An unprecedented snowstorm prevented us from spending any time in the Sahara desert, so we took a detour and headed to our next destination, Marrakech, a few days early!
We stopped for McDonald's on the way... so at this point I've had McDonald's on four different continents!!
The view from our hotel, the Fairmont Royal Palm. This was a gorgeous place to stay with the friendliest staff and beautiful accommodations. Situated about 25 minutes away from downtown Marrakech, this resort is a popular destination for European tourists from Spain, Portugal, and France looking for a relaxing vacation close to home. The hotel has golf courses, tennis courts, a gym, a spa, an olympic indoor swimming pool, outdoor pools, three restaurants, and so much more. Some visitors don't even leave the hotel during their stay!
We, on the other hand, were not there to relax and play golf, but rather to immerse ourselves in Marrakech and explore the rich culture of this city!
The Koutoubia Mosque is a defining feature of Marrakech's skyline. It was built in the late 12th century and is the largest mosque in the city.
Donkeys are a surprisingly popular form of transportation in this city!
One of my favorite parts of this trip was seeing all the P&G products that are sold around the world and how their packaging is designed differently for different markets!
We explored the city alongside our amazing tour guide, Abdul, who has lived in Marrakech his entire life. If you have plans to travel to Marrakech any time soon, definitely consider booking Abdul for a tour of Marrakech (you can visit his website here). The souks of Marrakech can be pretty overwhelming, and we would have missed so much of the history and culture of the city had it not been for Abdul!
These are some of my favorite images from our day exploring the souks:
The souks are so fascinating because beautiful artisan shops like this jade store are situated next to tacky tchotchke shops selling Marrakech keychains and knock off Gucci bags. It's important to bargain with sellers, regardless of the type of store, because they expect tourists to come through their shops, so they have their prices set unnecessarily high.
We ended our day at an old synagogue hidden in the souks. Abdul mostly gives tours to American tourists, and he said a lot of his guests have been Jewish, so he is well versed on the history of Jews in Morocco. This synagogue was so beautiful, and I thought it was particularly interesting to see how the seats were set up in relation to the bema and the torah.
We initially only planned to spend one day with Abdul, but we loved him so much that we decided to do another tour with him the next day in a vacation town called Essaouira. A three hour drive from Marrakech, Essaouira is right on the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to escape the city and relax! It had some of the best food and shopping we saw while in Morocco, and the architecture was stunning. The walls that surround the city were constructed in the 18th century to protect the residents from invasion, but now they serve as a daunting reminder of the past. Within the city walls you can easily get lost down the nearly-identical paths that are filled with art galleries, furniture stores, leather shops, and restaurants.
On our way to Essouira, we passed a tree with goats in it! I can't even explain what this looked like in person, because the pictures don't even do it justice, but it was truly one of the weirdest things I've ever seen! Apparently the goats eat the argan nuts in the tree, which is why they climb up there.
We also saw some camels along the way, and I was (clearly) shocked by how large they are in person.
And eventually, we found our way to Essaouira!
Nothing beats a good pizza!!!
We planned to do a camel ride in the Sahara, but when our desert plans got derailed, my father did some research and found out that we could also ride camels on the beach in Essaouira. It was a PERFECT way to end our day!
The best part of the day was seeing my mom get on a camel! AMAZING!
100% my favorite day of our trip. These memories are priceless.
We ended the day at Cafe Clock, a tourist staple that several people recommended to us. In what my father calls "the circle of life," we had camel burgers for dinner (yep, you read that right.) Honestly, it was delicious!
Our next day was spent visiting the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. This garden was famed fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's vacation home for years, and now it serves as a botanical garden and a museum open to the public!
Gorgeous views from our villa at the Royal Palm! Those mountains in the backgrounds are the Atlas Mountains.
The entrance to the Jardin Majorelle.
The weather was a little rainy, but that didn't stop us from enjoying all the natural beauty around us!
The next day, we flew from Marrakech back to Lisbon before heading back to New York. This vacation was so marvelous, and I can't wait to make my way back to the other side of the Atlantic soon!