It was hard to leave Morocco after just nine days. For a destination that is so close to the UK where I live, and so affordable to visit, it is incredibly different and exciting.
The weather, the colours and the smells are all intoxicating and the people are warm and friendly.
Most appealing to me was that, although I was only away on a holiday, I was able to have what felt like a backpacking experience. My friend and I stayed in Marrakech and Essaouira in two different hostels, both of which were outstanding for what we paid.
Equity Point in Marrakech is a real oasis of calm amidst the bustling medina by the main square (Jemaa el Fna), and it has a pool which was incredible for cooling down after a hot day’s outing. Guests of the hostel frequently stay longer than they plan to, which is a sure sign of a good hostel, and the atmosphere is friendly and communal. The hostel is larger than it first appears and the hidden rooftop terrace provides a place for travellers to sit and watch the sun go down. For all of this the price is really quite remarkable.
In Essaouira my friend and I stayed in a hostel called Green Milk. This one is particularly hard to find, with no sign over the entrance you may need to have someone show you where it is the first time you visit, but this only adds to the homely quality of the place. A small, informal, wonderfully decorated building, the hostel is owned by some lovely people who make every guest feel like a personal friend coming to stay. It’s a much more authentic experience and a lovely community to feel a part of for the duration of your stay in Essaouira. I really hope to return and stay for a longer period of time.
While Marrakech is the perfect place for exploring souks and buying gifts from the bustling street stalls, Essaouira is a relaxing getaway on the coast. In Essaouira, you can buy local goods, but the selling style is less confrontational and the food has a stronger French influence than that of Marrakech. You can walk out onto the battlements that surround the city and watch waves crash against the rocks, or you can wander down to the port in the morning and watch local fisherman bring in their catches while the stray cats scratch around for scraps. Essaouira is a beautiful and calm city, home to the surfer type and the original hippy, while Marrakech is a teeming hub with people from all over, great bargains and plenty of gardens to explore. Marrakech It is also a good base to take trips from. We chose the three-day, two-night desert trip, which included a camel safari and camping in the desert itself, which was a lovely way to see a lot in a short space of time – but there are lots of trips to choose from.
Wherever you are, the food is exquisite. Couscous, tagines, shawarmas and kebab skewers make up the majority of available meals, but there is much more besides. The night market on Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech is a great place to eat cheap dishes and you can find everything from pastilla, a sweet, layered pastry dish that is traditionally made with pigeon, to cooked sheep’s head, which I can’t say I tried, but I can definitely recommend the pastilla. In Essaouira it is all about fresh seafood, which you can buy incredibly cheaply at the fish markets. At the seafront cafes you can buy pastries and deliciously-thick hot chocolates, numerous crepe stands are another indicator of French influence on the local cuisine. Everywhere you go in Morocco you can buy fresh orange juice for as little as 5 Moroccan dirhams, the equivalent of 32 pence.
Coming from London in the UK, the flights to Morocco are relatively inexpensive and I plan to return in the near future. Top of my list of other places to visit are ChefChaouen, nestled high in the mountains, and Ouzoud, where there are beautiful waterfalls and troops of monkeys.
Have you been to Morocco? Where would you recommend? If you haven’t been, where would you most like to go? 🙂