At the beginning of October, Marina (@marichankobe) and I went to Morocco for a week. The weather was perfect for the summer lover that I am! I’ve been to Morocco once before: in Marrakesh exactly, so this time I wanted to discover this country a bit more! Here is what we did, day by day!
*You can find all the practical informations (prices etc.) at the bottom of the article.
Day One: Marrakesh, Morocco
We flew from Paris to Marrakesh with Transavia. Our flight was at 7AM, and we arrived around 10AM. Bought our sim cards and headed to our incredibly beautiful riad: Ksar Kasbah (check out my blogpost here). Located in the busy souk, this riad is a peaceful heaven, where every corner smells like orange blossom!
We enjoyed our first mint tea with some delicious Moroccan treats and then got ready to visit the town. I was so happy to wander again in this red city, smelling the spices, feeling the crazy busy vibes of the old town. It’s easy to get lost in the souk, so we used our phones to geolocate ourselves.
First stop : Palais Bahia. It’s a palace with a set of gardens built in the late 19th century. The name means “brilliance”. It captures the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan styles. We wandered through the beautiful rooms covered with amazing tiles, chilled in the patios, and enjoyed the shadows of the different palms and trees in the gardens.
Second stop: Le Jardin Secret (the Secret Garden) and its two lovely gardens: the Islamic and the Exotic gardens. The origins of the facility date back to the Saadian Dynasty, more than four hundred years ago. Rebuilt in the mid-nineteenth century at the behest of an influential kaid of the Atlas Mountains, Le Jardin Secret has been the home of some of Morocco and Marrakesh’s most important political figures.
We had a late lunch at “Atay Café Food”. And here started my first of a really long series of tajines! There are different types of tajines, with lamb, chicken, veggie. And my lamb and plums tajine was delicious! We also shared a pastilla as a starter.
Around 5PM, we started to wander again in the souk while heading to the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakesh. It is located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakesh. The mosque is ornamented with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches; it has a large plaza with gardens, and is floodlit at night. The minaret, 77 meters (253 ft) in height, includes a spire and orbs.
We finished our day with a mint tea in “Le grand balcon du café glacier” in Jemaa el-Fnaa square (the main market square of Marrakesh). The spot offers a great view over the square and we were able to admire the beautiful setting sunlight. Be careful, it’s a well known and overcrowded café! You’ll have to wait in order to get a spot and admire the square.
For your info: Ben Youssef Madrasa is closed for renovation until the end of 2019.
Day Two: Agafay Desert, Morocco
In the morning we enjoyed our time in our riad. We ate our breakfast on the rooftop. The view over the city is so lovely from there. It was a traditional Moroccan breakfast, with Moroccan pancakes, honey, local pastries, omelet, and mint tea of course. We also enjoyed the swimming pool before leaving Marrakesh.
Here comes our second adventure of the trip: we went to the Agafay desert, which is a reg, or more commonly a stone desert. We had booked a tent in Scarabeo Camp (check out my blogpost about it). They came to pick us up at 3pm. We crossed the desert and arrived 45min later.
Our tent faced the Atlas mountains, and had a 1930’s vibes to it (the whole camp actually). We had a shower, a sink, a toilet, and even electricity. They use solar panels to provide the camp with energy. There isn’t much to do in a desert compared to a busy town. And that’s the beauty of the experience in my opinion. You admire your surroundings, listen to the silence, and enjoy time slowing down. That’s what we did! For those of you who want to do more than chilling, the camp offers the possibility to do camel riding and to quad tour.
We witnessed the most amazing and craziest sunset, definitely my favorite part of the day! On one side, the sky was gold while over the Atlas Mountains, there was a storm! We couldn’t choose which part to admire! It was one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life (not exaggerating).
After the beautiful sunset, we ate dinner under the main tent. It was a three course meal, with tajine as the main dish (told you!). The food was delicious and we even had a live musician playing guitar and singing.
We stayed a bit more near the main tents as the camp workers lit up a fire and started to admire the sky. I tried milky way shots for the first time of my life that night.
Day Three: Aït Ben Haddou (Ouarzazate), Morocco
We woke up for the sunrise, relaxed a bit and had a lovely Moroccan breakfast. That’s the thing about desert: you reconnect with the nature surrounding you and also with yourself (I had the same feeling in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan). This is a feeling I cherish, and I look for it everytime I go to a remote place: disconnect with my hectic everyday life, slow down, breath, admire and feel small.
