Marrakech, Morocco

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Nothing makes me happier right now than when people ask, "How was Morocco?" I am OBSESSED with talking about it. I have been dying to visit Morocco since before I moved to London. I definitely thought it would be one of our first trips after hopping the pond, but it just never felt like we had enough time to do the country justice. Right when I was starting to accept that we might have to settle on just a long weekend in Marrakech (for now...), Chad's firm announced a change in paternity leave, which quadrupled what he had already gotten. My first thought was MOROCCO.

I'm so thrilled we made it, and I fell head over heels in love, especially with Marrakech. I had heard it was dirty, people were aggressive, it felt unsafe, and it was overly crowded. I thought the streets were full of character and color (and yes, some grime), the people were SO kind (and all wanted to say hello to Julian), and I was never bothered by crowds--even pushing a stroller! All ages agree that the food was delicious, and there were so many beautiful things!! I have already decided whenever I settle down into a home, I will take a trip back just to shop. With an extra suitcase.

So here is my recap of recommendations of one of my favorite places I have ever been:

WHAT TO DO

  • My favorite thing to do was wander the thousands of streets in the Medina, popping into shops, smelling spices, admiring rugs. A friend of mine said it best when she said Marrakech is a feast for (and an attack on!) the senses. I wanted to buy so many things, but wondered how I would travel for the next 10 days with a new set of pottery or a giant rug (I did end up cramming one of those in my bag). Rahba Kedima Square especially was a gold mine.
  • I always love to throw a spa treatment into any trip, and I think a trip to Morocco isn't complete without a hammam. I went to the Royal Monsour for mine and felt like I was walking into heaven when I entered the white waiting room that looks like it is made entirely of lace. The treatment is different that any spa experience I have had--they basically give you a bath (and an intense scrub) while you lie on a giant hot stone, then you plunge into a cold bath (which didn't even bug me, miraculously), and finish it up with a massage and a nap (after a mint tea, of course).
  • Another mandatory stop on the Marrakech itinerary is the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a 14th century Islamic college complete with intricate carvings, colorful tiles, and archways galore. It does a pretty good job of putting the BYU's Tanner Building (my second home during college) to shame.
  • The Marjorelle Garden is a must-see, especially if you are a fan of cacti of all varieties and sizes. It was super cool to walk around, and I loved the cobalt blue and bright yellow of the studio, but this is where the crowds were that everyone was talking about. It was SO BUSY. So do yourself a favor and go the minute they open for a better experience than I had.
  • Even more than the popular Marjorelle Garden, I LOVED Le Jardin Secret. It is another beautifully laid out botanical garden, but this one we managed to get to ourselves in the middle of the day. I don't know why, because it is right in the medina, but it was way less crowded, and it felt like so much more of an oasis to me as I walked the best #ihavethisthingwithfloors floor of the trip (that green!) and Julian napped by the fountain.
  • Oh wait, there is one other place we found the crowds: the brilliant Bahia Palace. This place is huge, and provides endless insta-worthy shots, especially of floors! I try to take it easy with the floor pics (no one wants to see my feet), but I must have taken 20 here. Each room has a new floor, and each new floor caused my jaw to drop a little bit further. It is certainly worth visiting, but again, go early!

WHERE TO EAT

  • We had our first meal in Marrakech at Nomad and it set the scene perfectly for a lot of delicious flavors and let me know early on that the pastilla is where it's at (since they were already sold out at lunch time). We got a couscous dish and a saucy chicken and it was all great. Julian was shocked by the lemonade, but it was delicious.
  • Le Jardin was another favorite stop of mine, where I was finally able to get a pastilla (which ended up being the best pastilla of the whole trip). They also have great floors here, and a couple of resident turtles who crawl around and pick up your leftovers (especially helpful when you have a baby).

WHERE TO STAY

  • We stayed at Riad Dar Karma which was a perfect, quiet home base that also provided us with a good amount of exercise as it was quite a bit south of the busiest part of the city. They served a great breakfast, had a killer rooftop, and the rooms (and pool, especially the pool) were beautiful. Bonus: I found that amazing pink facade right around the corner that I never would have seen if we didn't stay there.