I might be guilty of major oversharing our recent trip to Morocco on social media, which led to many questions about where we stayed, cities we went to, etc. Here’s the rundown of our 9 day Morocco trip:
Day 1: Fes, Morocco
We try to really get to know each city we visit, so we don’t typically like to spend 1 or 2 days in a city then move on to the next. But it turned out with Fes, that we didn’t need or even want more time than that. Sure, we probably could’ve found things to do if we had stayed longer, but I saw everything on my list, which was
- Our Airbnb – An actual historic PALACE. We stayed here a few nights, and it was crazy cool. It was pretty cheap considering we had an entire WING of the palace to ourselves. Honestly, it was quite the hike just to get to the bathroom and a separate shower room on another floor. The window doors opened up to the stunning courtyard and a view overlooking the old city. The guy who owns the Airbnb is the great, great-grandson of the royal Grand Vizier (aka the Sultan’s most trusted advisor, think: Jafar in Aladdin) Anyway, there were photos all around of this royal guy who owned the palace, and our favorite was the photo of him with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in Morocco at the Casablanca Conference.
- The Tanneries – We made our way through the teeny tiny alleys of Fes to the leather shops surrounding the tannery, where the workers soak animal leather in these big colorful basins for dying bags, jackets, etc.) I had heard the smell was awful but it really wasn’t bad enough to need the sprigs of mint leaves they offer you to hold to your nose. We quickly learned that it’s expected to tip for almost any type of service in Morocco, so since we weren’t planning to buy anything in these shops with a view of the tanneries, we gave a tip and headed on our way.
- The University of al-Qarawiyyin – the OLDEST university in the world–859 AD! Another fun fact, and somewhat surprising, it was founded by a woman. Luckily we were there on a Friday (the main holy day in Morocco) and so school wasn’t in session. We got to the door of the library and unsurprisingly there were men outside ready to leap at the opportunity to give a private tour of the place. I have my doubts they actually work for the school, but we had a great tour anyway! I was giddy inside the oldest library in the world, thinking back to how it must’ve looked all those thousands of years ago. Dillon and our tour guide became good pals (see below, haha!)
- Wandered the Medina – The old town of Fes is basically like a corn maze of teeny tiny alleyways. They say you need a tour guide for the first couple days in the city to gain your bearings, but we just winged it with the trusty “blue dot” on Google Maps and we were just fine. Some highlights wandering the Medina:
- Nougat treat – You can definitely find this stuff in the States but it was SO good here. It’s that white taffy-type stuff with nuts mixed in. Not quite sure how to describe it’s all around town.
- Markets – The tiny streets are overrun with vendors of every kind; clothing, decor, food, spices, jewelry, shoes, dishware, etc. I managed to hold off buying anything in Fes because I knew the Marrakech markets would probably be even better (hint: I was RIGHT. See below).
- Fending off hoodlums – I knew from research on Morocco that local boys would try everything in their power to rip you off, mostly by offering “free” directions or help finding something. The trick here is to act like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t) and firmly say “No thank you” as you pass by them. Well, we were getting pretty good at that until one guy would NOT let up. We said “no” to him like 10 times and kept walking, but he FOLLOWED us pretending to give us directions and insisted we need not pay him for his help. After walking us around in circles, of course he demanded we pay him for his help. We literally only had 10 dirham left (like $1) and a credit card on us, and he flipped out, threatening Dillon with a knife. So that was fun. Dillon kept his cool and after 5 minutes of us arguing with him, he finally let up on us and walked away. Crisis averted.
- Ate dinner at The Ruined Garden – Exactly what it sounds like. A cool outdoor patio made into a garden, with several firepits and lots of lush greenery. And so began our Moroccan food experiences… lots and lots of tagine, couscous and berbere salad. The food here was good and big portions, we got way too much food with just an appetizer and two entrees.
Day 2: Chefchaouen, Morocco “THE BLUE CITY”
Oh boy, where do I start with this pretty place? Although we had to drive 4 hours there, then 4 hours back to Fes in the same day, it was 100% worth it! I’m not sure why buildings all painted one color makes a place so charming but it just does. There aren’t many tourist “attractions” except for the town as a whole, so we spent the day just wandering and getting lost in a sea of blue. It’s not a big town, so it’s easy to cover most of it in one day. Here’s what we did:
- Graveyard – While we did wander around the many Instagrammable spots and alleyways, I think my biggest win was finding the coolest graveyard near the bottom of town, where all the headstones were blue and green. Best part? Zero other tourists were there, we had the place to ourselves! Truly the best kept secret in Chefchaouen.
