Travelled and written by Holly Parmelee
Morocco has always been on my bucket list so our family of 5 decided to go this year between Christmas and New Year’s. Although the weather was not warm enough to swim, it was perfect for touring the medina, hiking in the Atlas Mountains and strolling the beach in Essouaria. Another plus for going at that time of year is that the tourist sites were far less crowded than normal.
We flew to Casablanca and drove the two hours to Marrakech. We chose to stay at La Maison Arabe, a riad in the medina, because I wanted a traditional Moroccan experience. Riads are designed so all windows face into a courtyard and garden. They are hidden gems that are entered through unassuming doors into a surprise oasis of beauty and light. Candles, lanterns and fireplaces were always lit, our rooms were authentic and luxurious and the service was warm and personal.
What to do: Marrakech
There is so much to see in Marrakech. We started with the medina - a maze of colorful stores filled with artisans, leather goods, jewelry, and spices – they sell literally anything you can think of. It is an wild adventure and best toured with a guide who knows the way around the space and how to deal with the haggling.
Jemaa el-Fnaa is a Unesco World Heritage site. It is the main square of the city and filled with snake charmers, acrobats, monkeys, and street vendors selling food.
Since there is so much to do and see it is best to get a guide with car and driver so you can hit the top sites in an efficient way. There are so many beautiful palaces, gardens and museums to see and we were able to get most of it done in a day or two.
Cooking class – La Maison Arabe has one of the top cooking schools in Marrrakech and we spent a fun morning there learning how to make Chicken Tagine and other Moroccan dishes.
La Pause – A short drive from Marrakech is a charming, romantic eco camp called La Pause. We came for a sunset camel ride in the desert and after the breathtaking ride we had dinner in a romantic tent filled with candles, lanterns, Berber carpets and ottomans for lounging. This experience is a MUST.
We spent two nights at Richard Branson’s hotel Kasbah Tamadot. Only an hour outside of Marrakech, this spot had a completely different feel. We spent one day hiking through 5 Berber villages and ended up having tea in our guide’s home with his wife and baby. The scenery is breathtaking and this was one of our favorite days of the trip.
We next drove to the seaside port of Essouaria. Known as a hippie enclave where Jimi Hendrix used to hang out, this town had a more laid back feel than Marrakech. We stayed at L’Heure Bleu, a Relais & Chateaux riad that was right in the medina. This windy city is a hot spot for kite boarders and wind surfers. We did an ATV ride along endless miles of dunes and beach. This charming town was a perfect ending to our trip!
Kelly's Morocco Packing List
A sun hat to walk around the square is an essential, this one from Hat Attack is perfect as it won't get crushed in your bag. A kaftan from Pippa Holt has just the right vibe for daytime touring. There is loads of walking in the Medina, so I love this chic trainer from Veja, available at Matches Fashion. Holly always brings a book about the country she is visiting, which is a best practice! "Dreams of Trespass, Tales of a Harem Girlhood" on Amazon. I always bring a scarf to keep warm on the plane, but they are also helpful to ward off any unpleasant smells in the markets, Corroon. A chic, packable jacket is great to have when you need to cover up to enter some of the temples, this one from Figue would also be chic paired with a silk skirt for evening. Holly suggested noise canceling headphones to cancel out the morning call to prayer, and no one does them better than Bose. She also loves Drunk Elephant sunscreen, which has a bit of tint, making it a great 2 for 1 travel product. Another suggestion is the Trtl travel pillow, which looks like a scarf and is great for long car rides.