Marrakech, Morocco

My OBGYN wasn’t worried about my traveling to Europe while pregnant, but he expressed some concern about Morocco. “Don’t eat anything that isn’t cooked,” he warned me. “No salads, no fruit. And no juice.” I got a few vaccinations and agreed to be careful about what I ate. My friend’s husband said that when he went there with an old girlfriend years ago, the men hissed at her and jeered because she didn’t cover her head and body, and I was told to bring a scarf and dress conservatively. Brandon and my family were primarily concerned about my safety. Me? I was excited! I was about to take a trip to two countries on two different continents!

Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco
Marrakech, Morocco

After a week exploring France, it came time to leave. Train delays got Jordan and I to the airport late though, and we had to scramble to try and catch our flight. I was six months pregnant at that point, and slow. I told Jordan to run ahead of me, and she did, reluctantly. She thought that maybe she could make it to the gate and explain that I was on my way. The problem came from my having to check a suitcase though — hers was a carry-on. The plane was delayed, but I was still denied boarding because I missed the baggage check-in time. We were to meet up with friends, Alison and Valerie, to travel on as a group of four, and Jordan found them at the gate but offered to stay behind with me. There were frantic texts, phone calls, and a few tears shed by both of us, but I told her not to worry — we shouldn’t both miss our flights if we don’t have to. I travel by myself more often than not, so I figured I would find a cheap place to stay near the airport for the night and pay the €80 fee to transfer my ticket to the next available flight in the morning. I went from staying in a four star hotel one night to a hostel the next, but it was cheap and clean, and I made my flight the next morning.

So I finally arrived in Marrakech. I did all right traveling by myself with my English/French combo, and there was a driver waiting for me in the airport. He took me to a sort of open square near our riad, but the streets were too narrow to actually drive right up to it. I grabbed my suitcase, and the driver walked with me for the last couple of blocks where I met up with everybody, safe and sound. We stayed at Riad Medina, c/o airbnb, and while we could hear the calls to prayer throughout the day (they echo throughout the city), it was otherwise quiet. A beautiful, peaceful, and private oasis.

Riad Medina, Marrakech, Morocco
Riad Medina, Marrakech, Morocco

When I’m pregnant, I feel best if I keep a little something in my stomach instead of going too long between meals. Of course, what is there to eat when I get there? Fruit. Salad. Juice. Sorry, doc, I tried my best but sometimes I didn’t have much of a choice. And as for the advice about wearing a scarf and dressing conservatively? Nah. I wouldn’t go out scandalously underdressed or anything, but have you seen the four of us? We were fine… though Valerie did get her butt grabbed. More than once. And everywhere I went, I was greeted with “baby! A baby! Boy or girl!? You need ____ for the baby? You need ____ for baby!” Even with some strange attention from the men though, aside from leaving my expensive camera gear behind (because petty theft does happen), we never felt unsafe.

You can hire a male guide to walk with you, and it’s often recommended that you do. It’s very easy to get lost, and many people also feel more comfortable with help. The others hired a guide for the first day (the day I missed), but realized that he was taking them to more expensive shops and restaurants in exchange for kickbacks and they decided to brave the city on their own after that. I have no sense of direction, but Alison has a truly amazing ability to navigate through unfamiliar areas without losing her way — even in the twisty streets of the souk. We were confident with her by our sides. There were stray cats everywhere. Donkeys are common, and motorbikes whizz by constantly, often with multiple people piled on.

Streets, Stray Cats
Marrakech, Morocco

We spent one afternoon visiting Maryam, of Peacock Pavilions. The grounds are beautiful and her design work is inspiring. More importantly though, she’s doing good work in the village of Douar Ladaam through Project Soar, especially for the girls of the community.

Peacock Pavilions, Marrakech, Morocco
Peacock Pavilions, Marrakech, Morocco
Peacock Pavilions, Marrakech, Morocco

Our trip was a quick one, and we spent much of the rest of our time there in the souks. Shopping in Morocco meant haggling. If something is inexpensive (and so much of it is), feel free to just pay the asking price. When buying pricier items though, like vintage Beni Ourain rugs or Handira (wedding blankets), you’ll be haggling. I wrote about our different approaches to negotiating at the souk, and in the end we all got about the same deal. It’s not a fast process either. The sellers are friendly and will offer you water or mint tea in hospitality, and then you are in for a bit of a time commitment! We loved it because we were into the shopping experience, but if it isn’t for you, decline those offers.

Spices in Morocco
Marrakech Souks

Shopping in Marrakech also required a certain level of trust. After spending hours looking at rugs and selecting just the right ones, it came time to pay. Everyone else’s purchases went smoothly, but even though I had notified my credit card company in advance, they flagged the attempted transaction as fraudulent. There was a cap on ATM withdrawals, so I couldn’t take out enough to pay in cash. Since three out of four of us had paid for our goods, the seller offered to let us all take our rugs with us (which he had bundled and wrapped for transport). He also kindly offered to escort us back to our riad, as we had too much to carry ourselves.

