Three nights in Marrakech; Colourful souks, camel rides and waterfalls

Marrakech, Morocco

It was just a few days before we were due to fly to the bustling city of Marrakech. 

It got me thinking…. a lot has happened since our first trip together, those two nights in Lisbon seem a distant yet very fond memory.

We set up our website, (then redesigned the whole thing) bought a new camera, started our Instagram account, set up a Facebook page and worked tirelessly to learn as much as we could (and when I say we, I mean mainly Steffan) about photography, blogging and creating interest on social media.

Our second trip to Marrakech was long-awaited and we couldn’t wait to get going. The excitement we both felt about taking in a new country and its culture and the anticipation of capturing as many details as we could to share with friends and family on our return was almost unbearable!

But life is rarely as plain sailing as we plan it to be and hope it to be, and around three weeks before our planned trip I started to suffer extremely bad anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t a completely new thing, but it was something I thought I was managing. It hadn’t reared its ugly head for some time. But this time it was different. It resulted in me being off work, unable to do much other than try and relax and in all honesty spend time worrying I would never feel better again. I am lucky in that I have an amazing support group, Steffan has been an absolute champion. My close family and friends have been nothing but supportive as have my employers and colleagues, and I started to feel a little better as the trip approached. After a lot of thought and backwards and forwards I decided to still go ahead with our three nights in Marrakech. Sometimes a change is as good as a break, is that the saying? Well, you get the picture.

So off we went.

Day one; Anxiety, being stranded and food tours

After a three- and half-hour flight with only light turbulence (no panic attacks experienced, Win!) we arrived in Marrakech. I breathed a sigh of relief. The plane didn’t crash, we arrived, we are here. In a new country and we both started to feel excited! After the last three weeks, we have both had the only way is up from here right? Wrong.

I had booked a driver directly with the riad and was expecting them to be waiting for us with a sign. We waited. And we waited. We spent countless minutes walking around reading the numerous signs being held by expectant drivers, our driver wasn’t here. After around 45 minutes I tried to call the driver. My phone wouldn’t connect. I tried the riad, the lady that answered spoke very little English and after almost booking us a second reservation through complete miscommunication I gave up trying to explain what we needed. We were stranded. Or so it felt that way, not an ideal situation for someone suffering from extreme anxiety! This was it. We were going to spend three nights at the airport. And before you say it, or think it, yes, I am quite dramatic!

Steffan and I looked at each other exhausted, not knowing what to do. Do we just leave and get a taxi, risking being completely ripped off or do we wait? We didn’t know what we were doing.

Then we experienced our first of many acts of kindness on our trip to Morocco. A tall guy holding a sign asked us in broken English what the number was. I remember feeling a little suspicious but at this stage, we really had nothing to lose. He dialled the driver’s number on his personal mobile and handed the phone to Steffan. After a very brief conversation, we had discovered the driver was running late but would be there soon. Thank goodness! We then handed the phone back to the guy who had lent it to us, and he just smiled and stepped away. This completely lifted our spirits and we spent the next 10 minutes talking about how lovely he was and how we felt lucky a random person wanted to help us out! I also realised I need to stop being so mistrustful of people in general. Well, maybe a little.

Our driver arrived and off we went. And breathe.

After around ten minutes we stopped. Surely this isn’t where we are staying?! We were on a dusty sandy road surrounded by narrow alleyways and scaffolding, locals bustling up and down the orange streets and we started to attract some attention. Our driver got our cases and ushered us to follow him. We headed down a narrow street, lined by local shops and stalls selling live chickens, raw meat, spices, nuts and vegetables being sold on rugs on the floor surrounded by stray cats. Motorbikes and mopeds whizzed past with little more than a few inches between us and them. I could feel eyes on us like they were burning into us. The men were not afraid to stare straight at me until I was out of sight. I felt so uncomfortable. I consider myself fairly well-travelled, we can usually adapt to new cultures quite quickly. But this felt very intimidating. It wasn’t what I was expecting when I booked this beautiful riad and examined the photographs online.

