Give yourselves a round of applause if you made it this far through all of my Morocco recaps, because we are finally done. I promise.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the adventure. Probably not as much as I did. But now you know what to see, or what not to, if and when you journey east yourself.
Days 13-15: Essaouira and Marrakech
We had half the day to spend in Essaouira before catching a coach bus to Marrakech. I took my time getting up, just like the rest of the town. I decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and instead go out to find something in the market streets.
However, I got a bit side-tracked, wandering various back alleys that had been too crowded for optimal pictures the day before. I popped in and out of literal hole in the wall shops. The attitude and overall vibe of shop owners and aspiring artists in this town was so laid back. Such a stark contrast to the next and final city on the tour, I would soon discover.
By the time I made it to the main street, I was pretty near famished. I stopped and bought some fruit as well as some green olives for snacks. Then I found myself sniffing the air to a little cafe advertising fresh crepes. The next thing I knew I was basking in the sunshine at a table near the entrance with my cinnamon apple deliciousness, tipping my hot tea in cheers to passersby. I definitely felt like I deserved a commission for my skillful marketing.
I wandered the streets for another couple hours and decided to grab a fresh juice and a falafel sandwich to go before meeting up with the rest of the gang and setting out. The bus ride to Marrakech was about 3 hours, and we had plenty of conversation and treats to help us pass the time.
Our stay for the final two nights was in the Le Caspien hotel just a block from the main street which leads to Jemaa El-Fna market square. We arrived the first night with enough time to freshen up before dinner. Due to the immense crowds making it impossible to stick together, we were each given some cash for dinner on Intrepid and told to try something new.
I’ll just come out and say it now: I wasn’t all that impressed with Marrakech as a whole. I know so many people will argue with me on this, but in comparison to every other city we’d been to on the tour, it just wasn’t my favorite. Everything just felt so touristy.
The vendors, albeit just doing their job to compete with the next guy, were extremely pushy. I felt exhausted after repeating the words “no, thank you” to people getting in my face trying to sell me something. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of monkeys in diapers on chain leashes. Pretty uncool.
But I did enjoy the exotic Marjorelle Gardens and the abandoned palace near the main square that first morning. The rest of the day was spent meandering, snacking on gelato, observing the May Day protests, and avoiding being heckled. Again, due to all the traffic and crowds, we all split up on our own for the day and only met back up that evening for our final dinner.
My flight didn’t leave until early evening of the final day. Since I’d already done all the site-seeing there was to do, I made a point of taking it easy.
I tried a hammam spa that morning just down the street at a place called Saint Tropez. I was not expecting them to actually wash my hair (yes, all four feet of it). So that was definitely one of the odd things. Maybe I’m just not used to being pampered. But golly, I’ve never had softer, silkier hair!
Moroccans: They’re relaxed, affectionate, humorous, content, and tolerant. Whatever beliefs, whatever ideas you may have are fine by them.
Yes, it is a Muslim country. You will see women completely shrouded. But you’ll also see modern dress and meet people who have no religious preference.
Contrary to popular belief, society is balanced well–matriarchal from the Berber origins and patriarchal from Islamic tradition. Men are friendly and easy-going; women are respected and given their fair share of responsibility without having to shout about it.
The lifestyle is slower, less materialistic, and in some ways chaotic. But somehow, it works. Everyone has their part to play and each one plays it well. They’re doing their best to become more modern, and more environmentally responsible, in all ways. Yet they have not lost pride for their heritage and vibrant cultural roots along the way.
I found something and someone to relate to in every location we visited. Common ground can always be found if we are willing to dig for it.
Highlights & Facts
- All throughout Morocco, the temperature was not as hot or miserably sticky as I had expected. Temperature was generally mild and there was usually a nice breeze. In fact, I was probably cold more often than hot due to the wind chill.
- The French occupied Morocco until 1956 when it received its independence.
- Heard the song “Barbie Girl” sung in Arabic on the radio.
- I squeezed in a tiny shop stall and watched Berber women make a quick adjustment to a shirt I purchased. Neither of them could speak much English but we understood each other well and I helped them showcase products to other customers.
- I ended up finding a floor pillow pouf cover in Essaouira that luckily matches the purple color in my back room perfectly! (see last pic)
- In Marrakech, I discovered pistachio cream. I quickly determined it is heavenly, especially on crepes. With fruit. And probably by the spoonful too. I’ll find out for you all soon because I already found some on Amazon…
- Hailed a taxi ALL BY MYSELF for the very first time ever. Big girl status.
- A woman in Jemaa El-fna actually grabbed my hand to force me to have a henna tattoo. I was able to pull away and thankfully Salim was close enough to be the final “no thank you” to make her back off.
- For the first few minutes, the hammam spa scrub felt like some sort of medieval torture, but I definitely found it worthwhile. This isn’t just a tourist thing. Moroccans go to their neighborhood hammams weekly if not more often to exfoliate their skin and use the rich, waxy African soap to moisturize with.