How to Plan a Perfect Marrakesh Honeymoon

Bustling medinas, serene riads, and all the pretty rugs you'll ever need

Great For: People looking for a honeymoon that feels like an adventure (without, you know, having to think of putting on a single hiking boot). Folks who want to get some serious home decorating shopping in. Couples who want to go to a place where everything is intense and intensely beautiful.

Not So Great For: Anyone just flat-out tired after the wedding. Anyone who doesn’t want to constantly have to be on the lookout for how (or if) they’re getting hustled or doesn’t like bartering. Anyone who likes sticking to a specific schedule or is wedded to “time” as a construct.

colorful bags of spices in Morocco

I’ve wanted to go to Morocco for as long as I can remember, so when we booked a work trip to Lisbon, and I realized that Marrakesh was just an hour-plus flight away, I jumped at the chance. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to research honeymoons for y’all, and to adventure for me. And boy, was it.

I love to travel because it profoundly reorders the way I think about the world and what I take for granted. (Thanks, Scotland, for teaching me that castles can live in the middle of a bustling city, NBD.) But when I travel to a non-western culture, my worldview is shifted in more profound ways. And on this trip to North Africa, I realized that time is not a construct that we all approach the same way (nor is money). And while learning your way around a very different culture can be exhausting, it’s also really mind expanding. And the entire culture of Morocco (and I hear much of North Africa and Middle East) is built differently than ours. It is less sterile, less distanced, and less concerned with self-imposed deadlines, and it is instead more hospitable, with a slower pace, and bustling colorful energy.

All this to say that while I loved our trip (A+, want to go again for a longer trip), I came away feeling like Marrakesh is not going to be a great trip for everyone… particularly not for everyone’s honeymoon. Let’s discuss.

Ornate ceiling in Marrakesh airport

The Pros:

  • Every little detail is beautiful. From the moment you get off the plane at the airport in Marrakesh (see above), you’re overwhelmed with gorgeous details.
  • Morocco is someplace that feels really truly different from the U.S., but where most people will happily speak English with you.
  • Marrakech can be done affordably (minus those plane tickets). While it’s perfectly possible to spend a fortune on a luxury hotel (I would like to stay here, please), Airbnb has a great selection of riads to stay at (either to rent a room, or rent out) for affordable prices. Often meals will be cooked by the owners for affordable prices, as well.
  • There is nearly endless shopping. If you’re looking for home goods, particularly rugs, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to rug heaven. Yes, you’ll want to do some research before you go (here is a good read on rug shopping in Marrakech), but you need zero skill to find something beautiful.
  • The food. It’s amazing, it’s plentiful, and it comes at every price point. While you have to practice some basic food safety (you might want to wash the fruit you bought at a stall in bottled water, though the tap water is reasonably safe for westerners within the city), the goodness doesn’t stop, from early morning to late, late at night.
  • The people. As much as Morocco is a land of hustling, it’s also a land of kindness. Most people speak English, and they’re happy to talk to you and tell you about their home. They are delight with kids (our kids’ feet never touched the floor), and are nearly always willing to help you out in a jam.
  • If I had to sum it up in one sentence, the true draw of Marrakech is the balance between the bustling life of the Medina (the market), and the amazing quiet of the riad courtyards, where you can sit, drink tea, spend time together, and truly get away from it all.

baskets of dried flowers and herbs

The Cons:

  • I’ve been all over the world, but I’m not sure I’ve been anywhere quite as exhausting as Marrakech. It’s partly the mobs of humanity (the Medina is the heart of the city, so everyone from merchants to families with tiny children to crowds of tourists will be out on any given night).
  • Everything is a negotiation. Other than places like restaurants, there is no such thing as a fixed price in the Medina, and unless you’re a sucker, naming of a price is just the start of an elaborate negotiating ritual.
  • Everyone in town is running a hustle of some sort. And I’m not using hustle in an altogether bad sense—everyone has to make money and put food on the table, and tourists are a big part of the way people do that. On our taxi ride from the airport, our driver told us he gave private tours, but he wasn’t allowed to tell us that because our Airbnb got a cut from another guide. (I have no way to confirm or deny this.) Our Airbnb host took us to a rug shop that had more expensive but better quality rugs. (The quality was better, the prices were also way higher, and I know the guide got a cut.) And the list goes on and on. That constant negotiation, figuring out if you’re getting played, and how much you’re willing to get played, takes energy.
  • Before I went to Marrakech, I had this idea that time was a fixed thing, and we all interacted with it in a similar way. NOT SO, my friends. We were disabused of that notion within the first hour in Morocco, when our hosts lead us to another riad to “wait for five minutes” till our riad was cleaned and ready to go. Three hours and a full (delicious) meal later, we left. Morocco is a place where whatever is happening is what’s happening. We quickly learned that you can start the day with a rough goal and see where the day leads you, since things often happen one to three hours after the proposed start time.
  • The shopping. I mean, the shopping is so good that it’s not just a pro, it’s also a con. I bought two large rugs, and then tried to go in for a third (and a fourth?), when my husband told me we were both out of hands to carry them with at the airport and out of floor space, because he doesn’t understand fun.

