The temperature was a sweltering 40 degrees C when we arrived in Marrakesh. We were staying in a riad in the centre of the city. On the first day we checked out the famous market which sprawls through a series of tunnels in the city centre. It is packed with stalls selling spices, clothes, trinkets etc. Whilst worth a visit, the stalls tend to replicate themselves endlessly. The sellers are pretty aggressive so be aware that showing interest in something and then just gently walking away isn't really an option. Pick up an item and the seller will certainly not let you leave without a fight or else having the bought the item for literally about four times what it's worth, unless you barter like a champ. On that note, bartering skills are crucial in Morocco whether buying trinkets in the market or getting a taxi ride (to get a fair price for a taxi ride we developed the routine of giving our price, waiting for it to be dismissed, then walking away down the street. The taxi always then came up behind us and accepted our price).
We had to work quite hard to find good food in Morocco. It can be hard to avoid bog standard tagine. Places just seemed to serve tagine,tagine and more tagine. There are however some very nice restaurants if you are prepared to go up market in Marrakesh - check out La Salama - great food and even a belly dancer show, just off the main square. For a chillled out afternoon watching over the main square, check out Cafe del France. The main square, the Jemaa el-Fna is absolutely electric at night, especially on weekends. We would wonder around encountering snake charmers, people street fighting with a crowd placing bets on who would win and all sorts more. This is really as far as nightlife got for us in Morocco. There are a few bars serving alcohol in Marrakesh but they were pretty empty. If you are looking for somewhere with banging nightlife, Morocco isn't the place.
The next day, we took a day trip to the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh which entailed an easy hike of an hour or so and a refreshing bath in a waterfall. Minivans will take you out there and guide you up the trails. It wasn't quite as spectacular as I thought it might be but a nice afternoon nonetheless.
Finally, you have to try a Hammam, which is kind of massage, moroccan style. We overpaid for this massively, so be careful. Ours wasn't great though. We spent ages sitting in a room with our bodies smeared in clay, wondering if they had forgotten about us.
Getting to Essaouria took almost an entire day as buses from Marrakesh are infrequent and collective taxi's can take hours to fill up. But Essaouria was the best part of our trip. It's a city on the coast with real character and colonial vibe , a full ten degrees cooler than Marrakesh. We took quad bikes out on the dunes and the beach which is large and empty enough for this. We had our own personal guide too. Naturally, we had to barter quite hard to get a fair price.
The fish market by the dock is worth a visit just to see some of the exotic catches, although be prepared for a stench that hits you like a wall (fish plus hot sun is not a good combo). Near the fish market you can find stalls packed with seafood where you can create your own platter of sea creatures for lunch. I highly recommend you do this for lunch one day. The seafood is fresh and extremely abundant. We bartered a glorious lunch for 3 the like of which you couldn't find in europe. Nights were spent chilling at 'Roof Top' bar overlooking the coast.
I wouldn't recommend this spot. We came here because my friend is into surfing and heard the beach nearby is good for that. But the town itself offers very little. The beach down the road is nice mind you, but we kind of realised Agadir, not far away, would have made more sense as a destination.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
Would rather have pulled the poo out of the snails we ate in the square in Marrakesh before eating them, but didn't realise that was what you were supposed to do.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
Yea, we missed the flight home because we "only" turned up at the airport an hour beforehand. The rule at Marrakesh airport is that you are not allowed to go through security less than an hour before your flight, so we had to sit an watch the plane fly off. When I said this was a strange rule, I was told "well, we think its weird that you eat chicken"...
How was the food?
La Salama in Marrakesh is good
What tips would you give a friend?
Don't do a cannon ball in the hotel pool unless you're sure it's a deep one.
Arrange bus travel the day before, if you don't want to spend all day waiting to go to your next destination.
Sheep's brains actually taste quite nice