As usual, I'm way behind in my trip recaps but Im finally sitting down to share our short trip to Marrakech, Morocco.
After a bit of flight hiccup, we arrived a day late and a bit exhuasted. We stayed in a Riad - a small traditional Moroccan palace outfitted for guests - that seemed perfect and charming at first look. Sadly I can't recommend it after suffering through a number of issues including multiple nights without hot water, being overcharged after the fact, etc. That said, I would definitely recommend staying at a riad to get the full experience- just a more reputable one.
Marrakech is incredibly beguiling with its winding streets and covered alleys that make the city almost maze like. You can't walk a few feet without meeting the city's unoffcial welcoming committee - an army of stray cats that mew you to submission. That was a-okay with me.
To say Marrakech is atmospheric would be an understatement.
On our first full day we took a tour outside the city to ride around on ATVs. It was fun - although I wished there was more 'touring' and less 'riding around aimlessly'.
The rest of our trip we spent wandering around the city. I did have a guidebook but I have to say it wasn't that useful as finding exact locations is nearly impossible. In fact, having no clue of where were going only added to the fun of exploring this city. Its compact enough to make exploring by foot a breeze and there is no shortage of things to keep you interested every few feet.
Despite not having much luck in finding most of the restaurants that were recommended to us, we seemed to have great food nearly everywhere. It was simply a matter of following the crowd - if a lot of people were eating in one particular spot, we got in line and were rewarded.
The best part of Marrakech for me was the shopping. Or I should say browsing and admiring - I certainly looked more than I purchased. There is so much to see! Unlike other locales when its sometimes hard to distinguish what is made locally versus what is imported for tourists, that isn't an issue here. Just walk the back alleys behind some of the shops and you'll see the items being made right in front of your eyes.
This shop was my favorite. Those amazing tile floors made me want to move in! There was also a beautiful light fixture I had eyed over and over during the trip but ultimately decided not to buy because I was worried about damaging it on the way home. I don't know what I was thinking - it would have been perfect in my hallway. Drats!
Another favorite spot was the dyers market.
We celebrated New Years Eve there with some overpriced champagne and obligatory uncomfortableness around a belly dancer before saying good bye for now. I really enjoyed Marrakech and am still kicking myself for not bringing home that light fixture. Oh well, I guess I have a reason to go back now.
postscript: I got a few emails about safety here so I figured I'd answer here. I visited Marrakech in the company of my husband, brother and sister in law. We spent nearly all of our time together and while we were in a group, I was never concernced for my safety. When my sister in law and I were walking ahead alone, there were a few instances of local boys and young men shouting something unkind to us - it was mostly phrases I couldn't understand but included the most hilarious moment in the trip when a boy about 12 years old walked right into us and utters ' WOW! BIG BOOBS!". We never felt threatened or in danger, but that was a bit uncomfortable. The only time I felt any reason for concern was went I briefly walked alone to the drug store. It was down a street I had walked numerous times before on this trip without incident. For whatever reason, nearly everyone I walked by seemed to turn their gaze and bore into me the entire time. That felt somewhat menacing although I doubt I was in any danger. If the whole trip had been like that, I would have hated it. So long story short (too late!), I think its a great place to visit but I would probably NOT recommend a visit alone as a woman. At the very least, bring your girlfriends and you'll have stories to take home with you.