• Shelley Oto

Morocco Navigator


#MOROCCO is a #country I will never forget. It’s a destination that makes you feel worlds away from home, because you are in fact worlds away from anything that looks familiar. The #spices, food, decor, landscapes, unique purchases and experiences will remind you of why you traveled so far to have this once-in-a-lifetime #experience. At the same time, there are cultural normalities existent in cities like #Marrakech that may make you go into the deepest parts of your soul to resist reacting to what might feel like an invasion in personal space, disrespect or downright abnormal to you. With this in mind, prepare for these situations and conserve your energy to enjoy the glittery greatness that Morocco has to offer.


Most common languages spoken:

Primary: #Arabic

Secondary: #French

and there's #English.


Local Currency:

#Dirham


Activities to experience:

Goats in the #Argon Trees (Available on your way to Essaouira)

Argon Oil Class

#Souks

Atlas Mountains / 4 Valley Mountains Day Tour

#Ouzoud Falls

#Bahia Palace

#Jardin Majorelle

#Camel Rides

#Medina (During the day and then at night - two completely different experiences)

#Hookah Bars

… and there’s the #air Balloons - Mehhhhh. For me, I expected more. There’s not much to see once you’re up there. You’re in a flat desert, not a sand dune. Personally, I would save the dough ($200) and go shopping in the Souk, treat yourself to a massage or get some really good food!



WHERE TO STAY

#RIADS are gorgeous and many of the traditional Riads are located within the Old Town. They are lavishly decorated and allow you to have a cultural experience that is a bit unlike staying in the New Town. If the Old Town makes you feel like a character from the Game of Thrones, that’s because many of the picturesque scenes from Season 3 were shot in Morocco. Morocco brings the heat in every sense of the word. My advice is that you ensure there’s A/C! Trust and believe, the sweltering temperatures can have you running to your room for refuge between activities.


In the New Town, there are really nice resorts that are equipped with every amenity you can imagine. In my experience, the hotels feel similar to staying at a resort in Cancun or the Bahamas. It truly depends on the experience you choose to have.


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT:

SAY YES:

  • To purchasing from #Cooperatives. Items might be a little pricier, but the dollars go directly to the individuals and groups of people who made it.

  • To their Moroccan Mint tea. It’s almost rude not to.

  • To telling the locals the things you love about their country.

  • To asking for permission to take photos of the displayed goods (Before taking photos)

  • To ordering Moroccan food versus the items on the menu that look the most familiar to you. Moroccan food brings the flavor and leaves you wanting more … promise.

** Say yes to purchasing tampons before you arrive (if needed) because they don't sell tampons in Morocco.


SAY NO:

  • To taking cab services or any service without asking for the price first.

  • To taking photos of the people.

  • To taking photos of their armed officers

It’s a country that is not nearly (Not at all) as obsessed with selfies and THEMSELVES. Hence, they're less open to photos. Written with love … hey, I’m guilty too.



JUST KNOW:

#Tipping is expected for everything. Henna tattoos, watching the street entertainment and often the opportunities to ask for a tip will come directly in the form of a vendor placing their monkey on your head and capturing a photo (without your permission) and demanding a fee.

BREATHE … Just Breathe.


BEWARE OF:

If you’re someone who gets frustrated or irritated when your personal space has been invaded, then prepare yourself. More so, prepare to activate the VERY calmest side of your personality to kick into gear as your patience is tried. The number of people who ask you for money, relentlessly attempt to sell their products, demand a higher tip and/or trick you into using their services to turn around and charge you a ridiculous amount for providing a small or non-existent service is EVERYWHERE in Marrakech. It’s a part of the experience, so instead of getting irritated just prepare mentally and emotionally for this unavoidable intrusion.


I read several articles about this and fell victim within the first 20 seconds of exiting my taxi cab. It’s a bit shocking once it happens the first time; but the good news is, after the first time, it’s unlikely you’ll allow it to happen again.


Both men and women participate in the game of “fool the tourist for a large tip.” That henna tattoo ain’t free. In fact, after you’ve been knowingly or unknowingly persuaded to have a tattoo, you will likely get charged a massive price tag and what is a person to do once the service is already provided? Nada. Enjoy your $50 USD henna tattoo or negotiate BEFORE you accept the service. I’d choose the latter.



TIPPING:

As mentioned above, tipping is HUGE in Morocco and absolutely mandatory in Marrakech. Be prepared to be asked for a higher tip or the opposite, which is a look of grand satisfaction. I’m still unsure of the acceptable tipping amount, as some demanded more money while others looked at me with immense gratitude as if I’d given them a million dollars. Feel free to say NO, if someone asks for more money than you feel comfortable providing.


TO LUNCH or NOT TO LUNCH

... obvs to lunch.

MY FAV PLACES TO LUNCH:

Nomad Cafe and #Terrasse Des Espices

Their most popular dishes and beverages: Lemon Tangine and Moroccan Mint Tea.

Many of their menus consist of French and Moroccan options. The food is delicious, as one would expect with unlimited access to the most flavorful spices. I promise the food will easily become one of the most memorable aspects of your visit.


ALCOHOL IN OLD TOWN:

You’re not going to find much alcohol being sold in Old Town. On my last day, I found a delicious restaurant listed called, Terrasse des Epices, which serves incredible food, ambiance is on point, and the menu consists of both Moroccan and French eats, cocktails, beer and wine. However, this isn’t typical amongst the majority of the restaurants in this area. Alcoholic options are not always common, and one is more likely to find this at bars/restaurants in New Town.


