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in Africa, My Travels

3 Nights in Marrakech

Last month, less than a week before President’s Day Weekend, I found a super cheap round trip flight on Ryanair using Google Flights from Seville to Marrakech. My husband was away for work and I had some free time on my hands, so I figured why not?? Let me tell you now, though.  I love a great deal on a budget airline.  But Ryanair? Horrible.  I will never fly them again if I can help it.

Moving on.

I live in Rota, Spain, so Seville Airport was about an hour and a half drive away.  I parked my car at Braco Parking, which is about 5 minutes outside of the airport.  Parking rates are much cheaper than at the airport, and they will drive you to and from the terminal.  For an additional fee, they will also wash and vacuum your car for you!  Excellent service.

I stayed in the medina, at Riad Golfame.  It was super cute, well decorated, and Khaled, keeper of the Riad, was super nice and helpful.  He noticed that I was traveling alone and arriving really late at night, so he emailed me a few days prior to my arrival to offer to arrange my transportation to and from the airport, and to meet me at the drop off point.  I didn’t really understand why they insisted on meeting me out, but it became really apparent once I got there.  The streets in the heart of the medina are really narrow, so cars can’t go past a certain point.  The streets are very mazelike, so if you don’t know where you’re going and you’re traveling alone, finding your Riad can be difficult, especially at night. Khaled or another member of the staff always seemed to be waiting to see if I needed anything; tea, food, recommendations, anything.  Nothing I asked for was ever too much.

Whenever I left the Riad, Khaled would walk with me out to the main street, and if I went out into the medina at night, he would walk me to and from wherever I went to visit.  As a solo female traveler, this was very much appreciated. For the most part, I found people in Marrakech to be very friendly and honest, with most even offering a cup of tea or two, if you spared a few minutes to chat.  However, there were times, specifically once the sun started to set, when I noticed that the men were starting to leer, which I suppose is why the staff at my Riad insisted upon walking me to and from my Riad at night, especially since the walk involved several dark, alley-like streets once you got off the main roads.  Some words of advice if traveling alone in the medina:

  • Try to get a male member of the staff at your Riad to walk you until you get to well populated areas.  At night, see if they can walk you all the way to your destination.
  • Cover up!  I’ve heard some women say they were just fine in their tank tops and shorts, but its been my experience that people are generally warmer and more respectful when you’re covered.  Just try to have your knees and shoulders covered.
  • Don’t ask random people on the street for directions, and don’t accept anyone’s offer to walk with you to your destination.  They’ll often walk with you to your destination and then demand money from you.
  • Don’t accept “gifts” from anyone, even if they claim they’re just letting you try it.  Henna artists will grab your hand, just to show you something “real quick”, and then ask for money.  Same with shop owners who may offer you a small trinket as a gift, and then demand money from you.  Don’t take anything from anyone unless you have paid for it.
  • Speaking of taking things you’ve paid for, you should haggle for almost everything.  The staff at my Riad suggested that I start negotiations at about half of what the market owners offer you for anything.  This seemed to work pretty well for me.

Souks

The souks of Marrakech are the largest in all of Morocco, and will have you occupied for hours. It is an endless maze of alleyways, filled with people, motorbikes, and stray cats.  This is where you can go to buy everything from carpets, lanterns, spices, beauty products, clothes, and accessories. Like I mentioned earlier, you should haggle for everything you’re interested in, even if you have to threaten to walk out. Bargaining is a fine art in these souks.  The Moroccan people are very hospitable though, and will often offer you a cup or two of tea before you go on your way.

Jemaa el-Fnaa Square

Once you make it through the souks,  you’ll probably find yourself walking out into Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.  It is the main square in Marrakech.  There you will find snake charmers, story tellers, street performers, juice stalls and more random goods being sold.  Enjoy the atmosphere, but keep an eye on your belongings.  The square can get very crowded and busy, and pickpockets will be waiting for their chance!

La Jardin Majorelle

La Jardin Majorelle is a beautiful garden and one of the most visited sites in Marrakech.  It was created by artist Jacques Majorelle over the course of 40 years, starting in 1923.  He lived there with his wife until their divorce in 1950.  30 years, later, the property was purchased by designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who restored it.  The villa now houses the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech, the Berber Museum and has recently opened the Musee Yves Saint Laurent.  It costs about 70 Moroccan Dirhams (around $7.61) to get into the garden, and you can also purchase tickets to the museum, if you’re interested in going.  You should purchase both tickets at the same time if you already know you’ll be going to both, though.  The lines can get quite long.

3 days wasn’t nearly enough to see everything Marrakech has to offer, but I enjoyed myself and can definitely see myself going back.  Next time I will spend a little more time in “New Town”, which is more modern than the medina.  Have any of you been to Marrakech? What are you recommendations?  Let me know in the comments!

