The Insider's Guide to Morocco
As we know, Sakaralites are always looking for their next destination to reset and reboot. Sometimes we need to take some time to recalibrate and explore a new side of the world. Enter, Sakara’s Insider Guide to Morocco. Discover a magical destination, full of colorful, vibrant markets and hidden gems. You can find yourself while getting lost in the wonders each city has to offer. It's easy to get romantic and dreamy-eyed about a place that feels like it was painted into real life — my one takeaway? Go!
Where to stay:
Riad Yasmine is one of the top choices for travelers in Marrakech. This Instagram famous riad is one of the most sought after destinations, thanks to its iconic pool. If you are looking for the perfect balance of intimacy and luxury, Riad Yasmine is the place to stay. You can find this riad in the heart of Marrakech, with exquisite bedrooms that seem to be perfectly placed within the famed Marrakech medina.
The iconic La Mamounia Hotel is a destination in itself. When you step off the busy streets of Marrakech and through the gates of La Mamounia, you’re transported into an entirely separate universe. This royalty-worthy hotel is enclosed by elegant gardens that accentuate its beauty. You can easily see why La Mamounia is a landmark for iconic figures around the world. La Mamounia offers the unique ability for tourists to curate their visits to suit their preferences: you can spend a full day exploring the gardens, find yourself by the pool, or relax while overlooking the courtyard gardens with a glass of rose in hand. If you want to move the R&R indoors, don’t forget to book yourself a spa treatment at one of the most sought after spas in the country.
Dar-Housnia is another boutique hotel located in the heart of the Marrakech medina. The staff is wonderful and eager to help each of its guests plan their trips. If you are looking for a low-key night with an authentic “home-cooked” meal, dinner at the Dar is a decision you won’t regret. The inspiring chefs accept orders no later than 24 hours in advance to ensure they are able to locate the freshest produce and ingredients. You will find yourself enjoying a four course meal featuring salads, appetizers, classic Moroccan tajines, and ice cream topped with fresh fruit for dessert.
Where to eat:
When you’ve had enough tajines to last you a lifetime, Nomad is a must for an American twist on Moroccan food. Nomad impressively features a combination of classic Moroccan dishes with unique derivations using local Moroccan ingredients. Menu items are organic and gluten-free; amongst the wide variety of options you can find are fresh juices, vegetarian dishes, and date cake that’s a required final course. Make sure to make a reservation and don’t miss the beautiful sunset.
Cafe Des Epices is known by travelers around the world, as it is in the heart of the Marrakech souks. You can find a more traditional Moroccan menu available all day. This cafe is the place to go if you want to sit outside, take in the surroundings, and enjoy a glass of wine. Keep in mind, most places in Morocco don’t serve alcohol; but us Sakaralites believe in a “eat clean, play dirty” mentality.
You can find “The Pink Roof Top” on the roof of Riad Jardin Secret. This riad has six Beldi Chic rooms which are all designed and hand-picked from the finest flea markets in town. The riad prides itself on creating a “soulful, thought-provoking sophistication that redefines luxury.” The Pink Roof Top is open to the public for lunch only, as breakfast and dinner are exclusively for its guests. If you are looking for the freshest vegetarian-friendly restaurant, this is your place. The restaurant only chooses the highest quality organic ingredients, supporting local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products.
What to do:
Majorelle Garden: Take a break from the souks of Marrakech, Fez, and other Moroccan towns on your itinerary to take in these beautifully curated gardens. The garden, designed by famed artist Jacques Marjorelle, features fountains and exotic plants that are captivating to tourists and locals alike. This beautiful collection of flowers set amongst artwork in vibrant colors, wooden bridges, and walking paths feels as if you were walking through the setting of an oil canvas painting.
YSL Musuem: The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is an exhibit dedicated to the work and successes of legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Hot Air Balloon: If you are feeling adventurous and ambitious, a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Marrakech is the perfect choice for the itinerary. Although the 4:30am wake up call may seem a bit intimidating, the feeling of surveying an exotic land thousands of feet in the air is a moment you will want to relive.
Beldi Country Club: The hotel sits on a beautiful 35 acres with all of the country club amenities. With the perfect combination of Moroccan tradition and French chic, you will discover the perfect oasis to sit back, relax, and truly unwind. Relaxing at the pool you will be surrounded by ancient olive trees and rose gardens with views all the way to the Atlas Mountains. After rejuvenating by the pool, we highly recommend participating in a traditional Moroccan hammam.
Chabi Chic: After spending the afternoon negotiating dirham prices in the souks, it is every Sakaralites dream to discover Chabi Chic’s perfect assortment of curated Moroccan style accessories. These beautifully handcrafted designs are available online, but we definitely recommend browsing the store in person. You can find its Marrakech location attached to the Nomad.
