Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Things you should know before travelling to Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco!!!  I wouldn't have visited Morocco during my whole life, if it wasn't because some of my girl friends decided to travel there last December!

We booked the tickets a few days after discussions (because W and I didn't know where to travel to for our winter holiday), only to realise that we need to apply for visa after a reminder from my dad..

You do not need to apply for visa if you're an EU citizen, or a citizen from any of the 70 countries that can be found here. Unfortunately, Malaysians and Bruneians require visa. From the forums, netizens commented that the application process is arduous and their applications were often rejected without any reasons..therefore, we were rather worried and so, we applied the visa in Dublin (since I'm residing in Ireland), 6 weeks prior to our departure date. You should send your application to your nearest Moroccan consulate, and you will need:
1. Visa application form filled in CAPITAL Latin & signed
2. 2x Passport photo in colour on a white background (4x3 cm)
3. A valid GNIB card or residence card attesting permanent residence in Ireland
4. Original passport + a copy of first 3 pages passport (showing identity & validity)
5. Proof of ticket round trip reservation + group travel evidence (if you're travelling in a group)
6. Hotel booking
7. Travel insurance
8. Student original letter confirming attendance of school in Ireland OR employment letter
9. Proof of address
10. Bank statement of last 3 months
11. 22 visa fee (they accept cash only!)

We booked the earliest flight so we wouldn't waste a day in Morocco. Dublin do not have direct flights to Morocco; not on the days that we planned to fly anyways..so our only option was to fly from London. To be honest, it's not the best option because there are 3 airports in London and we had to transfer multiple times.

Cork - London flight + Stansted to Paddington transfer  €46.27
Paddington - Stansted National Express transfer €12.23
Stansted Airport - Marrakech €120.32
Total transportation cost around Marrakech €15.80

Our airbnb is quite isolated..although the reviews said it's within walking distance, it actually took us about 20-25 minutes to walk from our place to the main square in Marrakech. Also, Morocco isn't the safest place for us to roam around the streets..so after that, we booked Mr Hassan (can be contacted through WhatsApp +212 666-102787), the driver who picked us up from the airport to our airbnb. His charges were fairly reasonable and he's very honest and responsible. I would highly recommend him if anyone were to go to Marrakech! However, he speaks minimal english, and we had to use google translate to communicate with him xD

Most people there speak French and Arabic but they would understand simple English as well. 

Being students with budget, we opted to stay in a hostel and Airbnb. Trying to balance between the cost and comfort, we finally decided on Riad Layla.
It's €170.60 for the whole house and since there's 7 of us, it's around €24 per person for 2 nights. 
1 night at the desert - refer below
1 night at Equity Point Hostel for €16.70

Riad Layla

As we booked the 2D1N desert excursion, and being the frugal beings we are, we only booked 2 days at the B&B, and stayed in Equity Point after we came back from the desert. We actually wanted to rebook the same B&B but airbnb has the minimum 2 days stay policy. 

I am actually happy we stayed in Equity Point instead tho! The place is within walking distance to Jemaa, cleaner and most importantly, there's sufficient hot water!! Riad Layla could only accommodate 3 people for the hot showers. So everyday, 4 out of 7 of us had to shower in cold water..
..and all 7 of us have medium to long hair...

Equity Point 
Derb El Hammam, Marrakech, Morocco 

4 beds/room and we booked 2 rooms @ €16.70 per bed. Initially, we were slightly worried as 3 of us might have to share a room with a stranger..but fortunately, the hostel wasn't full and so, we managed to enjoy the room fully to ourselves (:

There's free breakfast included in our bookings. However, the choices were very limited. The only downside of Equity Point is their location. It is EXTREMELY difficult to locate and we spent approximately 45 minutes trying to find the place. En-route to the place, we were harassed by a few locals and W & M nearly got pickpocket-ed!! :S

These are the places we planned to go...but we missed both palaces due to time limitation. 
I suggest doing Jardin Majorette and Ben Youssef on the same day, and get a car to go Jardin because it's quite far from the main square. The palaces and Saadian tomb are walkable distance from the main square and could be all done in a day. 

However, we didn't go as planned because we spent too much time taking photos and roaming around.

Food to try
No surprise this is actually my favourite part! I made a list of food that I hoped to try. I'm happy to say I've ticked off most of it! 


I. Harira: Soup rich with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and lamb, topped with some lemon juice and coriander

I didn't get to try the other soups on my list, but if you have the chance, you should try:

2. B'ssara: dried broad beans soup, topped with a swirl of olive oil and cumin sprinkles. Usually served as breakfast, along with bread.

