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With three more months left in Copenhagen, I have found myself in ultra trip planning mode, attempting to check a few more countries off my bucket list before heading back to the States. I was intrigued by the thought of Morocco, but was reluctant to go, believing that a week was not enough time to go all the way to Africa and weary of the horror stories I had read warning of unwanted attention from shop owners, food poisoning and tourist scams. However, after returning from 8 days in the beautiful North African country, I can confidently say that Morocco has topped my list of favorite places in the world. 

Why you should go: 
The fact that you can see the Northern African shoreline from Southern Spain, makes Morocco easily accessible and popular amongst European travelers. For not even $300, you can find roundtrip tickets from most European countries to many of Morocco's main cities. Lush with mountains, coastlines and deserts, Morocco has something for everyone; whether you're a surfer looking for a funky beach town, a jetsetter seeking luxurious spa treatments (more on this later), or a history buff looking to step into ancient cities. With only 8 days to explore, my (amazing) travel mates - Jordyn, Brett & I decided to prioritize Marrakech, the Sahara desert & the blue city, Chefchaouen.

Our Itinerary:
Day 1: Explore Marrakech
Day 2:  Explore Marrakech
Day 3: Left at 7 am for desert - night in hotel
Day 4: Desert Trip - night in Sahara
Day 5: Private Taxi to Chefchaouen
Day 6: Day in Chefchaouen
Day 7: Day in Chefchaouen
 bus to Tangier, Night train to Marrakech
Day 8: Marrakech & back to Copenhagen!

The Madness of Marrakech: 
Late at night we arrived at our hostel, Dream Kasbah. We were greeted by Abdul & Jonas who made our stay highly enjoyable. They invited us to join a traditional community dinner - Cucumber & Tomato Salad, Chicken & Olive Tagine followed by Berber Whiskey (Mint Tea with copious amounts of sugar). With a good meal in our tummies, we were off to get some sleep before our first day of exploring the big city. Waking up in the morning, we opened our shutters, cued the Aladdin soundtrack and headed to the rooftop of our hostel for breakfast. Walking out of our hostel, we immediately felt as if we had gone back in time. The dusty streets were lined with vendors, donkeys, and clans of cats. We walked through the Medina to the glorious chaos of Jeema el-Fna - the main market for tourists and locals alike. You could spend days wandering through the Souks -- the endless winding alleyways full of fragrant leather bags, spice shops, and ceramics.
 Equipped with .40 cent fresh squeezed orange juice, we wandered through the alleyways past snake charmers, monkeys on leashes and henna ladies. Everything in these markets can be bartered, so we put our SE Asia bartering skills to good use. I made it out with a new leather backpack, argan oil, postcards, mint tea, and assorted ceramic bowls all for under $50. Score.
During our time in Marrakech, we paid a visit to Jardin Majorelle - a beautiful garden of palm trees, various succulents, cacti & water fountains surrounding a bright blue villa once belonging to Yves Saint Laurent. The collection of exotic plants here is amazing. Similarly amazing was our windy walk to the gardens where we had to dodge human-sized tumbleweeds (see left). At one point, these tumbleweeds stopped traffic, and taxi drivers had to pull over to physically move them off the highway.
We were cautioned not to be out in Marrakech at night, so we spent our Marrakech nights in our hostel eating community dinners with fellow travelers & playing rounds of card games until we fell asleep.
The Magic of the Sahara:
Early in the morning, we set off on our two day journey to reach the Sahara desert. We booked a Sahara Expeditions 3 day/2 night trip through our hostel. Most tours we looked at online went for around $300, so when we found one for 800 Dirhams ($80), we said a quick "yes" and booked it. After mistakenly being placed in the Chinese tour, we were relocated to meet our tour group of five other travelers who would make up our semi-dysfunctional-but-ever-hilarious group.
The first day was a long van journey through the Atlas mountains to various sites including the UNESCO World Heritage site, Ait-Ben-Haddou (aka the set for every Biblical Movie & Gladiator). With a quick pit stop for lunch & another Tagine down, we arrived at our eerily gaudy hotel on the edge of the desert. We got in the habit of pocketing all the free bread & oranges we could fit in our trousers (we perfected our technique by the end of the trip #snacksondeck).
We were woken up early the next morning to fill ourselves with a breakfast of *surprise* bread. Discarding of the old bread in my pocket from the night before, I carbed up & hopped in the van to head for the breathtaking Todra Gorge, passing through a traditional Berber village full of donkeys & homemade Berber rugs. After a two day journey, we arrived at Merzouga & hopped on our camels
that would *supposedly* take us to our camp in the Sahara. After about an hour, we were dropped off in the middle of the desert & told that our camp was "right around the corner". After 30 minutes of walking uphill in the middle of the desert, void of a guide, or a sense of direction, we landed at our camp in time for a stunning sunset over the dunes. Laughing at our sore calves and recovering from abandonment issues, we settled in for a delicious berber meal cooked over the fire. Our guides brought out traditional drums and we filled the desert with sounds of our made-up beats.

