A road trip during which my spa editor friend and I stay in an old guesthouse in the Medina and at a high end resort.


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by challey2ny on May 26, 2006

Morocco is a mixture of savory and sweet, like a good tagine. When I first got there, I was disappointed at how dirty it was. I was convinced that the national cash crop was plastic bags because there were so many of them lying in the fields. That was the (un)savory part.

The sweetness was discovering peaceful courtyards with fountains in the middle of the chaotic medina; driving up hairpin curves into the Atlas Mountains by myself, then turning off the car and realizing that I was the only thing making a sound for miles; seeing row after row of vibrant blue scarves hanging in the souk; and watching the medicine men at work in the square.${QuickSuggestions} November is a great time to visit—there are fewer tourists; in Marrakesh, it's still warm during the day and cool, but not cold, at night.

Don't be afraid to eat the street food—it's better than the stuff you get in restaurants and far, far less expensive. And for goodness sake, don't go to the fancy restaurants!

You really don't need a guide in the souks, no matter what anyone says, but you do need a thick-ish skin. Don't be surprised and or feel bad if you get hoodwinked the first time you bargain—it happens to the best of us. Also, prices in Essouira and small towns are usually half those in Marrakesh and big cities.

Don't buy knockoff Pumas in red suede...the dye runs.

Do buy extra sandals—mine broke after wearing them a few times and I'm very sad about it. In fact, buy extra everything. It's cheaper to buy in bulk.${BestWay} I rented a car from the Casablanca airport and drove to Marrakesh and then Essaouira, and then back to Casablanca in one week. The drive between Casablanca and Marrakesh was waaaay too long—it took us 5 hours and we left at 3pm—and not all that interesting. I think you see many of the same things on the shorter drive between Marrakesh and Essaouira. The drive between Essouira and Casablanca is pretty, it's coastal and the road sometimes disappears under the sand, but it takes a good, long day. I'd recommend flying between major cities if you don't have much time. Within the cities, walking is the best way to go.

At least in this northwestern part of the country the desert scenery is really monotonous if you're driving quickly trying to get someplace. To see how beautiful the desert is, you need time to get out and look around.

Of course, seeing the silhouettes of people walking across the fields at dusk is haunting... So maybe a short drive at dusk. Yeah, that.

Riad Kaiss

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by challey2ny on May 29, 2006

My friend and I booked a room at this guest house located in the medina in Marrrakesh before we left for Morocco—it was very easy to do by email. We had a map and rough directions, but we found the place by accident—literally. We were driving in circles around the medina, arguing because we both think we have outstanding senses of directions. She took what I thought was a wrong turn and we wound up at a dead end parking lot, where she proceeded to back into another car. When we got out to look at the damage, a man from the Riad floated up to us out of nowhere and led us through the maze and noise of Marrakesh to the ethereal calm of the Riad Kaiss courtyard. He sat us on some low couches near a bubbling fountain and fed us fresh mint tea. This place is an oasis and the breakfast served on the terrace is hearty and delicious. No toast and tea here.
Riad Kaiss
65, Derb Jdid - Riad Zitoune Kedim
Marrakesh, Morocco, 40000
+212 24 44 01 41

Amanjena Spa

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by challey2ny on May 29, 2006

After 2 days in a Riad in the medina of Marrakesh, my friend and I drove 12km outside town to this luxury spa which usually sees the likes of Sting and European royalty. I felt scruffy being there. Plus, I could have been anywhere—it didn't feel like Morocco at all.

In fact, we stayed in a sumptuous private compound—privacy is at a premium in places where the rich and famous cavort—that felt like a fancy prison. The marble tub was splendid, and the wood-burning fireplace and private patio complete with bubbling fountain were grand. But I felt trapped in the middle of all that pristine beauty.

You can visit Amanjena for a meal, also quite expensive, and sit by the pool for far less money. But if you are in Morocco to experience it as the locals do, I'd stay away from Amanjena.
Route De Ouarzazate, Km 12
Marrakesh, Morocco, 40000
+212 24 403 353

Hotel Marocc

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by challey2ny on May 29, 2006

The most memorable thing about Hotel Marocc is the dinner that is served in the various mini-parlours throughout the maze-like hotel, which has five or six floors and is a built around several courtyards. You pay extra for dinner, but it's worth it for one night. We sat in front of a fire for hours while we had a tasty three-course meal. The pumpkin curry soup, I remember, was fantastic.

The rooms are tiny, but tidy. Ours was white-washed with blue accents—it reminded me of Greece. The things that bugged me most were the small, rough towels in the bathroom. The prices seem a little high for that.

But when it comes down to it, you can't beat the central location—right off the harbor—and the views from the terrace where you eat breakfast are unforgettable.

Stall #91

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by challey2ny on May 29, 2006

There are lots of stalls in the Djemaa el-Fna square, but this one stands out from the rest. You can get amazing lamb tagine, but there are also plenty of vegetarian options, salads, soups, and sublime grilled fish.

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