Oh So Morocco!

Morocco. A land of colours, patterns, warmth and… much confusion!

We spent 17 days travelling through Essaouira down the coast towards Agadir and finishing in Marrakech during Ramadan. Here’s what we learnt:

Morocco – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Our first time visit to Morocco took place from 27th March to 13th April 2024. We chose this time as temperatures were expected to be between 20 to 28 on average and because, frankly, we both really needed a break!

With this in mind we planned to relax on our trip rather than adventuring, however we were excited and interested in exploring the local cultures and traditions. So, with an open mind and loose travel plan, we began our first time visit to Morocco.

Top Tip: Order a Moroccan SIM at arrival airport.

Moroccan Sim

Costs about 10€ and the staff will set it up for you. Note that she will likely not engage with you apart from asking for your phone and pin to set it up (just let her at it) and she will write your Moroccan telephone number on the card. Share it with your travelling companion straight away so you have it regardless. 

Keep your new SIM pin (in the card) handy because if you turn off your phone (eg battery dies) you will need your Moroccan SIM pin to unlock phone (then you will enter your normal pin/code)

Apart from that your phone will work same as normal- WhatsApp contacts, email etc… the language may occasionally turn Arabic (eg on Google maps but try refreshing and usually reverts) and the news feeds etc will be tailored to the locality.

An interesting pattern I noticed is that most small (including some bigger) businesses do not have a website nor do they engage on social media, even if they have them. The trend is to use Google Maps (Google Business) and WhatsApp (business).

We had spent quite some time researching accommodation options, asking friends who had been before for any tips or recommendations.

Our research led us to book our first port of call… Les Terrases Des Essaouira.

Les Terrasses D'Essaouira a gorgeous bohemian Riad
The Fabulous Centrally Located Bohemian Riad ' Les Terrasses D'Essaouira' - Contact Them Directly for best rates

An inviting, bohemian vibes riad (in Morocco the hotel type guesthouses are called riads) located within the old Medina walls and managed by Morgan Goethals and Prune Regnier

Morgan is quite the entrepreneur having been handed the responsibility upon the passing of his mother. A lovely soul with many talents including a clothes label of his own named Maison Mektoub and a great team – shout-out to Eunace who was an absolute sweetheart to deal with. 🙏

Our accommodation boasted a grand view from it’s charming rooftop terrace with friendly staff who laid out breakfast with a sunny smile each day. The coffee, strangely, has cinnamon in it. We never did find out why… Beware the naughty seagulls who sneak quietly to the roofs edge eyeing up your pancakes! Occasionally they succeed to much fussing (staff) and giggling (guests)!

Medina’s are the original parts of the towns/ cities with high walls and narrow alleys and public squares, home to the shopping souks and daily lives of many locals, including the incredible number of cats! 

In Islam, cats are viewed as holy animals. Above all, they are admired for their cleanliness. They are thought to be ritually clean which is why they’re allowed to enter homes and even mosques

We had heard of Essaouira through friends who raved about Essaouiras’ quieter style and arty bohemian vibes. Make sure to take a walk outside the Medina to get some fresh air and visit Koozina Garden for a peaceful Lunch

It attracted us also because it was on the coast although it’s reputation as The Windy City did raise concerns. Ultimately, the Medina is protected from the winds though the beach is quite windy, making it ideal for the many surfers and kitesurfers who flock here.

The beachfront promenande is breathtaking and offers a very sophisticated basketball court and skatepark area too – very cool! 

The Medina

Ah! The infamous Medina for which we are all advised about what to expect, a preparation to haggle being one of the most common. Indeed it is true that you should certainly haggle usually by half or a third of the original price. Eg 350 dirhams for a dress was quickly brought to 200.. but ultimately you want a FAIR PRICE, for both sides.

So best to look unassumingly and think of a price you would be willing to pay, and then show an interest and work it out with the seller, a happy price as tailor Mbarek Adardour says..

Be wary the offer of tea and to sit, you can end up wasting each others time if a price has not yet been agreed, leaving both parties feeling a little aggrieved.

Ultimately I personally found the general goods on offer were the same ware (literally) that was on offer everywhere and we quickly tired of the constant cajoling to come and buy. I suppose also, our (Irish) culture tends to try to ‘be nice’ and ‘not offend’ so to have to constantly (and on occasion forcefully) say No (non merci/ La) soon becomes exhausting!

Having said that., there are some shops that have cottoned on to this fact and they actually price items so you can shop without having to haggle. Some others will let you be and once you have decided to buy something eg authentic rugs,  you can then discuss price and come to an agreeable amount for all involved. 

As we spent 5 days here in total we had plenty of time to explore at different times of the day and thus we met some fascinating and really lovely craftspeople! 

More on that in the next edition