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Recapping Morocco

Before we set out on the Caminho Portuguese we spent eight days in Morocco—mostly in the city of Marrakech. But, neglected to write much about it other than our excellent experience with food and cooking tours. Because of an unplanned break, here are some impressions and recommendations.

Impressions

Marrakech is chaos—that eventually makes sense. We stayed in the Medina, the old city, which is a warren of small streets, shops, and alleys. The place was a challenge to navigate, even using Google Maps. Part of the chaos is scooters and donkey carts that go racing (well, the donkeys don’t race) through the warren that is the Medina. But, we only saw one accident where a cart got tipped over and created a traffic jam. We fully expected to be run over but were rarely even bumped. Early on we thought we’d use narrower streets figuring the scooters would avoid them and we’d get a break from the fumes, but, they go almost everywhere. 

Much of the warren is made up of shops carrying everything from clothing to carvings. You can bargain for some good quality and unique items. Laurie commented that it would be a great place to show up with an empty suitcase. In our case we limited our purchases to a scarf for her and a hand carved olive wood camel for our Christmas Nativity set. If weight wasn’t a factor, there were many more things that we might have purchased.

Marrakech is also a city of contrasts. It is predominantly Muslim, but is a secular society. Women clad in hijabs—with only their eyes exposed via a narrow slit in the fabric—share the byways and shops with other women in modern western dress that is one step away from the beach. Alcohol—forbidden in Muslim culture—is available if you know where to look for it. It is also an Arab/African country, but the 40+ years of being a French Colony show through in language and food. 

Recommendations

Dessert Trek. One of our goals for our trip to Morocco was to take a three day dessert trek. We had heard about these in the book, Explore Europe on Foot, by Cassandra Overby. We booked ours through Viator but you can do it via other platforms such as Airbnb experiences or just wander through the Medina. It involved two days of driving to different locations including the Atlas Mountains and Berber villages. One night was spent in a hotel and for the second we rode a camel one hour to a large campsite in the dessert with tents placed on permanent platforms. Frankly, very touristy, but a unique experience. 

Restaurants. Our Riad (Moroccan style hotel) recommended two restaurants that cater to westerners—which includes alcoholic drinks. We visited each of them twice as they were so good. 

  • Restaurant Le Grand Bazar Marrakech overlooks the Grand Bazar. Good place for a meal, drink, and observing the sunset. And, sometimes the cats living on the neighboring roof fight if you’re into blood sports. 
  • Cafe Arabe is located deeper in the Medina. Excellent food and service with an Italian flavor. 
  • We ran into a small bakery, mostly frequented by locals, that is a good break for fruit juice drinks, pastries, and people watching. I believe it is called Corne de Gazelle. Very reasonable prices. If I have the name wrong, you’ll probably find a good one in that same general area just a few blocks east of the Grand Bazaar.

Rick Steves did his own trip to Morocco in the fall of 2023 and has a very informative interview on YouTube about it here.

I’ve wanted to visit this unique country ever since I saw it showcased in Epcot Center in Disney World—decades ago. It is one of the more unusual places we’ve visited and it took us a few days to get comfortable. But, I can imagine spending more time here—and coming with an empty suitcase.

And, Thanks Gene, for all the detailed suggestions. Too bad we didn’t have time to get to all of them. But at least we finally made it.

Unplanned Break. We have an extra day off (at least) on our Caminho Portuguese pilgrimage because something Laurie ate or drank disagreed with her. It’s a hazard of international travel. Frankly, we kind of expected it in Morocco but dodged that problem. Hopefully we’ll resume our trek in the morning. 

As always, questions welcome. And we might have a bit more downtime for them.

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