I know, I know, it’s been MONTHS since I got back from my trip to Morocco. What can I say, I’ve been busy doing stuff like living life and styling my new bar cart. But it was an incredible, whirlwind experience that definitely deserves a shout-out.
I spent seven days volunteering in the remote Atlas Mountains hauling rocks and mixing cement to build a new community center with Surf for Life and the Atlas Cultural Foundation (thanks for the volunteer time off, Salesforce!), and four days being tossed like a beanbag through the packed streets of Marrakech with my partners in crime Lindsay and Kelli. You name it, we did it – camel riding, palace touring, argan oil co-op exploring, rug shopping, luxury pool lounging, traditional Berber dancing (there's a video of me somewhere that still needs to be destroyed), and so much more.
Although I can’t go into it all – ain’t nobody got time for that – here are a few memories that stand out the most.
Spoiler alert: the staff at London Gatwick airport basically had to roll me off the plane. That’s because I’d been indulging in couscous, kebabs, lentil soup, chicken pastilla,and tajines as if there was no tomorrow. Oh, and let’s not forget the mint tea. Everywhere we went, an elaborate teapot full of sweet, piping hot fresh mint tea would magically appear before us, often accompanied by a platter of dates, dried figs, nuts, and cookies. OKAY.
Yep, the blend of traditional Moroccan, Mediterranean, and French cuisine was pretty much unbeatable … well, except for the breakfasts. Which were basically a 5-course meal of bread, bread, and more bread. Chocolate croissants, crepes, flatbreads, bread baskets, plus butter and jam. Delicious? Oh yeah. Gluten-free? Not exactly.. #carbsoncarbsoncarbs
What I imagined: an idyllic stroll through the pristine mountain countryside, a land untouched by modern civilization. What I experienced: a sweaty, dirty 16-mile trek through rushing rivers, over teetering rocks, and past a few nightmare-inducing barking dogs. Hunger Games, anyone? Seriously though, the views were amazing and I’m so glad I did it. But peeing on the side of the trail and eating sardines out of a can? File those under things I don’t need to do again.
The souk isn’t just a place, it’s an experience. A sensory overload of colors, smells, and sounds, not to mention an avalanche of people crushing in on you from all sides while aggressive shopkeepers shout out competitive prices. Whatever vibrant plates, poufs, rugs, teapots, foods, spices, and anything else you never knew you needed, it’s there – a few thousand times over. After several hours of haggling, we were emotionally spent and ready for a glass (okay, bottle) of gray wine (it’s a thing there). STAT.
Picture this. You’re standing in a steamy stone sauna with your two buddies, wearing nothing but a saggy plastic thong diaper, as two Moroccan women screaming at one another in French smear gooey substances on your naked body and dump buckets of water over your head. A bonus add-on? Getting rolled up in plastic wrap and being left on a bench to sweat like a limp burrito in the desert. Not quite a leisurely day at the spa, but hey, I’ll never forget it.
- The Garden
Guys. It turns out that of the most beautiful and unique places I've ever seen exists in Marrakech: the Jardin Majorelle. This elaborate, succulent-strewn garden scattered with pops of electric blue and yellow is a vivid oasis and an architectural masterpiece. Once owned by Yves Saint Laurent, the site is now open to all who wish to wander (and selfie) through its lush mazes.
Why would you ever jam a soggy, soiled, and probably (read: definitely) used sprig of mint over your mouth and nose? When the stench of skinned cow, goat, and camel is threatening to knock you unconscious, that's when. The tanneries, located on the outskirts of Marrakech in what is decidedly not a touristy area, are the place where local leather is produced through an elaborate and nauseating process that includes vats of lime and pigeon dung. I’ll never look at my Frye boots the same way again (although I’ll still wear them, obv).
Riads are traditional Moroccan hotels that consist of several rooms built around a center courtyard - kind of like a bed and breakfast. Some have a small pool; some have a roof deck. But every one we set foot in was a stunning, exotic, peaceful respite from the dirt and crowds of the souk. Elaborate patterned tile; climbing vines and fresh blooms; platters of sweets and tea enjoyed in the sunshine … aahhhh. Heaven. Can I go back??
Got more unforgettable moments from Morocco? I want to hear them! Let me know in the comments below.