Riad courtyard in Marrakech, Morocco

We arrived at the Riad and were greeted by the loveliest ladies you could ever wish to meet. But whilst they spoke very good English, we spoke little to no Arabic or French and so checking in was an uncomfortable struggle. We were shown to our bedroom which was just feet from the breakfast area, and this is no exaggeration.

People would literally be having breakfast 2 metres from our bed! Steffan and I sat opposite each other feeling bewildered, tensions rising. I hated it. I felt uncomfortable, anxious, I felt as though we were going to struggle to communicate with everyone and that we were the only tourists in the whole of Marrakech. Dramatic I know, but that’s just how it felt. I looked at Steffan and sighed. ‘Shall we just stay in the riad for three days and three nights?’ I joked as I sipped on the Moroccan mint tea. Well, half-joked. I honestly didn’t feel as though I wanted to leave anytime soon. Steffan tried to convince me he was fine and felt perfectly comfortable. But he didn’t do a good job, you know when someone is saying one thing, but their face tells a very different story? Well yes, that.

He eventually admitted he too felt very out of place and the trip suddenly felt very daunting. ‘I think we are going to find it difficult here’ I said, he nodded. I switched my phone on to look at google maps to try and get our bearings and to take my mind off my rising anxiety, only to find that my £25 add on for the internet had been used in literally 5 minutes. Great. Just brilliant. Good job the riad had Wi-Fi but I wasn’t happy.

After a few tense conversations between us, we both agreed to get changed and head straight back out there. We planned to head to Jardin Marjorelle, the bright blue building and gardens that are so famous in Marrakech and checked the map. After feeling confident we could find our way and taking a few deep breaths we headed out. We made our way back down the dusty sandy ally way, stepping over carpets full of all kinds of food and avoiding any oncoming traffic. The staring continued. This is something I came to get used to, very quickly. I knew I was dressed modestly, which I always do where appropriate when visiting other countries as I like to respect the local culture as much as possible. I have long bright blonde hair, so I do look very different to local Moroccans and so I just tried to shrug it off.

Marrakech, Morocco

After walking for some time, we realised we were lost. The first time of many. The maps we had didn’t line up with the streets we were walking along, and it was very difficult to try and navigate our way anywhere. That combined with the fact that you are expected to walk out into oncoming traffic and just expect them to stop every time you crossed the road was making me feel very anxious. We were either going to get lost and have no choice but to sleep on the streets or get run over and die, or at the very least leave the situation with serious injuries. A brilliant weekend away, what more could you want? We decided to head back to the riad and save the gardens for another day. We had a food tour booked for 6 pm and wanted to get freshened up and book a taxi to Jemaa el-Fnaa which is the main square and tourist hub in Marrakech.

The walk had done one thing. It had calmed our nerves. Yes, we got lost, and yes I was sure we were going to get run over. But I got used to the staring, no harm had come to us and we had spoken to a few locals who were very pleasant. Steffan had learnt a few Arabic phrases from my mum’s boyfriend before we left, and it made a real difference when talking to people. We were starting to settle in just an hour after feeling like we wanted to hide away.

The riad kindly booked a taxi for us and off we went to Jemaa el-Fnaa. We arrived at what can only be described as mayhem. I felt as though we had come from mayhem, but a more local vibe. This was tourist mayhem.

Horses pulling fluorescent carts lined the walkway to the square with every driver shouting at you to jump on their carriage. Men selling brightly coloured African style t-shirts approached you at every turn. Small stalls set up on rugs selling anything from teapots to keyrings and ‘tour guides’ approached asking if you would like to be shown around.

At least I knew that we weren’t the only tourists in Marrakech. I scolded myself for being so dramatic. Again.

A friendly-looking guy made a beeline for us

‘Hello my friends, would you like a carriage ride?’ he shouted excitedly

‘No thank you’ I said and smiled

We started our walk through the square. Music was playing loudly by entertainers surrounded by excited tourists. The snake charmers were playing their flutes whilst the cobras swayed from side to side and stall owners waved and hollered for us to head over for a fresh juice or bowl of soup.

We looked at each other and smiled. We loved it.

