Hello my loves, to say that I have missed you would be an understatement.
My trip was great, but being away just made me realize how much I love doing this… writing. And so it is safe to say, I am glad to be back at it!
I chose to fly Emirates not because it was the cheapest or the fasted option, but because of the in-flight entertainment, WiFi and food.. Also because I find the Dubai Duty free to have good variety of brands complimented with good prices. Unfortunately, I found the food disappointing this time. And the WiFi was difficult to connect. Nevertheless, after a two hour layover in Dubai and an eight hour flight to Casablanca, Morocco’s capital, I finally touched down at two thirty in the afternoon. Having learned earlier on in my travel escapades, it is smart to purchase a local line in a new country so you have constant access to internet. It is even smarter to buy the local line at the airport! Roaming is very expensive. You see, when in foreign land, you always want to have the following; charged phone, access to internet and loose change. Internet on phone, in case you get lost and need to find your way back to safety and loose change to easily pay for transport. Train, bus, taxi, whichever is always easier to pay upfront with loose change. I wouldn’t advise always swiping your card. the exchange rates can prove to be quite expensive as well.
It was a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon in Casablanca.
The ride from the airport into the city central is about forty five minutes with light traffic. But it is a scenic ride with palm trees.
I got a great view of the largest mosque in Africa, the Hassan II Mosque
After checking into the hotel, we headed out to the Morocco Mall for late lunch and some light shopping, ahead of the dinner later on in the evening.
Me at Morocco Mall
If you are looking to get a quick bite, I recommend the food court on the second floor. Try out the Tacos stand. I had the chicken chawarma option which was delicious! The lemon juice is great too.
Menu at Tacos stand
The Mall offers great spots for taking photos
[View behind the Mall]
My Kenyan friends and I were not prepared for the feast that awaited us for dinner. Moroccans are lavish with food. The feast is normally served is one large plate. They prefer to share the meal together, feeding by hands. No need for fancy cutlery!
[Dinner presentation first night of landing]
Another Traditional meal is called the Tajine. The name is attributed to the cooking vessel in which it is cooked and served in. It is an unglazed clay cone shaped vessel. Comes as chicken, lamb, meat ball and beef Tajine. The chef layers aromatics, meat, and vegetables, along with spices, oil, and water. You can almost be certain green olives will be included in the recipe.
Moroccans also love their bread. They have it with almost all their meals! Same way back at home in Kenya, we love ugali and chapati with chicken or beef.
For desert, we had another generous serving of fresh fruit. The strawberries were sizable compared to their regular size. Deep red and sweet too, I must add!
[Strawberry offered for desert after dinner]
Moroccan traditional tea does not have milk. It is made using fresh Moroccan mint, gunpowder tea and a herb for detox. (Gunpowder tea is a type of a green Chinese tea. Each leaf is rolled into a small round pallet). The tea is served in a fancy tea pot. Unlike most parts of the world, the tea is not taken in regular tea cups, but rather small decorated crystal glasses.
[Moroccan tea set]
What I found most fascinating, is the manner in which they pour the tea into the glass. The more experienced servers can pour from very high above the glass mouth without missing! The higher the tea is poured from, the more prestigious the guest visiting. Also, they believe the foam formed from pouring the tea sweetens the flavor. You must practice to pour the tea in this fashion when serving Moroccan tea as it is regarded as an important tradition.
The next day was the fourteenth of February. Valentines day. I usually, would shy away from long road trips… I hate being stuck in an automobile for hours. I fail to understand why some people prefer driving for long distance travelling, to destinations that they can fly to and only spend a fraction of the time! Well to me, time an essential resource I would rather spend on other activities other than road trips.
The drive to Marrakech from Casablanca on the main highway is about two and a half hours. We had hired a jeep, so we only had to budget for fuel and light snacks . You will need an international driving license to drive in Morocco… as any country. But just in case you do not have one, there is an option of taking a train instead.
