I was fortunate to visit Morocco with Rumours.World for the Morocco Realness Retreat. This retreat was centered around supporting female owned and operated business throughout Morocco, and I am so glad I got to experience this amazing place with these amazing women. They’re going again in October, and spots just opened up!!!
I’m just going to say it: this is one of those posts that is going to spark your wanderlust. You’ll simultaneously wonder “how did she do/see all that in a week,” and “omg, there’s so much more to see and do.”
I get it. I’m here for the feels, and I’m excited to share all of the beauty and magic I experienced in Morocco in a mere week.
I already can’t wait to get back!
I attended the Rumours World Realness Retreat (they’re going again October 10-17, and spots just opened up)! I was so glad to connect with Zoe from Rumours World, and she convinced me this trip would be just what I needed after canceling a wedding and hiding under my covers intermittently for a couple of months…and man, was she right!
I arrived in Marrakech at our first Riad, and was so in love with the simple beauty. Little alcoves to gather as a group, serene rooms to relax at the end of the day, and a chef who kept our bellies full every morning with trays and trays of food…it was a dream.
After three nights in Marrakech, we hit the road to Ouarzazate via the High Atlas Mountains!!
Here, we saw the Air Ben Haddou (a Kasbah built into a freaking mountain, y’all) and then spent the night in an African Eco-Lodge (read: a super cute place but with a turkey making noise all morning and peacocks roaming around), and then got back on the road to Taghazout, a charming beach village with surfers and smoothies galore!
So, let’s recap, shall we?
Where to Stay:
Make your stay authentic, and stay at a Riad! A Riad is traditionally a Moroccan house or palace with a garden or courtyard. Nowadays, this refers to their version of a hotel or guest house. You can often rent out the entire place exclusively, or just one/some of the rooms depending on your group size.
Where to eat:
You’ll find many beautiful rooftop restaurants all over Marrakech, as well as several cafès serving traditional fare. It’s worth noting that in this Muslim country, alcohol is hard to come by. You may find it in a restaurant or two, but generally it’s alcohol free everywhere. You can purchase alcohol at some stores, and enjoy it in the comfort of your Riad!
Speaking of which, some of the best meals I had were prepared by the in-house chefs at our Riads around Morocco! Make sure you take advantage of staying where locals work, and try the food where you’re staying! At our first Riad, the chef brought in a cake she’d made at home for one of our breakfast spreads, and its little touches like that make this type of experience so special.
What to do:
Check out a Hammam! Hammams are traditional African spas, where you get lathered up with African black soap, exfoliated and rinsed, and then you can opt to be rubbed down with oil. I got fancy my first night in Marrakech and added a massage with an argan oil concentrate to help ease some of the travel tension away….we went to Mythic Oriental Spa, arguably one of the more expensive Hammams you’ll find. But for almost 3 hours of treatments, I only spent $85 USD! That was for the traditional Hammam AND the hour massage…unbeatable by relative USD standards. But, there are MUCH less expensive hammams all over the city. Mythic is definitely a more upscale vibe with a picturesque courtyard and lots of luxury amenities, which isn’t the most common in traditional hammams that locals frequent. Just know, you’ll be given paper panties to wear…don’t ignore this and wear bikini bottoms like us…you’ll end up in a paper thong after the wet room regardless. Lesson learned.
Visit a museum!
This was a small, but impactful museum. Three floors, each dedicated to one pioneer in the history of women in Morocco. An activist, an artist, and a documentary-maker. Well worth the visit-and it’s right there in the Medina!
Palais Badi or the Badia Palace (Badia literally translates to incomparable) is one of two major palaces open to the public in the city. This one is more like touring ruins, but a lot of the history is still evident. Most of the chambers, formerly used for torture and detaining prisoners, are still completely intact under the palace! You can also tour the historic mosque on site. It’s a cool place to visit and spend an hour or so.
Majorelle Gardens and the Yves Saint Laurent House/Museum-I opted to skip the museum, but was in love with the vibrant colors and lush greenery of the Majorelle gardens! There’s cacti, palm trees, bamboo, water plants, flowers…you name it! It’s a beautiful little place to wander around, and a great place to capture a photo or two! I didn’t even plan for my outfit to be so appropriate for the colors there, but hey, who I am to be surprised by fate these days?
Take a cooking class-there are a ton of options via TripAdvisor or Airbnb Experiences to choose from, and you can learn about making traditional Moroccan meals, and maybe even perfect your tagine (Morocco’s traditional clay slow cooker) skills! Talk about coming home and being impressive!