What To Do

chairs and trees in the center of a moroccan courtyard

Stay in a Riad

There are many options of places to stay in Marrakech, including some fancy (FANCY) hotels. However, the more affordable way to travel is to rent out a riad, often through Airbnb. Riads are the traditional homes (or palaces, but let’s assume you’re not renting out a palace) in Morocco, with a very plain exterior with no windows, and an interior courtyard that all the rooms open onto (and if you’re lucky, a roof deck).

ornate lamp and image of a moroccan girl

Some riads function like hostels or hotels, and you can rent out a single room and sometimes pay the host to cook (delicious) meals for you. Other riads you can rent out in entirety, often for the price of a standard issue hotel room. The hustle and bustle of the city is amazing to experience, but coming home to relax in your own courtyard is the true magic of the trip. You can find a ton of private riads at various price points on Airbnb. And if you want to stay at a larger, more lux, riad-style hotel, this list is not a bad place to start. (If you do decide to stay in a hotel however, this residence owned by a longtime blogger and human rights activist donates a portion of their profits to a very good cause.)

Scene from the sidewalk on a busy Marrakesh marketplace

Hang out in the main square at night

Djemaa el-Fna is the main square of the Medina, and it’s the first thing you see when you arrive at the old city. At night it becomes its own (packed) attraction, full of local families enjoying the evening, tourists, snake charmers, food vendors, musicians, and stalls packed with toys and charms. Keep your wits about you (we watched some pickpocketing happen live), and enjoy the full range of life and entertainment happening in one small place.

Marrakesh cobbelstone street with woman and motocyclist

Explore The Souqs

The main pull of Marrakesh is the Medina (the old city, and a packed marketplace). Whether or not you stay in the Medina, which is made up of a maze of small winding streets that are closed to car traffic, you’ll end up hitting it up sooner rather than later. When you arrive you’ll be tempted to buy… right away. There are rugs, blankets, baskets, spices, brass goods, and more. But hold your fire. The deeper you get into the Medina (and yes, it takes a reasonable amount of time to learn how to get out again), the higher quality the goods generally become. But what you really want to search out is the souqs dedicated to a particular product. Since we were shopping for rugs, we found the souq dedicated to carpets. Suddenly instead of finding one carpet we liked, we had thousands (and thousands and thousands) at our disposal, which meant that we could narrow down the type that we wanted, and then within that type find exactly the right one. The same holds true for any other product that you’re on the hunt for. Find the area dedicated to that product, and get to work.

Piles of colorful moroccan carpets

Don’t be afraid to dig through piles and piles of carpets (or brass, or blankets, or… you name it) to find the right one for you, and remember that you’re expected to haggle. You’ll learn the art of haggling by doing it, but the whole ritual is full of posturing, drama, benevolent insults, larger compliments, and ends with everyone being best of friends. (If you can’t handle haggling, Souk Cherifia is supposed to be a great fixed price option.)

cat behind ornate moroccan window seen from outside

Go To A Hammam (together)

There are a few kinds of hammams in Marrakesh: the fancy tourist focused ones that command a hefty price tag, but promise pure luxury, the lower priced full-service hammams, and day-to-day ones that the locals frequent. Because we were staying in a riad and had local hosts, they guided us to a more everyday but still full-service hammam, where the prices were very reasonable. (Think twenty-five dollars plus tip per person for a full scrub and massage.)

Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch massage, and we paid for that cheaper price in other ways. After we were taken upstairs to change into robes, we were moved to a waiting area. Where we proceeded to wait… and wait… for who knows how long, since there were no clocks, and we had no clothes. At one point we started referring to it as a naked hostage situation. But! Lo and behold we were in fact at a hammam, and we were eventually whisked into a beautiful blue steam room with cavernous arched ceilings completely naked. After a few minutes a woman wearing short cut-off shorts and a tank top marched in, and without any introduction dumped a full bucket of water on David’s head, and proceeded to scrub him and then me off, in the world’s most emotionless way. But damn if they didn’t get… everything scrubbed… every orifice included. After that we were whisked away to a no-nonsense couples massage. And after six hours mostly spent waiting around, we were done.