In the Sahara there is a rare period of time where the sun has gone down and the moon has not yet come up. The stars never seemed so inviting or available. I jumped into the cold sand and felt carried by the constellations. The rest of the night was spent on top of the tallest dune we could find, snuggled in blankets answering riddles from our berber guides, our backs against camels chewing their cud. When we decided to call it a night, our guides wrapped us up like burritos in our blankets and dragged us down the dunes. I wondered if I would ever be able to get the sand off of my body.

Early the next morning, we were promised a sunrise camel ride back to our camp (it should be noted that it was hump day). However, there were mysteriously not enough camels to bring us all back to the camp, so we enjoyed the sunrise with another walk over the dunes (ensue calf cramps). Overall, our Sahara trip was one of the most unbelievable experiences I have ever had.

Saying goodbye to our new friends with a mentos box full of Sahara sand, we ditched the rest of the tour back to Marrakech, and instead shared a taxi with a lovely Malay couple up to Fez. Arriving at the bus station, we were informed that the next bus to our desired destination of Chefchaouen would be noon the next day. In desperation, we dropped another $20 each and hired a Grand Taxi driver to drive us the other 3 hours up north to the arguably cutest town in Morocco.

The Peace of Chefchaouen:

Maybe it was the second hand marijuana high we got from walking the streets, but stepping into the medina of Chefchaouen immediately put us at ease. Unlike the madness of Marrakech, Chefchaouen is a laid back town completely covered in blue paint. The town was painted blue by Jews that had escaped the Spanish inquisition. It is also rumored that the blue buildings help keep the mosquitos away. The highlights of Chefchaouen included our stunning hike up to the Spanish mosque, visiting the castle in the middle of the medina, and eating 25 cent pastries & avocado juice! Our hotel, Dar Dadicilef  takes the cake for the best accomodation in Morocco (perfect rooftop, large breakfast & beautiful rooms!).
During our trip, Brett & I decided to book a Hammam session. In this traditional Moroccan spa experience, a women lathered us in black clay & eucalyptus soap and then vigorously scrubbed every inch of our bodies (equally painful & heavenly). I can highly recommend the friendly folk at Lina Ryad & Spa who let us take advantage of their miraculous rooftop terrace for a midday suntan after our treatment.

From Chefchaouen, we took a bus to Tangier where we caught an overnight train back to Marrakech. While our train tickets were purposely booked to reserve a room together, the train conductor had a different idea. Our beds on board the train had been taken by already slumbering locals so we retreated to different cabins for the long journey back to Marrakech.

Arriving early in the morning back to Marrakech, we jammed the last remaining souvenirs into our backpacks & boarded our flight back to Europe. My white Converse are now stained Sahara red and Brett suffered from what he refers to as "a constant replay of Mount Vesuvi-ass" but we all left full of the magic you can only find in Africa. That was our trip! I hope it might inspire and encourage you to make Morocco the next adventure on your list!
xo Madi

Tips & Good Eats:
-Download the maps.me app to navigate through the Medinas
-Book spa treatments early, as they tend to fill fast
-Keep small change in your pockets for easy bartering and to tip
-Many people will insist on helping you through the medina, but will expect you to pay them afterwards. You don't need to accept their help, no matter how persistent they are.
-Eat at Roti D'or, a little street food gem we found in Marrakech.
-Don't miss out on eating at Bab Ssour in Chaouen (and if you're gutsy, why not try the Ox Penis?)
-Order pizza from Mandala Pizzeria in Chefchaouen when you can't deal with one more Tagine
-Get pastries! These tasty treats only cost around 25 cents
-Barter hard with Taxi Drivers & never take the first offer.

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