Recently I went to Marrakesh, Morocco. I've been dreaming of visiting Morocco since I started thinking about studying abroad in Spain. My initial intrigue came from an interest in mosaics and Islamic art, as well as Islamic culture. When I finally had the opportunity to travel to the country, it was difficult to decide where to go. I'd read about the art and architecture in Fez, seen photos of buildings painted 100 different shades of blue in Chefchaouen, and heard stories about the lively markets of Marrakesh. After considering time and cost, the winner was…Marrakesh!
The city of Marrakesh has an old city, located in its geographical center, surrounded by a newer city. We stayed in the old city, which placed us close to the traditional markets and other attractions. Upon arrival, one of the first things I noticed was how difficult it is to walk comfortably in the streets. Almost everyone in Marrakesh rides a motorcycle and weaves through the narrow streets at full speed. Every time I crossed the street, I felt like I was risking my life!
The traditional markets, also called souks, were never-ending labyrinths of small vendors selling Moroccan textiles, pottery, lamps, spices, and more. These were great places to get a sense of the local design and culture, although with the recent influx of tourists, many of the products have become commercialized.
Although I loved the energy of old city, one of the highlights was taking a day trip away from the crowded streets to nearby valleys. My two friends and I took a private tour that included driving through the valleys, visiting a local market, riding camels, stopping at an Argan Oil cooperative, and eating lunch at a traditional Berber house overlooking the Atlas Mountains. The views throughout the day were breathtaking.
Another one of my favorite activities was visiting the Bahia Palace. Here I got more than my fix of Moroccan mosaics and geometric design. Each surface had a unique tile pattern with gorgeous color combinations of mostly blues, greens, and golds.
Aside from visiting specific attractions, I enjoyed eating vegetable tagine and drinking mint tea, walking through the less touristy Jewish Quarter, and exploring the new city. Next time, I visit Morocco, I think I'd like to go to the desert for a completely different experience :)