I immediately got excited and said to Steffan that we should get fresh juice. I had read about it online and the stalls were so inviting. It was delicious and we definitely recommend getting yourself one or two in your time in Marrakech. The juice was super filling, more like a mini-meal and we started to doubt whether we would be able to manage an entire food tour! So perhaps if you visit, don’t have one right before a meal. You will struggle!

Fresh juice at Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech, Morocco

We continued our walk to the meeting point for our food tour. I noticed ladies sat on stools offering henna paintings. I had always wanted one as I think they look beautiful. But after reading you need to be careful of the ink that’s used due to allergic reactions and me having the most sensitive skin in the world (no, really! I have ended up in accidents and emergencies in recent years due to an allergic reaction, well an extreme skin rash.. true story!) I decided to give it a miss. A lady rushed towards me shouting Henna, I politely declined. She grabbed my hand and tried to draw on it. My Walsall gangster attitude came out (it never leaves you) and I pulled my hand away firmly and shouted, ‘No thank you’. She stormed away clearly frustrated her bullying tactics hadn’t worked. I learnt later from our tour guide that this was quite common. If you decline, they will attempt to go ahead and draw henna on you anyway and then charge you despite you not agreeing to it. Luckily with my super sharp reflexes, we avoided any unwanted costs and A&E trips for allergic reactions.

We avoided the monkey handlers at all costs and in our entire trip, this was the only thing we saw that we felt extremely unhappy with. We saw many donkeys, many horses, camels and even stray cats and they all seemed well fed, well cared for and we didn’t see any mistreatment. As animal lovers, it is very hard to see but as we have both travelled a fair amount, we are aware that it is not something you can always avoid. We cannot say this enough, please do not pay into this. The monkeys are kept on chains and are pulled around, they were pulling back on their chain and were clearly unhappy. Less and fewer tourists are now paying for photographs with animals in this way and so we sincerely hope it is completely eradicated sometime soon. If you are keen to see monkeys and even have photographs with them, go to Ouzoud Waterfalls. They are living freely at the falls but accustomed to humans and like nothing better than sitting on someone shoulder in return for a bite of food.

Ouzoud Falls in Morocco

As we continued our walk, we were then approached by a man selling artwork. After chatting to him we learnt he was from West Africa and lives in Marrakech to try and make money for his family.

He was a lovely guy and after asking about us he explained that we were the first people he had spoken to that evening and in Africa if the first person you approach buys something it provides good luck for the rest of the evening. Whether it was true or not we felt we had a responsibility to ensure he had a very successful evening of selling artwork and so agreed to buy one! We picked a picture, negotiated a price and said our goodbyes. He was such a nice guy and we really enjoyed meeting him and that’s one thing we would say, everyone, for the most part, were genuinely nice people.

The food tour was great, and we would recommend it if you are interested in learning more about local foods and also Moroccan culture from someone who was born in Marrakech and has all the inside information. We booked through Urban Adventures and we really enjoyed it.

Olives at the souks in Marrakech, Morocco

We were approached by many stall vendors throughout the food tour and unlike reports we had heard before our trip, we never found anyone to be too pushy or aggressive. Everyone was light-hearted and friendly and a simple no thank you or explaining we had eaten was enough. We enjoyed the banter we had with them and found them to be very welcoming. Our favourite communication was with the vendors as they tried to guess where you were from, either shouting ‘Scottish?’, ‘American’, or our personal favourite, ‘Yorkshire pudding?’

I guess they meant English. I just responded with ‘yes, sometimes’ much to Steffan’s amusement.

After the food tour, we were both exhausted. Sensory overload. We headed back to the riad. We were in bed early and unlike Lisbon, had consumed absolutely no alcohol whatsoever so far on this trip. Given our levels of tiredness, we agreed it was a good thing and drifted off to sleep.

Day Two; Bahia Palace, sightseeing and friendly faces

We originally had planned to wake early and go and capture some photographs, maybe even of the sunrise over the grand and majestic Koutoubia Mosque. But, us being us, had opted in favour of more sleep and got up around 9 am instead. Early birds we are not.