- Aladdin Restaurant – At lunchtime we made our way to Aladdin on their amazing rooftop overlooking the town. It was almost comical as we kept walking up more and more sets of stairs–seemingly never ending. The view was incredible and I had my first mint tea in Morocco (with many, many more to come) and actually the very best I had during the whole trip.
- River and Laundry – We practically stumbled upon a river at the edge of town with lots of waterfalls. While I already was excited about this huge win, Dillon pointed out a couple pavilions downstream with little halfpipes of water leading into them. Then I saw there were women in each pavilion hand washing their laundry in the natural water basins! It was so cool to witness this part of their culture. It made me grateful for our first-world washing machines, but also made me a little jealous that I don’t get to do my laundry with the company of my girlfriends.
- Shopping – Shopping seemed to be much better here than in Fes. My favorite purchase of the entire trip was a black leather studded clutch from a tiny leather shop right off the main central square. Small sidewalk shops in Morocco don’t always have names, so I have no other way to describe it. I probably got ripped off on the price a bit (at this point we weren’t yet experienced with Moroccan bargaining), but it’s so dang cute I don’t even care.
Topped off the day with pizza (too much tagine already?) and headed back to our palace Airbnb in Fes.
Days 3-6: -Sahara Desert Tour-
We had an amazing time with Cameltrekking.com on a 4-day, 3-night tour from Fes to the Sahara Desert then ending in Marrakech. Not only was the camel trek into the desert and “glamping” so great, seeing the Moroccan countryside and Berbere culture up close and personal was out of this world. Learning about the local culture, away from the touristy cities, was an experience I will never forget.
The first day of the tour was driving from Fes to the edge of the Sahara Desert. These are some things we stopped for along the way:
- Berbere Monkeys – These guys are GIANTS. We fed them peanuts and it was almost scary how big they were.
- The “Swiss Alps of Morocco” – A tiny town that really did look Swiss and seemed incredibly out of place in Morocco.
- Moroccan food – Can’t remember the restaurant name in the middle of nowhere but I had the best meatball tagine in the entire world.
The second day of the tour we were finally in the desert!
- Sand Dunes Off-Roading: Our tour guide went crazy around the massive sand dunes (we caught air several times, thought I might die) and we laughed all morning long about it.
- Gnaoua Music – We learned about the local Gnaoua tribe’s famous music, and visited nomadic families at their homes in tents in the middle of the desert! The sweet nomadic lady made us mint tea in her humble little tent she lives in.
- CAMEL RIDE / DESERT GLAMPING – At sunset we rode camels into the middle of nowhere Sahara Desert to a luxury campsite, complete with tents with showers. We had dinner with other members of the camp, some Chinese and Spanish people, accompanied by more live Gnaoua music. Then the party really got started after dinner when we all gathered around the bonfire and danced and (they) drank.
And on the next day of the tour:
- Sunrise over the Sahara – We woke up extremely early to see the sunrise over the dunes before breakfast in the dining room tent. Just like lunch and dinner, we quickly learned that the same things are served for breakfast each day in Morocco. Didn’t bother me! Breakfast usually consisted of fruit, pastries, pancakes, Moroccan round bread and lots of spreads like jam and honey.
- Camel ride (round 2) – Our time in the Sahara Desert ended with another camel ride back to small town Merzouga, then we were off in the tour guide’s car again heading toward Marrakech.
- Rissani Market – Passing by dozens of small Berbere towns was fascinating, even from the car window. We stopped in Rissani to check out the iconic marketplace, with donkey parking lots and all. Of all our time in Morocco, it was here that we felt that we got the most authentic feel of Moroccan culture.
- Henna Tattoo and Berbere Clothing – Another stop we made was a traditional Berbere clothing shop, were they insisted we try on their clothes and take photos, so you can imagine Dillon was thrilled (haha). After the clothes ordeal, they insisted on giving me a free Henna tattoo. Within seconds there was a tiny little girl, probably not even 7 years old, going at my hand with a henna pen. I felt like her coloring book, and let’s just say it looked like a henna from a 7-year-old, haha but she was much too cute for me to say no.
