Oh my goodness.  That’s all I can say.  Our trip to Morocco was absolutely amazing!  The sights, the colors, the smells (and sometimes, oh god, the smells…oy)…it was all so overwhelming and fabulous at the same time!

We arrived late Thursday evening into the Riad, right outside the stone walls of the Medina in Marrakech.  The Riad was in the middle of a nondescript winding alley, and I was seriously starting to worry what we’d gotten ourselves into.  However, the minute the door opened, all concerns were gone.  The employees at the Riad were a dream!  So helpful, so friendly, so darn nice all around!  We were in one room for 2 nights, then the last night we moved to another room in the Riad, because I had mixed up our dates when we first booked, and the first room wasn’t available for all nights once I got myself sorted.  However…not a problem!  They moved everything for us, took care of all of our things, I didn’t even notice that anything happened.

This was the view of our room’s door in the Riad, the night we arrived.  We overlooked the courtyard, which was open to the sky without a roof, typical of Riad’s in the area.

And the food…omg, the food. Bliss!!!  We basically had a feast for every, single meal.  Sweets for breakfast (crepes, fry bread, fresh yoghurts, fresh fruits, etc.), then tagines and couscous for lunch and dinner.  I seriously have a love affair with Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food, so I was in heaven.

Friday morning, we were up and ready to go for our tour of the Medina/Old City Marrakech.  Our guide took us around for about 4 hours, showing us various sights (souqs, the Medrassa, museums, etc.) and taking us into different stores if we wanted to purchase anything (which we didn’t, but it was still nice).  I was able to practice my Arabic quite a lot, which was really nice!  It was amazing how much of it came back to me, being surrounded by it constantly.  After that, we went back to the Riad and relaxed for an hour or so, then headed back out to the main square to see the sights.  Snake charmers, monkeys performing, and storytellers were all part of the charm in the square.  Of course, there were people trying to sell you stuff, but they were easily ignored.  After that, we headed back to the Riad, for dinner, which was an amazing lamb tagine with dates and figs.  Holy hell…talk about amazing!

Saturday, we spent the morning in a cooking class learning how to make traditional chicken tagine and Moroccan salads, along with the traditional bread they serve for pretty much every meal.  We made four different cold vegetable salads, a chicken tagine with olives, and the bread.  It was so much fun!  Plus, I got all the recipes to take home and replicate whenever I wanted, so it was well worth it.  After the class, Jamie and I went up to the roof terrace which overlooked the city, and ate our efforts.  I was pretty darn amazed…it tasted so good!

Here is a photo of the foods we made, before we dug in!  The tagine is in the middle, but we didn’t take the lid off so that it would stay warm.  My favorite of the cold salads was probably the carrots, but the sweet tomatoes were also awesome!

After lunch, we went upstairs to change before our hammam (steam bath/scrubdown).  I think a lot of people would be self-conscious being scrubbed down by a stranger (you keep your underwear on, but that’s it), but it was so relaxing!  You basically start out just laying down on a marble ledge (heated) while the room is full of steam.  Pretty much, a marble sauna…totally warm and relaxing.  Then, you’re sprayed down with a water shower, and then slathered on with some minty soap/lotion stuff.  Then, washed down again.  Then…the scrub.  Wow…exfoliation to the extreme, but really nice.  Again, you’re buck ass naked, so you got someone scrubbing you all over, which could be weird for some, but I didn’t mind (I have no modesty).  After that, they put some mud stuff on you to clean your pores, and wash you down again.  They even washed my hair!  After that, it was time for my massage, which was so relaxing.  Definitely needed, as I think I had wringed something in my back at my last training session, so the massage definitely helped that a lot.

