For as long as I can remember, visiting Morocco has been a dream of mine. Riding a camel, seeing the desert, exploring maze-like medinas, staying at the best spa hotel in Morocco, and drinking tea with Berbers have all been dreams of mine.
That fantasy had come true as I stood on the edge of the Sahara one morning, marveling at the desert’s rhythmic, undulating dunes. I’d ridden a camel to the site where I’d gaze at a million stars that night, pleased at the fact that I was finally somewhere I’d fantasized about thousands of kilometers away beneath the same stars.
I traveled throughout Morocco for two weeks on Intrepid Travel’s Best of Morocco tour, eating couscous, drinking mint tea by the gallon, hiking, and taking in the sights and sounds of the country.
Morocco was a fantastic and exciting adventure. It assaults your senses and is full of unexpected twists and turns. Here are some highlights from my trip if you’re seeking more reasons to go:
Trekking with camels in the Sahara
While I wish you could still ride in the historic camel caravans from Morocco to Egypt, I was content with a night under the stars. It turns out that riding a camel for an hour is somewhat unpleasant, but seeing the gorgeous colors of the desert up close and personal, camping with Bedouins, and staring at a million stars without light pollution made it all worthwhile.
When the wind slows down in the desert, there’s an eerie silence that gives you a great sense of tranquility just sitting and being in nature.
It rained in the desert while I was there. An insane, crazy lightning storm erupted, one of the most intense I’ve ever witnessed. The thunder sounded like a million bombs exploding, and the lighting transformed night into day. It hadn’t rained in over a year, but that night the sky parted for a brief period, allowing her to vent her rage. Surreal.
Trekking through the Atlas Mountains
We spent a lot of time in the low, medium, and high regions of the Atlas Mountains, which cover much of Morocco (it’s hard not to, you can find the best places to stay in Morocco there). My favorite part was crossing the High Atlas Mountains and hiking for an hour to reach a little farmhouse where we slept with a local family for the night (who cooked us the tastiest tagine dinner and Berber omelet of the trip).
We had plenty of time to climb and explore the surroundings because we arrived early and left late the next day. I enjoy hiking, so I appreciated the chance to get out in nature, wander through riverbeds, and see Mt. Toubkal (North Africa’s highest peak) in the distance. This was my second favorite experience after the camel trek.
Café Clock is a place where you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Many people recommended this Western-influenced café to me, and it has locations in Marrakesh and Fez. It is famous for its massive and tasty camel burger (which tastes a lot like spicy shawarma). The meal is fantastic: the burger, green smoothies, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery chicken couscous were all so delicious that I came back for more.
Cafés give an oasis of peace in the frantic and bustling medinas of each city, where you can recharge, utilize Wi-Fi, and chill down with air conditioning. In each location, they also provide cooking workshops and conduct frequent events!
Losing Your Way in the Medinas
The medinas are the ancient hub of each Moroccan city, consisting of a mix of residential areas, commercial malls, and food markets. Here you’ll find winding and turning streets lined with businesses, restaurants, markets, and homes in structures that appear to be too close together and too old to last much longer.
The medinas were nirvana for someone who loves to get lost. I spent hours roaming around them, taking right turns, doubling back, walking through plazas and streets that looked vaguely familiar, and eventually figuring out where I was going, only to get purposefully lost all over again.
They were a maze I enjoyed attempting to solve while sipping tea, eating delectable and fragrant cuisine, and taking in the scenery.
A word of warning: Fez may be shady and dangerous, so stay on the main road. Avoid busy streets. Pickpockets and would-be robbers came near to me on several occasions.
Exploring the city of Volubilis
During Roman times, Volubilis was a significant commerce city and the southernmost colony, and it is one of the best-preserved (and least visited) such remains in the world. I discovered it to be devoid of visitors, undeveloped, and open in a way that allows you to get up and personal with the structures without being hemmed in by fences or jostled by crowds.