We enjoyed a Moroccan breakfast in the riad, got changed and head out to El Badhi Palace. Steffan had read about a picturesque golden door that was just a ten-minute walk from us that he wanted to find on the way and so we set out in pursuit of another perfect Moroccan picture.

As we left the riad, Steffan mentioned he needed to adjust his Go Pro holder but realised he needed an Allen key to do this, which obviously I hadn’t packed. It wasn’t on my essentials list, lesson learnt.

As we made our way up the street, he started looking at the local stalls, small restaurants, coffee shops, stands selling fish heads (a little early I guess but when in Rome), camera shops and mechanics sat by the roadside fixing motorbikes and mopeds. He approached two guys fixing a motorbike and started to explain using nothing but hand actions and the odd word to explain what he needed. What proceeded can only be described as a fast-paced game of charades with the odd word thrown in that no one really understood and neither party was sure how it was even relevant. They soon realised what we needed and were so happy to help us.

‘Welcome to Marrakech’ one of the guys said gleefully.

‘Thank you so much’ I smiled

He stood up, offering me his chair. I politely declined but thanked him for his generosity.

It took around 5 minutes to unscrew and screw back on the parts Steffan had needed adjusting only to realise (by them) we hadn’t needed an allen key, or in fact, any tool at all and could have easily done this ourselves. I bet they thought we were a pair of idiots. If they did, they didn’t let on, and happily shook our hands and looked so pleased to help us out.

This kind of interaction was new to me. I usually shied away from talking to locals, embarrassed I can’t speak their language and this was something Steffan excelled at. Using his few Arabic phrases and greetings and me just displaying a geeky grin got us a long way and I left feeling grateful I had such a sociable travel partner to learn from. Maybe I could start being more travel social? Baby steps I thought to myself.

After walking for almost 30 minutes, we realised once again, we were lost. We had used two different maps, one given to us by the riad. so you would assume it to be accurate and even consulted Google maps before leaving. Steffan is a brilliant navigator with an unusually accurate sense of direction. But Marrakech was impossible for the both of us to navigate and we admitted defeat after ending back right where we started with no golden door insight.

We jumped in a taxi and headed to El Badhi Palace which is a palace ruin we had read about in our travel guide book. It was built in the 16th century and had a ton of history attached to it so we thought it would be interesting and there would be good photo opportunities whilst in there. In all honesty, it was underwhelming at best. To add to our disappointed mood we were both starving, and anyone that knows us is very aware of how much hunger affects both of us. Think scowling and general irritation. Whilst our stomachs groaned, we looked around. There was scaffolding at every turn, workers in bright orange and yellow high visibility jackets and an events management company had taken up residence in the corner. We assumed from this they were setting up for an event although this was never mentioned upon entry. The most exciting (and that word is used lightly) part of the palace ruins as it was home to huge birds, similar to Storks or maybe they were storks (Bird species it not our strong suit!) living on the tall former walls, perched on gigantic nests. Steffan got to snapping away and got a few good photographs. We looked at each other unimpressed and decided to leave in search of food.

I think if you are interested in the history and can look past an event management organisation taking over the entire site then it’s worth a look, it only costs 70 dirhams which are around 4-5 euros, but for us, it is not something we enjoyed.

We sat down for lunch and trying to be as cultural and Moroccan as possible we ordered a couscous lunch and a Berber Tagine. Only when the food came did we realise Berber Tagine was vegetarian and I had ordered a plate of vegetables. Steffan kindly gave me some of his meat to add to my brightly coloured plate of veg and we ate our food quickly, ready to move on to the next thing.

Berber Tagine, Marrakech, Morocco

Bahia Palace was next on our list and there was a queue to get in which luckily didn’t last too long. We did find it to be busy though so would recommend getting there early if you want more space to take photographs without lots of tourists in them. Bahia Palace is beautiful, and we really enjoyed our time there. It also cost 70 dirhams and is completely worth it. Beautiful marble floors, fountains, brightly coloured flowers and charming gardens, blue and yellow archways and some of the most beautiful architecture we saw on our trip. Aside from attracting attention from the security guard for using our tripod (they are not allowed anywhere in any of the attractions we visited) the walk was very enjoyable and completely relaxing. The security guard did offer to take some photos of the two of us though which we accepted since it’s always difficult to get pictures of the two of you when travelling together. What a nice guy!

