Distant Guide Imperial splendor in Marrakesh
Almost 1000 years old, this ancient imperial city is the Morocco of the imagination. Enclosed by red walls that soar 19 feet high, it is home to the souks of the largest Berber market in the country as well as the famed Jemaa el-Fnaa square (once used for public executions). Let a millennium of sights, smells, and sounds wash over you in Marrakesh!
Our suggestion: bring this with you on your journey via a printed version or tablet.
Table of Contents
TRIP TIMELINE 4
BOOKING CHECKLIST 6
LODGING CHECKLIST 7
ELECTRICITY & PACKING TIPS 8
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 9
MARRAKESH ARRIVAL 10
DAY 1 11
DAY 2 13
DAY 3 14
DAY 4 15
DAY 5 17
DAY 6 18
DAY 7 19
MARRAKESH CONTACTS 20
APPENDIX RESERVATION & PRINT CHECKLIST 21
PLANNING & BOOKING
Although prices do fluctuate, it’s generally best (and cheapest!) to organize flights, accommodation and tours a good couple of months before your departure date. Knowing everything is confirmed by booking as early as possible also reduces pre-trip stress and guarantees the holiday you want. Not sure where to start? Take the confusion out of your bookings and research by looking at our Marrakesh hotel and activity recommendations.
THE DOORSTEP TO CULTURE
The twelfth-century city walls stretch for 12 miles around the ancient heart of Marrakesh, encompassing 20 gates and 200 towers. Wander within their confines to explore the palaces and mansion-like riads, while using the 253 feet high minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque (the largest in the city) as a useful way-marker. Outside of the walls, the beautifully laid-out Menara Gardens is just one of the city’s many green spaces, offering visitors stunning panoramas of the nearby snow- capped Atlas Mountains. But don’t forget to leave time to sample Marrakesh’s phenomenal local produce, be it the heavily-spiced tanjia marrakshia (slow-cooked beef) or a simple pot of mint tea.
Better safe than sorry
Marrakesh is a fairly safe destination. However, travel insurance gives you extra peace of mind while you travel. Not only does it protect personal belongings, but it ensures access to expensive medical treatment should the worst happen. If you think you might take part in adventure sports, make sure to check whether these are covered too.
FLIGHTS / BUS / TICKETS
Generally speaking, you’ll find the cheapest flights 3-6 months before departure, so the earlier you book the better. Train services between e.g. Marrakesh and Casablanca are frequent and of good quality. For an even greater choice of destinations, several coach companies run services daily. Our Additional Resources have recommended booking websites.
As a tourist, if your stay in the country is less than 90 days, no visa is required. You will receive a free entrance permit on arrival provided you are carrying a valid passport with at least one blank page. Citizens of other nations should check with their nearest Moroccan Embassy or Consulate for entry requirements.
Go with the flow
Although it’s always wise to pre-book at least some nights’ accommodation to prevent unnecessary stress or disappointment, Morocco is not a country in which you need to make long-standing reservations for transport or restaurants. One or two days is usually sufficient. The benefit is the flexibility to head out on an unexpected adventure or spend the night in a top-notch hotel on a whim.
For this itinerary, allow 6 nights, 7 days.
• ARRIVE: MARRAKESH (RAK) in the morning of DAY 1
• DEPART: CASABLANCA (CMN) in the morning of DAY 7
There are plenty lodging options available—traditional converted mansions, hotels, B&Bs, hostels—just be sure to secure your accommodation in advance. Airbnb is a great option if you are traveling as a group. (See next page for recommendations.)
• Marrakesh, Morocco | DAY 1 - 5, 4 nights • Casablanca, Morocco | Day 6, 1 night
Some tickets and reservations can be made 1-2 months in advance.
