The Ultimate Guide for a Weekend in Marrakech, Morocco
When I was planning my post-grad backpacking trip, I spent weeks constructing the perfect itinerary to fit in as much as possible while staying within my budget. I scoured the internet for the best bang for your buck and I was ecstatic to find out that I could fit in a stop in Morocco. At the time, Ryanair was offering $59 fares to and from Marrakech and I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to spend just under 72 hours in Morocco, giving me just enough time to fall in love with it. I went to some amazing places during my trip, but Morocco was by far the highlight. If Morocco isn't already on your bucket list, add it now - and check out my guide to the Ultimate Weekend In Marrakech.
The Ultimate Guide to a Weekend In Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco is an amazing country full of rich history and culture. The juxtaposition between the French and Islamic cultures make Morocco different from anywhere I had ever been. While 72 hours was definitely not enough time to explore such a diverse country, I definitely got a taste of the magic of Morocco. Check out my recommendations of must-dos while you're there!
The Jemaa-el-Fna is the main square in Marrakech and features one of the coolest marketplaces in the world. During the day, the square is occupied primarily by orange juice stands, local vendors, snake charmers and children with Barbary apes - who will allow you to take a photo (for a small fee). The square is surrounded by the Marrakech souk, a traditional North African market that attracts both locals and tourists alike. There are also restaurants, cafes, hotels and gardens surrounding the square, allowing for a day of eating and exploring.
After a day of exploring the city, head over to the Four Seasons for one of the best meals of your life. Solano Atelier de Cuisine Marocaine offers a "Moroccan Feast" nightly that includes an appetizer and dessert buffet, your choice of entrée, live entertainment - including belly dancers, and henna, all for $40 USD. This is a great way to get to sample a lot of the local cuisine. (The Four Seasons also features one of the few fully-stocked bars in Marrakech, which definitely didn't hurt!)
As touristy as it may be (which isn't a bad thing when you are a tourist), a camel ride was a must on my itinerary in Morocco. While Marrakech does offer many options, we opted to head to the coastal town of Essaouira to enjoy a camel ride along the Atlantic Ocean. We booked our ride through Ranch de Diabat, which included a 3-hour ride along the coast and picnic lunch in the dunes. This was an amazing way to see a different part of Morocco and offered some amazing views of the coast, as well as some great photo ops with the camels (which are actually Dromedary, as they only have one hump). It's just over 100 miles from Marrakech to Essaouira, so plan on allowing a full day for this - but trust me, it's worth it.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
#IHaveThisThingWithFloors so when I first walked into the Ben Youssef Madrasa, I was blown away. This 16th century Islamic college and mosque features stunning Moroccan tile and exquisite architecture. For $2, you can explore this amazing building, rich in history and design. Ben Youssef is a must-see while you are in Marrakech!
Continuing on your tour of historic Marrakech landmarks, head over to the Menara Gardens which date back to the 12th century. The pavilion (menara) and basin are surrounded by orchards and olive groves. The gardens also have an amazing view of the Atlas mountains. This is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard. They were originally designed as family compounds but have evolved into a secluded retreat for foreigners. Spending time around the pool at the riad was one of my favorite things I did in Morocco. The riad I stayed at featured 4 guest rooms and my group occupies 3 of them, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. One night the staff cooked us an authentic Moroccan meal and I had the best chicken I've ever tasted. If given the option, staying in a riad is definitely the way to go!
Tips and Tricks
- Morocco is a very conservative country so pack accordingly - many places will not allow admission with exposed legs or shoulders
- Morocco is one of the few countries in the world with two official languages - French and Arabic - so try to use one of those before resorting to English
- Have a local help you arrange a driver for the day - we utilized this for getting to and from Essaouira and to get around to different landmarks in Marrakech and to the airport
- Drink the orange juice as often as its available - the freshness will ruin OJ for the rest of your life
- If you can (aka aren't backpacking), leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs - the lanterns at the market were to die for and I am still upset that I wasn't able to bring one home
- Don't be afraid to barter in the marketplace - they will be more receptive if you do it in French or Arabic, but the majority of the shopkeepers speak English