Hi guys! Long time no see!
Happy to see I'm planning a trip to Morocco for this December from the 16th to 30th. I'm flying into Casablanca, spending a couple days nearby, heading to Tangier to burn through some Hilton points on the seaside (thanks, 5th free night, for making me travel slower!), and then I'll head towards Marrakech for Christmas, where friends from Puerto Rico and Canary Islands will be hanging out, and putting a few miles on the old Arrival card. Would love any and all of your sage advice! Happy travels!
It sounds like a great trip! Before you read any of my suggestions, please be aware that I was in Morocco 15 years ago, so everything below is dated. We were there during Christmas, just as you are going to be, so that is perfect. The climate was great, and the hotels were decked out for the holiday, which made it fun. Consider hiring a private guide for a walking tour of Marrakech, although be aware that you will be taken to a series of carpet shops. Feel free to say "no more shops" otherwise that is all you will see. Fez was also a great city. The market there was even more convoluted than Marrakech, again a local guide is the best way to navigate.
If you have the time, I suggest you consider crossing the Atlas mountains to get into the desert itself. We did that (we had a private driver, which wasn't that expensive) and loved it. We did a "glamping" excursion to the dunes of the Sahara. Local guides took us, by camel, several miles to an oasis within the dunes where we had a suburb dinner and slept in a tent out in the dunes. It was really worth it. We used Quarzazate as a base for this. If you don't get any further than this town, you will still get a good idea of what the Sahara is like. I hope that helps, and good luck!
Thanks so much! This is great!
I'll have to check back with you when you post your travel story. We're heading there (Marrakesh) next year in early July. So far, every story I read says to try and stay at a decent Riad with a pool if possible. Of course, Decmber will be coller than July when we'll be there so you likely won't need a pool.
Will be looking for your story and tips! ☺☻
Thanks! I can't believe it's only a week away and theres so much to do before then. We have decided on a desert tour and we're skipping out on our free night in Tangier to move towards Marrakech faster and be able to spend a few days there. I am super excited! We also have a bicycle tour planned, and I am hoping a food tour as well.
We will be stayiing in a Riad in Marrakech so we will report back once we are home;) How long will you be staying for?
I too was in Morocco years ago, about 10ish years ago as a I had studied abroad there. I lived in Rabat though, and always recommend Rabat as it's the capital and truly shows the local life. However, if you have limited time then skipping it is fine as it isn't as large and glamarous as it's cousin cities of Fez & Marrakesh. You'll definitely need a local guide if you go into the medina of any of those two cities, Rabat's medina is more managable on your own but all of the medinas are incredibly confusing if you're not used to it at all.
I HIGHLY recommend that you visit Chefchaoune, this is a must! It's known as the blue city in Morocco for it's blue paint on majority of the houses and streets. I was told during my stay it's to keep the mosquitos away (Hmmm...). It's in the Rif Mountains, which were also great to see and trek up if you have a guide. We had a very eccentric elderly guide who wasn't afraid to plop of us students on donkey's wandering by or grab a rolled hashish joint from a nearby man and try to offer it to us. He also took us up his own trail up the mountain in his Moroccan slippers which I found hysterical.
If you have a bit of French or even learn a bit of Moroccan Arabic you'll probably get a better haggling deal! Definitely buy a carpet, it's one of my most prized possessions. But haggle like hell. Also, try all the food!
I wasn't a big fan of Tangier, but who knows how it looks now! It was a bit seedy for us, but then again we could have been wandering around the wrong areas. I'm sure it's wonderful.
My last little tip is just something I think we all should be mindful of when entering an Islamic country and that is to dress modestly. Obviously, wear what you want to wear, but even though they're the most liberal of Islamic countries, I'd stick to making sure those knees, shoulders, and neck are covered.
This is so helpful and thoughtful! Thank you!
I am sorry that we will be missing Rabat, and my Moroccan friend is very sad that I am going in winter, but the way I see it is hw bad can it be?
I have based most of my choices of places on where I could stay for free with hotel points, but we are also staying for 2 nights in the desert and will stay in a Riad in Marrakech. I am considering doing a food tour of one of the cities as well, since I am planning on eating my way through the country!
I forgot two more things that I absolutely enjoyed...
Since you'll be going in July, try to manage a trip out to Volubilis, it's near the city of Meknes. It's absolutely amazinggg! It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has an abundance of Roman ruins! When I went, my classmates host brother was kind enough to road trip us up there, but I'm sure you can find a tour or manage it another way. It didn't have much in terms of security of the ruins (unfortunate, because they should have had), so many people were able to touch the ruins. I have no idea if they have roped it off or have security now, but it's also a must on your Moroccan adventure!
The cities further south of Marrakesh such as Essaouira or Agadir are port cities and Agadir apparently has 365 days of sunshine. They show a different side of Morocco because the indigenious people have more representation there. Essaouira is also where I haggled like crazy and snagged my amazing carpet. :)