- Todra Gorge – A massive gorge canyon that reminded me of hiking through Southern Utah.
- Ziz Valley / Tinghir – One of the most impressive views of my entire life was the view above Tinghir. It’s a valley of lush green palm trees surrounded by ancient kasbah sandstone towns/buildings. We were exhausted by the time we arrived at the stunning Kasbah Dedades Hotel, so we took time to relax and read by the pool overlooking the valley.
On the last day of our tour we headed to our final destination of Marrakech, and saw cool things along the way:
- Ouarzazate – Stopped in this big city to see where many movies are filmed at the Atlas studios (Kingdom of Heaven, among others!)
- Ait Ben Haddou – Possible one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. It’s an ancient fortress town built up a mountain in the middle of freaking nowhere, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- High Atlas Mountains – We drove through the famous High Atlas Mountains (stopping 100 times for cool views) and I got my coveted Moroccan argan oil at a local shop making it right then and there.
Finally, we got to Marrakech and found our Airbnb without too much hassle from the local boys.
The first night in Marrakech was pure magic eating during sunset at NOMAD and then walking around Jemaa el-Fnaa night market where I was stunned by all the smells, sounds and craziness!
Days 7 – 9: Marrakech, Morocco
First let’s talk about our AMAZING Airbnb, Riad Quara. This place is an absolute dream and the staff went above and beyond to make us feel at home, and to make us feel like family. I can’t wait to get back to that peaceful hideaway from the crazy streets of Marrakech again one day. (Thanks Rachid and Hayet!)
I could go on for days and days about all the amazing things we did in Marrakech but these are some of the highlights:
- Free Walking Tour – Our first full day in Marrakech (Day 7) we took a free walking tour of the Medina. We visited the Saadian Tombs, the Kotubia Mosque, the spice markets, the Bahia Palace, the old Jewish Quarter and much much more.
- Le Jardin – Exhausted from the long tour, we were thrilled to eat at NOMAD’s sister restaurant, Le Jardin. I could’ve died happy after trying the orange blossom creme brulee and enjoying the stunning courtyard garden (complete with little baby turtles roaming around!).
- SOUKS (Markets) – After resting up, we made our way through the main event of Marrakech, the souk markets! So many rugs, ceramics, leather bags, jewelry, slippers, clothes, and almost anything you could ever want. We ended the day relaxing on the rooftop of our Riad and then eating dinner on the rooftop of Cafe Atay (another amazing view).
- Le Jardin Secret – Day 8 began with breakfast on the rooftop of our Riad, then visiting Le Jardin Secret; a huge hidden oasis of plants and greenery, separating it from the bustling markets by a mere wall.
- Artisinal Ensemble – Just outside the Medina walls we visited a popular outdoor-mall type place with fixed prices (which was a breath of fresh air after so much negotiating happening in the Medina). In one of the shops I learned how to make a rug and holy cow it must take a lot of time to individually tie each of those tiny knots! Then we went back into the Medina on a serious rug and dishware hunt.
- Hammam – That evening we tried the traditional Moroccan spa treatment. SUCH a crazy experience as we got scrubbed down super hard to get all the dead skin off our body and rubbed with weird clays and oils. After the hammam we tried a camel burger (!!!) at the trendy hipster Cafe Clock and I didn’t like it tbh.
- More Souks – After breakfast on Day 9 we were on a mission in the souks to get our Moroccan rug. We visited a few stores before finally finding “the one”. It’s amazing that the shop owners usually throw out a huge number, fully expecting that you’ll end up paying less than half of what they originally asked for. I ended up finding plates, jewelry and shirts to take home as well. The real miracle was we didn’t have to buy any more luggage, we carried it all onto the plane!
Ate our last Moroccan meal on a secluded rooftop (noticing a pattern? We love rooftop views) where we had lavender, rose, almond and cinnamon flavored ice cream. We figured we needed to check out the daytime snake charmers in Jemaa el-Fnaa which was pretty scary once they started throwing snakes around my neck to hold for photos! Then we finished off our last day relaxing at our Riad before saying goodbye to the staff and heading to the airport.
Morocco was a cultural experience I’ll never forget and I can’t wait to go back for more home decor and mint tea 😉