A tale of two Moroccan cities: Marrakesh and Agadir

After countless days of deliberating where to spend some time off between Christmas and New Years we finally decided on Morocco and booked a last minute trip to Marrakesh and Agadir. Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in Morocco is known for its well-preserved medina and the largest souk in all of Morocco. For the first part of our trip we opted for the optimal “cultural” experience and chose to stay in a small riad in the heart of the medina.

I was especially taken by the idea of staying in a riad. These are typical Moroccan palaces or houses centered around a courtyard or garden. They have thick stucco walls, no windows to the outside and offer a private reprieve from the loud and chaotic streets of the old town. In recent years, many riads in Marrakesh have been painstakingly restored to their former brilliance and reinvented as small hotels or guesthouses.

From our riad we were able to explore the many museums and countless alleyways and markets of Marrakech. It was a real sensory experience to meander these tiny streets teaming with Moroccan wears, handicrafts, spices, and exotic foods. All the while dodging donkeys, speeding mopeds and overzealous vendors. Highlights included a leisurely lunch at the roof terrace of the photography museum, a traditional Moroccan dinner at a lavishlyly adorned palace just outside the old town and exploring Jemaa el-Fnaa, the most famous open market where you’ll find countless food stalls, snake charmers, and all kinds of entertainers well into the night.

After two days in the old town we were ready to explore more of the area and hired a car for a tour of the atlas mountains and nearby berber villages.  The landscape outside Marrakesh was breathtaking. Imaging tiny clay villages with more donkeys than cars and a desert-like landscape juxtaposed against snow capped mountains. All along the road children played with handmade toys and eagerly awaited lollypops from tourists driving by. In many ways it was like going back in time. Learning about the long-thriving Berber culture was also fascinating.

The latter half of our week in Morocco, we headed southwest to Agadir for a few days of R&R at a very German resort.  The original city of Agadir was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960. Tourists mainly occupy the strip of all-inclusive resorts along the water spending their days by the pool or golf course with the occasional day trip outside the city. After the sensory overload that is Marrakesh a few days of quiet by a picturesque beach was completely fine by me.

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