Moroccan Birthday Shenanigans
This is a super late post but I decided to share it anyway. Seriously, I keep changing the title of this post because I keep procrastinating. Argghh. Finally, here it is…
It was January, and yes, that is my birthday month.
I’m so in love with the Arabian lifestyle and culture and I’ve always wanted to visit Morocco, so I thought celebrating my birthday there would be fun and special. This was also the first time I planned a detailed trip for people other than myself. I mapped out a fun itinerary (well I hope my friends felt the same) for a group of 6 people.
Where I visited:
I spent 4 days in Marrakesh, Morocco. I made the trip with some of my girlfriends and we had a blast. The tickets to Marrakesh were not cheap, so in order to save costs, I figured out an alternative way of getting to Marrakesh. I flew in to Casablanca, Morocco and took the train from Casablanca to Marrakesh, which was not bad. Everything seemed to be organized in Morocco. However, the flight from NYC to Morocco via Madrid was a disaster – American Airlines always seems to prove to me that they are the worst airline ever! They used a small plane to transport lives across the Atlantic Ocean. This is definitely not a standard plane that should be used to transport passengers cross continent. We experienced serious turbulence and the trip was a ride from hell. The pilot didn’t say anything about the turbulence or try to give the passengers any assurance that things would be OK. We even asked one of the flight attendants and she was just like “Well, I don’t know…” To make matters worse, they were playing a movie about a plane crashing. This was it for me with American Airlines. I stayed up the entire flight praying and saying “I won’t die on my birthday.”
Anywhoo, we finally made it to Marrakesh in one piece. It was a breath of fresh air. The people spoke Arabic, French and Spanish. I was somehow able to have a conversation in French with the immigration officer who stamped our passports on the way in. He was really flirty but that was good for us. Marrakesh is a really nice city – good roads, electricity, security. I was very impressed with how organized the city was. They have the old and new town. You see a lot of culture and tradition here.
Morocco in January is off-season, so not a lot of tourists at that time. It was quite cold this time of the year (about 30 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
Where I stayed:
We stayed at Le Meridien N’Fis in new Marrakesh on Avenue Mohammed VI. I am a loyal SPG member – I love their hotels. The hotel was really nice, the staff was very friendly and hospitable. We were welcomed with Moroccan tea (which we fell in love with). The hotel had a currency exchange place, and their rate was pretty current, but it is more advisable to go into the market (Le Souk) to change money. The rooms were nice and neat.
How I spent my days:
We arrived Marrakesh at about 3pm in the afternoon. We all arrived at different times, so we checked in and waited for the rest of the group. As you may have expected, you have to negotiate in Morocco. The taxi driver from the train station tried to play smart. We told him we were going to Meridien N’Fis and he started asking which of the Meridien’s and I was so confused because I could have sworn there was only one in Marrakesh. So he said there is one in the new city and one farther out and that the charge would be $30 or something close to that. So I negotiated the price because i knew he was generally trying to rip us off. So we arrived at the hotel, only to find out it was about 5 mins from the train station and we paid more than we should have, despite negotiating. The guy also didn’t want to give us all our change. When we realized this, we asked him for it. He was being reluctant but we made sure we collected our change. LOL. We settled in the room, waited for everyone to arrive. Later that night, we had dinner at the hotel’s Moroccan-style restaurant. The food was tasty and rich in Moroccan spices. Then, we went to the hotel’s shisha lounge and we had our first Moroccan hookah.
The next day, we set out on a guided tour of the city with Abdul of Marrakech Guided Tours. He was very helpful and informative. He was indeed an awesome tour guide, and I highly recommend him. He took us to the Riads and gave us a good tour and history of the city of Marrakesh. One thing I have always been amused about is Arabian architecture and style. I loved the riads, particularly the attention to detail, the architecture, the carefully hand-carved tiles and designs, the simplicity of the exterior and magnificent interior. I definitely want to infuse Arabian architecture in my future house. We found a guy in one of the riads who wrote our names in Arabic, which was pretty cool.
After the tour, we walked around the market popularly known as “Souks” and we did some shopping for cool Moroccan attires. Later that evening, we went to the marketplace to experience the famous Jemma el Fnaa – Marrakesh Market Life at Night. We ate authentic dishes at the local stalls. I must say if you are a germaphobe, this is not for you. Better still, just have your Pepto Bismol handy – the way they handle bread and food here is not the most hygienic. It is definitely not the cleanest place to eat but the food was delicious and tasty. After eating, we went back to the hotel to relax before heading out to see what Marrakesh nightlife was all about.
We were very impressed with what we saw. We went to Theatro Club and it was really nice. We enjoyed the live dances that accompanied the music. We had a blast here; dancing and watching the numerous characters that performed on stage and the “he-shes” that tried to holla at us. After a long night of dancing, we found a ride home from this really nice Moroccan guy. He liked me and wanted to get to know me better, so he offered to take us in his car. Of course my adventurous (and freeloading :)) self hopped on the offer, but some of my friends didn’t like the idea. But I did 🙂
The struggle to get up the next morning for the Quad Tour I had booked was real on that Saturday morning. It was also raining and really cold. It was definitely not a good day for the quad rides but we did it anyway. The tour company, Dunes et Desert was very professional. They made the ride so much fun. We drove around the desert area. After about an hour of driving, we made a stop at a local’s house, where we were offered Moroccan tea, crepes and a stove to warm our freezing hands. The tour lasted about 4 hours in total including transport time to and from the hotel. (And yes, they organize a driver to pick you up from your hotel.) After driving the quads and developing sore muscles, we decided that we would rest a little before going out for other activities.
I am really trying to remember all the places we ate at but I forgot to write down the names – I apologize, guys! On our way to the old town later that evening, we met this guy who said he worked at the hotel we were staying and he could take us to a cheap store where we could purchase spices. This guy took us to this shop which I think is owned by his friend or family, they tried to convince us to buy some spices but we didn’t fall for it. Later that night, we went to Pacha nightclub and let’s just say what happened in Marrakesh, never happened 🙂 It wasn’t the best of the Pacha’s I have been to, but we sure had a great night, so much so that the Camel Ride tour the next morning was a hugeeee struggle! 😉
Sincerely speaking, I am not sure how we woke up…oh I remember, the hotel lobby called our rooms and said the driver was waiting downstairs to take us to the location of our tour. We jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to the lobby. Luckily for us, it was only cold but it wasn’t raining. I definitely had my shades on because I went super hard the night before – you know, as per the birthday celebrant! We were very excited about our camel rides…it reminded me of horseback riding except I didn’t expect the camel to bend its knees and legs for me to climb onto it. I’m actually not sure what I was expecting, but those animals are huge! After struggling to get our balance on the camels, the rest of the ride became pretty easy and chill. We stopped at another local’s home again, and we were served the usual “Moroccan tea” (it is a symbol of hospitality).
After the tour, we went back to the hotel to get some rest. Later in the afternoon, we went back to Old Marrakesh to do some more shopping for friends and family. At night, we decided to walk around the new town and while doing that we found a Thai restaurant. We were so happy to have found Thai food in Morocco – finally we could treat our palates to familiar cuisine. Luckily for us, this restaurant was really nice. The food was amazing and great – either it was genuinely great or we just craved Thai food so badly. We had dinner, chatted and just reminisced on our trip. It was our final night in Marrakesh and it was back to our cold reality in the US.
Departure day soon arrived, some folks left in the morning, others left later. It was a bitter sweet feeling as always…We definitely had a great time in Marrakesh. I hope to visit again some day. Hopefully next time, I will visit Fez and definitely take a trip to the desert dunes.