[Highway from Casablanca to Marrakech]
Marrakech is known as the red city. As a result of the red soil and color of brick used for most buildings. If you pay attention to the night sky while in the city, it appears to be of a red shade as a reflection of the city!
We had a dinner reservation made at a Moroccan restaurant, located at the heart of Marrakech city center. It is called Le Tanjia. A fairly popular spot for locals and tourists, so I recommend you call well in advance to make a reservation.
[Main bar at Le Tanjia]
Le Tanjia offers an authentic Moroccan interior design. From lighting, antique mirror frames hang on the walls, to how the food is presented. Even the waiters look like traditional Moroccan men! Quick heads up, the menu is in French. But not to worry, the garcon will patiently explain the menu contents. I highly recommend the lamb tajine. The chef presents a perfect balance between salty and sweet with the meal. And no, I did not mean sweet and sour.
For a starter, try the spring rolls and samosas. They are devastatingly tasty! You will also notice that olives are offered both as snack and as part of the meal. Best olives I have tasted in my young life!
I was stuffed after savoring the starter and main course so desert was not an option! I settled for Moroccan tea. Which turned out to be a great choice, because I got to experience the traditional way of pouring Moroccan tea. I can not get over how high the waiter managed to serve the tea from! See for yourself.
[Garcon serving tea at Le Tanjia]
Average price per person is thirty euros. For the starter, main and non-alcoholic drink.
[Inside Le Tanjia]
Unfortunately, we were late and missed the show. That was Moroccan belly dancers entertaining the guests. If you want to witness the show, you should be at Le Tanjia by eight thirty in the evening.
[Belly dancer entertaining guest at Le tanjia]
After an amazing dinner shared with great company, we were headed out to experience the Marrakech nightlife. We chose on one of the hottest night clubs. It is inside Es Saadi Resort. I would recommend it as a place to stay if the price point suits your budget.
Go inside the Casino de Marrakech. The bar entrance is about fifty meters from the main entrance. You Cannot miss it.
Inside, there is a huge bar display. You have to buy a bottle of spirit, wine or champagne to get a table. Most likely with no seats. The high ceiling is decorated with immaculate chandeliers and art work display. Quite something!
[Ceilng inside the bar]
The club offers a dj and a band for music entertainment. The band is set up at the furthest left side from the entrance where the stage is built.
At some point in the evening, some performers dressed as clowns came out and started dancing on bar counters and on top of tables. Created quite a disturbance! (The good kind). We also got a surprise performance from a magician! He was really good. You can check out the videos on my Instagram page.
The service was great, the waiters kept refilling our drinks throughout the night. Pay close attention when paying the bill though, we were almost subjected to paying twice the total amount in our bill!
Overall, the music was awesome throughout the night, great ambiance and good drinks selection offered. You must check it out yourself to get the full experience. I highly recommend it!
The next morning, we went for brunch at Café Extrablatt.
[The breakfast gang at Cafe Extrablatt]
They offer an american breakfast option that has an option of two drinks either coffee or juice accompanied by eggs, sausage, fried tomato and baked beans. A hundred Moroccan Dirham will afford you this option. The food was great and service quite effective.
[Breakfast at Cafe Extrablatt]
After brunch, we took a taxi to the Souk of Jamaa Lafna market. If you wish to experience snake charmers, this is the go to place.
[Inside the market, live cobras]
The market also has a section that offers traditional Moroccan attire, lamps, genuine leather bags, tea pots etc.
We also discovered a hidden shop where you can buy all of Morocco’s natural beauty products. From virgin argan oil which is good for the skin and hair, to slimming tea, natural perfumes that come in form of a bar soap, detox herbs… the list is endless! I would advise taking someone that is fluent in Moroccan Arabic with you, to help bargain for the best prices. Because if they realize you are a foreigner, chances are they may try to take advantage by hiking the price!
If you are driving, I would advise finding a safe place to park outside the market and walking through the market. The streets are narrow and brimming with people shopping, so not easy to navigate with a car.
