There is a certain freedom in being present while experiencing something new. Travel can do that to you. Like flying a magic carpet, it can feel unbelievable and simple at the same time. I spent New Year’s in Morocco. This was my first visit to the northern region of the Royal Continent and it was more magical than I could have ever imagined. There is so much to soak in that one really needs to stay for a couple of months. I spent 6 days based in Marrakech and took 2 day trips to Rabat and Ouarzazate. All three cities are unique and I hope this post helps to inspire you to visit.
A crisp morning in Marrakech starts at 10am, a wonderful time in my opinion. Along with the birds singing, you can hear the faint sound of Arabic and French spoken everywhere. Then there’s the sound of motors passing by, from old taxis and mopeds to shining new range rovers. The architecture in Marrakech is so picturesque. Between the old city and new city, European and African style is all blended with red bricks and walls. It is really beautiful.
Marrakech is a vibrant and artistic city. A paradise for photographers, foodies, history buffs, antique collectors, and of course…tourists. It is overwhelming and exciting at the same time. It is built in a way that makes it easy to walk around, which makes it even more fun to explore. We were lucky to have our stylish family friends show us around.
I stayed at the Movenpick Marrakech hotel. This place was gorgeous! Every corner of this hotel was breathtaking. The customer service was royal and the food was top-notch. Their buffet spread for breakfast was so elegant and had every choice you could think of. The rooms were comfortable and I really loved the details of the decor, from the marble architecture to the colorful furniture.
I also did a few photoshoots at this beautiful hotel. Stay tuned for those photos in my next post.
Rabat is another beautiful city in Morocco. It is also unique. One part has the Parliament building and pretty avenues lined up with shops and cafés. Down a few blocks and closer to the shore are these blue mazes lined up with artisans and shops. We were so lucky to have connected with a lovely professor from Morocco. She gave us a wonderful tour.
The Hassan Tower was such a beautiful and somber place to visit. The guards on horseman at the entrance plus the tower and columns are very impressive. The call for prayer occurred while we were there and it was interesting to observe people come together to pray. Historically, the Hassan Tower is an incomplete mosque that was intended to be the largest minaret in the world. Construction began in 1195, but stopped in 1199 after the Sultan died. The tower stands 140 feet tall.
Kasbah des Oudaias is the blue maze in Rabat. Filled with artisans, shops, and cafés, it makes for a really beautiful walk. I could not get enough of all the ornate doors and fountains and tile details.
Driving up the Atlas Mountains really looked (and felt) like a secret agent movie. The road weaves around the mountains with sharp turns and steep cliffs. The views were absolutely breathtaking.
I also noticed something. Cats run (or protect?) the cities and dogs live solely in the mountains. I did not get a chance to ask whether this was done deliberately, but I think I might be on to something.
Atlas Corporation Studios is a film studio in Ouarzazate. Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and The Mummy (just to name a few Hollywood titles) were filmed there. The city is built like a movie world. There are film motifs adorned on every street intersection. Almost everyone who lives there has played an extra in a film. There is even a hotel named after Oscar (the award).
It is the largest film studio in the world, measured by acres, which is mostly desert and mountains. It also has a cinema museum that features more sets. I really loved the camera room. They had film cameras ranging back to Charlie Chaplin through to today. It was so cool!
As cool as this all was, it seemed bitter-sweet. It felt like everything was built and set up for an abundant industry, but the party never showed up. It felt more like a historical landmark, even though they are open for business. Apparently there is more competition for desert scenes…the recent Star Wars movie was filmed in Tunisia (not space). But it does not seem as if African filmmakers are using it much. I am not sure if this depends on politics or funding or a combination of both, but I felt like it is a beautiful studio with a lot of potential that is not being used to the fullest. Nonetheless, they have done very well to preserve the history of film here. I loved it.
Now that you are convinced to visit to Morocco, let’s talk about some tips. I did a lot of research to prepare for my trip, from required travel documents to best places to take photos. In particular, I was looking for information about women traveling to Morocco. Even though Morocco is accepting of all religions, I understood it was a majority Muslim country and I wanted to respect the culture.
I chose to pack a wardrobe that was modest in accentuating my curves or skin. From what I could see, what women wear in Morocco ranges from traditional robes to modern jeans. However, those wearing mini skirts or crop tops tend to be expats. Everyone we interacted with, regardless of gender, were polite and respectful. Funnily enough, the only time someone called out to us was in the Souks in Marrakech, when a man called us The Obamas…which we all know is a compliment, so that was cool.
Of course, I also used Instagram for research and inspiration. The posts I found helpful in planning my trip, in terms of what to see and do, were from Monroe Steele, Visiter L’Afrique, and Spirited Pursuit.
In Marrakech, you must also visit and experience Chez Ali. It is a dinner and fantasia show that is incredible. The food was delicious, the location is breathtaking, and the entertainment is delightful.
The souks in Marrakech are also fun and you will feel overwhelmed by all the beautiful craftsmanship. Due to traveling with a carry-on as my main case, I bought smaller things. However, there are some stores that offer shipping, which is very convenient.
Overall, I really enjoyed my trip. It was so exciting and refreshing to explore and observe such a beautiful country. There is so much I still would love to see, which is why I will most likely be back. I would highly recommend adding Morocco to your travel list.
Where have you traveled that you absolutely loved? Would you visit Morocco? Let me know in the comments.