While we were in the middle of our cooking class and hammam, the Riad moved everything from our original room to the new room.  We had to clean out the in-room safe, but otherwise, everything was packed up for us, moved to the new room, then unpacked and hung up.  I could definitely get used to that sort of service!  We got into our new room and the first thing I noticed was that it was a two-story room…a half-bath and a sitting room with a fireplace downstairs, then the shower, half bath, and bedroom upstairs.  I walked into our bedroom and immediately noticed the giant dome that was the ceiling!  GORGEOUS!  There was a pendant light in the typical Moroccan style hanging in the dome, which threw off a beautiful pattern when all the lights but that one were off.

This is the view of the dome, directly above our bed (I was laying down when I took the photo).

We stayed in the room that evening and had a delicious lamb couscous for dinner, while we sat in the sitting room.  They even came in and started a fire for us…so romantic!  After that, it was bedtime, because we had to get up and leave for the Kasbah the next morning.

The Kasbah du Toukbal was located in a small village called Imlil, in the Atlas mountains, about an hour and a half south of Marrakech.  When we travel, we try to split our time between city and outdoors, so we can get in something we both enjoy.  We both love to hike and spend time outdoors, especially in the mountains, but I also like to get a taste of the cities as well (Jamie, not so much).  So, we try to do both.  Which, on this vacation, I’m glad we did.  I would have been ok spending the whole time in Marrakech, but Jamie would have been bored.  We got up early for our 9am transfer to Imlil, which was along a road that wound up the mountains and was barely big wide enough for one car at times, let alone two.  Scary stuff, but the driver acted like it was his everyday normal, so I tried not to worry about it.

The dining area in the Kasbah…Berber hospitality at it’s finest!

We got to the Kasbah a few hours before lunch, and spent the time relaxing around the area, taking photos, and seeing what all was available.  Then, lunch at the Kasbah, which included more couscous, more bread, and plenty of fresh fruits.  Lucky for us, they filtered their own water, so we didn’t have to worry about any stomach problems due to tainted water.  The Kasbah is listed as a Berber hospitality center, and is an eco-lodge, so it was a bit rustic, but so homey!  Everyone was very friendly, and the Berber people were so hospitable!  After lunch, I went to take a nap because I was exhausted, while Jamie went off to take more photos.  He’s my little shutterbug.

This is the view from the terrace dining area of the Kasbah.  The mountains in the distance were where we would hike the next morning.

After the nap…time for dinner, which meant time for more amazing food.  Dinner consisted of tagine, bread, salads, veggies, etc.  More fruit for dessert, and plenty of water.  The Berber people don’t drink alcohol, so it wasn’t available in the Kasbah, though if you brought your own in, they would supply glasses and a corkscrew.  We didn’t bring any with us, which wasn’t a problem in the least, but we noticed some other people had.  No biggie, I was too stuffed for alcohol during that trip to even think about it anyways.

The next morning, we woke up early for breakfast, then headed off on our trek.  It was a 4-5 hour hike around the mountains…cold weather, snow on the ground, and total and complete peace.  It was fantastic!  I felt like we hiked uphill for at least half the hike, but it was worth it for the views once we were at the top!

Jamie and I, at the top of our little mountain, 2000 km from the ground (the top peak was 3000km, so we didn’t summit the Toukbal mountain, but we were close).

During our hike, we saw lots of snow, hardly any other people, and an exodus of mountain goats heading out to find grass.  Really interesting and a lot of fun.  And a really good workout, for sure!  After that, we headed back to the Kasbah for lunch, I took another nap, then we hung out in the common room with a few other couples before dinner.  We all ended up talking, then ended up having dinner together, so it was nice to meet other people who were interested in travel and seeing different parts of the world.  We all shared stories of different places we’d been, and it was just all around a great time.  Sadly, we headed to bed early, because we had to leave the Kasbah at 5:30am the next morning for our transfer back to the airport, to head home.

So yeah…that was our Moroccan vacation!  I can’t say enough good things about the places we stayed in, the people we met, and the tours/treks we took.  Everyone was absolutely fabulous…it was all around a perfect vacation!  Sorry my recap was a novel and a half, but it wouldn’t have done it justice to make it any shorter.  I would definitely recommend anyone who can, to go and check out Morocco, you won’t be disappointed!