Rug Shopping in Marrakech, Morocco
(photo by Jordan)

My bedroom was on the first floor, and everyone else was upstairs. It was considerate because it meant less stair-climbing for me while uncomfortably pregnant, but of course I had anxiety about people coming after us to collect on my debts. “We’re four ladies, by ourselves! We owe this guy money, and we’re essentially telling him where we live! And what if it’s not the friendly young seller who comes looking for his money, but someone scarier? It’s a riad — there’s no hotel security! We’re going to diieeeeee!” OK, so I may not have gotten that dramatic — but I was worried. Everyone else was fine with the idea, so I went along; as anxious as I was, I also knew I was being a little stupid. We were fine, I cleared everything up with my credit card the next day, and I paid for my two rugs.

Boucherouite and Beni Ourain Rugs in Marrakech, Morocco
Nicole Balch in Marrakech, Morocco
(photo by Jordan)

We explored the souks again on our final day, finding the guys that work with all of the big names and stores you know (*ahem, ABC Home*). They have a space in the bustling main area, but also a quiet gallery not far from the souks that was fantastic and filled with so many beautiful things. I bought a blanket and a small pillow fashioned from an old wedding blanket. And exactly how did we get all of these treasures home, you may be wondering? Jordan picked up several rugs, so she had them shipped back to the states. The rest of us either shoved things in our suitcases or checked them at the airport as you would extra luggage. The sellers can bundle up rugs in plastic sheeting and twine so that it’s actually pretty manageable.

Marrakech Gallery Shop
Marrakech Gallery Shop
Marrakech Gallery Shop

So that was Marrakech. Amazing. And then we went to Paris where we had dinner and went for a walk the first night we arrived, and then spent the rest of our time in bed feeling very sick because we all got food poisoning in Morocco, the end. It was kind of funny?

29 Responses to “Marrakech, Morocco”

  1. kristin @ W [H] A T C H August 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    morocco is fantastic, so sorry to hear about your food poisoning!

    • Making it Lovely August 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      It was unfortunate. I really did try my best to eat only cooked food, but I had some orange juice when I arrived because that was all there was, and then I had a tomato salad one day too. We aren’t sure what made us sick (Valerie was the only one that was fine), but it was mild. It just meant missing Paris, which I really wanted to see.

      • Jess August 27, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

        I got sick from eating a salad in Morocco, too. It’s a pretty common problem. I found it so hard to resist all the street foods- nuts, fruits, etc. But after traveling for a week, I stupidly ordered the only item with fresh, uncooked (unwashed?!) veggies.

  2. Melissa August 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Oh no stinks you got sick! Your rug buying reminds me so much of buying rugs in Turkey. Those rugs are sooooo lovely I am jealous

  3. Bronwyne Telpuk August 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    It was lovely seeing the old bus destination roll hung up. Quite a surprise really as it comes from my home town Melbourne, Australia

  4. harumph23 August 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Let’s see if I can say this respectfully. Nicole, you acted recklessly. I’m relieved to read that your food poisoning ‘was mild’, but it could have been catastrophic for you and your baby. (Listeriosis much?) And if you had to disregard your doctor’s advice, at least don’t make jokes about it.

    • Making it Lovely August 21, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      You’re right, I come across as being flippant in the post. I really did try to follow my doctor’s advice (I brought a supply of granola bars and snacks, for example), but when presented with situations where the only things to drink were tap water or juice, I opted for juice.

  5. Jennifer August 21, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Hey harumph23, let’s see if I can say this respectfully. You’re a nasty, judgmental, cruel troll who needs therapy.

    • Making it Lovely August 21, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      It’s fine. He or she brought up a valid point and was respectful about it.

  6. Dajana Fabjanovic August 21, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post, Nicole — the colourful pictures from the souk and your tips on travelling in Morocco. It, along with Turkey, is next on my wanderlust list (I just returned from a trip to Croatia & need to start saving my pennies again.)

    P.S. So sorry about the missed plane and food poisoning (& the unwarranted comment above from Judgy McJudgerson).

  7. Sarah August 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    But how do you know you didn’t get the food poisoning from dinner in Paris?

    • Julia August 22, 2014 at 3:36 am #

      That’s what I’m thinking as well. Normally food poisoning strikes really fast and you’ll be sick within a couple of hours.

      Marrakesh seems like quite the experience! And those rugs….oooh la la.

      • Ali August 22, 2014 at 10:02 am #

        I don’t mean to be argumentative, but food poisoning can occur anywhere between a few hours to as much as a several days after intake of contaminated food – the length of time varies based on the bacterium, virus, or parasite. The different sources of infection are also what can cause some bouts of food poisoning to be worse than others.

    • Making it Lovely August 22, 2014 at 8:14 am #

      One of us started feeling sick that night, before dinner.

