22 Feb 2018

Planning my trip to Morocco last year was the first time I went from casually dipping my toes in the waters of serial killer organized to a full-fledged, cannonball leap into the deep end. From occasionally jotting down notable restaurants, I progressed headlong into hyper-specific from the standard list of establishments to visit, to types of local cuisine to try, to the ninja-level one listing locations and arranging them based on address and proximity to each other for maximum efficiency. Yes, I am fully aware that that is not normal and I don’t judge you for being more than a little frightened. And not just because my go-to move is a death strike to the jugular.

But, dear reader, there are two reassuring things to consider to put your unsettled mind at ease. Firstly, you are safely ensconced behind your computer or phone screen where I can’’t physically reach you (yet). Secondly, you get to benefit from all of my obsessive research and meticulous planning skills because I have put together a comprehensive itinerary of a culturally authentic trip to Marrakech INCLUDING an unforgettable night spent under the stars in the Saharan Desert, complete with camel rides!

SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
Duration
: 10 Days

Days 1–3: Tour the must-sees of the Old City
Day 4: Journey to the Saharan Desert
Day 5: Glamping under the stars at Kam Kam Dunes
Day 6: Driving back to Marrakech
Days 7–10: Experience the fancy side of Marrakech


Days 1–3: Tour the must-sees of the Old City

WHERE I STAYED…
+ Le Riad Yasmine: Infamous on IG for having “the most Instagrammable pool” Le Riad Yasmine is tucked away in the midst of the chaotic Medina. An emerald oasis, abundant with tropical plants framing a zellij tile pool at the centre of the inner courtyard this riad has 7 rooms available – themed and decorated to represent various cities in Morocco. With the most welcoming hosts, this traditional Moroccan home was an intimate and cozy bubble from the bustling city, perfect to unwind on striped daybeds with a glass of mint tea.

Read: 7 Insider Observations of Le Riad Yasmine

WHERE I ATE…
+ I Limoni: Conveniently located around the corner from our riad, tucked behind an unassuming wooden door, you emerge into a sunny courtyard filled with fragrant lemon trees (hence the name). Equally picturesque in the day as at night, partake in typical Moroccan fare or partake in Italian fare that I Limoni specializes in such as the caprese salad or pasta carbonara.

+ Le Jardin: This café haven exemplifies the word “verdant” from the painted walls to the cushions to the forestry of plants it’s situated in. Sip some sweet mint tea at Le Jardin and nibble of a variety of Moroccan salads before enjoying hearty spoonfuls of harira soup with a zesty squirt of lemon that will keep you satiated for the rest of the day.

+ Nomad: A trendy yet unpretentious spot hidden at the centre of the spice souk serving up contemporary Moroccan cuisine is perfect at all times of the day. If you’re lucky (or plan ahead and make a reservation) grab a spot on the rooftop terrace at Nomad to enjoy a meal of courgette fritters and a sardine tart (my fav) with an impressive view of the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains in the distance.

Read: Everything You Want To Know About NOMAD Marrakech

WHAT I DID…
+ Jardin Majorelle: The vibrant shades of cobalt blue, lemon yellow, and cool turquoise of Yves Saint-Laurent’s studio stands out amidst the twelve-acre botanical jungle of Jardin Majorelle. Strolling past towering cacti and draping palms past ponds full of plump and speckled koi fish, it’s easy to see why this locale was a source of inspiration for the design genius. Inspect intricate Berber tribe garb at the Islamic Art Museum within the gardens and have a light snack in the café to keep your energy up.

Read: Marrakech for Plant Lovers

+ Get a healthy dose of culture right around the corner from the riad by perusing vintage photos at Maison de la Photographie and historical artifacts at Musée de Marrakech. If you’re into architecture (or are doing it for the ‘gram), it’s fortunate that the Ben Youssef Madrasa is a few meager steps from there as well. Explore the zellij tile corners of what used to be an Islamic college and the largest madrasa in the entire country.

+ Jemaa el-Fena: Located in Marrakech’s Medina quarter in the old city, your senses will be in overload as you navigate the crowded main square of Jemaa el-Fna, full of snake charmers, entertainers, and merchants. Restaurant stalls are set up at night for locals and tourists alike to break bread over a meal of fragrant Moroccan dishes. I followed the scent of stewed sheep’s head – a delicacy – to stall 13 and it was one of the most delicious things I tasted the entire trip!

Read: Top Picks for Planning a Trip to Morocco


Day 4: Journey to the Saharan Desert

WHERE I STAYED…
+ Kasbah Ait Moussa: Situated precisely at the midway point between Marrakech and Merzouga (known as “The Gate of the Saharan Desert”) Kasbah Ait Moussa was in Ouarzazate. It’s a legit, high-walled fortress made of mud and straw that was converted into a quaint (yet massive!) bed and breakfast. It was an unreal experience to spend the night in what was once a fortified edifice of the city and I still have dreams about how mouth-watering their tagine was.

