Seek Journeys: Sara in Morocco
Traveling to Morocco is an experience I have been dreaming about for years but hadn’t followed through on because, life. But guess what!?! My dream came true! I am fresh off of an unreal two week Moroccan vacation and I’m still pinching myself because wow, but also, I’m jet lagged and keep nodding off.
Marrakech was our first big stop in Morocco. We arrived in the afternoon at the enchanting Riad Ennafoura (you should stay there!) which is tucked down a tiny alleyway in the ancient medina. After a welcome mint tea and a brief conversation about when we would like to have dinner we set out to explore.
We wandered the medina a bit, taking in the sights and sounds (so many!), acquiring a few pairs of babouches and visiting the very delightful and impressive Le Jardin Secret. We then decided to check in on the carpet souks before dinner because you really can’t visit Morocco without bringing home rugs. There are many souks, small shops, to choose from and It can feel a little overwhelming at first but we eventually found ourselves in the best little rug shop run by the very delightful Ayoub el Harisis @habibsisouk.
We had a quick chat about what we were looking for as far as color scheme, size, rug type and were sent up to his pouf covered rooftop to lounge. His rugs are stunning but Ayoub really stole the show with his fun, silly personality. We bought two of the carpets (after the requisite price haggling), we drank mint tea, we ran our hands through each other’s hair (he has great fluffy curls and invited me to touch so I did), danced around a little, gazed adoringly into each other’s eyes, exchanged instagram handles and promised to keep in touch.
Just a couple days later, on our last night in Marrakech, Kevin and I returned to Ayoub’s shop because we decided we needed poufs and pillows. Our new rugs and poufs and pillows make our home all the more cozier because I know they came from a very special person.
We returned to the Riad for a candlelit, fireside, rose petal strewn private dinner.
After a couple more days of sightseeing and shopping in Marrakech we took a short trip to Essaouria. Essaouria is a popular beachside town about 2-3 hours drive from Marrakech. You could go just a day trip but we opted to spend a night there. We had an excellent driver, Rachid who took us from Marrakech to Essaouria and back again at a very reasonable rate. On the way to Essaouria we passed lots of Argan trees and Argan Oil Collectives. The area is the only place in the world with Argan trees that bear fruit and can therefore produce oil.
The area is also home to goats who like to eat the outside of the fruit and sometimes climb into the trees to retrieve it. Since goats in trees is very entertaining the goat herders in the area have taken to placing many goats into one tree at a time in the hopes that tourists might stop to take pictures and give them a tip for their services. We did not stop but we did see goats standing in trees along the side the of road. It was a silly sight and I hope the goats don’t mind standing up there but I don’t love seeing animals forced to do things.
Once we arrived we checked into yet another gorgeous accommodation, Dar Les Sirenes. It’s beautifully decorated. We received lots of recommendations on where to eat and what to do in the area from the owner and the two women making up the staff while we were there, Amina and Halima were so gracious and welcoming. After a mint tea and dropping off our things we set out for a stroll along the beach and for some lunch. The beach was beautiful and I was delighted by the funky, straw beach umbrellas. We wound up at Beach and Friends for lunch and a bottle of rose. There are lots of stray cats around Morocco but Essaouria in particular has a large population that is very friendly. While we were lounging, wining and dining we were approached by many of these cats which were all very cute, friendly and entertaining. I would love to return to Essaouria for longer during the warmer months.
The next morning we returned to Marrakech for one last night before setting out on a three night tour through the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert with Desert Majesty. We took our last Marrakech supper at Nomad. If you do any online research into where to eat in Marrakech you will come across Nomad. It’s a three story tea house and restaurant located in the medina and happens to be very close to Ayoub’s carpet shop. It totally lived up to the hype. We were swept up to our rooftop seats and I was swaddled in a hooded blanket by our very charming server, Amine. I love being warm and comfortable and trying on new outfits so I was delighted. The food was excellent and the service was over the top. If you happen to go I suggest looking out for/asking for Amine. He’s a sweet, joyful, person who made our evening even more special by being our server.
Mohammed with Desert Majesty picked us up from our riad early the next morning. We were able to make a special request to visit Anima Gardens on the way. Created by Andre Heller, Anima Gardens combines two of my favorite things, gorgeous plants and surrealist, whimsical art. It’s a short drive outside of Marrakech and well worth the effort to get there. We were among the first visitors of the day which turned out be a great idea as we almost had the garden to ourselves which made it feel all the more magical.
As we made our way through the Atlas Mountains over the next few days we stopped to see several historical and natural sites including Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient village made of clay and Unesco heritage site and Todra Gorge, which is a very narrow gorge flanked by over 500 foot high cliffs on either side just to name a few. We also got to see our fair share of donkeys, dromedaries (one hump version of a camel), goats and sheep.
On our way to the Saharan desert camp we were able to meet and visit with a few amazing women who weave rugs and I even got to do a little bit of weaving with them. We couldn’t speak to each other very much but we did a lot of smiling and signaling and some laughing. I’ve been weaving the past few years so it was an especially special experience for me.
The last night of our desert tour was spent, as one might expect, in the desert. I was very excited for the opportunity for a camel/dromedary ride. After a slow but bumpy ride through the dunes we sat atop one of the dunes to watch the sunset near our camp.
The next morning we headed to Fes where we spent the last few days of our trip. We were a little wiped out from our desert tour. It was an amazing experience but also a lot of time spent riding in a car, which is for some reason, tiring. Luckily we were staying at Riad Idrissy, a 400 year old riad that is attached to The Ruined Garden restaurant so we didn’t have to travel far for delicious food. Yet again, we received incredible service at the riad and the restaurant. Moroccans really know how to make someone feel welcome.
Fes is the oldest imperial city in Morocco and is rich with history and artisans. One of the highlights of our time there was an artisan tour we took with Culture Vultures during which we got to interact with local artisans. Among the many different types of craftspeople we met was a cedar wood carver who demonstrated the techniques for us and then allowed us to try for ourselves (it’s hard!). It was incredible to see people making things by hand and witness the profound pride they take in their craft. It seems especially important now when nearly everything is mass produced and disposable. A few of the people we met during the tour are the only ones left doing the work they do such as Abdel-Kader Ouzzani who is a master brocade weaver. It was an honor to meet him and see him at his loom.
My dream of traveling to Morocco has been realized and now, I dream to return. Until then, you can find me lounging in my hairy babouche, surrounded by
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