  8. Laura August 21, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    You are adventurous and practical. Awesome pictures!

  9. Emmie {Blue 11 Interiors} August 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    Oh my gosh, your pictures of Morocco are gorgeous! I’m so jealous of your finds there. I would love to go to Morocco but I would feel more comfortable going with someone who was familiar with the area.

  10. May August 22, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    I so much want to go to Marrakech, it’s my biggest dream right now! At present I can’t afford it, but even if I could there is no one who could come with me and I wouldn’t want to go alone. So thank you for the photos, they slightly fill the gap!

  11. Lauren August 22, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Nicole, I’m curious, you mention buying pricier items like the rugs and wedding blankets in Morocco. How does the price compare to buying these things here in the states? Is it pricey compared to other things in the markets, or pricey in general? I know the term is relative, but I’m kind of curious about what the markup is over here.

    Another question, do you recommend hiring a male guide because you were a group of women? What if I was traveling with my husband, would you still recommend it?

    This post is making me insanely jealous, not only for your adventures but for your bravery. I never could have done something like that when I was pregnant. Love your pictures. :)

    • Making it Lovely August 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

      I think nearly all of the guides are male anyway, but yes, as a group of women having a man with you over there would not be a bad idea. As for the prices, they are much more affordable. You can sort of get an idea of what they go for here on sites like eSaleRugs or ABC Home. Between the four of us (having bought probably 16 rugs total?), we paid from $150-$500 for each rug. Less for boucherouite, more for wool, and depending on size and quality of course.

  12. Rachael August 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Growing up, I heard not-so-nice things about Morocco from my mom, who went when she was a child. Apparently, because she had bright-blonde hair, men were trying to buy her from my grandfather (her father) and the family ended their trip early for fear she might be kidnapped.

    That was 50 years ago, so I’m glad to hear that things appear to have changed.

    I was curious how you got your rugs home, thanks for giving that update!

    • sb August 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Sorry you mom had bad memories from her experience there as a child. I think i can clarify: While in the western world the bride used to bring in a dowry coming into the marriage, in Muslim countries it’s the opposite: the husband brings in a large amount of cash as a gift for his new bride, that is her money for her own use and the husband gives it to her free and clear as a wedding gift. Those men were not offering to buy your mom, there were offering and perhaps bragging about their wealth so they could marry this exotic looking blonde girl. They were trying to let your grandfather know that they were wealthy and they would be a good husband for his daughter. Add in some translation issues and I can understand how your grandparents thoughts they wanted to buy the child. Maybe those men were a bit rough but that is a reflection on those individuals , not on the country. Just my input. :)

  13. jaclyn August 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Marrakech is definitely on my bucket list.

    I too have to say you made me nervous when you mentioned eating and drinking uncooked foods. A friend of mine went into early labor from a bout of food poisoning in Mexico. Glad you made out OK though.

    That being said, I am always so careful about what I eat, and not having drinks with ice in them, etc. and my husband throws all caution to the wind and eats/drinks whatever he wants. Of course it was ME who got food poisoning the last time we were in Mexico!

  14. Janine August 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Oh my God, that little ending to the post! I laughed, but then I felt so sorry for you. :(

    It sounds like you had a lovely time and the rugs you picked are gorgeous, totally gorgeous. Well done, you! Next time you go to Morocco, maybe you can take your entire family!

    Project Soar looks super interesting.

    • Making it Lovely August 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

      Project Soar is fantastic. It was such a pleasure to meet Maryam and hear about all that she’s doing, first-hand.

  15. Deb August 23, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    I’m going to Marrakech in November – SO looking forward to it!! Thanks for sharing gorgeous pics and your rugs are beautiful. I hope to visit the place that works with **ABC Home** too – I could just move in to ABC Home, that place is so beautiful.

  16. Marina August 24, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    I don’t normally comments, but just wanted to say I LOVED reading your post about Morocco. Not only does it sound lovely, but I’m glad you took the opportunity to go while pregnant. Too many people think pregnancy/babies means the end of all travel and adventure. I hope you post pics of what you bought (would love to see the wedding pillow)! Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

  17. Petris August 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    I love seeing the pics of your Morroco trip! Do you think you can share the locations/names of the vendors where you guys bought the rugs from?
    Thanks!

  18. JC August 29, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    We spent time in Turkey this Summer and your experience in Morocco sounds very, very similar to our experience at the markets there. It even LOOKS similar! :) We are a family of 5 (3 young children!) and experienced wonderful hospitality and kindness from the Turks.

    Note: When I walked alone (really, ahead of the family to grab transportation) hospitality swung firmly into the realm sexual innuendo. Since my husband and children were a few steps behind, I laughed it off. Had I been alone or with a group of women I would have been uncomfortable.

  19. Kristel August 31, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    i’m about to go to morocco and loved this post! i too would like to know which shops you loved most — and also, where did you go to ship the rugs that were shipped?