In short: Hammam, YES. But pick your hammam with a realistic understanding of what sort of adventure you might have at various price points (and how much time you have that day).

traditional henna hands seen over Moroccan carpet

Get Some Henna Done

Henna is a traditional wedding activity in some cultures, and we often point out you shouldn’t appropriate because you love it (and who doesn’t love it). But! There are always respectful ways to engage in a culture, and I recommend this one: when in Marrakech, you should immediately take yourself to The Henna Cafe, a business dedicated to providing jobs and education particularly to women and children in Morocco. They employ henna artists, and offer traditional food and drink as well. I went all in and indulged in full henna on the palms and back of both of my hands (for a good cause!). You might even learn (as I did) a bit more about the history and symbols of the Berber henna designs. My only regret is that I didn’t have my feet done as well, so don’t make the same mistake I did. Go all in. It’s your honeymoon, after all!

colorful bags and baskets of plants and flowers in Marrakesh

Eat. And eat and eat.

The food in Morocco is amazing, and it’s everywhere you turn. In our experience, the more traditional local food was the best (if you’re staying in a riad, ask your host for recommendations). We were steered to the restaurant at Riad Omar for dinner (our hosts walked us over and sat us down at a table, they were so insistent that we try the food there), and it was hands down the best meal we had on the trip… and more than we could possibly eat in one sitting, though goodness knows we tried. There is plenty of more expensive food on offer, but in our experience it was pricey, but not as good. We tried NoMad, a restaurant that would have been at home in the hippest parts of San Francisco, and were underwhelmed by the food, but overwhelmed by the price.

Moroccan treats in green ornate tins and piles of orange spices in baskets

Take a Break From The Medina and
hit the museums and the New City

Once you’re in the Medina, it can be hard to get out. Set aside at least a day to explore the rest of the city. Must-see museums include the Écomusée Berbère (where you can learn more about the history of Moroccan Berbers), the Boucharouite Museum (about the process of making carpets), and the Musée d’Art Contemporain Africain (Museum of African Contemporary Art).

courtyard breakfast table with tile detail and lime tree

Make time to rest and relax
over long leisurely breakfasts
in your Riad

You’re on your honeymoon, right? I mean, sure, you should be out shopping seeing the sights. But you should also make sure you schedule plenty of downtime, to just soak up being alone together, and the fact that OMFG you just got married. Breakfasts in your riad are a great way to do that. Most riads offer breakfast, which generally means that a Moroccan woman comes to your house and prepares a simple breakfast that is served in your courtyard. Our included things like the best orange juice you can imagine, a spongy Moroccan bread that sort of resembles a pancake, and so much good coffee. Add some conversation, cuddles, and just quietly enjoying the location together, and you have a perfect honeymoon morning.

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  • Kalë

    Sometimes it’s like you guys are mind readers, I swear. We are going to Morocco (Fez and Chefchaouen) in October. I’M SO BEYOND EXCITED TO BUY A RUG!!!

    • Cleo

      Fez (besides the hats) is known for their ceramics. Definitely check those out!

  • Cleo

    I LOOOOOVE Marrakech.

    One thing you missed outside of Djemma el-Fnaa… Yves Saint-Laurent’s house! He had a beautiful estate just outside Marrakech that you can tour, walk the gardens, etc. It’s a great day trip.

    Also, if you speak French (or Arabic obvs.), it makes it easier to haggle sometimes. I went with some friends and ended up getting them a better price than they could in English.

    I also met a man in the souk who keeps a picture of himself with Ronald Regan on the wall. He carved me a wooden necklace for free when I said I was American. This was also right after Obama was elected, so not sure if the pro-American sentiment still exists :/

    Watch out for monkeys. There will be people who have trained monkeys on their arm. They will have their monkey jump on you and then demand money and harass you until you pay them. Keep a wide berth.

    For my fellow MOTs, Morocco protected its Jews during the Holocaust, so there’s some Judaica in shops – including a beautiful silver seder plate I regret not buying. I freely and happily wore my Star of David necklace there and even had a local approach and hug me – he wasn’t Jewish, but his best friends were and would I come say hello to them? Haha!

    • savannnah

      Looking to get a Seder plate while there and was told that all the remaining Jews are in Casa?

      • Cleo

        Pretty much, yeah. There’s a small Jewish History museum in Casa which is neat. But the seder plate I found was in Marrakech…

        • savannnah

          Oh ok perfect. We’ll be in Marrakech so I’m hoping I find one!

      • There was so much Judaica in the shops, like a shocking amount. So you can get pretty much anything, and it will be stunning.

        We also found the stereotypes about Jewishness to be funny, and sort of the opposite of in the states. David did all the haggling, he was like “my people do this, I’ve got this.” And he really spoke the language of haggling in a way I never would have. But when it came out that he was Jewish they would sigh, and be like “ALL RIGHT FINE, WE’LL SHOW YOU THE ACTUALLY GOOD STUFF.” The stereotype is that jews liked and knew quality, which was enjoyable. Positive stereotypes FTW!

        • savannnah

          Yes! Ive heard great things about Moroccan attitudes about Jews. Interested to see how that plays out esp because the only Moroccans I know are Jews living in Israel.

    • Abby

      I was coming here to recommend the Jardin Majorelle, but looks like this might be the same thing as Yves Saint-Laurent’s house so tagging on to yours instead!

