We arrived into Marrakesh from Barcelona. Depending on the airline you choose, flights can get down to $55. Crazy enough, it was actually cheaper for us to fly from Miami to Barcelona (with extended layover to explore) than to fly directly from Miami to Marrakesh. The beauty of having a no restrictions to traveling is being able to find the cheapest ways to fly. We talk more about this in our travel tips!
Once you step out of the airport, it can feel a bit overwhelming with everyone rushing up to you for transportation. Thankfully, we organized pick-up transportation through our Riad, which came out to 20 euros for 2 people. They were waiting for us with a sign and it made the entire process alleviate any stress, decision-making or negotiation obstacles.
Our first stay in Morocco was at Abelia Riad, right in the old city walls. The room cost us around $80/night and was a 10 min walk through the winding roads of the old city to get to the main market. The Riad was quaintly decorated in Moroccan decor, the surroundings were filled with lush greenery and cozy corners with colorful pillows. The staff made us feel very welcome upon our arrival. They brought our bags to the room and set us up in one of those cozy corners for Mint tea and pastries. It was our perfect start to our first day in Marrakesh.
Marrakesh is filled with several different areas to stay. The primary being the old city. The old city has several different entrances which are all unique, beautiful and very old. Outside of the old city, there is the “New City” which is bit more of modern development and wealthier areas. In order to get a more authentic experience, we would definitely recommend staying in the old city. This is will give you the real Moroccan experience.
The main Market, Jemaa el-Fnaa, is massive and is not the only market. Through the winding alleyways, there are smaller markets filled with spices and food. We were amazed at the assortment of items! It took so much restraint wanting to buy everything. You come across such unique artifacts and designs that would look incredible in our homes. Everything from rugs, plates, spices, lighting; the colors are so overwhelming!
We took advantage of all the random fruit stands, especially the pomegranate stands (our favorite) that were about $1 per cup. In the center of the main market, there are an overwhelmingly amount of food stands, restaurants, entertainers playing games or showing off snakes and monkeys, along with people still trying to sell goods. As you walk around the area, you can see the Koutobia Mosque.
After a lot of looking and some research on the different restaurants, we decided to have have lunch at Taj’in Darna to enjoy people watching coming and going through the markets. The best meal we had from this little spot was getting the lamb Taj’in. They marinated the lamb for over 8 hours and it was drool worthy.
After lunch, Rainier wanted to get Henna on her hand. There are a lot of ladies sitting in the middle of the market offering this cultural experience, but from Rainier’s research the henna is not regulated and is to be said to cause irritation and rashes. She chose to go to Henna Art Cafe which provided an authentic, cool experience with local artisans. They had a little cafe downstairs with additional seating upstairs, along with their Henna section. It was set up almost like a tattoo shop upstairs. They filled the walls with murals from local artists, along with their artwork and shelves with books. It was only semi awkward as I sat in the corner and watched Rainier get inked up. It was a simple, 15 minute process. The Henna typically lasts a bout 2 weeks, and could be longer depending on how frequently you moisturize. I have no idea about Henna… this is just what Rainier tells me.
As Rainier was waiting for her henna to dry, we walked around and found a quiet relaxed spot that overlooks one of the many mosques. We stumbled upon Kasbah Cafe where we sat on the rooftop with these bamboo straw umbrellas and watched a stork fly to and from its nest while we sipped on delicious, fresh squeezed juice.
As the sun was setting, we wanted to find a good spot to watch it light up the sky and have some happy hour drinks. What we came to learn about Morocco was it is nearly impossible to find alcohol. Technically, it’s illegal in the country to have alcohol and strictly enforced due to the religion. A few Western hotel/restaurants are known to offer cocktails for a happy hour, especially during sunset. These places are filled with predominately foreigners. We went to Café Arabe for some cocktails had an incredibly view for the sunset. Since this place is strictly drinks, we wandered down the street to Souk Kafe for dinner. On top of the beautiful sky full of colors, boy it was delicious! Definitely recommend finding this hidden spot.
One of the things I recommend to guiding you through the winding alleyways is to chose a main target area, such as a mosque or one of the large entrance doors. It is so easy to get lost in the city while heading to these different destination points. We religiously saved everything to Google Maps, which we dive more into our Travel Tips section.
Overall, Marrakesh was a great start to the journey. It was a great starting point to set expectations for the rest of our travels in Morocco.