Visiting Morocco

Morocco is a country that has been on my bucket list for awhile, and when I discovered how feasible it is to travel to this north-African country from Europe, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. From Italy, Morocco is only a three hour flight. And its a cheap flight. RyanAir flies to Marrakech, Morocco multiple times a week, making it easy to plan a trip on your own. However, due to potential safety concerns (as there are in any country around the world), I recommend visiting Morocco with a tour group.

For those of you studying abroad in Europe and looking to visit Morocco- a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure- I would book your trip through Bus2alps. Bus2alps is a popular student travel company that offers day trips, weekend trips, and fall/spring break trips throughout Europe. Major departure cities include Barcelona, Prague, Florence, and Rome, but there are “meet us there” options as well. Their Morocco weekend is a meet you there trip, so you book your own flights and meet a guide at the Marrakech airport. The trip begins on a Thursday morning and ends on a Sunday (link here).

After clearing customs in the Marrakech airport, the trip begins with a scenic drive through Marrakech to a riad, or traditional Moroccan accommodation with an interior courtyard. My first afternoon in Morocco was spent trying new food, such as couscous and a tajine, which is essentially a ceramic dish that acts as an oven and cooks meat and spices inside (delicious!). I also participated in a tour of the souks (markets) in the Old Medina of Marrakech and put my haggling skills to use! That night I had a traditional Moroccan dinner at the riad, complete with musicians and ending with mint tea. Mint tea is the national drink of Morocco and is great for digestion, which is why it is typically served at the end of every meal.

On my second day in Morocco, we drove about an hour to the Ourika Valley for a day in the Atlas Mountains. On the way, we stopped at a Berber family home, the indigenous people of Morocco, for a tea making demonstration and henna tattoos. From there, we drove to our camel excursion. Camels aren’t the friendliest of animals, but getting to ride one in the Atlas Mountains was so cool. Next on the itinerary was a hike in the mountains. This hike was one of the most difficult that I have done, but the mountain range was absolutely breath-taking and the waterfall and swimming hole at the end of our hike made it all worth it. Later that day, we ate a traditional BBQ dinner in the main Jamaa El Fna square of the Old Town of Marrakech, which comes alive at night with snake charmers, musicians, and boxing matches.

The next day, I went ATVing with Desert and Dunes ATVing! It was very dusty since we were in the desert so it was hard to see, but the sights that I could see, including camel caravans and mountains, were beautiful. We drove to the middle of the desert and stopped for mint tea and photos before coming back to clean up. That afternoon we visited a herbalist in the Old Town. I bought my mom lotion for her insomnia, and its the only thing that has helped her sleep! We also visited Ben Youssef Madrasa, one of the oldest degree-granting universities in the world and a palace, which had incredibly detailed mosaics. Our last dinner was spent at a rooftop restaurant eating one last flavorful tajine and drinking (you guessed it) mint tea.

This trip was one of my favorites because of Morocco’s uniqueness and the relaxing break that it provided me from the hustle and bustle of European cities. Also, most of the time your passport won’t get stamped when traveling within the EU, so getting an African stamp in my passport was an added bonus.

Hopefully this post inspires you to consider a visit to Morocco through Bus2alps, or gives you some ideas for a trip of your own. To end I just want to address some helpful tips about Morocco and answer some questions that I have been asked:

  • Morocco is a sub-tropical, Islamic country located in Northern Africa.
  • The Sahara, the largest desert in the world, is here (I didn’t get to visit, but hopefully I can in the future)!
  • The weather is hot and humid in most cities.
  • Despite the heat, conservative dress is recommended. Most people on my trip wore loose “elephant” pants and a plain t-shirt with sandals. Side note: Wearing a head scarf is not required, but I did at some points out of respect.
  • It is dusty! You will get dirty, so don’t bring anything valuable.
  • Moroccans speak French, Arabic, and Berber (native language).
  • Haggling is known as a national sport in Morocco- I encourage you to try it at the markets!
  • Morocco IS safe to visit- Just stay with a group and do what you can to blend in.
  • Don’t drink the tap water and be cautious of uncooked vegetables, etc.- Some people in my group caught a parasite.
  • Try mint tea and have an open mind when visiting…this country is like no other!
[Most photos taken and edited by Matt Mitera, check out his work on Instagram @matt_mitera]

 

MarraKECH you next time!!!

-Nicole

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