So you’ve managed to make all your connections, get through passport control, and have safely made it to Morocco, yay! Let’s get this paaaarty started! Your first day in Morocco includes scoping out your riad, taking your first (hopefully not stressful!) walk through the Jemaa-el-Fna, trying a tajine, and exploring the nightly food market!
If you’re ready for some
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Written by: Stephanie
By now it’s early-mid afternoon and if you came from the States all you wanna do is change and take a shower. For ease, I recommend reserving transportation ahead of time- the riad can easily set that up for you.
Riad Dar Attajmil
23 Rue el Kasour, Marrakech / 212 5244 29666
We stayed at and highly recommend the Riad Dar Attajmil which is right in the medina and only about a 15-minute car ride from the airport. The riad is totes adorbs. It’s three stories – the lower level has the gathering room with a gigantic banana tree, a little fountain, chairs, ottomans, and a little sofa that is set back into the wall. The second level contains the bedrooms, I believe there are 4. The third level will be the rooftop which is adorable and has tables, loungers, plants etc.
After filling out the necessary paperwork you’ll wanna get your hands on your first of a thousand glasses of mint tea. How next level is this tray, y’all?
Related: Moroccan foods you MUST try!
Then take 236 pictures of the riad. Afterward, jump right in and head out to the Jemaa-el-fnaa. Find a nice cafe to sit down at for a coffee/tea/people watching excursion.
Looks pretty, no? If you’re thinking of staying here or any of the badass riads, be sure to read reviews on TripAdvisor!
Like I said, Riad Dar Attajmil is right in the medina and super close to the Jemaa-el-fnaa. Walk through the square and steer clear of the umbrella stations. These are full of people peddling cheap gifts, women doing henna, men with snakes or monkeys on chains.
Please don’t stop and watch the monkeys, that only further encourages the abuse of these animals.
A monkey on a chain is NOT cute
As we were walking through my arm was grabbed by a woman telling me how nice my hands were. As I was trying to pull away and my boyfriend was pulling my other arm, she ended up marking me with some henna. She said it was okay because it was for “good luck” – eye roll.
Out of our whole time in Marrakech, she was the only person who really pushed the boundaries too far. It’s a totally weird, uncomfortable, and foreign feeling when a ghost-like figure is coming at you with a syringe and all you can see is their eyes. Word to the wise, walk the perimeter of the square or steer very clear of the umbrellas.
Related: 26 amazing photos of Marrakech
After we zig-zagged through the square we headed over to the Koutoubia Mosque. The mosque stands taller than anything in that area and makes for an excellent landmark. We wanted to know how to get to the mosque from our riad just in case we were without GPS and found ourselves lost.
As a non-muslim, you are unable to enter the mosque but can walk around it and through the gardens off the back side. The Koutoubia has an interesting history.
This is actually the second mosque built because the first one’s prayer room was not directly facing Mecca. It was about 5 degrees off. All of the materials and plans used to build the first one were used to build the current one. But as luck would have it, it is even further out of alignment coming in around 10 degrees off center. Haha, isn’t that about typical? Both mosques were under construction at the same time and were completed in the late 1100s.
After relaxing in the shade, people watching, and contemplating your next meal, wander across the street to Cafe Kif-Kif for some much need water, fans, and food.
Related: How to spend one week in Morocco
28 Rue Koutoubia, Marrakech / 212 649 071498
Monday-Sunday 10 am – 12 am
We went to Cafe Kif-Kif because of the great reviews, location and that wicker hat. But, you’ll come to notice that many places have their names embroidered on wicker items like hats, bags, and fans.
I ordered the chicken tagine as I was most looking forward to that dish. This particular one was chicken with olives.
After Kif-Kif we made our way back to the riad to settle in and relax a bit before heading out to the nightly food market in the square.
Around 7-8 pm you’ll see men hauling in carts of metal bars, tables, equipment etc to get their stations set up for the evening. It really is quite a sight and both incredible and horrifying that these food stalls come and go so quickly. We’re pretty sure there is no such thing as a health code in Morocco.
Once back at Riad Dar Attajmil, I suggest relaxing on the rooftop with a good book and absorbing the sights and sounds of Marrakech; it is a dizzying city that can be overwhelming.
One of the things I loved most about our riad was the palpable change in the atmosphere once you walk through the door. You go from the alleyways where you’re on constant alert and dodging for your life from scooters, to this serene, quiet environment with a fountain, banana trees, and nice breeze. Complete night and day.
I felt that way about Marrakech in general. One minute its complete overload and the next you find yourself in total silence somewhere. On the terrace, you can still hear the horns and people yelling, but the rustling of the plants and wind blowing drowns it out a bit.
Related: The most amazing sights of Marrakech
Once the sun has set and you’re hungry again go ahead and make your way back to the square for the absolute insanity of the night market.
I think it’s tough to adequately describe the night market. Our plan was to go in hopes of trying various types of street food to really get a good idea of what Moroccan food is like. That, however, is not what happens.
Know going into it that you’ll be approached by many friendly, but persistent young men. They’ll be holding menus saying “good price”, “come with me”, “why don’t you just try it”, or “look at all the tourists sitting there, they like it”. Unlike the henna women, they never touch you. They just sometimes block your path while they’re talking and try to steer you in the direction of their stall.
To try my best – picture rows and rows of food stalls. Each one has the chef who always appeared to be a teenager. A couple guys as waiters. At least one or two guys with menus standing out in the walkway trying to get patrons. We came to learn that many of these stalls are jointly owned. In fact, the one we finally sat down to eat at appeared to be under control from a pit boss like man. He was standing at the corner of the street collecting money from 4 or 5 stalls in the area.
All the stalls are numbered, but it’s tough to see the numbers in the crowd. Besides, it didn’t appear to have any sort of order to it at all. We were in the market maybe 5-7 minutes and had walked past several menu pushers. We ultimately settled on our place because the guy in the street had a good schtick.
I can’t remember exactly what he said- something along the lines of “look around, its all the same, competition everywhere, but it’s really all the same shit so why don’t you just have a seat here” He was nice, funny and he had us laughing so we sat down at this long family-style picnic bench and were bombarded with bread, salsa, vegetables, and meat.
Believe it or not, the food was very good – we spent that night wondering when it would strike back and were hoping we wouldn’t be too sick, but all was well!
The night market wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. If you go into it light-hearted, laughing, and more for the experience, I think you’ll have a good time. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to go somewhere like Café Argana and watch while the stalls are set up. Doing so will give you a feel for the atmosphere and then you can brave walking through when you think you’re ready to handle it.
After eating to your heart’s content, you can either spend time walking around joking with the guys in the streets or make a beeline back to the riad for some peace and quiet. I suggest hitting the bed early cause day two is a busy one!
Read Next: 33 reasons to visit Morocco!
Shopping in the Marrakech Medina
The fascinating trek to the Sahara Desert
How to spend a glorious day in the Sahara
12 brilliant tips to enjoy your first visit to Morocco
How to plan the ultimate vacation
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