We left the camp at 11AM, arrived in Marrakesh at 12PM and rented a car at Yacout Tours. We wanted a small and cheap car, but safe and clean, and they had what we needed. Plus, they were really kind!
Our third adventure of the trip was Ouarzazate. It’s a 4 hours drive from Marrakesh and you get to cross the mountains. Driving there was an adventure it itself and quite difficult: the road is under renovation and a lot of trucks are circulating very slowly, knowing that it’s a mountain road. If you’re not a regular driver or not used to that kind of road or are just scared, please check the different tour excursions you can find in town (even in Marrakesh). They offer a one day trip to Ouarzazate and you won’t put yourself at risk. Keep in mind to follow the speed limitations, there are a lot of policemen tracking the cars’ speed near schools and villages.
We arrived around 5PM at the Riad Tamdakhte and after a quick shower, we headed to Aït Ben-Haddou.
Aït Ben-Haddou is an ighrem (fortified village) or ksar in Arabic, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. Inside the walls of the ksar are half a dozen Kasbahs (or merchant houses) and other individual dwellings, and is a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture.
Be aware that the people in the ksar will ask you to pay for pretty much anything. For example, we got lost looking for a tea shop, and found ourselves in a private rooftop (the architecture is so that you can cross a house while continuing your path). The house lady came out, and asked us to pay, even after we explained to her we were looking for another place. Apart from that, the place is absolutely charming! And we finally found our tea shop! The owner told us it was Daenerys/Emilia Clarke’s favorite place when she was there filming Game of Thrones!
We had dinner at our riad, which was absolutely lovely (and Marina’s favorite tajine of the trip). Also, the tenant is extremely kind and doesn’t stop smiling!
Day Four: Marrakesh, Morocco
We woke up quite early that day, given that we had to drive back to Marrakesh for 4 hours. We took it slowly that day, Marina was a bit sick. Funny enough, the road seemed way easier on our way back, and it went way quicker! We arrived in Marrakesh around noon and went to the train station to buy our tickets to Tangier. We would travel by night and we wanted a single person cabin and not a dormitory (only available at a desk’s train station).
During the afternoon, we went to the Majorelle Garden. It is a botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden, created by the French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle in 1923. It features a Cubist villa designed by the French architect, Paul Sinoir. In the 1980s, the fashion designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased the property and worked on restoring it. Today, the garden and villa complex is open to the public. The villa houses the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakesh, the Berber Museum and has recently opened the Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
For the second time of my life, I was in awe there! The flora is amazing, and you can see how much work and effort is put into making this place a green heaven. But what I love the most is the incredible contract of colors. The majorelle blue stands out gorgeously! The combination between the light blue and the yellow on the house is fantastic, and the ground of the garden is red! All of these colors combined can be a great inspiration for an artist, and I totally get why Yves Saint Laurent fell in love with this place!
We went back to the souk and had lunch at “Le Jardin”. The place is quite romantic given that you eat in the patio. It was my second time there. The first time, in 2015, I remember having an incredible diner with the most amazing crème brûlée! This time I was a bit disappointed. The meat was too dry for my taste. And they’ve changed the menu (or maybe it was because it was because for lunch). It’s still a nice restaurant, I just had a better time there in 2015.
We finished the day by wandering in the shops of the souk! As a result, I bought myself a lovely (but fragile) pair of shoes, made of Moroccan leather. I also bought my family some gifts and souvenirs!
We went to the train station at 6.30PM as our train’s departure was at 7.00PM. Our cabins were extremely comfortable with a nice bed, an armchair, a table and a sink! They also gave us slippers, toothbrushes, toothpaste and a few beauty essentials. It left on time and I sincerely had quite a relaxing night!
Day Five: Chefchaouen, Morocco
We arrived at Tangier around 6AM. There we rented a car at Sixt and drove two hours through the Rif Mountains. The road is very safe there, and so is the people’s driving! They are “cooler” in the north than in the south. Also, they speak more Spanish than French here (as this area was part of Spanish Morocco until independence in 1956).
We arrived in Chefchaouen around 11AM and parked the car in a watched parking area (recommended), 50DH for 24h. We checked in at Dar Swiar (price), which is located in the old town, and after a well needed shower we went to explore the town.
Chefchaouen, also known as Chaouen, is a city in northwest Morocco. It is the chief town of the province of the same name, and famous for its buildings in shades of blue. The city was founded in 1471 as a small kasbah (fortress) by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami.