      And yes, your high school French will definitely come in handy if you remember any.

    • We were there two days after the Trump election (we were supposed to be sort of riding out the ugly in Lisbon… we voted before we went… and then coming back to good news… that is NOT how it went down, and in the photos taken after the election everyone looks just somehow destroyed). ANWAY. People in both Lisbon and Morocco were so profoundly kind to us, it actually makes me tear up thinking about it (I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING). People treated us like they knew something really traumatic had happened to our country, and they were so sorry. It’s a kind country in general, we found, but they were so overly kind to us about this.

      • sofar

        I was in Dubai right after the travel ban, and everyone SO NICE to us even though our president had basically just instituted a religious-based ban against Muslims. While our country was saying, “Everyone like you is DANGEROUS,” they had the compassion to say, “We know not all Americans feel this way. How are you coping?”

        and … no, YOU’RE crying!

        • Meg Keene

          YOU’RE CRYING.

    • Diverkat

      Seconding the monkey wariness – I didn’t really want to be kissed by a monkey, but the trainer was a lot faster than I was!!!!

  • Sarah

    I visited Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Tangier as part of a big trip also to Spain in 2000. I know it’s not very honeymoon-like but a group tour was great for our family trip (I was in high school). There were plenty of planned activities, but optional ones and we got several days/nights on our own. Saved a lot of planning at least! Were also on a bus for several hours some day, driving through poor, rural Morocco was certainly eye-opening…but maybe no more so than disenfranchised parts of US.

    • Kelly

      I went on a similarl trip to Spain that did a day trip to morroco :)

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    Preggo/Mommyjacking – We’re experienced travelers who generally prefer to be active/moving/exploring on trips (rather than pure relaxing) and we’re trying to come up with locales for our little lady’s first travels too, probably starting when she’s about 5-7 months old. Would Marrakech/Morrocco be better for older, more experienced kids or do you think taking a younger bundle (5-24 months) be okay too? It seems amazing, but I don’t want to bite off more than we can chew either!

    So far on our list we’re planning on taking her to the French countryside (family lives there), the Yucatan Peninsula, Kyoto, and Iceland. All of those, we’re comfortable with. Anyone have some kind of idea of where would Morrocco fit in there on the Kid Friendly-ish scale?

    • Amy March

      Not Morocco specific, but one thing I would consider generally is how big kid will be, if you’ll need a stroller, and if so how stroller friendly the city is likely to be. From observing wee ones on holiday there’s a significant difference in mobility needs between 5 months (easy to carry) and 24 (hot, heavy, would fit better in a stroller). I saw some couples trying to see Santorini with strollers and it just didn’t seem to be working at all well.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Ooh, very good point! This is the kind of stuff we’re not used to thinking about yet (but will very quickly need to adjust to)

    • Cleo

      The souks are narrow with lots of motorbikes driving through them. Also, lots of feral cats. It’s an amazing place to visit and be, but I would say you’re better off with a kid who can do all their walking and is well-behaved and stays with you, or one who you can easily carry all day. The souks are too crowded and labyrinthine for a stroller and/or a little one who will run off without thinking.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Thanks, that’s helpful! So might be a good option for a few years down the road, and with maturity checks in the meantime. :)

      • From the experience of having a 1.5 year old and 4 year old on the trip, I actually would say that the littler one was better. We took a stroller out everywhere, and it was totally fine. Also our four year old is a mess who runs off everywhere all the time, and he was fine too. He got overwhelmed sometimes, but we had a quiet riad to take him back to, so that balance worked really nicely.

        The feral cats were cute, and the kids enjoyed looking at them, but totally non aggressive.

    • So while I didn’t include kid pictures or info here, since I was gearing it to honeymoons, I took this trip with my at the time 4 year old and 1.5 year old. We’re reasonably experienced at traveling internationally with kids, but this was the first time we’d take them to a non western country.

      In short, it was GREAT, and much easier than I expected. You need to be somewhat careful about food safety, but much less so then you would need to be in the Yucatan, for example. (We’re planning to head back there with kids soon, and we know that food and water are going to be things to think about.) We served them bottled water, but they could brush their teeth with tap water, etc. Overall it was SUCH a child friendly culture that it was one of the easier places we’ve traveled with little ones. I’d say the littler the better, since our 1.5 year old’s feet basically never touched the floor, and I normally wasn’t the one holding or entertaining her. People were very kind to our four year old, but it wasn’t the same all consuming love.

  • Kaitlyn

    This isn’t the type of honeymoon I’m after, but I’m ready to hop on a plane to Morocco tomorrow. Definitely bookmarking for when we are able to take a trip there :)

    • sofar

      Yes. I am a sucker for a good market, and I feel Morocco is relevant to my interests.

