Morocco: a country that lies on the Northern coast of Africa, just nine miles from the Gibraltar Strait. Renowned for its bustling medinas, fantastic scenery, and amazing food there is something there to delight all types of traveler.
Marrakech is a mere three and a half hour flight from the UK and is surprisingly cheap to fly to. I bagged return flights from Liverpool with Ryanair for just £146; excellent value considering I was flying during the Whitsun school holidays and at the start of Ramadan.
A word of the warning before I continue though: Marrakech can get seriously hot and humid and will easily reach the 40’s even in May. I spent one night there and struggled to sleep. I would recommend if you wanted to visit somewhere inland that you book something during the winter months.
I stayed in Essaouira which is a coastal town famous for both its water sports and, more recently, being the setting for Daenerys and her dragons in Game of Thrones. That being said this place also has plenty more to offer than just waves and dragons.
The walled part of the town, which is also home to the Medina, is definitely worth a visit. It is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site owing to its 18th century European architecture and is a jewel of Essaouira. If you’re interested in reading up on the history, more information can be found on UNESCO’s site here.
Game of Thrones was filmed in part of the Medina although unfortunately this was closed off whilst we were there for building work. I am informed that there are tours that will take you round when it is open to the public though I can’t recommend any here, unfortunately.
The Medina is also home to the local market where you can indeed grab a bargain or six! Bartering skills will come in useful as most places won’t expect you to take the first price they offer. This is where I bought my Tagine and my spices, things of beauty that are now a staple with a lot of my cooking, like my Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry or Moroccan Meatballs.
There are also many bars, cafes and restaurants all serving excellent quality, local food at really good prices. **TOP TIP** the more you venture off the main street, the less you’ll pay for food and drinks and the better the quality of food and service. I prefer to go down the little side streets in search of a bargain as it feels like an adventure and who doesn’t love a bit of adventure!?
Down the little side streets you’ll find plenty of Moroccan Spas, also known as Hammams. I had the pleasure of a head and shoulders massage at Azur, situated within the walls and off the main roads. As spas go this one was up there with the best and it comes very much recommended. A big plus of this one was their roof terrace where they take you to wait for treatments. Take their offer of the mint tea too – you won’t be disappointed!
While in Essaouira I stayed in the Riad Zahra. It’s located just back from the beach and about a 20 minute walk from the Medina. I stayed for six nights and would recommend this Riad to anyone staying in Essaouira. During my time there I was made to feel very welcome and all staff were so helpful with many different queries that I had. From posting a letter for me, to cooking a meat tagine when fish was on the menu. What’s more the staff were good with all of their guests and it’s why I would also recommend this Riad to all guest types; couples, older guests, and families including those with younger children.
With regards to it’s amenities the Riad Zahra had a good wifi signal around the hotel and their restaurant served a range of meals throughout the day and evening. The pool wasn’t heated and so was a little cold but I did visit as it was coming into the warmer season and so I’d imagine a pool heater isn’t really necessary in summer. The rooms don’t have air conditioning but given that Essaouira is on the coast and cooler, it is not needed. I found I had six very restful nights’ sleep even with the window shut. The room is cleaned each morning and leave fresh towels and you are given mini soaps and body wash on arrival.
As I work in travel I have a pretty long list of places I’d like to visit and Morocco was never really up there with some of the more popular locations around the world. I suppose with having a closed currency it fell off my radar. My visit to Essaouira was my first time venturing out of Europe and I’m finding it hard to figure out why there are not more people exploring this gem of a place. It’s definitely got me wanting to go back and explore other regions in Morocco.