3. Snail soup: Saw a lot of stalls selling this at the square, but didn't get to try!


4. Sfenj: Moroccan doughnuts 

5. Khobz: basic moroccan white bread
Had these in almost every meal, as they provide as complimentary starters.

6. Harcha: Pan fried buttery bread
Had this in Marrakech's airport..too buttery for me :X

7. Msemen: Moroccan pancakes
Had this in the airport too! Funny how I didn't see these in the city, but at least I got to try them in the airport. They both costed €1 each :)

8. Pastilla: Pastries with pigeon meat, almonds, eggs spiced with saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander, dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. 
You can hardly find one that contains pigeon meat now, as they're mostly served with chicken meat instead.

Pastilles are my favourite moroccan food!! I was skeptical about chicken meat pastries with sugar..but they went surprisingly well!! In fact, I had pastilla as my first moroccan meal! Loved it :D We ate it everyday (no joke)! 

On my list but didn't get to try:
9. Khringos: ring-shaped fritters made from chou-like dough
10. Meloui: Msemen cousin but with filling
11. Beghrir: spongy, tender semolina pancakes
12. Batbout: pita-like pocket which can be stuffed with anything ranging from cheeses to grilled veggies and meats

Main meals:

13. Tagine: slow cooked dish (beef, lamb, chicken or vegetables) in a claypot with a conical lid

14. Kefta kebab: grilled meat 

Did not try:
15. Fish chermoula: grilled or baked fish with a mix of herbs and spices
16. Makouda: deep-fried potato balls, dipped into spicy harissa sauce
17. Zaalouk: Smoked aubergine dip, seasoned with garlic, paprika, cumin and chilli powder, typically served with crusty bread

I didn't know couscous is a thing in Morocco as it didn't make into my list..but it's a typical lunch/dinner served in restaurants. W ordered couscous for almost every meals xD

Sweet treats:
18. Kaab el Ghazal (gazelle horns): crescent shaped pastries with almond paste and cinnamon
19. Briwat/Briouats: deep fried triangular filo pastries filled with almond paste

20. Chebakia: flower-shaped fried sesame cookie dipped in honey 
5Dhs (€0.50) each


21. Moroccan mint tea 
60Dhs (€6) for a pot
Highly recommended!! I could drink this all day err day.

22. Fresh orange juice
5Dhs (€0.50) for a cup
I can drink this everyday too. Seriously, this is so cheap! Try the blood red orange as well (they cost 10Dhs/€1 per cup; still affordable though) 
A must-have to rehydrate yourself in Morocco~

A kilo of fresh oranges cost about 5Dhs (€0.50) as well!! Buy as many as you like!! I actually regret not drinking enough fresh orange juices :( 

Personally, I don't think that food in Morocco is cheap. Most of the restaurants' standard price are about €8-€15 range. Although that's pretty much the price range in most countries in Europe and UK, I visited Morocco with the expectation that it would be really cheap (because everyone said so..)
I guess it's best not to listen and expect too much and just enjoy the trip!

It was pretty chilly and cold (for me). I certainly under-dressed for this trip. Furthermore, the first few days in Riad Layla didn't help as I showered in cold water! Pack clothes to layer up if you're visiting Marrakech during winters! There's ample sunshine though so pack your sunscreen and sunglasses as well.

Paper currency must be in good condition (no tears or ink marks). Beware of bringing brand new designs of bank notes as they would not change for you. Keep the receipts so that you can change whatever Dirhams you have left to your currency. 

Phone card
Bought a phone card, unlimited calls and text and 100GB (I think? I'm not sure) for 60Dhs/€6. Mainly for GPS navigation, texting our family and friends & Instagram ;) 

I spent approximately €470 for the whole trip (inclusive of my flight tickets to London & Marrakech, accommodation, food, transportation and attractions). I think you can definitely tour Marrakech within your budget (: 

Day 1

Streets of Marrakech.. to be honest, I was quite disappointed. Prior to this trip, I've researched a bit on Marrakech and all of the pictures looked vibrant and colourful. However, most of the streets are kinda brick-beige in colour :(

Ben Youssef Madrasa
Admission fee: 20 Dh / €2
Opening hours: Monday - Sunday (8am - 5pm)

Dinner at Jad Jamal:
Mixed grill with couscous 

Chicken Pastilla, my first meal in Marrakech :3
75 Dh (€7.50)

The souks @ Jemaa el-Fnaa (main square)~

Late night snack :X

These pastries costed about 11Dh (€1.1) each in average!! No wonder I gained so much weight from Morocco trip T___T

Day 2

Jardin Majorelle
Rue Yves Saint Laurent 
Monday - Sunday (8am - 5:30pm)
Admission fee: 70 Dh (€7)

Menara Gardens 
(To be honest, this can totally be skipped...)