It’s hard to describe how cute, beautiful and lovely is Chefchaouen. All the little blue streets have their own magic charm, and I couldn’t stop smiling from this blue dream. You might get lost, but it’s a small town, so you’ll always find yourself in a street you’ve already been! Also, the inhabitants are extremely welcoming, and not (yet) tired of the tourists. Be careful though, Instagram has made this place very popular, and you won’t be the only one wandering there!
At lunch time, we ate a super tasty couscous at “Restaurant Bab Ssour”. We spent the rest of the day shopping, taking pictures, and talking to the lovely people. We learned that only the women were painting and taking care of the blue color of the streets!
At sunset, we started to walk towards the mosque. We didn’t go up there, as we could see how crowded it was. We stopped before and didn’t regret it! The view was breathtaking!
Going back to the town, we felt safe at night wandering in the streets. This was a perfect day! And definitely the highlight of my trip!
Day Six: Fez, Morocco
We left Chefchaouen in the morning and arrived at Fez before noon. The road was really nice and safe. First thing first, we checked in at our riad: Riad Fes Bab Rcif, located at the entrance of the medina.
Fez was founded under the Idrisid rule during the 8th-9th century. Fez reached its zenith in the Marinid-era, regaining the status as the capital. Numerous madrasas, mosques, zawiyas and city gates were constructed which survived up until today. These buildings are considered the hallmarks of Moorish and Moroccan architectural styles.
We spent the afternoon wandering in the medina. The streets there are way narrower than in Marrakesh. We got stuck in “pedestrian traffic” many times! You can guess it was the perfect excuse to do some window shopping! The medina is extremely busy and noisy!
After a while, we found the Madrasa Bou Inania. We spent a lot of time there, admiring the tiles and just enjoying ourselves is this quiet heaven.
The Madrasa Bou Inania was founded in AD 1351–56 by Abu Inan Faris. It is an excellent example of Marinid architecture. The madrasa functioned both as an educational institute and as a congregational mosque, and it is the only madrasa in Fez with a minaret.
For your info, the other famous madrasa, Madrasa Attarine, is closed for renovation until 2020.
We had our diner at “Restaurant Chez Rachid”, in the center of medina. I totally recommend this place! The food is amazing there! We tried the chicken pastilla (best one I had during that week, and that’s something) and the delicious plum tajine! Also, the mint tea is excellent!
Day Seven: Fez, Morocco
Here comes our last day. We woke up early that day, took a taxi to the Royal Palace of Fez (Dar al-Makhzen), in Fez Jdid quarter, and arrived in time for the sunrise. The palace isn’t open to visitors, but the brass gates themselves are worth the visit. They are ornamented with zellige tilework and carved cedar woods!
We went back at our riad, had breakfast, and spent the last hours getting lost in the medina, and found some beautiful hidden gems: mosques, gates, etc.
We left Morocco at the end of the afternoon. I’m so happy I went back to this country and discovered more about it! I already know I’ll go back, as I want to visit Merzouga next time, and stay longer at Chefchaouen! The whole trip was amazing and I realized I’ve missed these Moroccan vibes more than I thought! See you next time Morocco!
- Bahia Palace: 10 dirhams
- Le Jardin Secret: 50 dirhams
- Jardin Majorelle: 70 dirhams for the garden, 30 dirhams for the museum.
- Aït Ben-Haddou: 10 dirhams
- Bou Inania Madrasa: 10 dirhams
Accomodations & Cars
Marrakesh: Ksar Kasbah 119€/night
Agafay Desert: Scarabeo Camp 255€/night (diner included)
Ouarzazate (Tamdakhte, 5km from Aït Ben-Haddou): Riad Tamdakhte 50€/night
Chefchaouene: Dar Swiar 40€/night
Fez: Riad Bes Bab Rcif 150€/night
Night train between Marrakesh and Tangier: they are different tickets (8 beds dormitory, 6 beds dormitory, 4 beds dormitory, single). You can buy them online on ONCF (except for the single cabins, you need to buy them directly at the train station’s desk). We bought tickets for single cabins (690 dirhams).
Car in Marrakesh: Yacout Tours 30€/day (Update: went back to Morocco and rented a car there again! These guys are super friendly and it’s quite cheap, so I totally recommend!)
Car from Tangier to Fez: Sixt (Tangier airport to Fez airport) via Rental Cars 45€/day
Taxi in Marrakesh: Get ready to negotiate! You can divide the price by two at least!
Taxi in Fez: they are really cheap when you compare to the ones in Marrakesh! And you don’t have to worry, they have taxi meters there!