[Narrow streets in Souk of Jamaa Lafna]
We then navigated our way through the market to get to Bahia palace. You can use google maps for directions so you do not get lost.
For a foreigner, you will pay seventy Dir for access to the palace. Ten Moroccan Dirham if you can speak Arabic, or is a local!
Inside, the palace offers great scenery. You will witness beautiful architecture designs with fine stone curving and coloring as seen in the ceiling designs.
[Bahia Place in Marrakech]
A guided tour is also possible. Otherwise, you are free to walk around the ancient palace exploring what was once the king’s home.
I found great spots for photos too!
Something quite rare back at home, I spotted an orange tree with ripe oranges hanging low, waiting to be picked. This is along the path that leads to the entrance of the palace. No one seemed bothered by the tree so the ripe fruit remained untouched! I’d like to imagine that the tree that bore the forbidden fruit was the same!
The car was parked at quite a distance from the palace entrance. But this allowed me to get a few shots of the busy Marrakech streets.
Something quite rare in most cities, you can get a horse ride any time of the day inside the city. Available ones are parked all over the market.
We then drove back to the hotel to check out. It was now time for the drive back to Casablanca.
A good place to stop by for good Moroccan cuisine at a great price, is Afriquia
They also sell coffee and tea. Go through the fast food counter into the back space, where you will find traditional meals like tajine served with fresh bread.
The drive back is about two and a half hours on the highway. Be careful to observe speed limits, you may be fined by speed cops strategically positioned on the highway.
We had been invited for dinner by our good friend who is a local. He lives with his young and beautiful family in Casablanca. Not more than five minutes past eight at night, and the guard at the wines and spirits denied our entry for they had just closed for the day. That meant we couldn’t get wine to offer to our gracious host! And so, I learned a valuable lesson. That all wines and spirits shops are strictly closed at eight in the evening. After eight you cannot find one that is open. Nevertheless, the evening was filled with delicious hot meals and laughter. A bit of dancing too!
The next day was my last in Morocco. I decided to go to experience the Hammam treatment, it came highly recommended. Moroccan hammam are part of many Moroccans’ daily life. A public hammam is a steam room where people go with the intention of self cleansing themselves. … The general process is that you first sit in a steam room, where you clean and apply exfoliator provided upon admission on your body. Then after it is your turn, you are requetsed to lay on a large marble table where you are rinsed, exfoliated, and massaged… leaves your skin glowing the next day. I went to the Hassan II Mosque for this.
Hassan II is currently the largest mosque in Africa. It a quite a site to behold! Being a Sunday, it was filled with tourists taking photos and locals just hanging out.
The Hammam costs only a hundred Dirham here. In Moroccan culture, females go for the Hammam treatment once a week. No wonder their skin is ever so beautiful! Disclaimer, I do not have any photos for this, as no phones or cameras are allowed inside. This is because everyone that comes for Hammam strips down to their undies. Everyone is naked so to ensure privacy, no photos allowed inside! But I promise, the experience will be worth it.
It was a very short stay compared to my other trips. I would say I got a good enough experience while I was there, all things considered. Here are a few points to note if you are planning to visit Morocco.
- Recommended cities to visit Casablanca, Marrakech, Agadir, Tangier, Rabat, Asilah
- I would recommend conservative dressing for women especially when visiting the mosque, but also to fit in.
- Be careful to not have alcohol visible in the car on the highways. Because it is a muslim country you may fined even if not drinking the alcohol in the car.
- Traffic builds up in peak hours. so ensure to leave for the airport early enough.
- Learn some arabic and or french to help you get by easily with the locals and ask for help when needed.
That’s all for now!
I hope you enjyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. Share it with that person you know needs to see this. It can also be helpful if you plan to visit Morocco in the near future.
I would love to know your thoughts or feedback on the two cities and the blog in general. Drop your comments down below and I’ll be sure to engage!