• Transfer from Marrakesh airport to Hotel | Arrival - DAY 1
• Trip from Marrakesh to Agafay Desert | DAY 5
• Train from Marrakesh to Casablanca | DAY 6
• Transfer from Casablanca to the airport - DAY 7
PREP - LODGING CHECKLIST
DAY 1 - 5 | 4 nights
For a real sense of the local culture, there’s probably no better place to stay than a riad (mansion) converted into a guest house. Often located within the city walls, you’ll be at the heart of the action. Alternatively, Marrakesh also offers an ever-growing number of well-rated hotels and bed and breakfasts.
• Riad Kheirredine
• Dar Ayniwen Villa Hotel
• Riad Noir d'Ivoire
• Chez Najia le Roseau
• The Cozy Palace
DAY 6 - 7 | 1 night
As the largest city in Morocco, Casablanca has a wide range of accommodation options whatever your budget. Whether it’s five- star service you’re looking for, or a touch of the city’s old world charm, there is a hotel to meet your needs. Here are just some of our favorites:
• Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca • Four Seasons Hotel • Barceló Casablanca Hotel • The Casablanca Hotel Times Square • Hyatt Regency Casablanca
DON’T FORGET THE ADAPTER!
In Morocco, the common voltage is 220 V. The frequency is 50 Hz. The plugs and sockets are of type C and E. The need for an adapter or converter depends on the voltage, frequency and plugs in the country where you live. An adapter retrofits your plug to ‘adapt’ to the outlet in the wall. A power converter actually transforms the current to match the voltage coming from the wall. Which one you need will depend on the appliance itself, so make sure to check the voltage on your laptop, hair dryer, phone etc.
MAKING PHONE CALLS
CALL ME ON MY HOTLINE
International: Dial the country exit code (001 in the US, 00 in Europe), then the country code (212 for Morocco), then the number. Drop the initial 0 if there is one.
Domestic: If you’re calling from one number to another within Morocco, simply dial the phone number, including the initial 0 if there is one. No country code needed.
THE PACKING LIST
• Traveling light is always ideal. Roll your clothes to save space and avoid creases. If you want to take it to the next level, use vacuum compression bags to maximize space.
• Choose your footwear wisely. Bring breathable footwear like flip- flops and sandals. Pack a pair of casual shoes or sneakers for semi-formal occasions and traveling in deserts. If you plan to hike on the Atlas Mountains, sturdy hiking boots are a must.
• Try to blend in as much as possible. Flashy outfits might make you stand out as a tourist and attract unwanted attention from vendors.
• Pack your shampoo, toothpaste and any other liquids in ziplock bags in case they spill in transit. However, these are items you can always acquire once you’re in Morocco.
• Don’t forget your sunscreen, aftersun and sunglasses. The sun is quite intense in most parts of Morocco, so take care of your skin.
• First aid kit. Although it is always advisable to take out travel insurance that covers any accidents during your trip, it’s always better to have an emergency kit in your suitcase.
• Remember your camera, charger, memory card and power adapter. You’ll want to make sure that you’re well equipped to capture all of the beautiful sites when wandering the city.
• Be sure to have cash on hand—it’s not uncommon to find cash-only restaurants and shops, even in major cities.
• Morocco - Travel Guide & Offline Map | Morocco offline map, attractions, and restaurant suggestions
• Tripadvisor | an excellent resource for finding off-the-beaten-path restaurants and things to do. However, all reviews are subjective, so don’t obsess over scores
• Whatsapp | free text messaging to other Whatsapp users
• Google Maps | an absolute must for navigation—GoogleMaps can estimate travel times on foot or by taxi, and keep you updated about the opening/closing hours of local attractions
TRANSIT BOOKING SITES
• skyscanner.com | easy to use the website for finding low airfares
• google.com/flights | helpful fare prediction technology
• www.oncf.ma/ | official website to book train tickets online
• http://www.ctm.ma/ | Bus booking website
• https://www.suntransfers.com/airports/morocco | Morocco airport shuttle service
• https://www.taxismaroc.com/en/ | find taxis and car hires
For re-posts of your shots, @tag and use the following hashtags:
• Morocco| @visit_morocco_ #morocco #moroccotravel
• Marrakesh | @inmarrakech #marrakech
• Casablanca | @casablanca_ig #casablanca #casablancacity
• Travel Noire | @travelnoire #travelnoire
• US Embassy Marrakech | Km 5.7, Avenue Mohamed VI Souissi, Rabat 10170, Morocco | (212) 0537 637 200
DAY 1 - ARRIVAL
Welcome to Morocco! Your trip starts in Marrakesh, the cradle of culture and tradition. The cultural center of Morocco is known for its characteristic red buildings and bustling and lively markets. The imperial city of Marrakesh, considered by many the cultural center of Morocco, is full of history and color, although it also has a firmly established footing in the modern world.
