There’s a magical energy to Marrakesh, Morocco. The colors are vibrant, there’s constantly something going on, and you experience Marrakesh with all of your senses. You don’t come to Marrakesh to have a quaint holiday, you come to Marrakesh to feel, live and breathe a more vibrant way of life.
I was inspired by Wanderlust and Lipstick to create a (B)older Travel section to Wander Onwards as I take on the world with those I love most: My Parents. My mom didn’t get onto an airplane until she was 21 years-old and now she’s chasing me all over the corners of the earth! I’ve traded in my backpacker lifestyle for a slower pace to travel – and that’s okay.
Over-50 travel is different in the best way possible. Slower pace, fancier food, and fewer bed-bugs; I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of this before (prob because of money – duh)! But now that I have a good job and a little bit of money to my name, I’m taking Mom all over! Party of 2 please.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Where to stay
- What to do & eat
- How to stay safe
- How to negotiate in the Souks
- Currency and budgeting expectations
Depending on what type of holiday you want to have, I have two main accommodation recommendations.
Whether you’re a family of 6 or just a couple looking for a quiet place to escape the Marrakesh madness, Dar Zemora has a place for you. As a converted luxury Villa, Dar Zemora offers a fabulous enclosed paradise where you and your family can experience a quieter side to Morocco. Each room has been recently refurbished and is adorned with Moroccan-themed décor and trimmings. Each room has a private balcony for you and your loved-ones to take tea and to listen to the birds sing. It’s so peaceful, you’ll completely melt into your new life under the African sun.
Dar Zemora is perfect for:
- Romantic getaways
- Events (Weddings, large groups in need of multiple rooms)
- Families with small children
- Those seeking to escape and relax
The Villa/Resort is complete with dining, swimming, and spa amenities. You will want for nothing… but if you do, the staff is ready and willing to provide whatever assistance you might need. They speak multiple languages so your wishes will always be understood. My mother had one wish when she came to Morocco – to ride a camel – and Dar Zemora was able to source two camels within the hour for a soothing ride around the neighborhood with an English-speaking guide. Now that’s service!
Riyad El Cadi
In the heart of the Medina, there is a perfect little oasis hidden behind the souks. Riyad El Cadi is a traditional Moroccan ‘Riad’ (or family home) that now operates as a bed & breakfast-esque accommodation type found only in Morocco. Typically, riads have large courtyards and dazzling pools in the middle of a maze of hallways, which connect everything together. On the roof, there’s a stunning patio area with shade and covering for people to take food and tea throughout the day with a 360 view of Marrakesh.
Riyad El Cadi is perfect for:
- Medina Warriors
- Large families or groups
- Food & Relaxation
- Those who want to be in the middle of it all
Riyad El Cadi has incredible members of staff who speak multiple languages and will source anything you could possible need. Camel? Hammam? Wheelbarrow for luggage? Done! We REALLY appreciated their willingness to save us from wherever we had wandered off to as the Medina and souks can really turn into a never-ending maze quickly. We had to send up a flare a few times, but we were always found. To avoid getting lost at night, we would have dinner at the riad each evening and the chef never disappointed! There was a plethora of delicious, small vegetable plates (think big tappas) and our three-course meal was sensational time and time again.
What to Do:
A classic Marrakesh tourist trap is the classic Souks tour. Travelers BEWARE, if you are shuttled from vendor to vendor, you’re on a ‘shopping tour.’ A shopping tour is designed to extract money from tourists by not-so subtly suggesting that you should purchase things that you don’t need. These guides get kick-backs from the shops for bringing in tourists. You CAN negotiate with these vendors, but your guide will likely say ‘this is a reasonable price’ for price points far higher than it should be.
Instead, we did a tour with Saeed from Marrakesh by Locals. It explicitly says in the website title ‘NO SHOPPING TOUR’ and that’s exactly what happened. The tour is very reasonable and comes in at 360 Durhams of £29 GBP ($38). The tour starts at 9am and goes until 2pm in order to avoid the harsh heat and you are led from the back of the most popular medina into the central square. Saeed was very knowledgeable about the history of Morocco, Marrakesh, and the Moroccan way of life.
You can see Saeed’s reviews on Trip Advisor.
Something I really enjoyed doing in Marrakesh was learning how to cook traditional Lamb Tagine and vegetable dishes with Riad Dar Attajmil. The head chef – Fatima – is a RIOT! She speaks predominantly French & Arabic, but her understanding of English is perfect and she speaks enough to joke and tease. This is just another perfect example of how people are able to communicate perfectly fine through common gestures, key phrases, and international jokes. There will always be someone who speaks your own language present in the kitchen to assist.
Here’s how it works:
- You start the lesson by wandering around the souks and buying fresh produce for your recipe.
- Next, you head to the kitchen and start portioning and preparing.Once you have everything prepared:
- First, you start with Khobz (traditional bread), which will be cooked later on a hot stone.
