Friday, December 20, 2019

Morocco Diary - Marrakech

Dear readers, welcome to my last Morocco post and also my last post of 2019. It's been a turbulent year full of important changes, beautiful experiences and trips, unforgettable moments with my family and friends as well as time for personal growth. 2019 was my year of inner change I guess. I practice a lot more mindfulness and yoga now and even started with meditation. I am learning to listen to my inner voice and just go with the flow of life. I am also taking more time for myself to do what I like and disconnect after a stressful 2018. 

One of the things that most make me feel alive is traveling. I can't express in words how much I love traveling. Exploring unknown places, getting to know new cultures, trying foreign food and listening to different languages is what sparks my curiosity, what makes my heart beat faster, what makes me feel connected to myself and the world. If I could I'd travel every month or so to a new place.

Morocco was for sure a great trip and since it's so close to Spain I'm already thinking of going back one day to explore more parts of this beautiful country. Yesterday my boyfriend and I watched the movie 'Hanna' with Saoirse Ronan. She travels to Morocco in that movie and we have recognized so many places and customs like the clothes they wear, the food they eat or what they say in Arabic or Berber language. Traveling (just like having friends from different countries) really teaches you a lot about life and our world!

So here are some tips and pics of our last days in Morocco that we spent in Marrakech. I hope my posts make your travels a bit easier :)

My Opinion about Marrakech

I have to say I had a very different image of Marrakech in mind before getting there. I follow quite a few female traveler profiles on Instagram and always see these beautiful photos of girls in long, flowy and colorful dresses sitting on cozy cushions and rugs or by a pool in a breathtaking riad sipping Moroccan tea and just living an amazing life. The truth is, Marrakech is not really like that. Of course, there are some beautiful riads and buildings. But after having traveled to different parts of Morocco I can say that Marrakech is surely not the prettiest town of the country. Yes, it may be the liveliest and most exciting one (and also the most touristic one). But in reality Marrakech didn't look as amazing as on Instagram. The souk (a popular photo spot) is super crowded and you get easily lost. Vendors can become very impolite if you don't want to buy anything from them. There are indeed a few beautiful buildings but many others are quite shabby and rundown. There are also some magical gardens, however you have to pay to enjoy them and expect a lot of tourists. We didn't even visit one of the most famous sights in Morocco, the Jardin Majorelle, because we didn't want to visit a spot just because it's famous on Instagram and then share it with hundreds of other tourists and not be able to enjoy it. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our two-day stay in the city. I listed some spots for you guys below, places we have visited and also places that were on my list but that we have decided to leave out.

What to do in Marrakech

What to see
  • Bahia Palace: For that royal feeling and beautiful architecture
  • Jemaa El Fna Square: The heart of Marrakech
  • Souk: For all shopping fans and people who love culture
  • Jardin Majorelle and YSL museum: For designer fans and people who don't mind crowds
  • Jardin Secret: Relax in the middle of Marrakech's bustling medina
  • Max&Jan: A unique shopping experience and great rooftop
  • Saadian Tombs: For history fans
  • El Badi Palace: Ancient architecture and history
  • Hammam: Relaxation after a long day of sightseeing, there are many good ones in the medina

Where to eat
  • Café des Épices: For food and drinks with great views, loved the relaxed vibes here and their pistachio brownies
  • Nomad: For gourmet food in an elegant setting
  • Shtatto: For coffee and tea on a beautiful rooftop
  • Cafe Clock: For yummy (and cheap!) breakfast and food

Where to stay
  • Villa Verde: This is where we stayed. The riad was beautiful and centrally located. The rooms were spacious and the beds comfortable. The breakfast was good as well. However, I wish the staff would have spoken better English and the shared bathroom also wasn't the greatest. I added some photos of this place at the end of the post.
  • Riad Yasmine: Private boutique hotel situated in the middle of the Medina of Marrakech 
  • Riad BE Marrakech: Popular spot among bloggers thanks to their beautiful interior
  • Riad UP: Elegant Vintage Arab-Andalusian Palace
  • Riad Jemaa El Fna: Colorful and vibrant riad next to the famous Jemaa El Fna square 
  • Riad Tawargit: Chic guesthouse in the medina
  • Riad Jardin Secret: Hip yet elegant riad famous for its beautiful interior and rooftop
  • La Maison Marrakech: Located in the medina, this stylish riad is the ultimate oasis for those with an eye for design
  • El Fenn: Stylish rooms, beautiful patios and a breathtaking roof terrace
  • La Mamounia: Stunning palace for luxury lovers
  • Riad Z: Elegant boutique hotel located in the medina

I hope these Marrakech tips will help you plan your trip to this exciting city. Marrakech is surely worth a visit when traveling to Morocco so you better don't miss it! With these last tips and photos of our trip I'm saying goodbye for now and hope to welcome you all again in 2020! Best wishes and lots of love, xx Laura

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Morocco Diary - Aït Ben Haddou and Road Trip

Hi there, how is everybody's week going? Mine is pretty relaxed apart from the last preparations for my vaca in Germany and some stuff to do at work. Today I'll try to keep it short telling you about some sights we visited during our road trip across Morocco.

As I explained in my last post we had booked a three-day tour with Mandala Tours from Fez to Marrakech with one day in the desert in between. One night we stayed in the desert camp (see my last post) and the other in a beautiful riad (you will see some pics of it at the end of this post). 

Exploring Aït Ben Haddou

One of the most interesting towns we have visited during the tour was surely Aït Ben Haddou in the Ouarzazate province, where popular movies and shows like Game of Thrones had been shot. Aït Ben Haddou lies at the bank of a river (which was dried out when we were there) and consists of a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high defensive walls and towers. It is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat and beautiful example of the architecture of southern Morocco. Some of us walked around the town a bit (the entrance is free) while others went to search for fossils (which are very common in this area of Morocco). Aït Ben Haddou really is a mystical place that is definitely worth a visit if you should come to this part of the country!

Road Trip across Morocco

We crossed a huge part of the country, passed many different and breathtaking landscapes and stopped once in a while to go explore a bit and soak in the beauty of the country. I can not stress enough that Morocco features really amazing landscapes! In three days we crossed the snow-covered mountains of Ifrane, also called the Moroccan Switzerland, where we could watch Barbary macaques play in the snow, as well as dried out, vast steppes where wild dromedaries crossed our path. We also crossed the stunning Atlas mountains that were either covered in sunshine or fog and, of course, the fascinating Sahara desert.

Here and there we stopped at a Berber village, larger city or ancient fortress called Kasbah. We also explored the Dades Valley and Todra Gorge, a canyon of red high rocks with a crystal clear river running through it. I feel like we have really seen some of Morocco's most beautiful parts. We did a quite touristic route but never found lots of people at the same spot which was awesome! Many parts of Morocco reminded me so much of the vast landscapes of Arizona that you see in movies. Dried out steppes, high canyons and endless sunshine. We also spotted lots of oases along the way, they really do exist! It's a beautiful sight, these lush green spots in the middle of nowhere. Trees and houses gathered wherever there is water. The Moroccan landscape was a fairy tale to me and I can only highly recommend getting out of the cities when visiting Morocco to explore its stunning nature!

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