Marrakesh, Morocco let the journey begin!
Marrakesh airport is located about 3 miles south of the city. There is an airport shuttle service, operated by Atlas travel agency, which runs virtually every 30 minutes. This is the cheapest and most convenient option as it takes you right into Old Town. Tickets can be booked online or purchased from the driver.
Check into lodging to begin your experience!
STROLL THROUGH SOUKS
Start the discovery in the bustling Plaza el Fna, the heart of the city. This UNESCO world heritage site is home to a beautiful mix of culture, food, color, and art. Stroll around the square and admire the majestic Koutoubia Mosque.
Take a break and stop by a terrace cafe overlooking the Plaza el Fna, order a cup of tea or orange juice and let time drift by enjoying the art of people watching. Continue walking through the labyrinth of Zocos next to Plaza el Fna. You can find Moroccan clothes, food, crafts, jewelry and countless other interesting products in the souk. Remember to put your bargaining skills into practice.
ABSORB THE ATMOSPHERE
In the evening, visit the Madrassa Ben Youssef - the theological school of great architectural and decorative beauty. After a long afternoon walk, there is probably nothing better than relaxing and unwinding in a hammam (A Turkish bath). You will find several in the area.
METŠERRFĪN (PLEASED TO MEET YOU!)
928,850 MARRAKESH RESIDENTS
The name of Marrakesh has its roots in the Berber phrase, “the land of God.”
French & Arabic are the most widely spoken languages
Marrakesh founded in 1062 AD
12:00 - 2 PM LUNCH
7:30 - 10PM DINNER
10.3 MILLION VISITORS TO MOROCCO
Marrakesh is at the intersection of three geographic landscapes.
50 miles north of Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak
122 miles northwest from Ouarzazate, the gateway to the Sahara Desert IN 2016
110 miles east of the port city of Essaouira
National drink = Sweet mint tea
National food = Couscous
Red City - Name given to Marrakesh due to the red-colorer walls surrounding the old district
Ksar of Ait-Benhaddou - Medina of Marrakesh - UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Marrakesh
Jemaa del-Fnaa is the largest square in Africa. Prepare to be dazzled by monkeys and snake charmers, choose from more than 100 food carts, or simply mingle with the locals.
Make sure to set your watch to GMT+0
TIPPING RULE OF THUMB
Restaurants | There is no “rule of thumb”. Tip 5%-10% of the bill for good service. Cabs | Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but they appreciate the ones they get.
MORNING & AFTERNOON
SEE THE SIGHTS
Start the second day with a visit to the tombs of Saadian, where you will find the brilliant Mausoleum of Mulay Ahmed el Mansour. Not too far from the mausoleum is Badi Palace. The structure once known as "The Incomparable,” now has been reduced to ruins. Later, you can walk to the Bahia Palace which is set on an 8-hectare garden, has 150 rooms, and was once the residence of the Grand Vizier.
After a filling Moroccan lunch, you can relax amidst lush greenery at Jardines de la Menara, with its fish pond, and the Majorelle Gardens, that houses the Museum of Islamic Art. The gardens were created in 1924 by French artist Kacquesr Majorelle. At present, the gardens have plants from five continents and hold more than fifteen species of birds.
To complete your day, at sunset, return to the Plaza Fna. While the mu’adhin (an Islamic holy person) calls the prayer, take a seat in a terrace cafe and observe the city as the lights and smoke from the food stalls begin to awaken the nightlife of the square. Time seems to stop and for a moment, any doubt or worry may appear to fade.