- Second, you spice and salt the meat to be slow cooked in a Tagine.
- Third, you start cooking the vegetables and side dishes.
- Afterwards, you fry up the veggies or cheese in a little parcel (Nom!)
- Finally, you get to enjoy your well-deserved meal on the rooftop, overlooking Marrakesh
This is the PERFECT experience for large groups (4-10 people) and was genuinely an incredible experience. There were so many flavors and combinations that I had never witnessed before so it was a first time experience for me as well. I’ll be taking many of these recipes home to my own kitchen.
Spa & Hammam
You can’t come to Morocco and NOT do Hammam. It’s a key part of the culture and a damn good way to wash away the sweat and crust from wandering through the Jemaa el-Fnaa (main) square. The Mythic Oriental Spa was incredible value for money.
So what is Hammam?
The hammam, or a Turkish bath, is the Middle Eastern variant of a steam room and there’s often a marble table or slab that people lay on whilst they’re scrubbed from head to toe. Bath culture was made popular by Roman life and now hammams are a community staple in Middle Eastern and North African culture. It’s a way to bond and socialize today.
At the Mythic Oriental Spa, we had the Le Mythic Fullness package, which included:
- Private beldi hammam including black soap scrub of Morocco + Atlas rhassoul wrap
- 1h15 “Mythic Signature” massage with sensual balm concentrated in argan oil and beeswax
- 1 hour complete facial treatment.
This 4-hour experience was about 100 GBP ($130 USD). In-between treatments, you’re given light refreshments and tea whilst you relax in the main courtyard. Also, you’re given robes and slippers to wear around the spa so no need to bring bathing suits or additional clothing.
What I thought was quite interesting was that Moroccan hammam culture is quite comfortable with nudity so don’t be shaken when they ask you to get in the buff for your various treatments (especially the hammam). As most of the technicians are female, I would imagine that the male patrons are required to wear additional clothing during their treatments (shorts) and I doubt they do Hammam for men and women in the same room.
What to Eat
A few classic Moroccan meals include:
- Moroccan Mint Tea (Green or black tea based, with sugar)
- Orange Juice (Picked from the many local orchids nearby)
- Tagine (Typically lamb or chicken, slow cooked in traditional clay pot)
- Beghrir (flat sourdough bread, usually served for breakfast)
- Khobz (dense bread, served with everything)
How to Stay Safe
Traveling as a solo female in Morocco is not as scary as it sounds. Rumors get out of hand, but it’s important to remember that both good and bad things can happen anywhere in world. So why hole yourself up when you can explore instead?
I’ve always felt safe here because Moroccan culture and people are incredibly respectful and accommodating. Men don’t touch or grab here (unlike my experience in America ?) and people are always willing to help. Lose yourself without worry.
If you want tangible tips, here are a few:
✅ Have your riad/hotel organize a taxi transfer for you to/from the airport.
✅ Have small bills on hand (100 & 50) to pay and tip with. There is no “change” here sometimes.
✅ DO NOT take photos of people. They will be very upset OR demand money.
✅ Walk with confidence and use “laa” to express “no” …. think NYC attitude ?
✅ Don’t search for illegal things. This is a guaranteed way to find trouble.
How to Negotiate in the Souks
Ever wonder if you’re getting a good deal when you’re roaming the Souks for trinkets? In Morocco, nearly everything is up for negotiation. Here’s how to negotiate in Morocco for whatever you want.
- Never take the first price you’re quoted. EVERYTHING in the souks is up for negotiation
- Take the original price, gasp dramatically, and divide by 3. Start negotiations there.
- Your final price should be anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the original price. This is a good deal for you and a fair price for the vendor.
- If you’re unhappy with the price, walk away to the next stall and ask for your preferred price to drum up some healthy competition.
Depending on what type of vacation you’re looking to have, you can do Morocco like a student OR like Princess Jasmine. My mother and I decided to go for a more luxurious approach because we deserve to enjoy our money and can afford to have a rather exceptional experience at this point in our lives. Do what you’re comfortable with.
Here are the averages for a comfortable, luxurious experience in Morocco.
Accommodation: $80 – 150 per night (Riads & Villas)
Meals: $5 – $20 per meal (depends if you go to a tourist area or a stall)
- $30 for an incredible 3 course dinner + wine at Dar Zemora & Riad El Cadi.
Tours/Guides: $30 – $50 USD (for a 4-6 hour tour through the Medina)
Souvenirs: Depends on type.
- Leather purses: $20 – $50 (Depending on size)
- Metal goods (small): $5 – 15
- Shoes: $10 – $15
Spa/Hammam: $20 – 30 for a 1 hour massage
Average budget for 5 days: $1000
Morocco is truly an incredible experience unlike anything you’ve seen before. Completely immerse yourself if the colorful world around you. These memories will last a lifetime.