Read: What It's Like To Spend The Night In A Legit Kasbah

WHAT I DID…
+ The journey from Marrakech to the Saharan Desert is roughly a 10-hour drive so you have time to make plenty of interesting stops. From marvelling at the Dades Gorge and Ait Benhaddou (where Gladiator was filmed) to haggling for rugs, you might as well make the trip as authentically Moroccan as possible and learn all you can about the rich culture.

Read: 7 Epic Stops Essential For An Authentic Moroccan Road Trip


Day 5: Glamping under the stars at Kam Kam Dunes

WHERE I STAYED…
+ Kam Kam Dunes: This glamping experience completely transformed the concept of camping for me! After departing the kasbah, it was another day of driving to ATV to camel to reach a cluster of giant, traditional haimas, tents made of camel-skin, are cradled amid a peaceful landscape golden sand dunes. The floor of the Kam Kam Dunes campsite is covered with thickly woven rugs leading from the boho-chic sleeping quarters – with REAL beds and a working toilet and shower – to the crackling bonfire.

WHAT I DID…
+ Camel Rides: What’s a trip into the desert without a camel ride or two? Scale a be-humped beast as the sun begins to set and watch in awe as the grains of sand of the Erg Chebbi Desert change in the light. Let the rhythmic pace of the camels lull you into a zen-like calm as the stars fill the night sky.

Read: What It's Like To Ride A Camel + Glamp In The Sahara Desert


Days 7–10: Experience the fancy side of Marrakech

WHERE I STAYED…
+ Riad Jardin Secret: Upon entering the expertly curated Riad Jardin Secret, your senses will be overwhelmed by the dense foliage that barely allow glimpses of artisan, hand-painted ceilings, intricately carved walls, and an adventurous tortoise that ventures bravely beyond his little, wicker home in the courtyard. Emerge from the stylishly furnished rooms – adorned with kilim pillows and side tables sourced from the tangled alleys of the nearby souks – and enjoy an authentic Moroccan breakfast on the terracotta rooftop.

Read: 10 Things I Love About Riad Jardin Secret

WHERE I ATE…
+ Maison Arabe: Located right across the street on the other side of the riad, Maison Arabe is considered a triple-threat, lauded as an amazing hotel/spa/restaurant. Lanterns and candles line the perimeter of the pool, providing romantic lighting for diners around the terrace to indulge in exotic saffron risotto with a live band gently playing in the background.

+ Darna Comptoir: While you sip at fanciful cocktails, recline against plush pillows after feast of fall-off-the-bone lamb méchoui, a traditional Moroccan dish. Later in the evening, belly dancers shimmy their way down the grand staircase as live musicians keep beat along the railing at the atmospheric Comptoir Darna. Throw off the shackles of shame and try your hand (or belly) at this festive dance.

Read: 8 Drool-Worthy Dishes To Travel To Morocco For

+ Café des Épices: Take a much needed time-out from the hectic souks at Café des Épices to relax with a fragrant spiced coffee and snack on a fresh sardine egg salad sandwich on a crusty khobtz bun. Owned by the same restauranteur that owns Le Jardin and the nearby Nomad, you already know it’s one of the best!

WHAT I DID…
+ Check out how royalty lived (and died) in one foul swoop by making a trip to El Badi and Bahia Palace as well as the Saadian Tombs.

+ Hammam: If you’re sore from camel rides and in desperate need of some serious pampering, book it to Royal Mansour Marrakech spa for their incredibly indulgent hammam experience. You’ll be treated like royalty as they scrub dead skin from every crevice, cleanse you with black soap then slather you in orange flower soap on warm marble. Sounds bizarre doesn’t it? All the things worth doing do.

Read: 51 Thoughts I Had During My First Hammam Experience

+ Get Henna-ed: Initiated to fund the education of women in Morocco, wander 3 minutes from the riad to Henna Art Café and enjoy some warming absinthe tea and a pulled lamb sandwich while browsing a thick, plastic binder full of henna designs. After selecting one, watch in awe as one of the ladies deftly embellishes you with earthy-scented henna.

+ Shop the Souks: Experience the best shopping of your life and practice your poker face while haggling for treasures in the chaotic markets of Marrakech. From sequinned wedding blankets and woven kilim pillows to whimsical babouche slippers and every spice you can dream of, the pockets of souks throughout Morocco are a wonder to explore. P.S. they accept Moroccan Dirhams for payment, not camel bartering.

Read: 7 Souvenirs You Can't Leave the Souks of Marrakech Without

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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