There are places you want to return to every time you step on your flight back home. Morocco has had this spell on me ever since I set foot in the country. So even though I have a trip to Fez coming up in October, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to slot in a 4-day-holiday to Marrakech and Essaouira this June.
It was my third time in Morocco and my second as a female solo-traveller. I am asked very often how it is to (solo-)travel Morocco, so instead of only sharing trillions of photos in this post (but don’t worry: I have managed to accommodate nearly 70 images nonetheless), I will also share some experiences and impressions for those of you who are specifically interested in these topics.
With a taxi I travelled 3 hours from Marrakech Airport to Essaouira at the coast for a very fair amount of 600 dirham (approximately 60 Euros). I did not choose the Supratours bus on this day because my arrival did not exactly match the bus times, however I did so for the way back.
The dry heat that already awaited me at Marrakech Airport at 08:00AM was reflected in the rather triste scenery along the road. But once in Essaouira, all the colours I so adore revealed themselves.
I arrived at the lovely Dar Darek owned by an even more lovely French couple who decided to move to Essaouira some years ago. I was lucky to get an upgrade to my room because I was the only guest during the time of my stay, which gave the place a very homely atmosphere.
After a quick shower I got ready to explore Essaouira, which is often referred to as the “hippie place of Morocco”. As more and more people reach out to me asking how to dress for travels through Morocco, I attached the first (and probably last) mirror selfie above. Somehow I tend to end up adapting like a chameleon to my destination’s colour scheme. However, I’m not a promoter of masquerade either. Loose skirts, trousers, blouses and shirts are ideal to cover “risky” body parts and of course also to protect from the heat and sun. I normally don’t show legs above my knees or shoulders when travelling in Morocco. So in the case above, I added a light jacket when outside.
After deciding on my clothing, it was time to freshen up with my first sips of Moroccon mint tea. More of a coincidence than plan my trip fell right into the middle of Ramadan. I had been wondering whether food and drinks would be offered to non-Muslim tourists but I decided to just take things as they come. In fact, many cafés and restaurants were closed – especially in Essaouira. However, there were still enough options to choose from. Due to respect I limited my food and beverage consumption mostly to inside though.
After the sweet taste of mint tea I was eager to explore the medina of Essaouira. Compared to Marrakech and Tangér, the coastal town is very small and surprisingly calm. People still try to sell you countless things here but every corner exudes some more tranquility than I had been used to from Morocco.
Around the port not only unbelievably high humidity awaited me but also a vividness that was so very different from the slow pace of the medina.
I started back to my guest house and took the opportunity to indulge myself in some great scoops of ice cream along the way.
My first morning in Essaouira began on the rooftop of my Dar with a traditional Moroccon breakfast freshly prepared by my host.
With new strength I sallied forth to discover Essaouira’s nooks and crannies once anew. I went into the alleys along the southern part of the medina with many galleries and rather trendy shops.
One of those very unique stories happened to me when passing by an old man who asked whether I talked English and could help him write a letter to his friend in London. He was very kind with no intent to sell me anything and even more surprised when I told him that I was a German living in Spain. Because as chance would have it, he also had friends in Aachen, Germany, and Bilbao, Spain. He showed me postcards and photos of the trips they did together in the Moroccan desert where Abdul, the old man, originally came from. He told me stories about the desert, the Berbers, prepared a pot of mint tea for me while sharing his thoughts on Ramadan and how it made Essaouira even quieter. I watched him very closely when he signed the letters in Arabic. He saw my interest and offered to write my name in Arabic too. I left his little corner with the small piece of paper and his words reverberating in my ears: “You are a visitor in this country, not a tourist.”
The sky had brightened up over the day so I got the chance to see the sunny side of Essaouira and stroll along the beach where numerous kite surfers enjoyed the waves.
The next morning would take me back to Marrakech. I took the Supratours bus for 75 dirham (approximately 8 Euros) along the same triste landscapes I had gazed at only two days before when travelling to Essaouira. I was very excited to return to Marrakech. It had been my first destination in Morocco and I was curious whether I’d like it as much as before now that I had travelled more of Morocco.
After 3 hours on the bus I arrived in 40ºC, buzzing Marrakech. It was surprisingly straightforward to reach the beautiful Riad Carina right next to El Badi Palace. I was almost a little wistful in advance I’d only spend one night here and even more so as soon as I had entered.
I had only little time in Marrakech as my flight back to Barcelona would depart early the next morning, so I decided to spend it both strolling the Souks and later on relaxing in my Riad. I was looking for a very specific address to indulge in some traditional tajine: Le Jardin. I had visited the green restaurant on my trip last year and was eager to go back here.
Trouble was: I had a map in my hands and the way to Djemaa el Fna, the big place in the middle of Marrakech, and further to the Souks seemed fairly easy. After 20 seconds in Marrakech and with a map that shows only around 20 percent of the street names (in Arabic) nothing seems easy any longer. Just when I thought I was completely off the path, I all of a sudden recognised the street of my Riad from last year. That was when I knew I could not be too wrong and some minutes later I was indeed standing in front of Le Jardin.
Not only tajine, which was good beyond description, but also a little turtle awaited me. It came towards me, licked my toes and would not stop following me for some ten metres. Let’s all not forget we are talking of a turtle here!
The heavenly lunch gave me some energy in this crazy heat. I decided to stroll right through the magic alleys of the Souks back to my Riad.
Having arrived, I got into my bathing suit and beach hat and went up to the roof terrace with its lovely plants and inviting pool.
After swimming some laps, I lay down in the evening sun to close my eyes and recall all the countless scents and sounds of this short trip. The greatest part of travelling Morocco to me is getting lost, packing away the map, being overwhelmed, letting go. This still works best in Marrakech, surrounded by those thousands of sensory impressions, blinded by the mass of goods, numb through all the merchants fighting for your attention. A destination that is a challenge – sometimes a little more, sometimes less for a female solo-traveller but even more a destination, an experience that is unbelievably rewarding.