Travel the World | Marrakech and Sahara, Morocco

This was my first time in Africa and in a Muslim country and I definitely did a bit of research before jetting off and thought I would share everything I learned and would suggest for those interested in visiting!  I had a wonderful time with my friends and have shared my top moments in my photo diary.

If you are interested in the itinerary we used for our 5-day trip, I’ve included it at the bottom of the post!

Things to do:

  • Ben Youssef Madrasa (~€2pp) – This was the first place we visited and is an old Islamic college.   Although quite a small place the details in architecture was stunning, so we managed to spend about an hour here just taking pictures.  Some great shots if you have a group go up stairs and opposite sides of the courtyard windows.
  • Photography Museum (~€5pp) – Right around the corner from the Madrasa was the photography museum, which also had a cute cafe at the top.  Quite a cute little museum, but will only max take you about 30 minutes to wander.
  • Le Jardin Majorelle (70DHS pp) – The garden is most famous to have been home to YSL and then opened up to the public to view after his death.  It’s quite small and although pretty was also a bit underwhelming given its fame.  Still worth a wander inside as it is a very lush oasis in the middle of Marrakech.
  • Souks – If you are staying inside the Medina, you will be able to find these quite easily when you wander around.  There are a few of them to take a look at and they do have quite a lot of nice little knick knacks if you are looking for some souvenirs.
  • Hammam – Our group didn’t actually get around to doing a Turkish bath, but these are supposed to be quite nice and can be found around Marrakech
  • Cafe Clock Kech Cooking School –  Such a fun way to get a very filling meal, while learning how to make it all.  I won’t speak too much about this again since I’ve already written a whole blog post about it here.
  • Dessert Tour –  This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and definitely recommend to do at least a 2 night tour since it takes 9 hours to drive to the dunes.  The tour guides picked us up from our Riad and took us first to buy some snacks for the road and alcohol for the tour once we were outside of Marrakech.
    • On the 1st day you pass through the Atlas Mountains and stay at a Riad on the way to the desert.  They would often stop on the way to explain things about the towns and Nomadic camps we would pass.
    • On the 2nd day when we got to the camp we had some downtime to sand board and then took a camel ride to watch the sunset.  In the morning it was time for the long drive back to Marrakech.  I really loved our guides for the desert tour once they warmed up to us when they would sing in the car and pump up the music and dance around.

Places to eat:

We ate mostly at the Riads for breakfast and even some dinners, which were actually really lovely traditional Moroccan food.  Below were recommendations in the Medina and although quite fancy were very reasonably priced.

  • Le Jardin – This was by far the whole group’s favorite restaurant that we ate at.  The entrance is very unassuming, but you then walk into a beautiful garden with lights and tables and is surrounded by terraces.  The restaurant serves a mix of Moroccan and European style dishes.  The appetizers we ordered were amazing and disappeared quite quickly and I ordered the Tajine kefta for my main, which was like meatballs in a Moroccan meal and I loved it.  There desserts were also a huge hit, so why not indulge a little if you make you way here!  You can easily make a booking by emailing them.img_0739.jpg
  • Cafe Arabe – We did this as our first group lunch and as a perfect way to escape the heat.  This restaurant serves a Moroccan and Italian menu and has a beautiful rooftop terrace overlooking the Medina and would be wonderful for a sunset.  Although they did serve alcohol, we opted for some refreshing juices while we waited for our food.  It was just a really nice atmosphere to relax and chat in the afternoon.
  • Nomad – This one came highly recommended by many people and so we were quite excited to eat this on our first night.  It is supposed to be a modern Moroccan restaurant with ingredients sourced locally. We were seated on the rooftop and was able to enjoy the cool evening air.  All-in-all I was a bit underwhelmed by the food.  I had ordered the Chicken brochettes, which was good, but nothing amazing.  My favorite part of the meal was probably the side dishes of green beans and potatoes.  You can also make a booking via email. 

Note: ‘Vegetarian’ dishes sometimes actually contain seafood in it as many Moroccans do not understand that vegetarian means no seafood or meat.  My friend ended up eating quite a bit of Vegetable Tagine the entire trip.

Tips/Notes:

  • Clothing – Although most people told me that clothing needed to be conservative, skirts that covered the knees and shirts that covered the shoulders.  Our Riad hosts told us that Marrakech is like any other modern city and we were welcome to wear whatever made us comfortable.  Only more rural areas was it more necessary to be more conservative.  Most locals wear conservative clothing and since that’s all we packed, that’s what we wore.  However I did see other tourists that wore sleeveless tops and shorts.
  • Airport Transport – I would highly suggest getting transportation via the Riad you decide to stay at.  It is decently cheap and just easy.
  • Taxis – We mostly stayed in the Medina and walked everywhere, but was about £4-5 for a ride to Le Jardin Majorelle and to Clock Cafe
  • Alcoholic Drinks – The only drinks we bought were from a Costco-like store that the drivers stopped at on the way to the desert, otherwise we drank lots of fruit juices.
  • Tipping – The only time we tipped was for the desert tour guides who had made the whole experience really easy for us.

5-day Itinerary

Day 0:

  • Arrive –  20:00 at the airport and were out the airport within about 30 minutes
  • Riad – 21:00 – 21:30 we were able to check-in and be served dinner and just chilled after that

Day 1:

  • 08:30 – Breakfast in the Riad
  • 09:30 – Explore in the Medina – Ben Youssef Madrasa, Photography Museum, Wander around the Souks
  • 12:30 – Meet with the larger gang and head to lunch at Cafe Arabe
  • 15:00 – Walk to Le Jardin Majorelle
  • 16:30 – Visit Artisan Market (fixed price market) and then wander the Souks
  • 18:30 – Return to Riad to rest before dinner
  • 21:00 – Dinner at Nomad

Day 2:

  • 08:30 – Breakfast in the Riad
  • 9:00 – Checkout and pickup for Sahara desert tour
  • 09:30 – 18:00 PM – First half of drive to the Sahara stopping to for lunch and other sights on the way including Aït Ben Haddou where Gladiator was filmed
  • 18:00 – Chill with some wine and eat dinner in the Riad

Day 3:

  • 07:30 – Breakfast in Riad
  • 08:30 – Head to desert
  • 16:00 – Sand boarding by the camp
  • 17:00 – Camel ride to the dunes for Sunset
  • 19:00 – Back to camp for dinner, fire pit, chill, and stargazing

Day 4:

  • 07:30 – Breakfast in the desert camp
  • 08:30 – Head back for the 9 hr drive to Marrakech, with a quick stop at the Salt Bed
  • 19:30 – Arrive back in Marrakech at Riad
  • 21:00 – Dinner at Le Jardin
  • 22:30 – Chill in Riad courtyard

Day 5:

  • 08:30 – Breakfast in Riad rooftop
  • 10:00 – Clock Kech Cooking School
  • 16:00 – Free time to shop/chill
  • 17:30 – Head to airport
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