Tagged medina

A day in magical Marrakech

When I found a one-way flight from Madrid to Marrakech for 40 €, I was super excited. As I was so close to Africa, I realized the opportunity to visit Morocco had come.

But then I got scared. I had never been to Africa, let alone a Muslim country.

Even though the name of this blog is Ammi’s Adventures, I’m not nearly as brave as I’d like to be. I’ve written before how it’s important to face your fears, but at times I find it hard to follow my own advice. Reading travel forums about solo females being hassled in Morocco scared me. And even though many people wrote about the wonderful experiences they had in Morocco, the negative messages stick to your head so much easier.

But usually, honesty pays off. I was scared about the prospect of traveling to Morocco alone, but I wasn’t scared to let people know this. After openly sharing my fears, a male friend traveling in Spain at the same time as me, agreed to join me on my trip.

The Moroccan coastline as seen from the plane — Janne and I are about to land on African soil for the first time in our life!
The Moroccan coastline as seen from the plane — Janne and I are about to land on African soil for the first time in our life!
We stayed at Hostel Rouge in the medina (old town) where we were welcomed with mint tea from the hostel's friendly staff.
We stayed at Hostel Rouge in the medina (old town) where we were welcomed with mint tea from the hostel’s friendly staff.

After dropping our bags at the hostel, we had a look around Marrakech. We were surprised how quiet a Saturday afternoon at the main square, Jamaa el Fna, was. There were almost no people around and the few locals we saw were minding their own business. We were expecting a culture shock but found Marrakech to be relatively calm.

The first sight when arriving to Marrakech were some lonesome horse carriages. The lack of crowds took us by surprise.
The first sight when arriving to Marrakech were some lonesome horse carriages. The lack of crowds took us by surprise.

From the square we continued to the souks — an endless maze of stalls selling herbs, clothes and handicrafts. The shop owners were knitting hats and carving wood in their stalls, from where they sold their items. The colours and smells of the souk really awaken your senses. Women are draped from top to toe, but still look very fashionable, wearing clothes and scarves in all imaginable colours and patterns.

In Morocco, there’s basically two options for lunch: couscous or tajine. Couscous, granules made out of durum wheat, is probably more known in the Western world than tajine. Tajine is a North African dish cooked in a cone-shaped ceramic pot. Both couscous and tajine are usually served with meat. In the vegetarian option the meat is usually just left out, but sometimes the meat is replaced with eggs, olives or chick peas, leaving you with a dish that’s not as bland as just steamed vegetables. Being a vegetarian in Morocco is not easy, being a vegan is almost impossible unless you cook your own food.

Olives and lentils as an entrée, before being served tajine in Marrakech.
Olives and lentils as an entrée, before being served tajine in Marrakech.
The restaurant was on the second floor and it was interesting to look at the souk from above. From up here, you could never imagine all the life going on underneath the shades.
The restaurant was on the second floor and it was interesting to look at the souk from above. From up here, you could never imagine all the life going on underneath the shades.
A random goat was hanging out on one of the roofs.
A random goat was hanging out on one of the roofs.

Sunset came and so did the people! Finally Jamaa el Fna was alive: smoke from the stalls selling food, children running, people laughing, music and performances. It was a stark contrast to the calmness of the square at daytime.

Climb up to a second floor restaurant terrace for a view of the entire Jamaa el Fna!
For 3 dirhams (around 30 cents) you can enjoy a hot bowl of soup at Jamaa el Fna.
You will also enjoyed sitting at a communal table with the locals.

As soon as you leave Jamaa el Fna, the loud sounds of the market square die out and there are not many people around.
Retreating back to our hostel after an exciting day in Marrakech.

So were my fears of solo female travel in Morocco valid? It’s hard to say, since I didn’t experience it. But in Marrakech, I never felt threatened. The locals approached us with curiosity and eagerness, never with aggression. At Jamaa el Fna, the stall owners are trying to get you to eat at their place, but if you decline, they will leave you alone or maybe say a snarky comment. Nobody will touch you or yell at you. Just remember, this is coming from someone who travelled with a male by her side.

I am so grateful that I found a travel companion as my fears might have stopped me from experiencing this intriguing Moroccan city. Once again, travel efficiently removed any prejudice I had about a place I hadn’t visited before.

Stay tuned for a blog post about our trip to the Sahara desert!