Fes » Marrakech & Zagora Desert » Casablanca
I’m so excited to kick off my first travel blog post sharing my adventures in Morocco! I've always dreamed about going to Morocco, so when my fiancé and I got engaged in December 2016, this trip was the perfect opportunity to celebrate our engagement. I've been back in Los Angeles for 3 months now, and have been daydreaming about this magical place ever since. Oh, the beautiful patterns, colors, and culture! I'd go back in a heartbeat!
My detailed PDF itinerary with recommendations and tips are all in the download button at the end of this post.
Here are some of my most memorable moments...
After 20 hours of traveling from Boston, where we spent the holidays with my soon to be in-laws, we arrived in Casablanca.
We hired a private driver at the airport, which I highly recommend and is worth the few extra bucks, for our three hour drive to Fes from Casablanca. We stayed in Fes for two days and two nights. It was our favorite city in Morocco and where we did most of our shopping. From a leather poof, to a Burber rug, the opportunities to add some Moroccan flair to our home were endless! I highly recommend visiting a tannery, where you learn how leather goods are made. It smells a bit, but is well worth the cultural experience. Tip: The store owners in the medina can sometimes be aggressive, but always bargain for everything.
The medina was a maze, and a gorgeous one at that. Fun fact: no cars are allowed in the streets of the medina so only people and donkeys can roam these parts of town. Plan to get wonderfully lost in the medina, there's no better way to discover the city.
Locations photographed below: Algila Fes Riad, the streets of the medina, the tannery, Bou Inania Madrasa Mosque, view from Merenid Tombs, Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts and Royal Palace of Fes.
MARRAKECH & ZAGORA DESERT
From Fes to Marrakech, we booked another private driver, opting for the seven hour scenic drive through the Atlas Mountains, versus a more expensive flight which would have routed back through Casablanca. For those who get motion sickness easily, like myself, prepare for some windy roads ahead.
We were so excited to be greeted with cookies and mint tea when we arrived to our riad. Staying at a riad, which is a traditional Moroccan bed and breakfast with an interior courtyard, is a must when visiting Morocco. There are thousands of riads in Marrakech, so options are plenty. I recommend staying in as many riads as possible. Each offers a unique and authentic experience. We dropped our bags and hit the streets to explore the Marrakech medina. We probably experienced the most hassling from street vendors while we were here, but quickly learned to ignore them and continue on our way. Sometimes the hassling can be a bit overwhelming, but don't let it ruin your experience. There are so many beautiful shops in the Souk and I fell in love with every single lantern shop. I wanted genuine Moroccan made goods, so stayed away from any areas that were too touristy, as a lot of the shops have the same souvenirs and items.
Locations photographed below: Riad le Jardin d'Abdou, the streets of the medina and Ait-Ben-Haddou.
We didn't make plans for accommodations our second night in Marrakech, leaving it open to be a little spontaneous for a night in the Sahara Desert. Our riad helped us book a private overnight adventure to the Zagora Desert, which is part of the Sahara Desert. On the drive, we made a pit stop at Ait-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Ouarzazate province. This ancient town was like a scene from a movie, because well... it has been filmed in movies! Movies like Gladiator and The Mummy to name a few. It was such a beautiful place and definitely worth the 45 minute stop. Add it to your bucket list!
Once we arrived in Zagora, we were greeted by the cutest caravan of camels! We made fast friends with our guide and rode our camels off into the sunset… literally. It was unreal. After sundown, I looked up into the night sky and saw the most amazing stars I've ever seen. The whole sky was lit up with these sparkling gems... and I was riding on a camel... in the Sahara Desert. This was by far one of my favorite moments in life.
Our tour guide was awesome and told us all about his life in Morocco, how he was born to a family of nomads, and can navigate around the open desert better than he can in the medina. When we arrived at our camp site, we were pleasantly surprised by the accommodations. It was borderline glamping with flushing toilets, showers, and private tents with beds and all. And of course, we were greeted with music, dancing and more mint tea! Dinner at the campsite was delicious, with tagine and couscous. It gets pretty cold at night in December so make sure you bring lots of layers if you go during this time. We woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning to hike sand dunes and watch the sunrise. This was such a beautiful experience and one I highly recommend.
Locations photographed below: Ait-Ben-Haddou and Zagora Desert.
We got back to Marrakech on New Year’s Eve and stayed at another gorgeous riad, Riad Yasmine. After checking in and enjoying the riad a bit, we headed to the night market for some street food for dinner. We had lots of delicious small plates and it was $18 for the both of us. If you're an adventurous eater, check it out. And definitely see snake charmers in the medina, but keep in mind they're only out during the day time.
One of my favorite stories from this trip was when I made fast friends with a waiter at a local cafe that night because I was in love with his shoes. He told us his friend owns a shop and that he can get me a pair when it opens in the morning. I trusted him, so took a chance and gave him money in advance. I now own my favorite pair of shoes thanks to him! We're friends on Facebook and I will forever think of him and this story when I sport my most awesome shoes ever (photo below in the Casablanca section).
We ended 2016 getting henna tattoos and traditional Moroccan pastries. I couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year than in an amazing new country with my best friend and fiancé.
Locations photographed below: Riad Yasmine and the streets of the medina.
On New Year's Day, we started off 2017 visiting Ben Youssef Medersa, an Old Quranic school that's no longer in use. Best $4 I've ever spent! This place was absolutely stunning with all the intricate wood work and gorgeous patterns. It was my happy place in Marrakech. Tip: Go early when they first open to beat the crowds.
Location photographed below: Ben Youssef Medersa
From Marrakech, we took the train to Casablanca, our last destination. It was super easy to purchase the $12 tickets at the station right before the three hour ride ahead. Since we arrived in the late evening, we decided to wake up early to go see the amazing Hassan II Mosque before catching our flight home. We took a risk and left all our luggage with our taxi driver while we went exploring. Experiencing this majestic monument before the crowds was such a great way to end our trip.
I was so sad to leave this beautiful country! I couldn't get enough of the colors and patterns and wanted to take it all home with me! Morocco is a mecca for design and it absolutely captured my heart. I left completely inspired by the gorgeous culture, architecture, and people, and can’t wait to come back here. It was a pleasure getting to know you, Morocco... until we meet again!
Locations photographed: Club Val D Anfa Hotel and Hassan II Mosque.
Click on the button below to download my PDF itinerary with recommendations of where to stay, how to get there, where to eat, what to see and other helpful tips. Happy travels! xx