Bahia Palace in Marrakech, Morocco

We then decided to spend a few hours wandering the souks and do a little shopping. Despite us having absolutely no space whatsoever in our room in our house share, we agreed we would like to buy a little thing or two on our travels to bring home. After treating ourselves to another fresh juice at one of the stalls and feeling super proud of myself for not seeking out wine at every given opportunity in my usual fashion, we started our wander down the colourful streets of the Marrakech souks. In the space of around 45 minutes, Steffan had purchased an ornate silver teapot, a t-shirt, a leather wallet and a painted picture of Morocco. That boy can shop!

Whilst he was negotiating a price for the painting, I caught sight of a friendly face.

‘Hello, how are you?’ he said with a huge smile.

It was our friend from the night before who we had chatted to and bought artwork from.

‘How was your day yesterday?’ I asked enthusiastically. And this for me was not my usual behaviour, as you may have gathered from my earlier interactions with the mechanics. I can be quite antisocial in general despite being outgoing and chatty and especially when in another country, I tend to refrain from talking to people too much. I think I am quite suspicious of people sometimes and this was something Steffan was working on. He had already got me chatting to strangers and even making friends.

‘Really good thank you, I must thank you both!’

He started to look through his artwork again and said he had something for us. I politely declined and explained we just don’t have the space for anything else in our little room at home.

‘Please’ He said, ‘In my country, when someone buys the first thing from you and you have a good day, you give them a gift, I want to give you both a gift’

I grinned and looked at Steffan, who much to my surprise was looking a little alarmed and shaking his head at me gesturing for me not to accept it. My Cynicism was clearly rubbing off on him a little.

‘It’s a gift’ I said in a somewhat high-pitched excited voice, there was just something about this guy that I trusted. He had a warm friendly way about him, and I trusted that he wasn’t trying to rip us off or get money from us under false pretences.

He held up a beautiful picture of a brown tortoise and handed it to me.

Steffan came over and shook hands and they had a chat. Steff handed him 20 dirhams as a thank you which is only around 2 euros. He declined and explained it was a gift, but we insisted we wanted to offer him something as a little thank you and he eventually accepted it. He wished us well and we said our goodbyes and headed off. Once again, we spent the next 15 minutes discussing how lovely he was and how in all the countries we have visited we had never experienced something like that. It was a good feeling. Our only regret is we didn’t get a photograph of him and some details to stay in touch as he was a genuinely lovely guy who we both really warmed to.

Koutoubia Mosque was next on our list. We hadn’t managed to photograph it yet, and it really is such a majestic building that stands tall over the whole of Marrakech. We headed there by foot realising the temperature was starting to rise. After taking a few photographs we agreed to get out of the sun and sit in the shade for ten minutes before heading back.

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco

However, Steffan excitedly grinned at me and walked briskly towards a bench facing the Mosque. He sat down. In the sweltering heat under direct sunlight. I knew what was coming. He had found the perfect spot to take a photograph. I sighed and tried to not be a moaning cow about the whole thing and sat quietly while he rummaged through filters and lenses in order to get the perfect photograph.

Eventually, he was satisfied and realised he too was hot …so we headed back to the riad to get changed as we had a camel safari booked for the evening.

The riad manager had kindly called to confirm our tour and meeting point despite the tours not being booked through them and we set off to meet the tour guide. I was a little nervous. I rode horses for many years as a child and teenager but since I have gotten older my fear has increased and I am very aware of just how clumsy I am in basic situations so I really had little faith in myself to stay on the camel let alone enjoy the ride.

We waited at the meeting point but we couldn’t see where the van was. We were lost for what felt like the millionth time.

Steffan called the tour company and after them asking where we were in broken English and us really not able to tell them anything except for describing the archways (of which there were many in Marrakech), the orange walls (yup, also many of those) and the shopping stalls (you get the picture) we realised we were struggling. Steffan approached a random guy walking down the street and asked if he could speak to the tour company for us, he just looked at Steffan while he held his mobile phone out for him to take and said ‘Arabic?’

