Some of you might now that travelling is one of my favourite things to do, and as my parents seem to tick as I do, some months ago my dad announced he wanted to take my mum and I on a great holiday. I did not complain. Instead, I suggested taking one of my best friends with us, which obviously added to the fun of the trip.
We travelled through Morocco. Our first stop was Marrakech, which is a beautiful city with beautiful people, breathtaking nature and gardens, impressive palaces and – food.
There is no adjective before the word food, because contrary to my expectation there weren’t innumerable vegetarian dishes to choose from on the menus, but basically two dishes, which, if you were lucky enough, were cooked with meat.
Tagine and Couscous.
I love Couscous and I love vegetables, but trust me, if you eat couscous eight days in a row, you kind of wish that wheat was never discovered.
Also, I probably drank more orange juice in one day than the amount of water I drink in one week.
8 days aren’t long, but here are some of my highlights/tips.
- Walk through the souk (market) of Marrakech, buy way too many plates and bowls because they are simply beautiful (I wouldn’t call bargaining a highlight though). Buy Ras el Hanout and Mint Tea.
- Eat Msemmen (which I believed to be vegan until I looked up how to spell it) stuffed with a red paste containing olives and peppers. They sell it on the streets for 5 to 8 dh. Also, get some olives from the market.
- Buy a beggar some food. We bought an old man who was begging on the street a falafel sandwich with fries, watched him unpack the bag, taking out the fries, offering us some before even eating one and happily and humbly eating it while looking at us with the most thankful smile I’ve ever seen in my life.
- Eat couscous with vegetables at Naima. The place doesn’t look what you would call inviting, but seriously, go inside and be served the best couscous you’ve ever had. The menu costs 100 dh and you will be served fresh bread, olives, a small starter, the best couscous, some fruit and two moroccan bisquits. Totally worth it. It’s a family-run business and the owners totally make you feel at home. If you are not comfortable with your food being touched a lot with hands before being served, don’t go.
- Take a taxi and drive through the berber villages (we were lucky enough to visit a berber family at their home – the daughter who was in her twenties was at home alone – and we were served tea and found out the daughter who seemed rather shy at the beginning had a bachelor in something to do with human rights, had friends in different countries which she found through facebook and owned an iPhone (!). This might not sound very impressive, but given their living circumstances were rather primitive, this came as a very big surprise to us all)
- Drive to Ourika Valley to hike up the waterfalls. If that doesn’t sound inviting enough, slipping and falling into the river is a fun option. I’m talking from experience.
- Drink mint tea with a ton of sugar. Everywhere and lots of it.
- People who have been to Marrakech will probably be all excited about Jardin Majorelle. I personally was not very impressed, but I guess it’s a matter of taste. If you decide to go there, definitely have some moroccan salad for 30 dh and moroccan tea with yummy moroccan pastries at the Café Bousafsaf in the garden.
- Visit Bahia Palace.
- If you drive, rent a car and drive up to Essaouira on the coast road. The way is breathtakingly beautiful and Essaouira is a beautiful and small city to stay for a day or two. If you don’t like seagulls, don’t go.
Some other useful stuff to know when visiting Morocco
- If you look lost and someone comes up to you and offers you two show you the way, don’t go with them unless you are willing to pay them for their service. Same obviously applies to asking the way.
- Don’t be fooled by high prices at the souks. The culture there is to bargain. Don’t be shy and never pay the price someone tells you. Usually you can go down about 30 – 70 % of the initial price.
- Don’t even try to fasten your seatbelt in a taxi. The driver will laugh at you and soon after you will find out there isn’t even something to put the belt in. Nobody uses seatbelts in this country. In fact, we once were stopped by police, and after talking to my dad for about 10 minutes in French/Arabic English, the guy looked at our seatbelts and asked “why?”. My dad replied “security” in the Persian accent he uses in countries where they don’t speak English well, because he wants to conform to the people’s accent. The police man laughed.
- If you are vegetarian, always ask if the dish you are about to order (even if it is labeled vegetarian on the menu) is cooked without meat. I was served a “vegetarian” dish with meat pieces/flavour/smell three times.
- Don’t sleep in a hotel, sleep in a Riad.
- Do not always trust TripAdvisor reviews. Just go out and trust your gut instinct or ask locals.
Do you have any tips to add?