  • Abs

    Can there be a series about honeymoon destinations? I love reading about travel, and I feel like the standard “honeymoon spots” are generally all the same and boring. I want to hear what other people’s priorities were and what they did, preferably with pretty pictures!

    • Katharine Parker

      Always down for honeymoon reporting! A “How we did it” for honeymoons would be awesome. I’m always curious about other people’s travel budgeting–where do you splurge, where do you save, are you doing anything differently because it’s your honeymoon. We’re staying in one fancier place than normal because it’s our honeymoon (and all of our other hotels are being paid by credit card points, so it feels worth the splurge).

      • scw

        I would love a “how we did it” for honeymoons/vacations!

      • Call Me Penny

        We did one splurge location within our trip too, I’m so glad we did!

      • Abs

        Exactly. Our honeymoon is going to be in Vienna in a couple of weeks, but because the getting-to-Europe part is tacked on to my work trip (best part of being an academic = going to Spain for research), the entire cost of the honeymoon is actually less than our wedding outfits…which were not that expensive. Which one could see as getting a good deal, or as our not breaking out of our usual cheap travel habits all that much. Everyone makes different choices on that and I’m fascinated by the variety. As with weddings, I guess.

        • Katharine Parker

          Yes to wanting to see what different choices people make. I always love hearing about other people’s travel plans, and people have such different honeymoons and different priorities. For example, I planned my wedding in a time when I could take a long honeymoon immediately afterward, but someone else would rather do their honeymoon later or just do a short trip afterward, for various reasons. And I want to know about that decision-making! How did you set your honeymoon budget? How did that affect where you went? How did you choose that place? Did you go somewhere new to you or somewhere familiar? What was worth seeing? What wasn’t?

          This also is reminding me that I need to order a Sol a Mer hat before my honeymoon. Thanks to Amy March for the tip! (Also, add “what was the best hat that you wore?” to list of questions I would love answers to, thanks.)

      • BSM

        We went to Hawaii right after the wedding, and, due to spending what felt like all of our money on the wedding and a trip planned to Europe the following month, we did it relatively budget-friendly (stayed at an Airbnb, ate most of our meals at home or at local/cheap places, got a couples massage at a nearby resort for our one splurge, etc.), and I wish we had sprung for a hotel stay. I was so. damn. tired. from all the excitement, anxiety, and WORK around our wedding that even driving over the the grocery store felt exhausting. We chose Hawaii so that we could do nothing, and, looking back, we should have spent the extra money to *really* do nothing.

        • Katharine Parker

          We have sort of a busy honeymoon plan (three countries in 15 days, great job, Parker), but the day after we arrive in Croatia we are going to a resort that has a beach club and a fancy pool with a swim up bar for four days. Is it touristy? Yes. It is how we normally travel? Not really. Am I currently dreaming of floating in a pool with a piña colada? Yes. Everyone’s advice to me on honeymoons was that you need time to decompress after the wedding, and I am taking that advice. So yes to paying the money to not have to do anything.

          • BSM

            Omg, yes. We still had a wonderful time, and doing the trip more cheaply made us feel better about the cost of the wedding and the international trip we had coming up. BUT, the day we went to get our couples massage at the pretty, touristy resort, we got there a few hours early to eat lunch and hang by the pool (all on the up and up), I was like… shit. This is what we should have done.

            So, we are going to Healdsburg for our babymoon this summer (which will coincidentally be over our wedding anniversary), and I booked the damn resort. To save money, it’s driving distance, and we’re only going for a few nights during the week, but you live and learn!

            Your honeymoon sounds amaaaaazing! We had a similar itinerary for what I guess ended up being our second honeymoon (Stockholm-Brussels-Stockholm in 10ish days). But A+ work on the pool/swim up bar/piña colada portion!!!

          • zana

            Yeah, we spent the first day after arrival in a beach cabana and ordered meals and drinks from our chairs all days. It really is the way to go.

      • A single sarah

        Seconding the request for “how we did it” travel posts. I’m super excited for this series.

    • We’re doing it! This is the first one.

      • Hey Meg, not sure if you’re looking for writers for this but I’d love to get involved! Let me know if you’re looking for other destinations :)

        • Sarah

          Yeah, my husband and I did Vietnam and Cambodia which apparently is not that popular of a honeymoon destination. We had a blast! I would do a how we did it post if there were a call for submissions

          • Anna

            This is what we want to do! I’d love to read your future post :) How long did you go for? Any specific highlights I should know about?

        • Kalë

          Same here! There are a few “unusual” spots I’ve been that people might not consider for honeymoons, but that I think would be amazing.

        • Olga Mikhailov

          I’m also down to contribute to this! We spent our honeymoon in Portugal, which Americans always seem to overlook in favor of other European countries.

      • LindseyM

        Wonderful! We just got beyond the international destination wedding stress and are now starting to think about honeymoons (yes we will be doing two—one for each of us). I love reading about other people’s travel.