Steffan nodded and he took his phone and started to sort out our tour meeting place for us in Arabic with the company that was picking us up. After a minute or so, he handed the phone back to us and spoke to a taxi driver standing nearby who spoke English asking him to translate for him. The taxi driver explained we need to wait here, and they would arrive soon. We looked at the young man who had taken the call for us and thanked him, he just smiled warmly and held his hand to his chest gesturing that he was happy to help. We had never experienced so many acts of kindness in such a short space of time anywhere else we have travelled to in our many years of holidays and exploring other countries! Honestly, people are so happy to help you and seem overjoyed when you spend time talking to them!

Our tour guide turned up shortly afterwards and the evening ran smoothly. Well, if you can call almost falling off almost three times, having a screaming camel 4 inches from you for over an hour and overcoming two panic attacks smoothly then yes, that’s what it was.

Camels at Palm Grove in Morocco

After the tour, we wanted to head back to the square to try and find one of the many beautiful rooftop bars to enjoy a cocktail and take in the view of all the evening delights below. But we both admitted we were exhausted again and headed back to the riad. To try and convince ourselves we were not all boring and thinking back on our time in Lisbon we ordered a half bottle of wine to share in the riad courtyard. (a half bottle?! Who even are we?)

Our plan of a relaxing glass of wine each resulted in us both being on Instagram for 15 minutes trying to keep up with comments and followers, writing notes of the day we had shared for our blog and downing our wine in a few gulps in order to get into bed as quickly as possible to retain some energy for the next day. This was no Lisbon where I am sure we were slightly drunk over 70% of the time. Still, we were thoroughly enjoying this new sober experience. We promised each other tomorrow would be the night we made it back to the square and would stop acting like 60-year-olds unable to do anything past 9 pm.

Riad courtyard in Marrakech, Morocco

Day Three; Orange waterfalls, hiking and trying to get drunk

We had planned a tour to the Atlas mountains for that day, but after not hearing from the tour company to agree on a meeting point and being unable to contact them we had cancelled it the night before and had booked a private tour with the riad to visit Ouzoud waterfalls.

Our friendly driver arrived, and we set off. Ouzoud falls which was only around 2 hours away which felt much easier to deal with than the eight hour round trip we had planned in order to see the Atlas mountains. On such a short trip the last thing we wanted to do was spend almost an entire day in a minivan.

The day was epic. We loved the falls and despite it being nothing like the photographs we were shown (bright orange water rather than clear blue), we thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Ouzoud Falls in Morocco

We got back to our riad at around 6.30 pm and had a table booked to eat there for 7 pm. Riads are usually family-owned guesthouses and only have a small number of rooms. Ours had five bedrooms and all the food was freshly cooked by a local lady.

Dinner at Riad Zayane

Sat in the beautiful courtyard eating traditional Moroccan food did not disappoint and we even managed some wine! However, as dessert approached, we both started discussing heading back out and very quickly admitted defeat for the third and final time on our trip. We were just too tired.

We smiled at each other, both relieved we would be asleep before 10pm.

Even writing this is making me uncomfortable and I am making a note we need to up our game on our next trip. Either way, we planned to get up early as we had an airport transfer at 11.30 am and wanted to make the most of the last few hours we had in Marrakech.

Day Four; The bright blue gardens of Marrakech, colour coordination and the sadness of going home

We did manage to get up early, for the first time ever! Maybe there Is something to this going to bed early malarkey. We had arranged with the riad to have breakfast early and headed out.

The first stop was Jardin Marjorelle, the place we tried to find on day one and failed. Jardin Marjorelle is one of the most famous buildings in Marrakech. Distinct and bright blue surrounded by hundreds of species of plants and cactus. It’s beautiful. We arrived only 15 minutes after opening and there was already a long queue much to our frustration. We waited for what felt like an eternity but was more like 20 (long) minutes and finally got inside. It was 70 dirhams to get in but you could buy combined tickets for other attractions such as the YSL museum, but we opted for the gardens only.