Our driver insisted us to visit the Women's co-operatives (famous for their argan oil) before visiting Saadian Tomb. I came here half-heartedly because I felt it would be some sort of tourist trap..but I think the experience was a good one. I ended buying some Moroccan mint tea :D 

Cafe Clock
Derb Chtouka, Marrakesh
Opening Hours: Monday - Sunday (9am - 10pm)

The place is so pretty! The moment we entered the cafe, T & N were looking for photoshoot spots..but we were busy talking (and resting), so photoshoot didn't actually happen xD

The cafe's interior design is very modern and hippie. We chose the outdoor balcony table since the weather was great and the lighting was perfect :) 

Lamb tagine, spring vegetables with mashed potato 
85Dh (€8.5)

Falafel, Humus & Tabbouleh 
60Dh (€6)

Toasted Couscous Bouhaloo with roasted chicken
90Dh (€9)

Clock camel burger with Taza ketchup, salad & fries 
95Dh (€9.5)

The Bollywood:
Mango Lassi frozen yogurt, seasonal fruit sorbet, Shebbakiya, crushed walnuts, caramel sauce
45Dh (€4.5)

Tombeaux Saadiens
Opening Hours: Monday - Sunday (9am - 6pm)
Admission fee: 10Dh (€1)

The carvings are really pretty..but I felt like this could be missed as well..or maybe I just couldn't appreciate art well enough :/ 

We probably spent too much time for lunch and at the women's cooperatives..in the end, when we visited the El Badi Palace, it was closed!! D:

..so, we took photos outside of the palace..
does this consider we've visited? lol

I forgot how much this costed..but I think it's 100Dh (€10). I've always thought it would be cheap to do Henna in Morocco..but apparently, it's not. I suppose it would be cheaper if you've done it at the main square but I've read reviews about the ingredients used in their Henna dye, and some people had allergic reactions. Henna Art Cafe uses 100% natural ingredients in their Henna dye so I guess it's safer? Wouldn't wanna risk my hand and skin >_<

Day 3

Desert Trip~

Pardon my sleep face..we had to wake up at 5:30am to prepare..

Lunch @ La Kasbah Restaurant 

Lemon chicken tajine 
80Dhs (€8)

Meat kebab with chips and rice 
80Dhs (€8)

Kefta kebab with chips and rice 
80 Dhs (€8)

We wanted to squeeze in High Atlas Mountain excursion in our trip but it was really tight. However, we passed through Tizi N'Tichka (which is a part of the mountain?) on the way to Zagora Desert.

...and we finally reached Zagora Desert!!


Failed camel face

Camel face attempt #2

Bonfire + star gazing at night 

Heart to heart talks beside the bonfire, beneath the stars, with my girls. What more could I ask for? :)
Day 4

Tired faces x.x


Mandatory "When In Morocco" shot :3

The desert trip is really an one in a lifetime experience. I'm really glad we did it, despite not showering for the whole day and not having a proper toilet. Some tours have proper washrooms and comfortable showers but I think their package were probably more expensive than ours. Our package was €65 for 2D1N inclusive of dinner. 

  • bring hand sanitisers or baby wipes!! 
  • bring a bottle of eye moisturiser/ eyedrops to the desert! I used contacts even when I was in the desert (well, to be fair, the wind wasn't like those in Prince of Persia or the mummy where there's sandstorms and you couldn't see anything)..but i guess I didn't wash my hand properly prior to removing and wearing my contacts..when I reached london, I had a red eye :/
  • bring bottles of water! I can't emphasise this enough - REHYDRATE YOURSELF. even if it's not for drinking, you need water to wash your hands and for toilet >_< 

Stopped by at Aït Benhaddou on the way back..it wasn't in our package and we were kinda forced into visiting..
They stopped at the attraction, leaving us no choice. The entrance fee & guided tour costed about 68 Dhs/€6.80 in total. 

Aït Benhaddou has been an UNESCO World heritage site and a couple of movies had filmed there, including The Mummy, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, etc.

Cafe Des Epices
75, Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 

Tajine Kefta
60Dhs / €6

Tajine Sardine
60Dhs / €6
This is extremely good! The lemony flavour compliments the sardine so well!

Hamburger Dinde 
60Dhs / €6

Brownies €3, Crepe nutella €3,  Moroccan patisseries €5 

Happy Birthday Z!! 

Day 5

The others went back early in the morning, while W, T and my flight was in the evening. Therefore, we decided to pamper ourselves and experienced hammam (an Islamic variant of the Roman bath/steam bath). Our hostel offers it and we were lazy to go out (+ the fear of getting harassed), so we tried it in Equity point. 

Felt super shy and awkward to be naked and let the girls scrub my body. Me being myopic throughout, didn't help at all, especially when they were giggling and communicating in French and I was as blind as a bat. 

Overall, it was a great experience although it was quite painful when they scrubbed me. From the reviews that I've read online, I was expecting to end my hammam with my whole body being moisturised with argan oil after the exfoliation but no, i didn't get it :( Hopefully, I'll get to have a true hammam experience when I visit Morocco in the future!


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