In May Vitaliy and I spent almost three weeks traveling around Morocco. I went there the next day after I came back from Almaty in Kazakhstan and I traveled over 10 000 kilometers to reach Marrakech within two days of traveling non-stop.
By the time I arrived in Morocco I was really exhausted, but… Let’s be honest, those, addicted to traveling, would rather choose that than to stay in the same comfortable place for a long period of time. So I gave myself two days to relax in a beautiful Riad in the old Medina in Marrakech and then we started our journey through the country.
In this post, I will write about our trip in general, and share our itinerary and tips how to get around the country. In the next posts on this blog, you can read about every place that we visited in Morocco in detail.
Why did we spend almost three weeks in 7 places only?
First of all, Morocco is a big country and it takes a lot of time to travel to some parts. But most importantly, we wanted to slow down, feel Morocco and make a lot of photos from the places that are less popular with tourists and bloggers.
So our first stop was Marrakech. When I was growing up I read a lot of Arabic poetry, stories and folk tales like One Thousand and One Nights Nights. My imagination created bright visuals of Arabian palaces, houses, gardens, and streets. I was imagining mise-en-scenes from the books in tiny details and how a young man would see an uncovered woman’s wrist that she would show from the window of her palace to tease him, and how he would fall in love with her. I was thinking about how the full moon shone as bright as the sun did in the middle of the night in Sahara desert. All this, and of course, Disney’s Aladdin had a huge impact on me and on my choices of the destinations to travel to.
So I love traveling around the Middle East and North Africa. Of course, a lot of the things that I read about were just the romance of the books. Modern cities like Marrakech are very different from those times when the poets wrote about them.
When I was planning the trip I felt that we might not like it in Marrakech. But we planned to start our journey from this city. And when we came there I realized that my feelings were right. I did not belong there. I mean I am an experienced traveler and I enjoyed Cairo, but there was something commercial about Marrakech. I just felt that it started losing its authenticity because of a number of tourists arriving there every day. C’est la vie! I also thought that Marrakech would be very similar to many Arabic cities, but no. It still has its own charm that is very different from all the cities that I visited.
There are over 1200 Riads in the Medina, so it is very hard to choose the one that would be a perfect match for you. The prices vary a lot, some Riads are very dirty, whereas others are luxurious. We chose to stay at a lovely Riad Johara that is owned and managed by Astrid from Germany. It seemed like this place came straight away from one of the tales of One Thousand and One Nights Nights. Aladdin, the cat who lives in the Riad has an Instagram account, and I have to admit that he has a great sense of humor! Follow him for your daily dose of happiness 🙂
Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains
After Marrakech, we went to a very special place in Asni Village in the Atlas Mountains – Kasbah Tamadot by Virgin Limited.
The easiest way to go to Asni is a taxi that you can take in Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakech. If you negotiate well, the price could be 230 Dhm.
Once you start ascending into the mountains the landscape and the climate will be changing from the unbearable heat and deserted flat ground of Marrakech to mountain coolness, palmeries, rivers, and ravines.
Kasbah Tamadot is a luxurious magical retreat in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains that is a part of Virgin Limited collection. In 1998 Sir Richard Branson went to Morocco with the goal of circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon. His parents found a beautiful Kasbah and dreamed of turning it into a retreat and soon he made his parents’ dream come true.
We stayed in a luxurious tent and enjoyed discovering the Berber culture. You can read more about this unique experience in the next post on Morocco.
Ancient town Ait Ben Haddou
This was one the destinations that I wanted to visit the most during my trip to Morocco.
We called the same taxi driver and asked us to pick us up from Asni and take to the Supratours bus station in Marrakech. We decided to use local buses for the rest of our trip through the country. Supratours is considered to be one of the most reliable bus companies in Morocco. Unfortunately, you still can’t book your tickets online (as of May 2017). You have to come to the bus station a day or two before your travel date and buy your ticket. We came 2 hours before and were lucky enough to buy the tickets to Ouarzazate. You also can’t buy your tickets while you are in point A to go from point B to C.
Ait Ben Haddou is an ancient fortified village (ksar in Arabic) that was built along the former caravan route between Marrakech and Timbuktu. We woke up early to see the sunrise above the ancient town and have it all to ourselves before the tourists came.
You can read more about visiting Ait Ben Haddou in the next post on my blog (coming soon).
Merzouga is a small village in the doorway of the dunes of Sahara desert in the East of Morocco 50 km away from the border with Algeria. This is the place where the majority of the desert tours begin.
People in Merzouga are generally different from people that we met in other parts of Morocco. They are very relaxed and I think they are also taller.
We decided to stay and relax in a traditional hotel called Kanz Erremal. I chose it because of the swimming pool overlooking the dunes. We spent some nights there because we wanted to feel its tranquility and then went to a spend a night under the stars in a traditional Berber camp.
You can read more about visiting Merzouga in the next post on my blog (coming soon).
Glamping in the dunes
Glamping is a glamorous type of camping with amenities and services of a luxury hotel. We stayed in a luxurious tent. It gets very very hot during the day in May, so usually, everyone goes to some Kasbah to spend a day at the pool and then come for the sunset and the dinner. We chose to stay at Merzouga Luxury Desert Camps as it is in the world’s top-10 glamping experiences.
The sunsets and sunrises in the desert are amazing, the dunes change their colors from beige to golden and dark orange. We were also very fortunate to see be in the middle of the dunes for the full moon. The last picture was taken in the middle of the night, the moon was shining very bright.
You can read more about our glamping experience in the next post (coming soon).
General bits of advice for traveling to Morocco:
- Girls, I know some of you spent months in the gym making your bodies beautiful. And I know it is trendy to walk around Morocco half naked wearing beautiful boho/”gypsea” outfits. Pictures come out great. But! Morocco is not your country, all of us are just guests there. While the King of Morocco is very modern and progressive, traditions are still strong. If respecting the culture does not convince you to dress up appropriately in a Muslim country, perhaps you would want to take care of your own safety then. Who would want to be called a b**** in the street and be threatened to be taken to the police for the way one looks? Please, don’t get influenced by influencers who only care about their own growth.
- When you go to the desert make sure to bring your sunscreen, a hat, and drink a lot of water. The desert is not a playground.
- Not all places accept credit cards, so think about finding an ATM way in advance.
- It is very easy to be lost in the Medina in Marrakech. We used offline maps called maps.me and they were very accurate and helped us get around the city.
- I felt safe in Morocco, people (not including Marrakech) were very open and always ready to help. Would I enjoy it that much if I didn’t travel with my husband? No!
- Roaming was bloody expensive. Getting a local Sim card is a very good solution.
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