I was intending to spend just shy of three weeks in Morocco, exploring the whole country, starting with a long weekend in the beautiful city of Marrakech with Emily, a dear friend of mine.
But the day I landed, Friday 8 September, was the day that a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the High Atlas Mountains, the impact of which was felt across the country, and recorded as the worst in Moroccan history.
So, while much of our plans were changed, and we spent most of our weekend wandering through the Medina of Marrakech, taking in the aftermath for ourselves, we still made the most of our time in this resilient and vibrant city. I plan to come back as soon as I can to support and experience all Morocco has to offer, although I felt, in the immediate time period following the tragedy, and having lived through it myself, that I wanted to give the Moroccans time and space to grieve and begin to rebuild.
A reminder that Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country and you should dress respectfully by covering your cleavage, shoulders and knees, and avoid tight-fitting clothes (unless you're in the privacy of your riad). It's a hot country, so aim for loose fitting flowy clothes for both comfort and respect.
Here's what we did during our brief stint in Marrakech - with all the stunning photos taken by Emily:
How to Get to Marrakech
I flew to Marrakech from Munich via Amsterdam, and returned via Madrid. Paris and London also offer direct flights. The biggest airport in Morocco is actually in nearby Casablanca, and a high speed train connects the two major cities in about two hours.
From Marrakech Airport, we took a pre-booked hotel transfer to our riad on the outskirts of the Medina. Public transport is generally not considered safe in Marrakech, particularly as female travelers.
You can walk around Marrakech, provided you don't go too far into the riad alone. To get to the various attractions such as the YSL Museum, we arranged a taxi with our riad. Avoid going outside after dark, and never go out alone at night (unless of course, there's an earthquake, and the entire city will be out of doors in the early hours of the morning...).
Where to Stay in Marrakech
The most popular style of accommodation while visiting Marrakech is to stay in a traditional Moroccan riad. These gorgeous buildings are designed around a central private inner courtyard providing fresh air and daylight, while being beautifully and traditionally decorated around the perimeter where the rooms can be found.
You can find riads to suit all budgets. I recommend staying on the edge of the Medina as it is both quieter and safer there.
Emily booked us into the exquisite boutique Riad Dar Beldia. It was beautiful, quiet, peaceful, at the end of a secluded alley and had a freshwater pool on the ground floor as well as private suntanning and dining spaces on the roof deck. The hosts went above and beyond to look after us and the traditional food we had for breakfasts and dinners was delicious.
Most importantly, this riad was a safe haven, suffering no damage in what would turn out to be the worst earthquake in Moroccan history. The only impact we could visibly see in our riad was that the pool in the courtyard had overflowed, sloshing water all across the main floor.
I highly recommend booking the Riad Dar Beldia for your trip to Marrakech.
Explore the Medina of Marrakech
So, while much of our plans were changed, and we spent most of our weekend wandering through the Medina of Marrakech, taking in the aftermath for ourselves, we still made the most of our time in this resilient and vibrant city.
The Medina is normally packed and bustling with people shouting their wares - and quite often not that safe of a place for women to walk, due to high risk of robbery or worse - but as we walked through the quiet streets the morning after the earthquake, we managed to venture much further in than normal.
As locals began to show up and open up their shops, cries broke out when they realized how much of their livelihoods were gone. We made our way through the streets, some intact, and some buried under mounds of rubble and dust. You can see my photos of the aftermath of the earthquake here.
Where we could, we stopped to purchase treasures to take home as memories - a Morrocan rug, bowls, mugs and a jewelry box all found space in my bags.
Visit the YSL Museum and Jardin Majorelle
On the Sunday, we arranged a taxi to take us out to the YSL Museum and Jardin Majorelle, which luckily suffered no visible damage. YSL spent half the year in his colourful oasis in Marrakech where he felt most inspired to create his collections. It is easy to see why he loved the city so much.
You can visit both the gardens that surround his bright blue house, as well as the museum next door housing an exquisite selection of YSL's most beautiful designs.
Book your tickets in advance here - I recommend going in the first slot of the day before it gets too busy and too hot.