The gardens are just beautiful. Trees bow overhead, creating a canopied walkway, birds sing and chirp and you are surrounded by brightly coloured chairs, buildings, archways and fountains. It is the perfect place to relax, take photographs or just meander around taking everything in.

Jardin Marjorelle in Marrakech, Morocco

We wandered around taking photographs of the gardens and of each other, trying to get the perfect Instagram pose, which comes much more naturally to Steffan than me and watched on as much more organised people had colour coordinated their dresses and outfits to the exact colour of the building. I looked down at my dress…. Bright red. Could I have picked a colour any more different from the bright blue gardens? Good job Emma. Steffan on the other hand after just throwing on his outfit with no thought whatsoever the morning of, perfectly matched every colour present. I just don’t know how he does it! But I took full advantage and got him posing and standing in different corners, proud and impressed he matched the doors. Perfectly!

We decided to head off to our final stop, Jardin Secret.

Jardin Secret is less well known as a tourist attraction and you could tell when we arrived it really was a little bit of a secret. We bought tickets immediately as there was no queue and were pleased to see there were only around 6 other people here. Jardin Secret is a traditional riad surrounded by beautifully built outbuildings and gardens. Decorated with intricately ornate doorways and fountains, archways and walkways set through lush green gardens dotted with vividly red flowers. We took photographs and enjoyed a coffee on the balcony upstairs overlooking the whole garden. I was still super excited that we had seen turtles living in the small pond. Anything animal related gets me overexcited and we agreed to take more photographs of them when we left.

Jardin Secret in Marrakech, Morocco

After checking the time and realising we hadn’t packed and would need to be ready in an hour for our driver we jumped in a taxi to get back to the Riad.

The realisation hit that for the first time in four days we had forgotten to bring the maps. It was usually the thing I remembered but I had been so keen to match my bag to my dress in a rush I hadn’t transferred everything from yesterdays bag to today’s bag. Damn it. We started trying to explain and it resulted in us just both shouting random words and descriptions;

‘Arch ways’ Steffan proclaimed

‘Markets’ I joined in

This was ridiculous. He had no idea where we were going and hadn’t heard of our riad.

He started driving anyway whilst trying to converse with us in a mix of Arabic and French. We both looked at each not knowing what to say after running out of descriptive random words and tried to get our mobile phones on so we could access google maps. Steffan won the google maps race and showed the driver, he nodded. Okay, good, he knows where we are going. Two minutes later he started saying more things with an air of confusion.

‘Ring hotel, ring riad’

I looked at Steff and whispered, ‘I thought he knew where we were going now?’

He just looked at me and shrugged.

Luckily after a further minute of us mumbling and not knowing what to say we realised he was going the right way and we arrived and asked him to pull over. Steffan apologised for the confusion in French and paid, I was once again impressed with his diversity in any situation. My French reaches to Bonjour and that, to be honest, I am quite pleased with. The driver smiled and we headed back.

It was almost home time and we both felt the same way. We didn’t want to leave.

We got our suitcases out of the taxi and started walking towards the airport. An older Moroccan man stood by the walkway, dressed in a long grey hooded cape watching us. We smiled.

He said ‘airport’ as he smiled back and pointed towards the entrance.

We responded

‘Shukran’ which is thank you in Arabic. He put his thumbs up at us and smiled and we did the same.

The contrast between our arrival and departure could not have been more different, it made me smile, and still does.

We LOVED Marrakech. What started as an uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing trip, quickly transformed into the best holiday we have ever had. We loved the people, we loved how different it was to the UK, we loved the bustling and hectic atmosphere, the culture and we also loved the challenges we came across most days.

It made the trip memorable and exciting and we have both vowed to return to Morocco and see more of the area in the future. We entered Marrakech full of nerves, stressed out, bewildered and extremely uncomfortable. But we left full of memories of the things we had experienced and the people we had met, our hearts warm and full and we both felt as though our eyes had been opened and our minds slightly transformed by this travel experience.

Marrakech is an amazing destination and we honestly cannot wait to return.

We learnt so many things whilst away about ourselves and a new culture but also many hints and tips for anyone looking to visit Marrakech in the future.

Camel safari, Palm Grove, Morocco

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