Morocco is ideal for backpackers. It’s cheap, easy to get to from Europe and has loads to offer.
The weather, the colours and the smells are all intoxicating and the people are warm and friendly.
My friend and I stayed in hostels in Marrakech and Essaouira. Both were excellent and really affordable. Equity Point in Marrakech is a real oasis of calm amidst the bustling medina by the main square (Jemaa el Fna). It encases a pool, which was perfect for cooling down after a hot day’s outing. Guests of the hostel frequently stay longer than they plan to, a sure sign of a good hostel, and the atmosphere is friendly and communal. Equity Point is larger than it first appears, and the hidden rooftop terrace provides a place for travellers to sit and watch the sun go down.
In Essaouira we stayed in a hostel called Green Milk. With no sign over the entrance, this one is particularly hard to find and you may need to ask someone to show you where it is, but this only adds to the homely quality of the place. A small, informal and wonderfully decorated building, this 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.
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 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 surfers and hippies, while Marrakech is a teeming hub with people from all over, great bargains and plenty of gardens to explore. Marrakech 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. It was a lovely way to see a lot in a short space of time.
Wherever you are in Morocco 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, with everything from pastilla, a sweet, layered pastry dish that is traditionally made with pigeon, to cooked sheep’s head. In Essaouira fresh seafood is the main attraction, and you can buy it incredibly cheaply at the fish markets. Enjoy flaky pastries and deliciously thick hot chocolates at seafront cafes, or a crepe from the numerous stands dotted around. One of my favourite things to do was to buy a fresh orange juice made right in front of you at one of the many stands in Essaouira or Marrakech. A glass is as little as 5 Moroccan dirhams, the equivalent of 32 pence.
I hope to return to Morocco soon. I still need to visit ChefChaouen, which is 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?