Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bienvenue au Maroc! Part Une

Tsamina mina
Cuz this is Africa!

Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka Waka eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa aa
This time for Africa!

As I am wrapping up my vacation related posts, I must detail my journey to Morocco. I don't want you to think for one moment that España overshadowed my time in Morocco, because it didn't. If it were practical for me to try to move to a Muslim nation as a single woman, Marrakech would be a real possibility. I cannot emphasize how wonderful the people were. Contrary to what ALL of the online reviews said about the men being aggressive, touchy, and rude to foreign women, our experience was the opposite. From the moment our very attractive cab driver picked us up from the airport, we were shown nothing but the warmest of hospitality by the people everywhere we went.  When our cab driver dropped us off on a busy street in what seemed to be the middle of chaos, the manager of our riad was waiting to meet us and show us the way to paradise.

The walk to our riad was short, but unforgettable words can hardly describe it. Try to imagine walking down a busy dusty road, the Saharan sun on your back, rows of with little shops selling leather goods, fruit, spices, jewelry, and cheap touristy crap, etc. with their merchants sitting outside looking at you with friendly eyes and big smiles, practically yelling "be sure to visit!" and "welcome, new neighbors!", dodging motor bikes as they whiz by so closely you can feel the heat on your ankles, exotic aromas wafting about, cats lazily lounging in the shade, and donkeys pulling carts of fruit, and a sort of organized chaos that would never sustain itself peacefully stateside. And we hadn't even put our bags down yet! Upon arriving to the riad, we were immediately seated in the courtyard for cool* water and hot mint tea. It was the first of many cups of tea on our three days in Morocco, and the beginning of a glorious experience.

When traveling to Marrakech, the preferred lodging venue is a riad rather than a hotel, and I have to say this is the way to go! We stayed at Riad Diana, and it was beautiful!

After a week of jamón, gratuitous partying, inhaling secondhand smoke by the metric ton and driving almost an hour to Sevilla's airport for our morning flight, we were in serious need of some R&R. Based on the recommendation of friend of my sister, we booked ourselves a spa treatment at the Le Bains de Marrakech Spa for the afternoon of our arrival.  BEST. DECISION. EVER! We traversed the dodgy street traffic in Marrakech on foot to get to the spa--crossing the street looked something like this--but once we got there, it was like being transported to another world. Once we arrived inside, they informed us that we couldn't take any pictures, and I know why. When standing at the gates of heaven, the last thing God wants is for people to be snapping photos. It's rude and disturbs the other bliss seekers. $105 bought three hours of BLISS: a 1 hour hammam body wrap/scrub, a 1 hour hot stone massage, and a 1 hour relaxation massage. Gotta love that dirham/dollar exchange rate!

The hammam was an experience I just have to share in detail, because it makes me chuckle. Basically, we were paired off and put in a steam room, naked from the waist up, and allowed to SWEAT out EVERYTHING. After an unknown amount of time, we were then practically manhandled by Moroccan women with a super scrubby body sponges (which they gave to us to keep, and yes I still use mine), and various soaps and oils . You would think that being roughed up by a stranger while being practically nude in a 100 degree steam room would be odd and off putting. But honestly, I was too tired to care, and then seeing all the dirt, dead skin, and what I'm sure was cigarette smoke residue coming off my body, I was amazed [and slightly mortified] and super appreciative of their efforts. After that scrub, my skin was softer than a newborn's ass AND my neck was several shades lighter. I was delighted. And then then they took me to the massage chamber where they rubbed me with hot stones and oils for two hours, and I'm pretty sure I left about 8oz of drool on the table because I was knocked out! I remember waking up at one point during my massage and having no clue where I was for probably 5 whole seconds, and not caring at all. I didn't know it was possible to be that relaxed. After it was over and they practically had to shake me awake, I could barely walk to the finishing room where there were rose petals and fountains and misters, we were seated on chaise lounges, given more mint tea, honey pastries, and allowed to continue to decompress. The few images on the website do not lie! Best spa experience of my life!

After dragging ourselves back into the streets of Marrakech, we saw fit to shop. We found our way to a "pharmacy" that we had stopped in on our way to the spa, and made a time of it, which included inhaling various herbal remedies--menthol in it's pure form will literally burn your brain and put hair on your chest, but it'll clear the sinuses! We drank mint tea, bought spices, herbs, and sandalwood, and made new friends. Honestly, I can't think of a better introduction to this wonderful country!

We wrapped up our evening in Morocco with a fabulous dinner at the fabulous Dar Essalam restaurant. You can read about the food in this post. But obviously the coolest part was the belly dancing and the woman dancing with a tray of candles on her head who did splits. It was wild, y'all!

And all of this was only on our first day!

*the water was never, ever cold. I don't think they understood the concept of ice cold water. Maybe it's b/c they can only drink bottled water, and therefore don't ever have ice. I dunno


  1. So glad you have such a fabulous time! People always told me Morrocco was dangerous, so I avoided it when I went to Spain. I want to go!

  2. I can't even tell you how jealous I am. I am DYING to visit Morocco!

  3. Ohmygosh that looks AMAZING! And I need to find a steam room stat! You know...to sweat out all that alcohol I've been drinking lately ;)

  4. oh im so jealous of this vacation. How did you guys put it together? Next year we're planning on doing a girls trip to essence fest BUT I would def love to grab my girls and do something your like this trip...first stop Greece

  5. @Keeley, before we got there, I was nervous about that too. Especially since my cousin decided not to come with us afterall. But honestly, it was really really safe. There logistics of the place with all the motorbikes and narrow streets could have easily been a scary situation, but we had no issues. Where we stayed in Madrid was definitely more sketchy than Marrakech.

    @Kristin. Call your girlfriends and plan your trip! Like ASAP

    @Ellen, it was freakin awesome and that steam is so cleansing! If I could replicate that spa experience on a monthly basis I would be a happier woman!

    @LIG, the plan for this vacation really just fell together, like literally. We planned the whole trip around the fact we could stay with my cousin in southern spain, which allowed us free lodging and to extend the length of the trip. We plotted our course starting in the north in barcelona, to madrid, and then to el puerto with my cousin. Once your in souther spain, morocco is literally RIGHT there, and my cousin lives an hour from sevilla'ss airport, where we were able to get a cheap flight to Marrakech. The only activity we solidly planned was the spa, and even that was last minute before we left. My sister deserves all the credit for finding all of the lodging, and most of the air travel. The easiest way to plan a vacation is to start with a clear idea of where you want to go, and the rest of the details fall into place.

  6. Finally!! We are getting to the good stuff!! I loved hearing your stories in person, bu the pictures are exactly what I had envisioned....PERFECTION!!! I'm looking at the website right now and I am green with envy!!! This place looks GORGEOUS!! Just gorgeous!! Also your road looks inviting too! So can you explain the difference between a riad and hotel? Is a riad like a B&B?

  7. Maddy, as more time goes by, the more i crave to go back to morocco! A riad is more like a B&B, only a dozen rooms or less, and always has an open courtyard in the middle. It's more intimate than a hotel, it was awesome!



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