So... About Morocco
Morocco has long been one of those countries I always had a deep desire to visit. Friends before me said they were swept away by its rich culture, its unique architecture, and its plentiful sights. Its true, the country is full of amazing things to see and do, but in an effort to keep it real I do want to speak about our rather hectic and chaotic experience there, and why I'd like to give it a second chance one day.
My dad flew all the way from Hawaii to meet me in Marrakech and I was stoked to create new memories with him. Newly retired dad + overly adventurous daughter = one unstoppable pair. We checked into our hotel, Riad Bindoo, and set off to explore Marrakech.
We first ventured out and visited Jardin Majorelle ($7 entrance fee), a stunning garden full of every different type of cacti species you could imagine, plus tons of pretty palms and other unique plants. At the back of the garden lay an aesthetically pleasing house/museum painted a deep blue hue that contrasts beautifully with the green plants. To enter the museum is an extra fee, FYI, so in the name of saving money we skipped this and just enjoyed what the outdoor gardens had to offer (which is a lot)!
After flashing lots of smiles and snapping lots of pics, we moved on to visit Ben Youssef Madrasa ($2 entrance fee), an old Islamic college from the 14th century boasting intricately detailed architecture.
Finally, we visited the infamous Marrakech souks. They are basically massive open-air markets that you can get lost in for hours. They sell every thing you could imagine, from beautiful hand-made Moroccan lamps, clothes, rugs, food... You name it. My dad and I wandered around for a few hours in awe - at any given moment you are smelling a mix of food and fuel wafting through the air, a motorbike whizzes by you in the narrow streets just inches away from knocking you over, kittens and kids run around your ankles, vendors and taxi drivers yell in Arabic. It was a totally overwhelming sensory overload. And amazing. The souks were hands down my favorite part of our Moroccan adventure.
So why did my Moroccan experience end on a bad note? It all started with with an epic fail day trip the following day to visit Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazarte, ancient villages about 3 hours out of Marrakech towards the Sahara Desert. Originally we had planned on visiting the Sahara Desert by doing an overnight tour, but after learning about the brutal 8 hour drive each way we decided against it (I have some regrets about this - I must come back and see the Sahara later). Instead, we opted for the shorter day trip to visit the above sites. It started off hectic with a late pickup, 3 confusing van-switches, and finally a long journey to visit the locations.
Long story short, the day was full of unorganized chaos. The sites themselves weren't worth the trouble, and the day was characterized by craziness. Tour guides demanding more money, van drivers with a need for speed and/or a death wish to drive off of the steep cliffs, and overall feeling like we were being ripped off at every turn. Chaos was a rather common theme from our experiences in Morocco and we felt like we had to keep our guard up while walking around at all times. But that may be what makes Morocco so unique - you can either choose to freak out and grow a few new gray hairs amid the chaos, or go with the flow and fully embrace the vibrant culture.
We ended up leaving several days earlier than planned because we were exhausted from it all. With all that being said, I definitely plan to return to Morocco in the near future to see more of the country and to give it another chance.