      • Kat Weiss

        Hi Meg, First of all, LOVE this! I love the idea of unique honeymoon destinations, and Morocco is on my bucketlist for sure. I’d be interested in this series too! I am a travel blogger and am currently planning my wedding at the moment (with so much help from your blog)! The first thing I got when I became engaged was the Practical Wedding Planner and it is amazing! I love what you’re doing here helping us from jumping deep into the crazy rabbit hole that is wedding planning. I started feeling a panic attack coming on when I started thinking about centerpieces… but I digress.

        Anyway, my fiance and I are going to South Africa in September for vacation and to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia for our honeymoon. And as a travel blogger, I know of tons of cool travel tips and tricks to have an incredible experience for less, and travel hacking your way to $50 business class flights to Asia. I even just helped my best friend plan her honeymoon to Seattle, Vancouver, and Banff National Park in Canada.

        So in my super long winded way of explaining myself, in short: Love this blog, love travel planning, and would love to help you out in this series.

  • savannnah

    We are doing IT. 3 week honeymoon in december, going to Rabat, Marrakech, the Sahara, Atlas Mountains and fez. We are spending NYE 2018 sleeping in the desert and I could not be more excited. A little trepidation about my fiance who has only done western and Asian travel before but we have a very relaxed itinerary and while I don’t usually travel with a guide I will if it gets to be too much. I’ve heard a wide spectrum of reviews on Morocco as a honeymoon destination but more great than bad. More concerned that I’ll spend all of our wedding presents on rugs than anything else.

    • Oh you will. And then you’ll be like “if you could just hand me the credit card for one more rug…”

      The good thing is I now feel reasonably familiar with Moroccan rugs, and am comfortable buying them on ebay, where they’re prices about how they are in Morocco, not the prices they’re remarketed at by white folks selling them here ;)

  • Amy March

    Couple of my friends just got back from Morocco and while they loved it very much felt they could not be out as a married couple of two women, just as a factor to consider.

    • HarrietVane

      Yes, thank you for bringing this up. A lot of ‘fun’ places are not so fun when you have to contend with homophobia/personal safety issues. My fiancée and I purposely looked at places where gay marriage is recognized for our honeymoon because we would be in the safest position legally speaking and therefore able to actually relax. It’s all fun and games until you are arrested for ‘homosexual activity’/get sick & can’t have your spouse with you/someone dies and they won’t release the body to the spouse. So… yay.

      • BSM

        Where did you two decide on for your honeymoon?

        • HarrietVane

          We’re going to Italy! Venice + Milan. We just need to survive the last month of wedding planning to make it there!

          • BSM

            Well, that sounds amazing!

          • Abby

            That sounds incredible! Such a wonderful trip to anticipate during the pre-wedding craziness.

          • rebecca

            Venice + Milan is such a wonderful trip! If you eat at Antiche Carampane in Venice, I highly reccommend requesting a table on the street!

    • Abby

      This is unfortunately not surprising, and I will add that even setting aside the homophobia concerns, tourist women should be prepared for some pretty heavy street harassment if they venture out into Marrakech without a male companion. Mostly harmless, but something to be prepared to handle (and part of why, though wonderful, Morocco was an exhausting trip as Meg points out).

    • Yeah, we’re looking to write up some guides to places that are more gay friendly, but Marrakesh is probably not one of those places. We were pretty mindful in general of how we comported ourselves in public. We covered up pretty well, I often brought a light scarf so I could lightly cover my hair (or just my chest if skin was showing) if it seemed appropriate, we didn’t engage in much PDA, etc. When I was out by myself I wasn’t exactly harassed, though I did get some male attention. It is one of the parts of the trip that is tiring, because you are being pretty careful about how you’re presenting yourself in public, and that may not be presenting your most authentic self.

      But yes! Najva has had queer friendly guides on her list for awhile now, and I’m sure Kate will join in as well.

      • Angela’s Back

        I was wondering about the clothes thing so I’m glad it got brought up. My parents were in Dubai last year and my mum was really careful about dressing conservatively there, and honestly, I think if I was over in that part of the world, I would feel most comfortable just wearing some kind of scarf on my head all the time.

        • Morocco is a pretty liberal company (all nudity in the hammam all day long, for example), so it wasn’t a huge deal. I think I covered my head slightly more often in Istanbul, because we went to mosques, for example. But I did try to not wear low cut shirts, or tank tops, just because I generally try to be respectful of local culture when I travel. So I carried a scarf but didn’t often use it on my head, but felt like it was good to have whenever I felt like it might be respectful to be a little more covered.

          I don’t think all tourists did the same, I just generally find that sort of thing makes interactions a little easier.

          • Abby

            +1 for a versatile pashmina being essential on the packing list. I wore mine (usually over my shoulders/chest) most days I was there. I also tried to avoid shorts and short skirts (maxi dresses ftw!) One of my favorite parts of Marrakech was the local women’s fashion– the young women I saw were all incredibly hip, just… covered. Which was really refreshing.