Because the majority of the city is yet to be excavated, the site has a very raw feel about it. In my travels, I’ve visited several Roman ruins, but this one is my favorite.
A Visit to Aït Benhaddou
Despite the fact that I didn’t have much time here, touring this area consisting of kasbahs (fortified dwellings) was a fantastic experience. It is known as Morocco’s Hollywood, having appeared in films such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and many others. It was the most picturesque ksar (fortified settlement) I’d ever seen, which is perhaps why it’s featured in so many films!
It conforms to popular perceptions of what an old ksar should look like. I had a good time wandering the streets and ascending to the peak for a better look.
Enjoying Essaouira’s Beach and Seafood
Essaouira, my favorite Moroccan city, is a popular beach resort for travelers, particularly Brits, and is located a few hours from Marrakesh on the Atlantic coast. I appreciated the laid-back vibe of the city, the absence of pushy salespeople, the sea breeze, and the abundance of fresh fish.
Visit the town’s magnificent fish market, where many of the little fishermen sell their catch of the day. After that, go to one of the neighboring little fish shops in the main area to get some fresh seafood grilled for a low price.
My friends and I “splurged” on a supper here, sharing a lobster, eight tiger prawns, two over-a-kilo fish, and half-a-kilo of squid for $75 USD total. Drinks, bread, salad, and tea were included with everything. (We ate there every day, and the subsequent meals cost roughly $15 USD.) For the best fish, visit stalls #5 and #11.
Traveling to Marrakech
Marrakech was all I expected it to be: a modern fusion of Moroccan and foreign culture, with the widest range of wonderful international cuisine (try PepeNero for Italian and Latitude for a Med-Moroccan blend), stunning medina architecture, and the best hotels in Morocco. Marrakech was the most eclectic city on the tour, although lacking the grit and edge of the rest of the country.
The frenetic tempo revealed a city and people that are constantly on the move. The famed Jemaael-Fnaa square is exactly what everyone says it is: tens of thousands of people dining, shopping, getting henna tattoos, listening to bands and storytellers, and seeing magicians in the evening (and snake charmers during the day).
It’s one of the country’s busiest yet most fascinating people-watching spots. It still astounds me how large and full it was! (Compare this to the lackluster Saadian Tombs, which I would skip because the grounds are small and the overall experience was dull.)
Consuming a large amount of Couscous with Tagine
I was a little “couscoused out” towards the conclusion of my two weeks there. That said, I dived right in and devoured as much as I could – I liked enjoying the flavors, witnessing the geographical diversity, and learning how long each dish took to cook.
My favorite Moroccan cuisine was tagine (cooked in a clay pot with meat, dates, almonds, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and saffron). The Berber omelet, which is made with egg, tomato, onion, and herbs and baked in a clay pot, is another worth trying.
Drinking a Pot of Mint Tea
I’ve never sipped so much tea as I did in Morocco. Locals in a place where “having a beer” is not a thing drink pots of mint tea instead. Pouring it is an art form: the higher the teapot, the better. I couldn’t get enough of this minty, sugary delicacy while watched soccer with the locals in the tea shops. I think I drank a pot or two every day. That stuff is incredibly addictive!
Staying at Story Rabat Boutique Hotels.
STORY Rabat is a genuine tour into the Aesthetic Universe. The hotel, which is located in Rabat’s Embassy District and is flanked by some of the city’s most prestigious villas and golf courses, has been named “Best Luxury Boutique Hotel” in Morocco for the year 2020 by The Luxury Lifestyle Awards. Truly the best boutique hotel in Rabat, Morocco.
STORY Rabat welcomed me into a world where Zyriab’s philosophy is reflected in every space of the hotel, expertly blending contemporary Moroccan architecture with an Andalusian touch. This boutique hotel offers a quiet experience of unsurpassed luxury in Morocco just for real private visitors. It has been praised internationally for its concept of magnificent designs. Staying here is a dream come true and one of the reasons why I fell in love with Morocco.