People have been asking me what my absolute favorite parts of Morocco were. So I decided to coe up with a list. Here is my short list to Morocco. I tried to make it a “Top 10” - but I couldn’t edit it down that much! So here we go…
12. Haggle with the vendors - it doesn’t come naturally to me - but it is part of the culture and they love the game. Lanterns hanging, hand-pounded metal work, leather shoes, tea glasses and beautiful textiles. There are so many amazing crafts. My suitcases were bursting at the seams.
11. Majorelle Gardens. YSL and his partner Pierre Bergier restored these gardens that were originally founded by French painter Jacques Majorelle. The intense blue (Majorelle blue, of course) is stunning. The gardens filled with such an impressive cactus collection. Excellent gift shop and a great café for lunch or a pot of tea.
10. Have a drink or lunch at a beautiful hotel like the Royal Mansour or La Mammounia. Book one dinner at a private riad to get a different culinary experience. Guelez (the new city of Marrakech) is also filled with lots of trendy bars and restaurants (I recommend Kechmara.)
9. Experience a cooking class. Learn to bake bread and make a tagine. The best part is eating all of your hard work after you are done learning. Make sure to try the slices of oranges with a dusting of ground cinnamon.
8. Have dinner in the Jemaa el Fna (I liked stall #4) - an unforgettable cultural experience. Have a fresh squeezed orange juice (for about fifty cents), dried dates, peanuts, apricots and olives (three different kinds, all harvested at different times during the year.) Have the lamb tanjia, grilled eggplant and sardines or the snail soup. Watch out for the cobras, storytellers and monkeys - all part of the entertainment!
7. Get lost in the souks (but get out of the more touristy section right off of the Jemaa - where there are many reproductions and lots of junk and prices are relatively high.) Make sure to venture deep into the souks, to avoid the selection aimed at tourists. See the artists at work, carving wood, dying wool, making leather goods. scarf’s- seeing how the locals live and shop. Some of my favorite sayings from the vendors: “Looking is for free” and “We offer democratic prices”!
6. Put your feet up and escape the mazes of the street and take a look at carpets. Take a few hours sipping mint tea and learn about the different styles. It’s like a crash course in carpets. I dare you not to come home with at least one.
5. Take a day trip outside of Marrakech to the Atlas mountain (about an hour by car.) Go for a hike to see the waterfalls. Hire a guide for sure. Take a look at the handicraft made by the local Berber people and have hearty lunch right on the river that runs down from the mountains.
4. Try the Moroccan wine - gris is a delightful light rose from the Meknes region. Refreshing and inexpensive. I am going to have to try to locate this for my next dinner party!
3. Go to a pharmacy where you can ssee all of the wonderful herbs and spices, essential oils and Argan oil (a delicacy). My bags were filled with spices and great mixtures that I can’t wait to try. I can’t get the smell out of my suitcase!
2. Hammam the afternoon away. A traditional bathhouse. Lay on a heated slab of marble where you are soaped up, scrubbed so hard (it feels like sandpaper - it is a wonder that I have skin left), enjoy a massage with orange blossom or rose oil.
1. Respect the culture and the people. Learn a few key words (at a minimum, yes, no and thank you) in Arabic. Stop to listen to the beautiful calls to prayer (five times per day) that echo throughout the alleys of the medina. The sounds are absolutely intoxicating.