      • LazyMountain

        Could a rating system perhaps be employed? Like 5 sparkle rainbow stars for marriage recognized and pda culturally accepted? And maybe 0-1 for places where significant legal penalties exist with potential horrendous punishment (looking at you Maldives). Marrakech sounds like maybe a 2-2.5?

    • You know, I also had some queer friends go and the non-straight passing one was having a hard time of it. She’d never gone anywhere where she had to codeswitch/pass for more feminine to not stand out (AKA anywhere non-western/not catering to western tourists). As someone middle-eastern, I hadn’t even thought to warn her because to me it seemed so obvious. BUT moving forward, I think we can try to touch on safety concerns (and non-concerns) for queer folk, women, POC, etc. In Marrakesh, for example, they found many riads and higher priced western-geared places (hammams, stores, etc) that are queer friendly. But your average market stall may not be. Thanks for pointing it out!

    • Jeanne Eyre

      THANK YOU. When I read honeymoon guides to Jamaica, the Maldives and other “paradisiac” (read: homophobic) places, I’m like “meh, too bad I’m gay”.

      Not even mentioning LGBT safety is quite an oversight given APW’s huge queer readership.

  • Oh man, I want to book this trip now. We were trying to fit Spain and Morocco into our honeymoon and ending up deciding to focus on Spain with our limited time, but that means Morocco is next on the list for sure. Thanks for this helpful guide.

  • Such a good guide! And those pictures *dies*

    • All on iphones too. TECHNOLOGY THESE DAYS YOU GUYS.

  • idkmybffjill

    Ugh. I am literally the exact person who this is not for but I also REALLY WANT TO GO.

    • Ashlah

      Ugh, yes, this is me. I want to do it, but I also really don’t want to do any of it. If I could invisibility cloak my way around, that’d be great.

      • idkmybffjill

        Yesssssss. Crowds and haggling are NOT my jam. I am not very good at not knowing what’s going on (that hammam experience would’ve maybe given me a panic attack?), but like…. also can I have those rugs and that food plz?

        • Meg Keene

          One comes with the other, trust me ;)

        • zana

          I have lost consciousness in a Turkish hammam in Turkey and survived. I think they’re most always good for stories ;)

    • penguin

      Haha I was thinking this too. I’m really glad they included a note about who wouldn’t like Marrakesh – because I hate haggling, crowds, getting hustled/worrying about getting hustled, and waiting around. So I read that section and realized that this would NOT be the place for me, but also it looks really really beautiful and like a great experience.

      • idkmybffjill

        SAME – I could totally see myself getting seduced into it and then hating life without such a solid warning.

    • Jess

      SAME. I hate people getting in my face trying to sell me things, and I hate haggling, and I hate not really having a plan or expectations.

      But I also really want to experience this place.

      • idkmybffjill

        In my fantasy land, I’d go with a very well traveled lover who could navigate things and was tall and would hold my hand.

        My husband RULES but I’m the better traveler/speak more languages, and he hates hates anything involving having to get someone’s attention for service (like, doesn’t love ordering at bars). This trip would be FIGHT CENTRAL for us.

        • Amy March

          Hire a guide and they’ll do all that for you! It’s not as expensive as you’d think, expecially if you do a combination of small group tours and private guides.

          • idkmybffjill

            Ooh! Great idea!!!

        • Jess

          Ha, you should have seen us trying to figure out how to pay for our food and leave in Barcelona. “Should we make eye contact? Ok… I’ll… maybe wave just a little? Oh, perfect, they’re coming over… nope, no they’re not.”

          • idkmybffjill

            Yup. I speak Spanish fluently and was still on the struggle bus sometimes just culturally. But then because of my Spanish, sometimes my husband assumes I have anything cultural covered too. We had the same situation in Barcelona, and I was like, “I know I speak the language but I still need your help navigating the culture!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.

          • Jess

            Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the sobremesa, but after an hour of it after a long day, I’m good to go.

            We both “speak” Spanish (R is actually probably more proficient than me), but I had zero shame about being wrong, so I was the “talker.” It was also his first international trip, so I was the “new culture navigator”

            He got much more comfortable being in new places by the end of the trip, though!

          • idkmybffjill

            Same for mine! (re: first international trip, and he got better) – he even learned some small talk phrases from listening which I was really impressed by!

            Hardest part for me with him not understanding Spanish was directions. He is our direction guy, so I would be getting the directions, and there usually wasn’t time for me to translate for him – I’d finish the convo and be like, ‘Did you get that?…… oh crap”

          • K. is skittish about disqus

            Oh man, my husband struggled HARD in Spain, even though he grew up in an at least 50% Spanish speaking household. The culture is so, so different and even the language is – there were basic sentences where he had no idea what they were saying, not to mention not being able to follow the accent. He assumed it would be a piece of cake and was really thrown off by how different the reality was from his expectations. We’ve been twice now and it’s always a joint effort, even though my Spanish is still rudimentary compared to his. Going to new places can always be tough, even if you’re “prepared.”

