Not so long ago I read an article on certain actions that make us happy, and planning a trip was amongst them. Careful, though! No travelling, but rather planning it altogether! The truth is, I really saw myself mirrored in the whole trip-planning idea. For me personally, one of the bests parts of traveling is to craft my own trip, my one and only creation: discovering the country and its culture, knowing what is seen as being rude and what will make me look like a queen amongst the locals, creating a route both virtually – I love Google Maps – and visually, with photos, blogs and YouTube videos.
Over the years I have come to learn that once you get to your destination and see your “creation” come to life, the feeling is even a thousand times better. And it also makes me very happy to be able to share it.
I recently travelled to Morocco. A really exciting experience: my first time in Africa and the second time I was travelling far from the Western culture.
It was very important for me not to stay within a big city (Marrakech for instance) since most of it can be visited in two or three days and (I did not know this before going there) big cities can become quite overwhelming. The locals are friendly, intelligent and very insistent, the latter said with good intentions. This last fact should be taken into account, because if you are one of those people who get stressed by the waiters in some bars of the Eixample, I honestly suggest travelling to Germany, where no one will bother you. In Morocco you can almost talk about actual commercial harassment, if that term even exists.
With this idea in mind, I firstly looked for what else was available to do and the truth is that the options were many. Plenty of excursions leave from Marrakech lasting several days and with everything included. They can be booked there or from some websites as we did with http://www.disfrutamarrakech.com (very reliable and recommended). Looking back on our journey it really was a relief to have everything booked beforehand and not having to haggle prices there. Second thing to take into account: haggling is not optional, it’s mandatory. Of course, if you book it there you can still get the same all-inclusive trip with a much better price. If you are someone who enjoys diving into the tug of war, that is trying to lower prices there, don’t let me stop you. Surely you’ll have a good chat and a free mint tea, so the experience is worth it. However, when you have to do it with meals, gifts, spices, and the long list that follows, maybe discussing the price of a 3-day trip to the desert is not so appealing.
Our first trip was to Essaouira, a fishermen town also called the Portuguese city, because they were the first Europeans to settle there and you can still distinguish the remnants of this culture in its architecture. The harbour is not to be missed, with stalls of fresh fish (and not so fresh fish) that you can buy for a reasonable price and ask them to cook it for you which is usually cheaper, but, again, if you don’t want to discuss the price, food stalls near the coast have their own fish that you can choose yourself. I must say that if you don’t like fish or you want a vegetarian or vegan option you just have to tell them and they’ll seek for alternatives, your happiness comes first.
The second excursion was a three-day trip to the Merzouga desert. Now that I’ve done it I warmly recommend taking a longer trip, 4 to 6 days. The 3-day one is fine, but the last day is an almost 14-hour straight car ride and if, on top of that, you have a flat tire in the middle of the Atlas mountains at 20:00h o’clock you start asking yourself important questions such as whether the nerves of your butt will be able to endure another hour without getting atrophied for the rest of your life.
Jokes aside, the trip is lovely and you visit lots of different places: cities, canyons, deserts, etc. The guides are usually great and willing to inform you about averything and anything. We visited Aït Benhaddou, a fortified village that has preserved its structure and architecture for hundreds of years and many films have been filmed there, such as Gladiator and some episodes of the Game of Thrones series. We also visited the Todra Canyon, a must and, if you have more time, a great place for climbing. Obviously, we ended up in the desert, on top of camels and dancing around a bound fire. The list of places we went is very long and my third warning is that you have to accept that everything is an excuse to get you to buy something. Everything. They’ll be the best guides, they’ll educate you to the smallest detail and they’ll make you feel very welcomed, but in the end they’ll always ask what you want to buy. The point is to take it calmly and learn to say “No, thank you” often and to the same person, whose heart you seem to be breaking, if you can do it, you’ll survive without feeling too much of a bad person in Morocco.
We spend our lasts two and a half days in Marrakech, and I can honestly say we did well because we were able to visit it calmly and relax after all the rush and movement from our excursions. Marrakech is divided into the old town, where the tourist and historical monuments and buildings are, and the modern, town famous for its clubs and its shopping area. We stayed in the old town in a riad called “Rainbow Hostel” which I highly recommend because of its location, next to the Jemmaa El Fnaa square, and the people working there. I must insist that its location is very important. The Medina is, literally, a maze, changing every month, and no map, neither on paper nor on Google Maps is able to keep up. Some riads are so inside it that finding them at night with no light (only the main streets and the square have street lights) is almost impossible and I’d also say dangerous.
Having said that, Marrakech is a lively city, with all the nuances of the word, boils and revolves. I could recommend visiting the Saadien tombs, the Bahia Palace, the Badi palace and the gardens of the city. But ultimately what you have to do is start walking and get lost in the jungle of streets, stroll through the Zoco (the equivalent to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul), spend one evening dining at the Jemma El Fna square food stalls, where you will be chased in order to place snakes and monkeys over you, walk the streets of the Medina asking yourself if you will be able to go back where you started. The experience is priceless.
Summarizing this journey has not been easy because I can tell the names, recommend places and tell you what I liked and I’ll always feel like I’ve forgotten something. If I want something to come across is that Morocco is a country that you do not only visit, but you live, whether you go with this idea or not.
Vlogs about the travel:
For souvenirs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzqQ2QnntXA