February 21, 2020
Morocco; the land of enchanting magic carpets, relaxing riads, souk treasures, and bottomless mint tea! Morocco has always been on my travel bucket list–specifically Marrakech. What initially drew me to this beautiful city was its breathtaking riads. If you don’t already know, a riad is traditional Moroccan home, now typically renovated and restored as boutique hotels or guest houses. Personally, I believe that no visit to Marrakech is complete without staying in, or at least visiting a riad.
My boyfriend CJ and I visited Marrakech in November 2018. But let’s rewind here for a moment. We actually traveled to Marrakech earlier that year, in June 2018, however, due to unexpected and unfortunate circumstances (absence of required travel visa), we had to reroute our trip to Barcelona, Spain. Although Barcelona was amazing, I was determined to check Morocco off of my bucket list. Fortunately, we were able to successfully visit this dream of a city later on in the year, and may I say that I’m so glad that we did!
Okay, so where do I begin? Marrakech was so much more than we bargained for and well worth the wait. I don’t think words can quite explain the feeling of being immersed in this incredible place! We decided to stay at the amazing Riad BE Marrakech. It’s beautiful traditional hand-crafted woodwork, Moroccan tiles, patterns, patios, and decor gave me the full local living experience! The staff were very attentive and accommodating, and definitely made us feel at home. Additionally, a traditional Moroccan breakfast was served each morning, where we usually enjoyed on the beautiful rooftop patio. We chose to stay in The Essence riad, which is the most newly renovated section.
What I love about Riad BE is its location. This riad is in the heart of it all, and is most importantly walking distance from the souks! Now let me guess–what are the souks you ask? The souks are Moroccan marketplaces where you can find everything from spices, linens, carpets, perfume, shoes, and jewelry. To be honest, most would probably describe the souks as quite chaotic and a bit overwhelming, to say the least. I, however, enjoyed experiencing the unfamiliar colors, smells, sounds, food, and people. When in the souks just remember to bargain, learn to say no, be prepared to get lost, and most importantly enjoy the chaos!
There is so much to do and see in Marrakech, and we certainly did just that. Apart from getting lost in the souks, tasting all kinds of Moroccan dishes, and relaxing on rooftops overlooking the Medina, CJ and I did some pretty unconventional travel activities.
On our third day in Marrakech, we took flight with Marrakech by Air— a hot air ballooning experience. We arranged pick-up (5:30 am) and transfer from our riad to the base, which was about a 40-minute drive. When we arrived we watched as they prepared the balloons for flight, and simultaneously enjoyed a continental pre-breakfast, in the company of many other travelers. We all then “boarded the balloon”, eager to experience a peaceful one hour flight in the sky, while overlooking the Atlas Mountains. After landing where I felt to be “in the middle of nowhere”, we were presented with a flight certificate and eventually transferred back to the base. Finally, we ate some more– this time a traditional Berber breakfast. We mingled amongst the rest of the group and then ended the excursion with our first camel ride!
Day four was by far my favorite day in Morocco. We traveled to Scarabeo Camp— a luxury camping, or shall I say “glamping” experience in the small, rocky desert of Agafay. You wouldn’t believe it unless you see it! Scarabeo Camp’s suites are “fully furnished” large tent accommodations, with beds, lounging areas, bathroom amenities, and private outdoor terraces.
Once we arrived, we were escorted to the communal tent, where we enjoyed complimentary mint tea, which at this point I was totally obsessed with! While waiting we explored the tent and the outdoors and chatted with a few other guests. We were then checked-in and taken to our room…I mean, tent. I truly believe that we had the absolute best tent in the desert! Our tent was located right in the middle, with by far the most scenic view. I must say that I was in awe when I entered the tent, as it was even better and more beautiful than I had imagined. After settling in, and taking hundreds of photos and videos of our new desert home, we prepared for our pre-booked camel ride. We joined a family of five from the United States on the camel ride and enjoyed the guided tour around the camp siting.
Later that evening, all guests at Scarabeo Camp came together to feast on traditional Moroccan cuisine, under warm candlelight. We loved the live entertainment, and the accommodating vegetarian dinner options provided. After dinner, CJ and I found our way back to our tent and enjoyed the rest of the night under the stars. I think that it is worth mentioning how low the temperatures were in November– especially in the desert. Remember, these arrangements were initially booked for a hot Moroccan summer in June, but we all know how that story ended.
Nevertheless, camping in the desert was an amazing experience and I would certainly do it again. My only regret is that we didn’t stay for more than one night! Scarabeo Camp allows you to “unplug” and “connect”, all at the same time. While in the desert, I felt so connected with my partner, nature, my Higher Power, and most of all, myself.
We concluded our Moroccan adventures with a classic–La Mamounia which is a palace-hotel in Marrakech. Even if you aren’t a guest, you can enjoy this luxurious hotel experience via their Season Pass. The Season Pass is a day pass, which grants you access to amenities such as the pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, gym, and other leisure facilities. The pass is around 1600 MAD (approximately 168 USD) Monday through Saturday, and 2000 MAD (approximately 208 USD) on Sundays (USD cash is accepted). The pass included lunch, as well as a 60-minute spa treatment. We decided to go with the La Mamounia Relaxing Massage, which was amazing, and later enjoyed a buffet lunch in the Pavillon Piscine. After lunch, we explored the grounds some more, and ended our day snapping a few Insta-worthy photos!
The charm of Marrakech made me fall deeper in love with this city as each day passed. Although I typically don’t like returning back to a country that I’ve already visited, I would surely visit Morocco again. Next time, not only would we revisit Marrakech, but we may also plan to experience other Moroccan cities such as Casa Blanca and Chefchaouen. In all, I think that it’s safe to say that Marrakech was a success!
Remember to check, double-check, and triple-check passport/visa requirements for Morocco
Note that the currency exchange rate changes on a daily basis
There are usually vegan and vegetarian food options in most restaurants
Don’t drink the water