The idea of going to a new country that you have never been to before can seem kind of daunting. Only when you experience it, is when you'll finally learn the true side of any country...
I had never thought about going to Morocco. In some ways, I was a little unsure of the culture and what it would be like to travel there. Not only as a woman but as a vegetarian too as I understood that the vegetarian rate was low there and that meat was a huge part of their diet.
I was fortunate enough to be gifted my trip to Marrakech as a birthday present back in January, and we have only just got back from this trip a few days ago. Two words that I can use to summarise the trip - an "eye-opener".
. Top Tip: When booking holidays and travels and you don't have children, make sure they don't clash with school holiday dates as destinations and airports will be even busier!
We started our travels to Morocco at Gatwick airport in the north terminal. Luckily, we had missed the end of the half-term chaos as we travelled on Sunday. On approach to the airport, we were both becoming concerned at the chance of our flight being cancelled. We were flying with the airline, EasyJet and this was at the time that EasyJet was having (and still are) major staffing issues, meaning that lots of flights were getting cancelled - luckily we were not one of them.
Our flight, however, was very close to getting cancelled, which would have been a disaster! One of the flight attendants had called in sick and the airline cannot operate an A320 jet with just three stewards. So we waited for two hours whilst the airline searched high and mighty for someone to step up and be the fourth steward on our flight. At the last hour, a lovely gentleman who was scheduled on an EasyJet flight to Glasgow had decided to change to our flight to accommodate us - what a legend! Once we boarded the aircraft, we soon found out that everyone working that flight was working their day off, and that was how short-staffed they were. So a big thank you to every member of staff on that flight. Without you, I probably would have never made it to Marrakech.
Because we were delayed leaving England, we were delayed arriving in Marrakech. We arrived at approximately 7:30 pm, and the flight time was not bad at all. It was a little over three hours, so very ideal for those wanting short-haul flights to very hot countries.
The arrivals gate was fairly smooth. We had to fill out a Covid-19 form explaining all about the vaccinations we had had to hand in. Little did we know that these were found on the government website, so if you are travelling to Marrakech soon, I highly recommend you have these ready, as it will save you plenty of time. What didn't help was that Marrakech had no pens by these forms so we spent a good twenty minutes trying to find one. Nevertheless, we had those forms sorted and it was soon time to enjoy the holiday.
The city of Marrakech was such a culture shock as soon as we got into our transfer to our hotel. There were families riding motorbikes - and by that I mean a family of four including young babies riding on one motorbike, no helmets, just travelling around Marrakech in rush hour. I was stunned.
We stayed at Club Dar Atlast Resort just twenty minutes from Marrakech, so we were able to travel into the city, as and when we wanted. We didn't know but you have to pay a tourism tax on arrival so lucky enough we had bought enough money anyway. The tourism tax charges you 11 DHS per guest and per day ( Tourism promotion tax) and the cities charge you 15 DHS per guest and per day (City tax), which would apply for Marrakech. We worked out that 100 Dirham is roughly £8.00, so the tax roughly works out to £1.22 a day, so hardly anything! The hotel was nice, considering it was not that expensive. The rooms were fairly clean, had air conditioning which was an absolute blessing, a range of activities to do throughout the day and evening and a lot of food! The food choices were quite varied, however, I did find it hard to eat as a vegetarian as a lot of the vegetarian options such as mixed vegetables or vegetable pies had little pieces of meat in them. So, some nights I had to have spaghetti and tomato sauce as there was nothing else for me to have. It was fine, as I just pigged out and took a lot of spaghetti. The lunches and breakfasts were a lot better than the dinner though. So it could have been a thought for us to go into Marrakech for dinner, but as we were staying in an all-inclusive hotel, it would be too costly.
Our first day consisted of just chilling around the pool, to get to grips with our surroundings, as we had arrived late the night before so everything was all dark. It is very hot in Morocco and gets to around 40°c most days. We went through three bottles of factor 50 and still burnt. These burns were not just a little sunburn, we both blistered and it became painful, so although the heat was nice, I highly advise investing in a sunblock rather than sun cream to protect yourself from sun damage. On day two, we booked into the spa which was nice to get out of the sun and experience a traditional Morrocan massage.
Three days in we booked a trip to the Ourika Valley where we had to climb and walk up the Atlas Mountains to reach this waterfall at the end. I will talk more about this excursion in a separate blog post. It was too much of an experience to whittle it down to a few sentences! But one thing I would have liked to have known is that Moroccans are very open-minded when it comes to women showing their shoulders. I had asked the local excursion manager if I could wear a vest t-shirt and shorts for my walk up the mountains as I didn't want to offend anyone, but he said it would not be a problem at all as Moroccan people are very "open-minded". This was good to know, however, I did opt-in for a long dress covering my shoulders when I went into the souks at Marrakech, just to be on the safe side.
Don't get ripped off in the markets when haggling: Roughly 100 DHS is £8.00 and 200 DHS is around £16.00, and so forth. Whatever you are offered, you only want to pay at least 1/3 of it and under.
For the rest of our time in Morocco, we explored the souks in Marrakech and had great fun haggling. It is very safe for tourists, but just be very vigilant of your belongings. I only had a small shoulder bag that I could hold onto as I walked around. My partner, however, had a market seller try to pickpocket him as he felt fingers go into his pockets. Luckily, he had nothing in them but still was a little worrying.
Be wary in Morocco, you will see beggars, child street sellers and stray dogs/cats wandering around the street. I won't sugarcoat this side of Morocco, as although I enjoyed my time there but this is the reality and culture of this country. It's not for everyone, but I would rather someone told me about that before I went.
I would love to go back to Marrakech. I felt I didn't spend long enough exploring the narrow souks as it was so hot - June is the hottest month there and I would have loved to go quad biking in the desert. They offer camel rides (which didn't appeal to me as I had done it in Dubai and it is very uncomfortable!), beautiful gardens to explore, the markets and more.
I hope this guide helps you if you do decide to go to Marrakech! I will be posting more content of my time there, so always keep an eye out on my World Travel page.