Where to shop: The souks of the Marrakech Medina! Here you’ll find textiles, home goods, plenty of art and decor, lots of spices, and the coveted Argan oil. There are a lot of vendors selling the same things, but it’s all about finding what you love, and making a deal!
Stay tuned for my guide to surviving the souks…and all the treasures to be found!
Where to stay: Give an eco lodge a shot! This area doesn’t have a ton in the way of accommodations for tourists, but we stayed at the coolest eco lodge, which seems to be the more popular type of accommodation as you get into more rural areas. I did see a Riad here and there, but loved the eco lodge because there were options for people who are driving through the country to park RV’s, places to camp in your tent, or rooms to rent. There were lots of animals on site…I woke up to peacocks walking around, and a turkey in an adjacent pen making noise every five minutes…but I kinda loved it! We ate dinner under the stars in their beautiful courtyard, and while the rooms were more modest than the Riad we’d been staying in previously, I still thought they were light, bright, and comfortable! So many unique touches.
What to do: Check out a hammam (again)! I know, I keep talking about the hammams. We visited a more traditional one owned by the lodge, and walked just around the corner to experience it! As mentioned before, traditional hammams are not really designed to be fancy day spas like we are accustomed to in America, hence why the prices are lower and the treatments may not be as bougie as the first and more touristy one we visited. For around $22 USD we were scrubbed and exfoliated with African Black Clay Soap (famous in Morocco), had our hair washed, and really bonded with each other while completely topless…even the women doing our treatments were topless. It’s an experience, and you’ll be smooth like a dolphin after. Just, you know, bring a comb if you got a ton of wild hair like me. Shit gets real tangled, real quick!
The UNESCO World Site, Ait Ben Haddou is a sight to behold. Stop by and see this casbah carved into the mountain. You’ll cross over the mostly dry river, and walk through to see plenty of amazing archeology and vendors of all kinds still sustaining businesses here. Restaurants, cafes, artists…there’s something for everyone!
Where to shop: Just like with the Marrakech Medina, each city will have it own markets and places to shop for souvenirs! Keep an eye out for the more unique things, like this art studio we found in the kasbah!
One of my very favorite things we did was visit an all-female Womens rug cooperative. Here, women from age 17-80 learn how to make rugs, from the wool, to the yard, to the dye, to the loom. It’s truly phenomenal to see the hard work that goes into these masterpieces. This isn’t an activity you can usually just walk in and check out, but Rumours World retreats have access to amazing things like this.
I came home with a rug made by this amazing woman, Aisha. 90% of the profits go straight to her, to support her family. They were so happy to have us, it made my heart beam! We took photos with all the women we bought from, and then Aisha asked me if she could get a photo of us on her phone and I was so touched.
Where to stay:
In Taghazout, there’s something for everyone!
Be a baller, and live the villa life! We stayed in a villa when we got here, but again, with a large group, a big place was a necessity! Accommodations like this will be up the road from the beach, moreso in the hills, but still very close to the beach…you just might not be able to walk to it. Some villas are built in the style of riads and rented by the room. The one we stayed at was spaced out with plenty of privacy between quarters, which I thought was really cool! Plus, they kept the Moroccan tradition of always having a rooftop to enjoy (literally, everywhere you stay, a cool rooftop area is a highlight)!
Alternately, in this area, the main village has tons of hotels/guest houses/hostels right on the main drag! Some have rooms facing the beach, and they are right by lots of cafes, shops, and restaurants to choose from! Walk everywhere!
What to do: Take a surf lesson! This is a world-renowned surf town, and we were lucky to have access to a morning lesson with the female surf champion of Morocco! But there are TONS of surf schools to choose from, and plenty of amusement on the beach with random camels, ponies, and donut vendors passing by….just please, please, please remember to not support the animal tourism of this variety, as the animals aren’t well cared for. There’s also no shortage of yoga classes in this area, its a popular activity, and inexpensive!
Where to shop: Just down the main drag from the beach, there are tons of little shops and cafes, all waiting to welcome you with fresh fruit juices, smoothies, snacks, and all the carpets, tangines, etc! Take note, if its a “concept store,” it’s likely overpriced, but will have super cute items! If you’re on a budget, stick to the vendors on the Main Street!
So, as you can see, we packed a LOT into the week.
Morocco is truly dedicated to creating an experience for visitors…they rely on us for their livelihood in most cases. It will forever be one of the most memorable, and magical, places I’ve ever been! I hope it encourages YOU to plan your journey to Morocco, too! It’s a great place to really customize your experience, and gives you the opportunity to support small businesses and try different types of accommodations/activities!
I am so grateful for the relationships I formed with these amazing women, the places I was able to explore, the amazing meals, the beautiful people I encountered, and all of the inspiration I took away with me.
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