Brian and I took advantage of the fact that I attended the UXLX Conference in Lisbon with all expenses paid to take a long weekend exploring the country of Morocco. (Flights from Lisbon to Casablanca on TAP Portugal average between $100 and $200 – quite a steal) I arrived in Casablanca on Saturday morning and met B in the airport, where we flew to Marrakesh.
Marrakesh is divided into two parts:
- The Medina – The historical district
- The Ville Nouvelle/Gueliz – The new European modern district (this is where you’ll find the McDonald’s and other Western offerings; B read that this is where a lot of the expats live)
However, I would add (even if Lonely Planet doesn’t distinguish) that there is another burgeoning neighborhood that feels very different from the two above (which is where we stayed):
- Hivernage – The very new, very hip, European part of town
Upon exiting the plane, we immediately bought a (reasonably priced) SIM card for the week, took a cab from the airport to the Sofitel (we negotiated for 60 dirhams – don’t let them tell you otherwise), and ate dinner at a lovely restaurant called Table du Marche (confession: we loved it so much we ended up eating there Sunday night too).
Both nights, we also ended up back at our hotel at the Lawrence Bar, a charming piano bar steps from our room that feels like the idyllic Morocco of the movies:
We spent several hours walking on Sunday through the medina — a frenetic experience. Eventually, we ended up at Jma Al Fnaa Square (where a persistent man convinced Brian to hold a monkey). After a day exploring, we ended up back at the pool:
On Monday, we took the train (located in Gueliz) to Casablanca’s station called Voyageur. That night, we played tourist and went to Rick’s Cafe. What’s funny is expected a Planet Hollywoodesque recreation — but no.
Rick’s feels genuinely like you’ve been transported back to the 1940s cafe.
We again stayed in the Casablanca Sofitel, and flew back to JFK on Tuesday. It was a pleasurable weekend away, but left me wishing we’d had more time to make a real adventure out of it. (Top of the wish list: I absolutely would’ve paid a visit to Ouarzazate for the experience to ride a camel through the Sahara.)