Four Days in Morocco
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco - so much about the country appeals to me from the food to the architecture, to the weather. It's gained loads of traction recently as a tourist destination, and I wanted to find out for myself if it's really worth the hype.
My mother was planning to meet me in London for her spring break - she works in
education, so we had a very specific set of dates where we knew we could travel together. It was also nearing the end of my sister's months living in Europe, so we wanted to mark the occasion by taking a girls' trip. Initially, I was a little bit worried about going to Morocco as a small group of women, but all of my research before going helped to set my mind at ease. I'm so glad we did decide to go, because it's a beautiful country. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to go to explore different parts of the country - it's definitely one I'll go back to! If I'm honest, Tangier was less exciting in comparison to Chefchaoen, so if I did Morocco again, I think I'd fly into Marrakech and take a few days to explore the cities up the coast on the way to Chefchaoen instead.
Flight from London to Tangier: 3 hours, 45 min with 1 hour layover in Madrid
£300 round trip per person from London Stansted
£45 a night accommodation in Tangier for 3 people
£80 a night accommodation in Chefchaoen for 3 people
One of the best decisions we made to stay at Riads everywhere we went - they're sort of the Moroccan equivalent of a Bed & Breakfast, and they are traditional houses with beautiful interior courtyards. Every place we stayed had the frendliest and most helpful staff, and made our stay incredibly comfortable and personable. Not to mention the incredible breakfast spreads!
TO SEE AND DO:
Chefchaoen: During our trip, we flew into Tangier and spent a few days there, before taking a grand taxi (about 300 dirham one way, so £65 or $80) to Chefchaouen (Just "Chaoen" to the locals) in the Rif Mountains. It's called the Pearl of Morocco, and it truly lives up to the name. There are a lot of rumors as to why the city is painted blue, but whatever the reason, it looks absolutely amazing. We had a great time exploring the winding azure streets of the city, taking pictures of the many cats that crossed our path, and meeting the friendly locals. For a view of the city from above, there's a Spanish Mosque in the hills that gives you an amazing vantage point, especially for sunset. I wish we'd had just one more day here, as I would have really loved to visit the nearby Talassemtane National Park. Next time!
Hammam: My sister had gotten a Hammam massage in Turkey, and told me it was a must for our list of things to do. I hadn't researched much about it beforehand, so I went in a bit blind - which might have been for the best! Hammam is a traditional form of bathing where you're alternately scrubbed with a rough sponge and bathed in oils and soaps. The crazy thing about this is that the sponge they use gets ALL of the dead skin off. I had my eyes closed for most of the treatment (half for relaxation and half because I was pretending I wasn't stark naked getting scrubbed down by a stranger), but I peeked at one point and could not believe the amount of dead skin that was flaking off of me. Not to mention, I felt like a literal newborn baby afterwards. This is a must-do if you go to Morocco.
Visit the Medina: One of the most enjoyable things to do in any city in Morocco is explore the souks in the medinas - colorful stalls of rugs and clay pots and lanterns as far as you can see. Some of the stalls will have tourist traps - but many of the places we saw had beautiful handmade bags and lanterns and art. We spent hours browsing around and even bought a few things - the highlight being some beautiful canvas artwork from an artist in Chefchaoen who made us mint tea and told us all about his gallery exhibitions and living in Morocco.
I would argue that the food is one of the major selling points of going to Morocco. I'm not joking when I say that we didn't have one bad meal while there! I normally only include three or four favorite dishes from each country - but I genuinely could not narrow this list down. Another honorable mention would be the amazing spread of Moroccan breads we were served for breakfast at every Riad we stayed at!
Tagine: The classic Moroccan dish, we found that Tagines came in all types of varieties. In Tangier, close to the sea, the seafood tagines were to die for. I had a swordfish tagine that I honestly could have eaten for the rest of my life. They're also often served in the traditional tagine pot in which its cooked (from which the dish gets its name), where the steam rises out of the chimney-esque lid, which is VERY cool.
Cous Cous: I thought I knew what to expect from the cous cous in Morocco - I've had cous cous before plenty of times. Moroccan cous cous though, is a mountain of the most flavorful grains and served up with amazing roasted vegetables, or caramelised onions, or raisins. I think we ultimately ended up having cous cous in some form with every meal.
B'ssara: One lunch time, I was looking for a light meal, and had this recommended to me by the waitress. B'ssara is a fava bean soup, which sounded like something that I would either love or hate. It turns out, it's absolutely delicious! It was served with warm bread, and tastes somewhere between a bean soup and a pea soup, but with warming paprika and cumin.
Bastilla: Bastilla, or Pastilla, is traditionally made with meat, but I found a seafood version that was made with prawns, calamari, and fish. The meal looks almost like a pancake, with the outer layer of flaky pastry covering up vermicelli noodles stuffed with seafood, and served with fresh limes. In a word, it's amazing.
Amlou: Every morning, we'd be served breakfast at our Riad with assorted breads and jams, and there was always what looked like a thin nut butter served alongside it. Obviously I spread it all over my bread, and it wasn't until later on in our stay that I asked what was in it. Amlou is a traditional Moorish recipe of almond butter, argan oil, and raw honey. And yeah, it's as good as it sounds. Maybe better.
Mint Tea: Perhaps my favorite part about being in Morocco, you get served fresh mint tea literally everywhere you go, and with every meal. We even stopped into an art gallery and the artist served us mint tea while we looked at his paintings. Mint tea is a common way in the Moroccan culture to demonstrate friendship and hospitality, and it's incredibly important to their culture. Not to mention, delicious!
I researched pretty extensively what to wear before we visited. I was with my sister, who had been to different parts of Morocco twice before, and had given me some advice on clothing. We also went in mid-February, when the weather was very temperate, so it wasn’t as if we would be tempted to wear very revealing clothing anyway. I’m usually terrible about overpacking for a trip, so I was determined to bring just a few things I would need - helped by the fact that I didn’t pack until the night before, once my mother had already arrived in London and questioned everything I put into my suitcase - “Do you really need two pairs of jeans?” The outfits I threw together were largely a combination of the below:
Thin jumper (sweater) and a ankle-length skirt
Jeans with a loose, linen-y top
Crew-necked t-shirt with knee-length skirt
I think the most important thing I wanted to make sure of was to be respectful to the Moroccan culture. A few articles I'd read said that you could get away with most Western fashion in the more touristy areas, but I definitely noticed that we got more attention from the men and young boys, even with our modest clothing on, so in hindsight, I'm glad I steered clear of wearing anything with cleavage showing or a tight fitting jeans. Plus, it was a nice excuse to break out the midi skirts after a cold English winter!
LANGUAGE AND KEY PHRASES:
Morocco has several official languages, which makes things both easier and confusing - depending on your grasp of any of these languages. My mother and I both speak relatively decent broken French, and my sister speaks Spanish, so in Tangier we got along easily as many of the people there speak Spanish, French, Moroccan, and some English (look how close it is to Spain on the map, and you'll see why!) However, we wanted to learn a few key phrases in Arabic as well - and it was always incredibly appreciated by the Moroccan people we met on our trip.
Shukran (shook-ran): Thank you
Marhaban (mar-ha-bahn): Hi/Hello, less formal
Salam Alaykum (sah-lahm eh-lay-koom) : Common greeting, literal translation is "may peace be upon you". We had several people greet us like this, to which the proper response is...
Wa Alaykum as-Salam (wa eh-lay-koom es-sah-lahm): Means "peace be with you, too"
Have you ever been to Morocco? Would you ever go? Are you feeling hungry now after I talked about all of the Moroccan food? (I am!) Let me know!