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Zanzibar: Spices, Culture and Beautiful Beaches
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Zanzibar: Spices, Culture and Beautiful Beaches

I finally made it to Zanzibar!  I’ve been wanting to go since forever, and this month the stars finally aligned and I got my chance!  I split my time between Stonetown, which is the main city of Zanzibar, and Nungwi, which is on the northern end of the island and home to some gorgeous beaches!  I loved everything about this trip, and I’m already planning my return.  Check out my recap below!

Stonetown

I spent the first 3 days for my trip in Stonetown.  I’m generally a beach person so I didn’t expect to love it so much, but I definitely will have to spend 4 or more days in Stonetown when I make it back.

seafood

Amazing grilled seafood at the Forodhani Gardens

Forodhani Gardens

The Forodhani Gardens is a seaside park in the historical town of Stone Town.  Every night around 6pm, it turns into a popular street market where you can get all the delicious Zanzibari food you can stand.  There is tons of grilled seafood, Zanzibar Pizza, fresh fruit and juices.  It gets a bit crowded after dark, so if you can get a good spot to sit, there is plenty of people watching to do as well.

 

 

 

Tea House Restaurant

Speaking of food, if you’re looking for somewhere to have a fabulous lunch or even a nice sunset dinner, head over to the Emerson on Hurumzi hotel for their amazing Tea House Restaurant.  The hotel itself is in a historic building, and Tea House is located on the roof, which lends to amazing views.  The food was delicious, and the staff was very attentive as well.

Shopping

Stonetown is full of narrow, windy roads with tons of small shops where you can bargain for a good price.  You can get anything from spices, ceramics, clothes, and art.  Special shout out to Hellen, of Hellen Art Gallery, who has amazing art in her shop!

Slave Market

The Slave Market in Stone Town was host to one of the world’s last open slave markets, presided over by Arab traders until it was shut down in 1873.  A guided tour here is about 3500 Tanzanian Schillings, which is about $1.55.

The tour guides will give you a tour and explanation of the Angelican Church, which was built on top of the original slave auction area, the slave chambers, and the monument that was built by Clara Sörnäs in 1998.

After the tour, the guides leave you to wander alone, until you have any questions.

 

Where I Stayed

I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Stonetown.  The property was very centrally located.  I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go.  The rooms were very clean and modern, although I would say to try to avoid being on the 4th floor under the restaurant — they get up to open the restaurant pretty early every day, and you can hear pretty much everything through the ceiling.  Otherwise, the staff was very helpful, and the restaurant on the top floor had a great sunset view, good drinks and good food.

Nungwi

Since my primary reason for visiting Zanzibar was clearly the beach, I spent the rest of my time in Zanzibar in Nungwi, which is known for its powdery white sand beaches and turquoise waters.  There is also a pretty lively nightlife scene in the area as well.

Kendwa Rocks

Kendra Rocks is a popular place with both tourists and locals, as they are regularly having parties, to include the very popular Full Moon party (I unfortunately wasn’t in Nungwi for the full moon so I didn’t get a chance to go).

Mabwe Roots

Mabwe Roots is a bungalow in Nungwi, but I went there several times for the food.  The restaurant is super cute, and the food was AMAZING.  I ate there at least 3 times while I was there.

Dhow Cruise/Snorkeling

A trip to Zanzibar is not complete without a Dhow cruise!  There is no shortage of tour companies offering them, so you will have no problems finding one if you decide to do so.  Most of the day time trips include snorkeling and a delicious lunch prepared onboard.  There are also sunset cruises (I didn’t get around to doing one of those, but heard they are amazing).

Where I Stayed

For my time in Nungwi, I stayed at a fairly new hotel called Nungwi Dreams.  The property itself is nice and modern, and the staff were all amazing.  However, they’re trying to market themselves as a 5 star property, and while I’m no hotel expert, I’d say this hotel was a solid 4 at best.

The food is pretty mediocre and kind of overpriced (hence why I ate at Mabwe Roots so often; it was right across the street).  The staff were all very nice, but it was clear that they were still ironing out the kinks with everything.  Housekeeping kept coming to my room before 8am in the morning, so I eventually just started hanging my do not disturb sign as soon as I got into my room every evening.  The hotel is also located in a pretty secluded area, so while it is a good place to relax, you will end up walking or taking a taxi to some other part of the island for any kind of entertainment.

Some of the appliances and electronics were new and hadn’t been set up properly by the time I checked in, and the rooms were just missing the kinds of touches that most 5 star properties have. I’m sure they will get there eventually, but they’re definitely not there yet.

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