Souk Shopping: The heart and soul of the city lives in the souks of the old city. The Marrakech medina offers the largest collection of souks in all of Morocco. Allow yourself to get lost in the streets and follow the smells of mint, roasting nuts, and treats while following the endless colors of carpets and leather accessories. You can find a designated souk for almost any item you’re in the market for. Interested in carpets, bags, slippers, spices? You can find it all. Remember to pack an empty bag or leave some space in your suitcase because you will want to bring back more than just some fresh pressed argan oil.
Bahia Palace: This palace was built in the 19th century with the intention of being the greatest palace of all time. The entire palace is intricately designed with 160 rooms, countless courtyards & eight acres of gardens. The name “Bahia” means “brilliance,” and this translation is in full display and design with every tile.
El Badi Palace: El Badi Palace means “Palace of the incomparable.” This building was built at the end of the sixteenth century.
Where to stay:
Villa Anouk is a tranquil oasis in the coastal town of Essaouira. As you pull up to the gates of Villa Anouk, you quickly discover the magic residing inside its Beldi traditional walls. Every element and accessory of the villa is hand-picked and carefully curated by the founder of this beautiful home, Anouk. Each piece is hand-built with natural elements by local artisans and makes you feel right at home. There are only seven bedrooms in the villa, ensuring ensuring you are at a peaceful state of mind throughout your stay. Although we recommend spending at least an afternoon in town, you will without a doubt be reluctant to leave the gates of Villa Anouk. You can spend your day meditating on the roof, enjoying the indoor swimming pool, tanning on the patio deck, or indulging in a book in every cozy corner of the home.
Where to eat:
Caravane Cafe is a Dar turned unique dining experience, leading to an intimate setting with minimal tables/parties in each room. There is live music throughout the evening, as well as fire dancing, so we recommend staying for the full evening. The energetic environment, with a combination of vivid French/Moroccan artwork, creates the perfect ambiance for a night out in Essaouira. Since this is a coastal town, all of the seafood is sourced directly from the fish markets in town - it doesn’t get fresher than that!
What to do:
There are many activities in this city to supplement the mental and spiritual wellness provided by Villa Anouk. Essaouira is known as the windy city of Africa, making kitesurfing and surfing the sport of choice. You can rent all of the equipment down by the beach or choose to take a camel or horse ride along the coastline. For those who choose to opt for a more laid back afternoon of activities, you can take a cooking class or spend the afternoon at the spa.
The medina and souks in Essaouira are much smaller than the ones you may experience in other cities across the country. Get adventurous, and have fun exploring the little nooks + hidden gems.
Where to stay:
Riad Anata's modern comfort inspires a sense of relaxation just outside the gates of the medina. Riad Anata is designed with the intention to enhance the energy and experience you are seeking while traveling through Fez. Each of the five rooms are uniquely designed to create a quaint sanctuary for guests to return to at the end of the day. The staff is welcoming and accommodating of your travel plans, offering advice on all of the culture Fez has to offer. The scenic rooftop overlooks the streets and is the perfect location to start your day with the standard breakfast - fresh fruit, jams and honey from local natural ingredients that are meant to be enjoyed outdoors - or to watch the sunset with a glass of wine after a busy day of exploring.
Where to eat:
Although there doesn’t seem to be many options in Fez, Chez Charid is a little spot on the street of the medina. You can find excellent tajines, couscous and entertaining people watching as you sit outside. To end the night, there are tons of candy and pastry vendors across the street where you can try the endless flavors of the medina.
What to do:
Palais Amani: Spend a few hours on the gorgeous rooftop enjoying a cup of coffee and having lunch under the lemon trees. The palais offers a peaceful escape from the fast-paced environment of the medina.
Palais Faraj: If you are looking to take some personal time to relax, Palais Faraj is the place to lay out by the pool and dive into your latest book. Most of the riads have small dipping pools, but here you can fully lounge poolside and enjoy a delicious lunch.
Ceramic School: While visiting Fez, we highly recommend visiting a ceramics shop to observe how their one-of-a-kind pottery is created from start to finish. You will not only be amazed, but appreciate the effort it takes to craft each piece of artwork. Walk through the shop to observe how the clay is molded, laid out to dry for days, painted using natural colors, and placed into kilns to convert the ceramic from design into finished product.
Tannery: Observe the intensive cleaning and dying processes that transform natural leather into beautiful bags, jackets, and other classic Moroccan items. Take in the elevated view from the government collective’s roof to get a panoramic view of the entire process.
Chefchaouen: Take a day trip from Fez to Chefchaouen (roughly three hour drive each way) to visit the classical old town painted entirely blue. The collection of blue homes and shops set atop a mountain brings a unique combination of the Morocco countryside with the feel of the medina of Morocco’s more well-known cities. The simple, unassuming staircases and side streets offer tranquility alongside busy souk streets.