A few years ago, my wife and I were in Europe on a work trip and, because of how the tickets ended up being booked, we had a little flexibility about when we were going to come back. I started to look around and where we could go on the cheap for a couple of days and found Marrakech, Morocco would be perfect.
We were in the Canary Islands and flying back through Madrid, so we booked some tickets from Madrid to Marrakech on EasyJet. The total for each of us? It came out to $50 for each of our round-trip tickets! Not bad at all and how could we resist?
A Visit To Marrakech
We decided we could squeeze three days there, arriving late on a Monday night and leaving Thursday. I wanted to get more of a Moroccan experience with staying there (even though there are plenty of hotels), so we chose to stay in a riad. A riad is, according to Wikipedia, a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. It is really a great place to stay to be able to soak in as much of the color and culture of the city as possible – even during your downtime.
My apologies for the quality of the photos – this was a few years ago and the camera we were using was not the best!
From the recommendations and the price, we decided to go with Riad Dar Dialkoum. It was definitely the right choice! The couple (a French couple) were very gracious in our pre-arrival contact and arranged our transfer from the airport. Yes, we could have taken a taxi, but given where the riad was located, it was definitely the smarter choice for our night-time arrival. When we were there, out total was around $220 for the three nights. The prices now are from 75€ – 120€ per night for two people. To see the total schedule of prices, check this link.
We were let out just inside the Medina and had to walk down a few narrow streets to reach the door to our place of stay. One of the employees let us in and immediately took us to the courtyard to sit down for tea and snacks before showing us to our room. It was great to get to take a moment to just learn a little bit about where we were and to find out some of the local information.
Because we were very hungry (no dinner yet) and we wanted to explore a little bit in the night, we took our belongings to our room and headed out. Actually, it was not that difficult to take our bags to the room since our one bag – our carryon – had been deemed too large to go as a carryon so we were forced to pay the baggage fee to check it. To make it worse, EasyJet lost our bag so we had nothing besides Rachel’s purse and a small backpack. 🙂 More on the meal hunting below.
The room we stayed in is called Suite Yasmina. It was very ornately decorated and really gave you the feel for where you were. We had a bed in the room and a couch that looked through the archways into the courtyard below. Just past the couch, there was a bathroom that could really just be described as awesome!
The food at the riad (we ate breakfast there each morning, which is included) was fantastic. It was a very colorful meal with a lot of variety yet light to eat. Of course, there was a lot of mint tea! While the service was not super fast, we did not care or go there for that. If we wanted fast, we would have searched out a McDonalds. Instead, we were just enjoying the experience.
On our final morning there, we went up to the roof which had several lounge chairs and a portion of it was covered in case you did not want the sun. It was a beautiful area!
All things told, our stay at Riad Dar Dialkoum was fantastic! The owners and staff were helpful yet had the right amount of invisibility as well. If we were to go back, we would not give a second thought about where we would stay. If you want to read what other travelers have to say, check out TripAdvisor.
Hitting the Streets
That first night, we went out to find some street fare. We had to walk quite a bit before we found a little street stand that was open. In hind sight, our choice of eating was not a great one as we saw the next day that the meat they cooked up for us actually sits outside all day long! But, to a hungry soul, that on a grilled surface with an egg and onions on a pita hit the spot! 🙂
The next day, we went to the Djemaa el-Fna, which is world-famous for their souks and variety of local items. I have been to many bazaars around the world and always enjoy that they each have a little variety in their identity. One of the first things I like to do in one, however, is to follow the locals and get away from the tourists. I do not want to visit the shops that all the other tourists go to – I want to see where the locals shop and get more of the cultural perspective on things.
But, you still have to go through the front part to get into the market area. And that part is full of people that do cater to tourists. As it turns out, they do not look kindly to you taking photos of them, even from a wide-angle. We had a man come over and very loudly insist that we pay him for taking his photo. We tried to explain that we were taking a photo of the whole area, but he would have none of it. So, after slipping him a little something, he became much nicer to us and then posed for photos. 🙂
The one thing that Rachel really did not want me to do was to go to the snake area. I was only partially curious about having one, but after seeing another tourist have to pay to get the snake taken off him, I was okay with following her wishes 🙂
Once you got into the marketplace, there were a lot of things on display and for sale. Marrakech is famous for their leather goods and they were on display everywhere. Not only were they on display, but they were also in the process of making and dying newly made leather products!
The bad part is that they are still quite expensive since we were Americans. From what someone there told me, if you make friends with a local and ask them to go buy something for you, the price will be incredibly lower. We did not do that, but instead bought some small items, Rachel a purse and a belt for me. The belt was actually my most functional tourist trinket ever – I wore it everyday for several years! 🙂 We were more careful in there about taking photos of some of the items as we did not want to have to start paying everyone in there!
After we were done in the market, we took off to explore some of the surrounding areas and sites. We even payed a young boy who offered to show us some of the areas where they mix the dyes and make the bread! Those were some of the off-the-beaten path places that made the experience a little more cultural for us.
Here are some of the photos from our trip and what we saw. Please forgive me for not having the names of all the places!
It was definitely an exotic trip and one that we enjoyed. It was nice to visit something off of the beaten path a bit and to share the experience together. The only bad about the trip was that we never did get our bag until we got back to the airport to return to Madrid. That was the fault of EasyJet, though, and not of Marrakech. Marrakech was a very interesting place and one that we will hold in our memories.
A couple of tidbits:
- You are not allowed to take any of their currency out with you
- They do have a marathon – I saw the signs for it as we arrived the day after it occurred!
- Do yourself a favor – do not stay in a hotel! You can really embrace more of the culture if you stay in a riad and you may find that they are even cheaper than the hotels. If you only do this trip once, stay in a riad.
- It is very inexpensive to get there from Europe. If you have a European trip planned, look for tickets on the low-cost European carriers. Chances are you can get there and back for less than $100 a person.
- We did have to pay the bill for the riad in cash. Fortunately, they took dollars or euros so we did not have to change a lot of money.
Try it out! It is a nice exotic place very near to Europe, so not too far or expensive!