After a healthy breakfast at your hotel restaurant, take a horse carriage ride through the walls of Marrakesh to see the 10 gates of the Medina. There you’ll observe the morning light creating beautiful effects on the red walls and stone incrustations on some of the doors. Notice the Chorb or Couf fountain, one of the most beautiful in the world.
Make sure to stop in for lunch at one of the restaurants near the Ferblantiers Square. We recommend tajines (vegetables and meat stews) at Chez Omar restaurant. Visit the Mellah Market in the Jewish Quarter, one of the many traditional markets in the city. The spice stalls are highlighted by the multitude of colors. This market is mostly frequented by the local residents, so it’s likely you will get great prices here. Located nearby is the jewelry market. This is an ancient market with some shops that have stood firm for centuries. AFTERNOON
Most of the costume jewelry is sold in weight.
Take a short stroll to Bahia Palace - one of the most important architectural works of Marrakesh, built at the end of the 19th century. Here the sultan of Marrakesh lived with his four wives and his 24 mistresses. Proceed to Dar Si Said Museum, which is the oldest museum in the city and has the largest collection of exhibited works.
Enjoy a fantastic evening at Chez Ali, one of the most famous restaurants in Morocco. Try couscous and lamb inside typical tents, while Moroccan groups play traditional music, dance or perform an equestrian show.
To the desert From Marrakesh to Agafay Desert
From MARRAKESH To AGAFAY DESERT
Day Via Car hire or taxi 4
Duration 40 minutes each way
Agafay Desert, located around 30 miles from Marrakesh, is a rocky desert, made up of an infinite expanse of rocky hills, surrounded by a lake and dotted with bushes and shrubs. Untouched by mainstream tourism, this place offers a great opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of souks and streets of Marrakesh.
ARRIVAL IN AGAFAY DESERT
Take a taxi or hire a car to the foothills of Atlas range for a day trip to the Agafay Desert. During your journey, watch how urban landscapes give way to the rural life where Berber traditions still continue. On the way, you will come across lush farms, orange and olive orchards. As you approach the desert, you feel like you’ve landed on a barren Martian
LAKE TAKERKOUST & BERBER LUNCH
Lake Takerkoust is an enormous artificial lake located on the edge of Agafay desert. The lake was built in 1929 as part of a dam to provide electricity to Marrakesh and nearby areas. Today, the lake has become an attractive day trip destination from Marrakesh where you can swim, picnic, relax, and sunbathe on the banks. If you’re the adventurous type, you can rent a paddle boat or jet ski and venture further into the waters. You also have the option to go water skiing, wake-boarding and fishing. Although there are a lot of dining options around the lake - from traditional Moroccan to gourmet French, we have a special lunch recommendation for you.
You can arrange a visit to a Berber home with the help of your driver or guide and discover their day to day life over a delicious traditional meal. Red meat is widely used in Berber cuisine and some of the most common dishes include tajine, shakshouka, msemen, asida, and lablabi. After having lunch, you can visit a Berber market where vegetables, fruits, and livestock are up for sale.
What’s better than spending the night in the middle of nowhere away from the civilization, surrounded by fruit trees under a sparkling night sky? There are several luxurious camps and resorts dotted amongst the desert with the beautiful backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. Most of them have elegant candle-lit rooms equipped with traditional Moroccan decor. This gives the feeling of actually living like a nomad for a day.
Have dinner under the moonlight between the fire of a crackling barbecue. The cuisine is varied, delicious and the menu transitions from appetizers to sweet, to fruit.
CAR MARRAKESH - AGAFAY DESERT
MORNING TRAIN RIDE
ONWARDS TO CASABLANCA
Set off from Agafay Desert early in the morning for Marrakesh. You have two options to reach Casablanca - bus and train. Both are fairly efficient and reliable but the train offers better scenic views. On average, the train ride takes three and a half hours and departs from Marrakesh every two hours. If you prefer to travel on your own time, you can also hire a car.