FRUIT JUICES:

The juices are incredible and all natural. They are delicious and almost every restaurant sells their own selection of juices and smoothies. I repeat, they

are DELISH!


WARDROBE I found that if you look like a tourist, there is more leniency surrounding skin exposure. However, be mindful and respectful. Consider bringing or purchasing a light, cute scarf to keep the heat off your skin, while providing coverage for your shoulders and arms. Wear a cross-body bag with zippers to keep your belongings safe.


SOUK SHOPPING:

I had so much fun in the SOUKS! One of the things that made SOUK shopping so awesome is that if you’re a Boho loving girl like me, you’ll want to buy almost everything. The products are gorgeous. Sifting through every design, color, and detail of their products made the hours fly by. Some of the products Morocco is best known for are leather, spices, soap, rugs, oils and wood.



#HAMMAMS:

Morocco offers affordable options to truly luxuriate. Of course, there is always the option to enjoy spa treatments and massages in environments fit for kings and queens, but your wallet sure won’t be thanking you. As a traveler on a budget, you can go to Heritage Spa to experience fantastic treatments in a beautiful environment, but for a fraction of the price. I fell asleep during one of them so I, of course, had to go again when I was awake. I had 1 scrub & 2 massages. All treatments were good. So glad I listened to O.


Other affordable Hammams to consider: #Spa MK, #Les Bains de Marrakech and #Hammam de la Rose.


BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND:

TAXIS: They are everywhere. You most likely will not have to go looking for a taxi…ever. They will find you! Trust me.

PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION: Can be arranged via your hotel, and this is kinda awesome because typically (not always) they will negotiate a fair rate for your transportation. This also allows you to explore areas outside of Marrakech and this is a must!

BIKES: There’s lot of people on regular and motorized bicycles. Marrakech is predominantly really flat, which makes it easy to ride around. (Recommended for the most confident and conscious cyclists, since the drivers out there are kind of crazy.)

NEGOTIATE:

I negotiated almost all of the items I purchased to be 20% of the original asking price. The markups are substantial and many of the shops sell the exact same items. For instance, an item advertised for $100 USD, I was able to snag for $20 USD.



EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF MARRAKECH:

ESSAORIA: IF you can control yourself, WAIT and go shopping there! It’s a zillion times better experience in that you’re not being pestered to buy something and your finds are better quality than Marrakech in my opinion. I love Essaouria and would have loved to spend more time in this town.

Important note: YOU MUST go to their fish market. Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming with 10 fish vendors shoving their sea bass in your face at the same time, but once you commit you’ll be happy you did. I had the best lobster known to mankind. I ordered two. Loved it.

This cute little town is just three hours outside of Marrakech and reachable via tours and private cars.


STAY IN TOUCH:

IF YOU MUST keep yourself 100% connected to the world while in Morocco, I highly recommend purchasing a SIM card. To my surprise, they have one of the best SIM card plans via a company called, #Maroc Telecom. It blew my mind how great the service and plan options were to call Europe and the US. There are reps who pass out free cards at the airport, and it’s up to you to fill up your card with minutes and a data plan. If you don’t speak Arabic or French, this could be a problem. If you’re flying into MKA, there’s a Marcom store set up at the back of the airport. (It’s a little hidden.) It’s totally worth spending the extra forty-five minutes to find the store and fill up your card. They have great connection speed and deals for minutes; however, if you purchase a plan to call the US, text messages have to be sent via Whats App and iPhone FaceTime Audio.

Download #WhatsApp and #Google Maps. Both work incredibly well and can navigate your stay and keep you connected.



PLANS FOR THE NEXT TRIP:

Personally, I would love to go on a 5+ day Safari. For me, this requires some research ahead of time. I definitely plan to return to Morocco and when I do I’ll be there for a multiple-day Safari plus a visit to #Orika and #Fez.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE:

Exchange all of your money before leaving Morocco. Dirham CANNOT be exchanged anywhere except in Morocco.


AIRLINES I'D STEER AWAY FROM BOOKING FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AND WHY:

TUI FLY - they don’t allow you check a second bag but will charge you an outrageous fee per KG for your second bag. My second bag was 11 KG and I was charged $156 USD. Basically, my one bag cost more than my entire airline ticket. Robbery in my opinion, but I lived to talk about it. PHEW!

There are so many other airlines that have flexible baggage options--just research before you purchase. Morocco is an incredible place to visit. I fell in love with my sweet camel Betsy, whom I still think about to this day. The food, the flavor, the uniqueness and the experience of visiting the villages with their own stories and rules of engagement kept me in awe the entire trip. I’m looking forward to going back with a much larger suitcase to purchase souvenirs, empty stomach to eat and cooking skills so I can integrate their spices into dishes moving forward. Baby steps people!


NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST... // Especially if you’re reading this guide and bought the SIM card I recommended //

Until the next time I get WANDERFULLY lost ….


#moroccanminttea #nomadic #travelblogger #bloggerswhotravel #wanderlust #adventureseeker #travel #adventureislife #travelislife #thattravelblog #blogger #doyoutravel #goexplore #openmyworld #explorer #discovery #roamtheplanet #bloglife #travelpreneur #travellifestyle #bloggerlifestyle #workandlife #nomadiclifestyle #laptoplifestyle #workfromanywhere #staycurious #livelife #travel #lifestyle




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