          • idkmybffjill

            Absolutely – this is something I wish I’d thought more about when we were planning our honeymoon. It was a dream trip for me in many ways and we had an amazing time, but we were POOPED from our wedding, and navigating culture on top of it was…a lot.

          • BSM

            This scene is… very familiar. I’ve sort of forced my husband to become the person who bugs other people for service because I hate it thaaaat much.

          • Anon

            So, I work in the hospitality industry in Spain, and even though I’ve lived here a long time, even I had a bit of culture shock after becoming immersed on cafe culture. Just so you know, waitstaff will serve you and then rarely come over again! It’s acceptable, and even expected, for you to go up to the counter to pay for drinks, coffee, sandwiches, etc., instead of waiting for them to bring the bill to the table. At a full service sit-down restaurant, they probably will not clear your dishes away as quickly because they are used to giving people time to talk and don’t want to interrupt a private conversation. They will rarely bring you the check unless you specifically ask for it!

          • Jess

            That is good to know about the bar! In small cafes, etc, that was pretty much exactly what we did since we saw other people doing it. Is it the same at a full service place? I suggested doing that but R was too embarrassed.

            We figured that waitstaff wouldn’t be around much, which was 100% fine and I love that they didn’t want to interrupt. (trust, the last thing I want to do is answer how my food is tasting when I’m in the middle of telling a good story)

            They definitely were great about bringing the check as soon as we asked, it was just two people who hate to be in the way trying to figure out how to get someone’s attention!

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  • Hon

    I recently traveled to Morocco (Chefchaouen, Fes, Rabat, Marrakech), which I thought was a beautiful and temperate place to be during the winter months. I only know English and a teeny bit of French, which was fine for Marrakech, but not so fine in other less-touristy areas. Spanish also works well in more Northern areas.

    I’m so glad you added the caveat, because I thought I was up for Morocco, but oh, I was so wrong. I hate haggling, I hate feeling like I’m being hustled (which you will if you look like a tourist aka Asian American like me), and I especially hate pointed comments about my race, all of which I faced in abundance in Morocco. Plenty of “nihao” and “konnichiwa” and the occasional “chink” and weird comments at the border asking what my dad’s nationality was?? As someone who escaped the South and never wanted to hear comments like this, it really irritated me, even though I knew it was more just to get my attention than any ill intent (at least…I hope). So: just a warning if you’re sensitive about comments like these and look “other” in Morocco.

    Other fun experiences were being followed by a “guide” to our Airbnb (even though we told him we didn’t need any help) and then being harassed for money since he’d “guided us” (which he hadn’t). He even followed us into our riad.

    In other helpful tips: friends have told me they hired drivers for their entire stay, especially when doing many different cities, but note that some roads, especially to smaller cities, tend to be pretty scary and narrow, and one accident can block off a road for an entire night. We took buses and trains between places and felt it was a cheap and reliable way to travel, although when buying our bus tickets, they tried to get us to pay more than it was listed on the website? Taxis are really incredibly cheap as well, but make sure to haggle your butt off to get the right price.

    Tldr; Do research about Morocco beforehand and prepare yourself. Maybe pass on Morocco if you’re socially anxious and easily annoyed like I am, because I returned home feeling absolutely exhausted (and vomiting from food poisoning, though I was careful with drinking bottled water and washing things) and never ever wanting to eat Tajine ever again.

  • stephforeigncountry

    My husband and I went to Marrakesh years ago (before we were married) and we came out feeling much the same as you: it was fascinating, exhilarating, but EXHAUSTING. We learned really quickly that we are not hagglers, and as tall, blonde, white people (even covered up), it was quite tiring being stared at all day, not to mention that we were easy targets for hustlers… That being said, we adored the energy of the place, and its FOOD. Oh my god, those breakfasts, that orange juice, those tagines…! We also really enjoyed visiting the Jardin Majorelle – stunning!

  • theteenygirl

    I went to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains/Sahara desert for five days when I was studying abroad. Literally life changing. I agree with everything above – especially the exhausting part! Every sense is constantly overwhelmed. I cannot wait to take my FH there eventually!!

  • Jessica

    I love this new feature!!

  • Mary

    Perfect timing! My husband and I are headed to Marrakesh in September!!

  • Margaret

    Love Marrakech – lived there for a year and it was so different. Since this didn’t mention food too much, I want to recommend the Amal Women’s Training Center Restaurant. Some of the best food in Marrakech at actually reasonable prices. It’s a nonprofit that trains poor women in restaurant skills so that they can find jobs in the booming hospitality industry. It’s a pretty cool place that also has the most delicious food.

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