If you happen to be traveling around Europe, I would highly recommend visiting Morocco, a Northern country in Africa just south of Spain. I flew into Casablanca from Milan, stayed there for two nights, then took the train to Marrakesh for a desert tour. I didn’t know this at the time of booking, but Ramadan 2017, a month of fasting and religious devotion for Muslims, was set between May 27 to June 24. Over 95% of the Moroccan population is Sunni Muslim, resulting in a lot of restaurants and shops being closed during this period in less touristy cities like Casablanca. It was hence sometimes difficult for us to find places to eat, although we didn’t have this issue in Marrakesh, which frequents a lot more foreign visitors each year as a major economic center.
In Marrakesh, we would often go for dinner around 20:30 after the sun had set, so that the staff would have had a chance to eat after breaking their fast.
As a caution, I’ve heard some of my girl friends warning me about getting approached or attracting unwanted attention from people on the street. I didn’t get this since I was always with my two male friends (one of which was often mistaken for being a local). As a general rule for females visiting Morocco, cover your arms and legs (and yes, I know it’s blistering hot outside, but do it anyways).
I was surprisingly taken aback by how much I liked Moroccan food and the amount of vegetables in their cooking (I had wrongly anticipated to only be eating fried chicken and jollof rice, as I did in Ghana last summer). Some staples of the Moroccan cuisine include tagine, a Maghrebi dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked, couscous, mint tea, and pastilla, a type of Moroccan meat pie that is filled with spiced meat dusted with sugar. My favourite was the pastilla; I would recommend getting the chicken and almond one at Atay Cafe in Marrakesh.
I’d also recommend checking out Kui-Zin in Marrakesh, a casual restaurant with a beautiful rooftop terrace and live music.
And of course, when in Morocco, you have to do the desert tour through the Sahara. This was probably one of my favourite life experiences; from riding camels to watching the sunset, camping out in the desert, then waking up at 4 AM to catch the sunrise, it was a hectic yet unparalleled experience. To book tours in the Sahara, I recommend scanning Get Your Guide and reading past reviews, which are generally quite reliable. My friends and I booked this one; it was considerably cheaper than other tours because the overnight stay in the desert consists of real run-down camping as opposed to “glamping.” Although that one part of the tour was not as nice, I really enjoyed every other part of the tour.
We stayed in Marrakesh for one more day after our desert tour. We were quite exhausted after our travel to and from the desert, so we spent the good first half of our last day lazily enjoying a long breakfast at the riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard; we stayed at Riad Dar Mchicha, which I would strongly recommend. There is a lovely free breakfast, and the staff is really friendly and helped us with whatever requests we had (printing out our boarding passes, booking a taxi for the early morning etc.)
Some experiences are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and watching the sunset on the top of a sand hill in the Sahara with two of my very good friends is definitely one of them. Really happy that we had made the decision to venture outside of our European comfort zone.