Being a student at this time, I planned to travel on a short budget for these summer holidays. From Paris and generally France overall, flights to Morocco are really affordable! We took two weeks of holidays, so we had to make choices about our road trip. Impossible to discover all facets of this huge country within 14 days. In the end, we decided to focus on Marrakesh, its countryside, and Essaouira, a lovely city on the coast. From Paris, the flight takes 3h40mins to Marrakesh, the Moroccan capital. The first impression of this august morning was this dry heat and the sandy wind. We took a cab, which brought us directly to our riad.
If you visit Morocco, you should book a riad, instead of a hotel. Riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard or water basin. Our riad, 'Riad Mur Akush' is a stunning location for its architecture and its services. We selected this place on behalf of friends' advice and for its location, in the heart of the medina. The medina is the old city of Marrakesh, most of the sightseeing is in this area, so it is comfortable to have your accommodation next to it. We stayed there for six nights, breakfast and a typical massage are included in the price. You also can enjoy the hammam, a steam bath located on the first floor, and the beautiful rooftop where the breakfast is served.
In Marrakesh, we really enjoyed visiting the souk, the largest Morrocan market, and it’s astonishing to think that for a thousand years the district has acted as a central hub for trade and commerce without very little changing at all. One tip is to not afraid to bargain if you want to purchase something, see it as a game. You will earn the respect of the trader if you show them your negotiation skills! Another amazing aspect of the souk is the colours and all the different and unusual smells and sounds. You will find yourself surrounded by mountains of spices, the aroma of grilled meat, and energetic sellers! This is the souk, colours and energy.
We loved also the most famous city square, Jemaa al-Fnaa. This place should be visited at night for eating a traditional couscous and discover the buzzing aspect of Marrakesh. There, you will have a large choice of restaurants and activities. We enjoyed walking around and had small talks with local families.
Another highlight of our trip was visiting the Majorelle Garden, located just next to the Medina. It is two and a half acres of a botanic garden, and it is famous for being purchased and restored by the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in 1980. It is the perfect spot to escape from the suffocating summer heat and visit the Berber museum, located in the garden. Similar activity would be visiting the Bahia Palace, a historical museum open to the daily public and has previously hosted events such as the Marrakech Biennale.
Missing the sea, we planned a day trip to Essaouira, a coast city, three hours bus ride from Marrakesh. The medina is protected by 18th-century seafront ramparts and hosts an authentic souk and colorful houses. Essaouira is also known as a kit-and-surf spot. We loved the chill vibe, the sea wind, and eating fresh fish at the beach. It is perfect for a day trip, but we could have imagined staying longer and enjoy the surroundings.
One of the reasons for choosing Morocco and Marrakesh was for the atlas festival. Atlas Electronic is a Moroccan-Dutch organization, which held an annual music festival next to Marrakesh. We experienced it as a cultural event, as we attended cooking classes and traditional dance courses besides the classical festival activities. The focus is on local live music and international DJs celebrating underground music and cross-cultural collaborations. We went there for the first edition, it was a huge success, and we had a blast. Maybe one of the best festivals in North Africa!