“Travelling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” This is a quote from the infamous Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta and after our time in Morocco I can see where he found the inspiration for those words.
Our Moroccan story began a few months before Christmas 2015 when we were excitedly planning to ring in the new year in Egypt. We had meticulously researched and planned a trip to Sharm El Shiek in a fabulous resort with beautiful beaches and warm waters.
We were going to see the pyramids, hike Mt Sinai and sip cold drinks on the beach only to get a call from our travel agent a few weeks before the trip to be told it was no longer safe to travel to Egypt at the time. Determined to still make the most of our holiday, we wasted no time in researching warm beach alternatives. It didn’t take long to convince us that Agadir was the place to visit and we quickly found ourselves holiday bound.
Here are some of our favourite things we did in Morocco, which we recommend adding to your shortlist!
1. Stay near the beach
We traveled to Morocco in early January with the goal of finding a place in the warm sun away from the drizzle of our London winter. Although I researched the popular cities of Marrakech & Casablanca, we knew we just really wanted somewhere to be in the sun and relax.
We stayed at the beautiful Riu Tikida Dunas resort and can’t say enough about how wonderful the resort was. Beautiful surroundings, delicious food including a traditional Moroccan restaurant on site and easy access to a lovely private beach.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather with a light breeze and a cloudless sky every day we were there. For a couple looking for some time away from it all; the beach and ocean views were just what we needed.
2. Step outside the resort
When you’re bathing in the warm sunshine with fabulous ocean views, amazing food and refreshing drinks at your fingertips it can be hard to convince yourself to leave your lounge chair. I totally get it, but when you’re in Morocco it would be an absolute shame not to take some time outside of the resort to explore. For us that meant spending a day in Marrakesh.
The drive from Agadir to Marrakesh is not for the faint of heart. It can be done in a day, but it’s a long day with long drives and in hindsight we would have benefited from staying one night in Marrakesh or visiting any of the cities which are closer to Agadir, or even Agadir itself.
That being said there was something about Marrakesh which was enchanting, while also feeling just a tad grimy. We did have a lovely lunch outside on the balcony of a restaurant with a perfect view onto the public square which was full of snake charmers and dancing monkeys. It was a perfect moment to sip on traditional Moroccan mint tea and people watch.
We also had some time to explore the souks, as we wound our way through the alleys ways to the sites. I’m torn as to whether or not I’d recommend it as a place to visit. The gardens and madrasa I mention below both had their own uniqueness about them, but something about our visit felt a bit too rushed, hectic and dirty. Although, this could be fixed perhaps by a longer stay and a better guide.
3. The camel way to travel
When I finally visit Thailand I’d like to ride an elephant, when I visited South Africa I wanted to see a black rhino and when in Morocco it seemed only fitting we ride some camels.
There are so many adventure options involving camels in Morocco, including a week long trek in the desert, but we opted for a much shorter option and I’m glad we did. Our driver picked us up and drove us to Taghazout Bay where our camels awaited.
I had read quite a few reviews about the hazards of camel riding so I was prepared for fleas and potentially smelly saddles. But I’m happy to say we didn’t have to worry about either. We took a two hour camel ride along the beautiful beach of Taghazout Bay. It was nearly deserted which meant we had stunning views as the sunset.
It was a wonderful experience, but we weren’t upset when it was time to climb down and thank our friendly guide and happy transporter. Is it just me or does it look like our dear camel is smiling in this photo?
4. Find the moments in Marrakesh
As I mentioned above we didn’t exactly fall in love with Marrakesh although we did really enjoy certain aspects of it. The first place we visited was the Jardin Marjorelle.
This beautiful garden is truly a hidden gem, a beautifully crafted garden covering nearly two and a half acres. We spent about an hour browsing along the paths and enjoying the tranquility which is such a contrast to the bustling city outside its walls.
The other place I was so glad we visited was the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
This Islamic school dates back to the 14th century and is open to explore both the dormitories and the beautiful courtyard. Between the carvings on the cedarwood and the stunning tile work it is truly a sight to behold.
We really enjoyed just having some quiet moments here.
5. Get a good scrubbing
There seemed to be no better way to experience maximum relaxation on our holiday then booking us in for a long massage. When I was searching for the perfect spa I came across an indulgent option which included a two hour massage and a one hour hammam.
If you’ve visited a salon in the past decade you’ve probably heard of Morocco’s infamous oil, argan. It’s known for its hydrating and smoothing properties and you can find it everywhere in Morocco. So I knew the massage would be luxurious, but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about a hammam.
I do love the idea of trying everything at least once and this experience was eye opening and also rejuvenating. I’ve only experienced a hammam once so I can’t speak with too much authority on what is “supposed to happen”. But I can share my experience to prepare anyone who might decide they’d enjoy it as well.
Our hammam experience was private as it was just myself and my husband and the ladies who performed the cleansing ritual. It took place in a warm steam room as the heat is imperative for the cleansing process. We stripped down to our underpants although I’m fairly certain it would not have been surprising or inappropriate if we had been naked.
In hindsight, I’d recommend being naked as I feel it could have been easier. Once we had been in the steam room for about 5 minutes two women who attended us came in to cover us in a black soap. It had a pleasant almost minty scent with more of a grain-like texture with some seaweed-like pieces, not exactly sudsy.
They covered our bodies with it from head to toe and front to back and then left us to sit for some time while the natural ingredients did their work. It felt similar to a clay masque you might wear on your face as it dried a bit. The women returned to rinse off the soap and then began the exfoliation.
At first this is done while lying flat and feels as if they are taking sandpaper to your flesh (gently, but strongly if that makes sense). When she was satisfied she’d reach as much as she could with me lying down she had me stand and scrubbed some more. I could actually see my dead skin being scrubbed off.
After she felt satisfied that I no longer had my first layer of skin in tact (I jest of course, it was actually an invigorating and even relaxing experience); she used a bucket of warm water and cup to rinse my body off, as you would a baby in a bath.
For the final step she sud me up with bathing soap until I was covered in bubbles and then thoroughly rinsed me off. As she handed me a fresh towel and robe I was in shock by the velvet feel of my skin. Some areas were a bit red from the scrubbing, but all in all my skin was glowing and the texture of silk.
From the hammam I spent the next few hours having every inch of my body rubbed with argan oil meaning that for the remainder of the holiday I felt as if I had brand new skin. I would highly recommend having a hammam if you visit Morocco, it remains one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had.
And they are incredibly inexpensive, meaning you could easily afford to have one every day, oh the luxury! Our three-hour experience including the massage and hammam was €35, that’s less than $50.
We absolutely loved our holiday in Morocco, it was a doorway to a new world for us.
It contained the perfect balance of both tranquil leisure and the cultural exploration which we love. We hope to go back, so I’d love to hear from you. Have you been to Morocco? What did you love, what would you recommend just can’t be missed?
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Originally published June 24, 2016