Morocco was definitely a culture shock. This was our last stop on our May 2019 trip after Greece. We flew into Marrakech and quickly found our driver who we had found through our hostel. We planned to visit the coastal town of Essaouira for a few days before returning to Marrakech and flying home to the states.
Our hostel, Hotel Riad Al Zahia, was at the center of the “old town” in the Medina. One of the workers was kind enough to come pick us up from where our driver dropped us off and led us through the maze that is the Medina to our hostel. We were caught a little bit off guard because the streets were pretty empty when we first arrived and even when we went out after checking into our hotel, it was difficult to find food and there was still nobody out and about. I’m not going to lie, we were a little spooked not to see many people in this town and we were contemplating leaving. However, the next morning we learned that we were visiting Morocco during Ramadan. I felt so dumb and selfish for not doing my research ahead of time. For those of you who aren’t aware, Ramadan is a month in which Muslims do not eat or drink (among other things) from dawn until sunset. This explained why there were few restaurants open, as the sun was still up. Several Moroccans that we spoke with told us that we should try to participate in Ramadan even if we weren’t Muslim as it is a very eye opening experience.
After learning more about Ramadan and the traditions of the Muslims in Essaouira, we opened our eyes to just how beautiful and different this ocean city is. It appears that most people take day trips to the city, but we really enjoyed staying here for multiple days. I think my favorite activity was riding horses on the beach. You will find horses and camels to ride if you just walk down to the beach, but we booked through our hostel to ensure safety and to make sure we were supporting people who took good care of their animals. The ranch that we booked through was called Ranch de Diabat. We did a two hour ride which included galloping on the beach and walking through some of the native scrubland.
One thing to note about Essaouira is that it is EXTREMELY windy. But, if you are into extreme sports this is a great feature. Kite surfing is very popular along the beach. My fiancé took lessons through Explora. One thing to note about kite surfing is that it takes time to be able to get out on the water on your own. I think my fiancé spent 3 hours learning how to direct his kite on land and then 3 hours practicing in the water. It was very physically demanding, but lots of fun!
After a few days on the coast, we arranged another ride back to Marrakech. Once we arrived, boy did we miss windy Essaouira. Marrakech is HOT. Very hot. I gained some real respect for the women who wear traditional Islamic clothing in 100°F, especially during Ramadan with no food or water.
While in Marrakech we stayed at Dar Rocmarra. This was a beautiful riad, but it was very difficult to find.
While in Marrakech we did a lot of walking. We explored the market and bought a lot of souvenirs for our family and friends. Although it is a beautiful city, I definitely wouldn’t spend more than a few days here.
One of my favorite things about Morocco was all of the cats. They are EVERYWHERE! These little guys lived in the alley on the way to our riad in Marrakech. The people of Morocco seem to enjoy them too, as many leave out scraps and milk for them.
Last Thoughts on Morocco
Morocco is probably the country where I have felt the most out of my element, but I loved it. Definitely do your research on the customs, especially if you will be visiting during Ramadan.