CHECK IN AND RELAX
Casablanca, Morocco's largest city, is the country's economic and financial capital. Sadly, many travelers tend to exclude it from their itinerary, convinced that there is nothing interesting to see.
Upon arrival in Casablanca, check into your hotel and get something to eat. If you have chosen a hotel in the center, you will have countless opportunities to get a tasty lunch in La Gironde and get acquainted with what will be your home for the next leg of your journey.
The three-kilometer walk leads from the beautiful Moorish-style Cathédrale du Sacré Coeur, with neo- gothic influences (which was disbanded in 1956 with the independence of Morocco, could accommodate up to 40,000 faithful, today used for temporary exhibitions) to the Parc de la Ligue Arabe (a lush green leafy French airline, however, with date palms, ficus and exotic flora). You will walk past the squares and the most beautiful avenues of the city, flanked by majestic colonial buildings, historic hotels, and bars where intellectuals love to chat while sipping drinks.
This morning, go eastward to Boulevard de Paris to admire the facades of the colonial- style hotels. Turn to the left on Boulevard Mohammed V. In this area you will find the Marché Central and the delicious Petit Poucet - the bar of Camus and Saint Exupéry. The walk ends at the United Nations Square with the beautiful clock tower that is 20-meter high and is a good point of reference for finding the beginning of the medina.
If you are a shopping-addict, head south to the Parc de la Ligue Arabe in the Maarif Quarter where not only will you find numerous international brands, but also the Twin Center made by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill in 1998. The two skyscrapers emerge in a triangular space and are 115 meters high. A must-visit place for shopping is Africa’s largest mall - Morocco Mall, an oceanfront shopping center with a range of luxury shops, hypermarkets, restaurants, Aquadream, and a giant aquarium.
For the evening, we recommend La Corniche - three miles of oceanfront promenade, one of the most popular beaches in the city and the city's youngest, Plage Ain Diab, where you can admire an unforgettable sunset! Stay here for dinner and after-dinner, La Corniche transforms into the fashion district of Casablanca. Alcohol is generally frowned upon in many parts of Morocco, but with lively bars and vibrant nightclubs, Casablanca is different - thanks to its French colonial past.
DAY 7 Farewell to stunning Morocco
MAKE THE MOST OF THOSE PRECIOUS LAST MOMENTS
Choose to fly out of Casablanca in the evening so that you can savor your last day. Was there something you read about that you didn’t have time to do or see? Get out there and do it! You may have just enough time to make one last memory or see one last attraction. But, beware of traveling too far out of the city; missing your flight home is not how you want to end your magical trip! Pay a visit to Hasan II Mosque if you haven’t done so already. It is one of the few mosques in Morocco open to non-muslims and is an excellent example of craftsmanship.
A walk, though short, in Ville Nouvelle takes you closer to knowing Casablanca. Walk through lush parks, admire the art deco architecture and hunt for hand-made souvenirs to take back home.
Casablanca International Airport is a 45-minute drive from the city center. Make sure you leave at least 3 hours in advance to avoid the last minute hassle. You can pass the time waiting at the airport by reminiscing and looking through all of the amazing photos from your journey through Morocco.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Most travelers struggle to choose their own path. We equip them with a roadmap to design the journey of their dreams. Travel Noire is an award winning boutique travel company — and we’re in the business of helping you get back to your truest self. We deliver compelling tools, resources & transformative retreats to help travelers discover, plan and experience new destinations. We’ve been named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in the world & our mission is simple — to craft products to help get you out into the world.
Keep up with Travel Noire Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat
Although the author has made every effort to provide accurate,
up-to-date information, they accept no responsibility for loss,
injury, or inconvenience sustained by any person using this guide.
All rights reserved. Except for the use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means is forbidden without the express permission of the author.
All photography is either owned by Travel Noire or licensed under Creative Commons Zero. Maps were obtained from an open license by snazzymaps.com.
bon voyage! have a good trip!