should be on yours!
I really enjoyed it, Pete not so much haha. I wanted to do a hammam in Turkey, but never did so I knew that I had to make it rain in Morocco. Our riad actually has a hammam on the rooftop – it’s totally legit too – just one room with a stone bench.
Pete went first and when he came out all he could say was “just go with it”. I remember thinking oh boy – what did I just get us into.
You can read more about our hammam experience here.
Overall, I really enjoyed and would love to do it again. I’d like to go somewhere fancy next time like La Mamounia though.
Twenty-six // NOMAD
NOMAD is this super hip, young, trendy restaurant in the medina that everyone raves about, so naturally, we had to visit.
We had a great night, the food was great, the atmosphere was great, and our table location was great. Like most restaurants in Marrakech, the tables are very low to the ground so us long legged people have some difficulty sitting with our feet flat on the floor. And the service was terrible, but that’s on par for Morocco.
We made a reservation the day before and I suggest you do the same. It does get very busy in there, especially the rooftop and especially at dinner.
NOMAD is located in the medina at 1 Derb Aarjane, which is pretty close to Le Jardin Secret and the Ben Youssef Madrasa. If you want to call for reservations, their number is 212 5 24 38 16 09.
Twenty-seven // Almond milkshakes
When we were researching places to eat camel burgers we stumbled upon Cafe Clock. What we noticed from our research was that an almond milkshake was the perfect pair to the camel burger.
The shake is out of this world delicious and I still have dreams about it! I would love to recreate this now that we’re home, but almonds are wildly expensive. I wonder if you could use a base of almond milk, vanilla ice cream, and a few real almonds?
If anyone here is a recipe creator – hit me up!
Twenty-eight // Ben Youssef Madrasa
Like the Desert Luxury Camp, Ben Youssef Madrasa is Instagram famous. Can you see why though?!
This may have been my favorite place in Marrakech and is a total and absolute must-do. The Madrasa is an Islamic school, founded in the 14th century, and at its peak housed over 900 students. That is a mind-boggling number once you see how small and compact the rooms are. Those students were definitely nice and cozy.
The student rooms are obviously pretty basic and the real highlight is the center courtyard. Unfortunately, the fountain was drained when we were visiting, but it’s still really pretty. It’s tough to miss, but check out all the carving and tile work – it’s insane to me that people can do this type of art.
Also, don’t miss the change to be a basic white girl and take a photo of your feet on the pretty tile floor – Y’all know I did.
Ben Youssef Madrasa is now currently closed for renovation until 2020 – so that’s a bummer.
Twenty-nine // The mausoleum at Saadian Tombs
The Saadian Tombs, in general, were a bit of a letdown. However, the mausoleum is incredible.
The tombs date back to the Saadian dynasty in the 1500s. When the Saadians fell the nearby Badi Palace was destroyed, but the tombs were kept intact, likely out of fear of disrupting the dead. The outdoor burial ground houses soldiers and servants and while it’s nice it is just a little underwhelming.
But like I said, the mausoleum is just stunning. The Sultan and his descendants were laid to rest here. Say hi to the cats that guard the entrance then gawk at the inside. You’re not allowed to enter but can get a decent enough view from the door.
The price to enter the tombs is only 10 Dirhams. The tombs can be a little tough to find, but luckily there are some makeshift signs around to help and like always, there are people around that can give you directions. The address is Rue de la Kasbah and are open from 8 am to 4:45 pm, daily.
Thirty // Badi Palace
Keep learning about the Saadian dynasty as you make your way from the tombs to Badi Palace.
You wouldn’t guess it now by the looks of the palace, but in its heyday, it was full of onyx, gold, and other lush and fabulous materials. Now it is a stork sitting ground – which by the way, is adorable. The palace is quite large with stables, dungeons, gardens, pools, and an underground tunnel like system that has a bunch of photographs.
The cost to enter Badi Palace is also just 10 Dirhams. Badi Palace is located at Ksibat Nhass in Marrakech and it is open from 9 am to 5 pm, daily.
Thirty-one // Bahia Palace
In keeping with palaces, be sure to check out Bahia Palace. Unlike the raided Badi, Bahia does still feel like a palace.
Bahia is very close to the riad so it makes a great stop before doing some shopping in the souks. The story is the Bahia was built in the 1800s for a former slave who rose in position and ranks. Rumor has it that its name means “brilliance” in Arabic, but I’m not sure.
Bahia has several rooms, courtyards with fountains, brightly colored windows and doors, pretty floors, and ceilings. You can also be a basic white girl here and take a photo of your feet again.
The total cost to enter Bahia is 10 Dirhams and it is located at Avenue Imam El Ghalazi. The phone number to the palace is 212 644 727244.
Thirty-two // Ait Benhaddou
Ait Benhaddou is cool for a few reasons
- it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and y’all know I’m trying to see a hundred of them
- Several movies and t.v. shows have been filmed here – Game of Thrones, anyone?
- The oldest constructions are from the 17th century. HOW is that possible?? Those buildings are made from mud, clay, and straw. Totally mind-blowing.
Ait Benhaddou sits at the base of the Atlas Mountains so you’ll stop and see this area for a few minutes on your drive out to the Sahara. Do keep in mind though, the driver doesn’t give enough time to actually walk around and explore the ksar, but the road is close enough to get a few good photos.
When we visited there was an artist that was painting various Moroccan scenes. I don’t remember what the product was, but when he would pass the canvas over a flame the colors of the ink would darken and come to life. Several of his paintings had depictions of Berber men and he would use indigo to color their outfits. The color contrasts were so visually striking that I regret not buying one.
If he is out there when you visit do consider purchasing one, that would be a cool souvenir.
Thirty-three // Sahara desert sunset
The desert is an epic place to view sunrises and sunsets. Like I mentioned earlier, the first night in camp will be a late arrival so you’ll miss the sunset obviously. BUT, drag yourself out of bed early in the morning and find the highest dune around camp and climb to the top to watch the sunrise.
The guides at camp will let you know what time the sunrise is for whenever you visit. The same thing for the evening, you can find some different dunes, climb back up the same one, or sit in the loungers and watch the sunset. We had met a couple from Columbia who were on their honeymoon so we all sat around drinking wine and talking while the sun went down.
There you have it – 33 epic reasons to visit Morocco!
Has anyone ever been to Morocco?
What would you add to the list?
What would you want to do from the list?