Our first time visiting the African continent was in November 2015. Although with a more Arabic culture rather than a typical African feel, Morocco was 'officially' our first African continent destination.
THINGS TO KNOW
Thankfully, we organised to stay in an Airbnb prior to our arrival where our host was exceptionally organised and helpful. She pre-arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport to drive us to our accommodation which was located 1km outside of Marrakesh medina.
Walking out of Marrakesh's main airport, Menara, is a very busy and chaotic place and can be initially overwhelming. On exit, we were presented with a lot of drivers holding signs picking up passengers from incoming flights. I would highly recommend that you ask your your host or hotel to arrange for a taxi to pick you up from the aiport.
For taxi drivers in Marrakesh, the airport is a haven for tourist bait. If you look lost, you will have a line of taxi's offering you a ride into the city for a hefty price. If you have not pre-arranged a taxi then try your best with haggling for a cheaper rate. If you do not get lucky with the first one, there are plenty others around to try with. For reference, we paid £10 for a return 9km journey.
Enjoy your taxi ride. Bring a spare of underwear or a blind fold.
Accommodation is glamorous in Morocco. Of all the travelling that I have done, here I felt as though I was living in the culture. The houses are a dull brown or white in texture with complementing bright colours, tiles and beautiful plants plotted everywhere you look. Although the roads around you may be loud and busy, it was nothing but relaxing sitting on our balcony eating breakfast every morning.
For reference, we stayed in an Airbnb. We had an entire apartment to ourselves with a rooftop kitchen and sitting area. There is a lot of wonderful accommodation to choose from in Morocco. For a more traditional stay, there are hundreds of riad's to choose from within the medina.
CALL TO PRAYER
This is a special experience to wake up to in the morning. 99% of Moroccan’s are Muslim and you can hear the prayers over loud speakers from the mosques up to six times day. Mosques are plotted both inside and outside the Medina's walls, so missing the call to prayer would be difficult from wherever you are in the city. The morning is the best time to hear it due to the still and quietness around the city. In the afternoon and evening it is less clear to hear unless you are nearby a mosque at the time.
I think it is also important to highlight the importance of respect on culture and religion when you are a tourist in a foreign country. Before arriving in Morocco, Kim was unsure as a female what she should wear to remain respectful but equally being mindful of the warm climate. What we noticed is that wearing shirts with sleeves, long pants (trousers for the British folk) or shorts or skirts below the knees were totally acceptable dress wear.
For men, shorts preferably below the knees or long pants were suitable as well as shirts with sleeves.
If you are less conservative we did notice many other tourists wearing tank tops and shorts (some a little too short!) which visually did not seem to be of a problem to the locals. We felt good knowing that we had made an effort to adapt to the culture that surrounded us. This too will make you 'stand out' less as a tourist...which isn't always a bad idea here in Morocco.
SOUKS & BARTERING
Possibly the most chaotic experience of the trip combined with the added thrill of getting lost. The souks are a never ending windy path of Moroccan's trying to sell you their goods. Their friendly approach to getting you to converse with them is often by guessing what language you speak by saying 'hello', 'bonjour' and 'hola' and awaiting your reaction to either one. Whilst I did not want to be rude, I also did not want to stop at every single stall. The people all mean well and will often move on to the next person once you pass their stall but if something does catch your eye, stop and find out what price they are offering. Without a doubt you will see the same thing somewhere else and you can start to practice your bartering skills.
Once you are used to the surroundings of the souks it is a lot of fun. You can spend hours walking around and not ever being able to find the same place again. I will admit that we got severely lost on the first day, however once we discovered the rooftop cafe's, we were able to use this time to re-orientate ourselves.
If you enjoy bartering, you will enjoy the souks. Try your luck and see what you can take home with you. We definitely walked away with a heavier suitcase after this trip.
Tagine is the Moroccan’s most popular dish. The tagine may look a bit bland and tasteless, but wait to be surprised. We ate at least one a day and I could have eaten many more!
Red meat is the main protein available with tagines and other local Moroccan dishes. Spices are essentially a 'staple' to all main dishes and is what adds that wonderful texture and flavor to any meal you choose from the menu. It is such an important ingredient within Moroccan food that the vibrant colours of the spices can be easily found within the souks.
Moroccan's most popular drink which can be found virtually anywhere, is mint tea. For someone who isn't a huge mint lover I knocked back many of these babies. It is generally served in a 'genie like' teapot which is a popular souvenir available to buy in the souks.
Alcoholic drinks are less accessible due to the Muslim culture. You can come across them occasionally in supermarkets, and we did find a couple of bars - but mostly only outside of the Medina.
All-in-all, enjoy your time in Marrakesh. Take in all the experiences, sounds, smells and culture. Take time out for a massage and enjoy the spas, or take a cooking class. There is plenty to do and see.