Visiting Morocco was an absolute dream. When I told people that I was visiting Morocco with my friend Kelly and spending a couple of days by myself I got two very different reactions. I got "OMG that is amazing you are so brave!" and "OMG that is crazy! You can't go there with girls only". As I have said multiple times in the many many posts I have written about Morocco it was not scary at all!!! Please don't be afraid of Morocco, it is an amazing country with tons to offer as long as you go in with the right mindset.
Anyway, here is a recount of the Marrakesh portion of my trip.
Kelly and I arrived on a separate planes, mine coming from Switzerland and hers coming from Florida. Yes she flew all the way from FLORIDA to Morocco to visit me for 3 days. Pretty sure she is the greatest friend I have and ever will have. After standing in line for customs for over an hour we met up in the airport and set off on our first task of getting a taxi to the main square.
The taxi experience was less than spectacular and we already felt we were on a rocky start. We paid almost $20 to get from the airport to the main square due to a "flat rate" which I am still - months later - not even sure is a real thing. (More about scams in Morocco here) It was night by the time we arrived and the main square was in full swing; snake charmers, live music, witch doctors and lantern sellers surrounded us and it took us a couple of minutes to pull ourselves out of the awe and continue onto finding our hostel.
Thankfully our hostel was located right off the main square and pretty easy to find. We checked in and paid already excited and giddy with how close we were to the action. We decided to head out for some food and found a restaurant overlooking the huge square were we could have our first taste of mint tea and some authentic tagine.
Kelly only had 3 days in the city so we really packed in as much as we could. We visited Ben Youssef an old Islamic college. It has some of the most beautiful tile work in all of Marrakech.
We also headed to the ruins of El Badi Palace which was built in the 1590s.
And of course Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful garden once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. If your don't like the color blue I suggest staying far away from this place...
We spent plenty of time shopping in the souk for Moroccan wedding rugs (spending quite a bit of money in the process), got some amazing henna tattoos, held monkeys turtles and snakes, visited multiple pharmacies, spent a relaxing 3 hours in a Hammam, rode camels in the "Marrakesh Desert", went to the new city for a night of belly dancing and expensive dinners, stuffed ourselves with Moroccan food for every meal, and finished every night taking in the sights and sounds of the lively Jemaa El Fnaa.
I was really sad that Kelly had to leave at the end of the 3 days but excited for 2 days to explore Marrakesh by myself. The first day alone I slept in for the first time in a couple of weeks and before I left the safe walls of the hostel for the first time by myself I started to have some doubts about if it really was a safe city or not. (You can read about how I felt here) But after some great advice from a local traveler and realizing how silly it was that I was scared I spent the rest of my day strolling through the gardens around the mosque and exploring the never ending alleys of the souq. It was amazing and freeing being completely alone, just like it has been in the many other cities that came before this one. See Morocco really isn't that different than other cities!!
I spent the end of my first day sitting on the balcony of Kafe Fnaque Berbere which is one of my favorite restaurants inside the souq. I enjoyed tea while the sun went down and listened as the bells rung and call to prayer came on over the loud speakers. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and something that won't leave me for a very long time.
My second day alone I took a full day guided tour offered through my hostel to visit some villages surrounding Marrakesh and pretty awesome waterfall in the mountains. It was a long day full of meeting people who live such an incredibly different life than me. I highly recommend doing something like this even if you only have a couple of days in Marrakesh. If you want to read more in depth about my day trip check it out here! After a long 10 hour day on the tour I ate a ridiculously good chicken pita with fries that was only $2 at one of the restaurants that line the walk to the square. They are all generally the same but I ate at this one and give it a thumbs up.
The next day I picked up Matt from the airport with a car service I reserved through my hostel. I found that in Morocco you can pretty much book everything through your hotel/hostel manager. Need to hire a car, ask the manager. Want some boxes of tea to take home, ask the manager. Want to book a tour literally anywhere, ask the manager. He got through customs in literally 5 minutes flat (lucky him...) and was waiting outside when I arrived. Although I was enjoying my time alone I was over joyed to see him and start experiencing Morocco with him.
We had one half day and one full day to experience as much of Marrakesh as possible and I took him to all of my favorite places I had visited with Kelly, along with some new one we didn't have time to explore.
It was such a unique experience being able to visit some of these amazing places twice, once with my best girlfriend and once with my husband. Different, yet the same, yet different all at the same time.
After a day and a half in the city we left on a three day tour out to the Sahara which we - yes you guessed it - booked through the hostel manager. You can read all about that here!
When we got back we were exhausted not only physically but mentally. I was ready to go home (well home to Switzerland) and relax with food other than tagine and some working air conditioning. But the country of Morocco will never truly leave me and I can't wait to return and visit some of the other smaller towns. (Chefchaouen has been on my list forever!)
Every person that I met outside and inside the city left a lasting impression on me. It's easy when you are in your home city living your normal daily life to forget how many different cultures exist just outside of what you know. And it is easy to think that if someone has a different culture than you that must mean they are SO much different than you. I found on this trip that most people are generally the same. Trying to make a living, showing kindness to others when kindness is shown to them and living there life just like you are.