Morocco was always in my bucket list, leading it, but I never thought of being there on my own. As a woman, people say it is scary, dangerous and encourage you to abandon the idea. I am grateful I never listened to anyone and went for it when the opportunity came up.
Accommodation in Marrakech
My first recommendation would be to book a place to stay near Jemaa el-Fna, the most popular square of Marrakech. If you do so, you will be staying inside the medina, which could be challenging but for sure it is worth it. Why a challenge? Because you won´t have any map on your phone to help you find the place you booked, and one block away from the square the streets are so narrow cars cannot pass. So you have to walk. And you´ll have to trust someone with directions. Just ask anyone inside a shop like a drugstore or pharmacy, if not you´ll see they will try to charge you for the advice, or sell you something.
But as I told you before, it is worth it. If you can, choose a riad to stay. It is a type of house with an interior garden, typically from there. It will be a unique experience, tasting a bit of they lifestyle and having the sweet Moroccan tea the hostess will offer as welcome.
And it is not scary at all. It is just different than what we are accustomed to. If you are lucky, on Sunday you will meet a group of children lined up and walking on the thin streets inside the medina, singing and clapping their hands. And the grown-ups will join them as they pass by, so should you. It´s one of the happiest and spontaneous moments I lived.
The best way is by plane, you will arrive to Marrakech Menara Airport. From there, you will find many taxis. In my experience, drivers take advantage of tourists so the ride would cost double than it should. I took a bus to Jemma el-Fna, which was cheap and safe.
Best places around Marrakech
As I mentioned before, it is a square, one of the best-known squares of Africa. You will be captivated by snake charmers, musicians playing African drums and pipes and Berber dancers. At night, at the very same place, Moroccan people put together several tents with long tables where they sell traditional plates such as tagine (you should try it. Of course, as a vegetarian I chose one without any form of meat).
From the square many tiny streets emerge. If you walk opposite the mosque Koutoubia, which is located in the southwest of the medina, you will see the souks with famous date and nut sellers. As I am a very curious person, I kept on walking through and finally arrived to the meat and chicken stalls. I am sure this is a subjective comment, but most people would be impressed by how it works, with cats running around and not a fridge to cool any of the food.
Inside the medina
Besides visiting Jemma el-Fna, there are a few places that are unavoidable and you shouldn´t miss. The first one is the Ben Youssef Madrasa, which was an Islamic school for boys. It has two floors, the top one with small windows that face the interior garden.
It is certain that you will see the Medina Walls, just because you will have to pass through eventually, probably you will use the one in front of Koutoubia Mosque. But there are other entrances, and it´s a good idea to walk by the walls on the outside. And maybe you will find another entrance you like better.
Koutoubia Mosque and its adjacent gardens would be on my list too. Even though you cannot go inside the mosque (most of them are just for Muslims), the building is unforgettable. Make sure you don´t miss at least one pray, so you can hear the Imam on the speakers.
A must-see. On Avenue Yacoubel Mansour, perhaps one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. The colors of the small construction combined with the different species of trees, flowers and cactus form a perfect landscape. In addition to this, as Yves Saint Laurent bought and restored the property, there is a memorial in his honor.
Amazing place. Of course it is a touristic place, but if you go on Sunday you will see another side of it. I don´t know if you have ever been to Palermo Lakes in Buenos Aires, the land that I am from. I found it connected to it in a weird way. Many families go there, to make a picnic and let the children play around, under the sky, in nature. And most children choose soccer, same as in Argentina. Never thought I would see that many soccer balls in Morocco.
Casablanca is a city on the northwestern area, with coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Even though I know most blogs or web opinions say it is not recommendable, I insist you should go. It´s just a one-day trip and you will see much more than another Moroccan city. To start, I would advise you go by train, and that you buy the tickets at least one day on advanced. You can take the first one in the morning and the last one on the evening to go and return. In my case, the time on the train was perfect. I was surrounded by Moroccan citizens, not tourists, which made it much more interesting. I could spend the three hours it took to get there watching stealthily how they talk to each other and behave on a normal way without necessarily they noticing a tourist was around them.
Once I arrived to Casa Voyageurs station I took the metro to Hassan II Mosque. The city is not impressive, but it´s quite a thing being in an African city and getting the opportunity to see the people commuting to work and their typical life. Back to the mosque, it is the only one non-Muslim people are allowed in. That was the reason I decided to go on the beginning. The building is perfect; I can still see it on my mind. One third built on the sea, with enormous titanium doors and marble floors which make you realize how little we humans are, and how many people can fit in there if they take up all space inside the mosque and outside it on the grounds.
Besides Hassan II Mosque, you can also visit Rick´s Café. The name should ring a bell, it´s from the film Casablanca. Be sure you are there before 3pm, if not you´ll have to wait to 6.30pm and then you will be on the rush because of the return train schedule.