To the land of the flourishing dynasties
And refining antiquities
I’m falling in love with the colors of your nature
With the hospitality of your creature
And with the beauty of your architecture
You are the one that bears the sorrow of the people
The malice of the devil
And the heaviness of the castle
May God bless the splendor of your mountain
Add beauty to the magic of your fountain
And have mercy on your innocent slain
My land, forgive me for not being so diligent for what you deserve
And not considerate to what you preserve
But my love to you will persist and run until death in my nerve
By Salam chouiref – Fez
Source: Morocco World News
Many asked me that question and let me tell you - I don't really know :). I guess it must have been a documentary again that I've seen somewhere or an article about the colorful markets in Marrakesh that made me wanting to go. No sooner said than done - in October 2017 I boarded my flight to Casablanca together with Anne (you might know her from our previous adventure in Ireland) and, I thought my lioness. In this article (the first one as an official travelblogger haha) I want to give some insights about where to go, what to do, where to sleep and how much you should plan on spending for a two week trip :)
- Just a little insight about the lioness: Since I'm not always as lucky to have a travel companion like Anne, I got myself a lioness to travel with me. Well...first trip and I already forgot her. No more comment needed :D
My trip started as adventurous as always. I had to work late Saturday so when I got home I took a shower and headed to the airport since the flight left at 6am. Unfortunately I picked the train that didn't run because of the dead hour (switching from summer- to wintertime so we had an additional hour but no additional train). I waited 2 hours at the train station and was really tired (wait for the pictures haha you get an ice cream for free if you're able to find my eyes. They are so tiny due to tiredness :D). When I arrived at the airport I realized something else - I forgot the lioness. As you can see: couldn't have had a better start into my vacation ;).
When landing in Lisboa Anne had the grand idea to have a look for a new lioness so we went into a shop and hurray! Not only did we find a lioness but also little lions. We got them as little presents for the Couchsurfer Hosts we were planning to stay at. And schwupps, I was happy again :) We spend an hour under palm trees before we had to get through passport control and ready for our next flight, this time with destination Africa!
Day 1 Sunday
Day 2 Monday
Day 3 Tuesday
Day 4 Wednesday
Day 5 Thursday
Day 6 Friday
Day 7 Saturday
Day 8 Sunday
Day 9 Monday
Day 10 Tuesday
Day 11 Wednesday
Day 12 Thursday
Day 13 Friday
Casablanca to Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen to Rabat
Rabat to Oualidia
Oualidia to Essaouira
Essaouira to Agadir
Agadir to Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate to M'hamid
M'hamid to Ouzoud
Ouzoud to Marrakesh
Flying home :( Total: 2678 km of driving
Day 1 - Casablanca to Chefchaouen
Arriving in Casablanca we had to get our rental car and a local SIM card. Once you pass the passport control (it took us about an hour) there are plenty of different providers, for example Orange or Inwi. We decided for a free SIM Card from Inwi with a day of free data - why them? They were the first right when we got out ;). Rental car wise we decided on Hertz. Not necessarily the cheapest but we thought the most reliable rental car agency. For the car we paid a total of 460 Euro (including insurance) for 11 Days. This was our biggest expense throughout the whole trip. We got a little Fiat and then we were off to our road trip.
Driving in Morocco is not as bad as I thought. If you ignore the about 1000 cars I almost hit, the guy I nearly ran over when he crossed the street carrying a bunch of palm leaves or the owl sitting in the middle of the road, I did very well :D.
Because we would have paid extra for Anne as an additional driver, we decided on me being the only one. That was cheaper but also meant I was driving up to Chefchaouen after a sleepless night and a day in the plane. When we arrived in Chefchaouen shortly after 11pm, we got greeted by Anass, our AirBnB Host (Pictures about the place here). This night we didn't do much but had a first glimpse into the small alleys and then fell into bed.
Day 2 Chefchaouen to Rabat
The next morning we went to explore Chefchaouen. Its very easy to get lost in those narrow alleys but this way you find the most beautiful spots. We strolled through the medina and found a cafe with a roof top terrace where we had our first typical moroccan food - omelet with bread, olives and oil. We also had our first tea and Anne asked me what I think how much tea we are going to drink during our trip. I said 15, she said 20. Just keep that in mind ;) We then continued walking through the streets, stopping here and there for taking pictures ( ja ja, ok, we stopped ALL THE TIME because it was just so beautiful!) and then we felt like a tea before heading towards Rabat. Everyone was recommending the waterfall so we headed there. On the way there were women in very colorful clothing, looking for tourists to take pictures with. The woman approaching me didn't take a No for an answer and forced this hat or turban or whatever it was on my head and tried to pulled me to the place for pictures. I had to be very firm (and I thought almost rude) before she left me alone. Not very pleasant. Crossing the bridge over the river there were those women again and I was almost in panic haha I said right away they should leave me alone (poor woman). She understood what I meant (I'm probably not the first one to be bothered) so we then had a little talk about how to interact with tourists and parted in peace :).
The tea at the waterfall is none to be recommended. First of all - you share it with a million wasps. Secondly - it takes forever to be served. Thirdly - even I ordered it without sugar, it came with 1kg stirred in it. Sitting in the water was nice though, but apart from that...well...decide for yourself when you're there :).
We then left for Rabat. When stopping at a nice look out there were kids running at us, shouting and laughing. They were highly interested in my phone and the car and had the time of their life :). On our way we took our first hitchhiker with us, a young boy (let him be maybe 10 or something like that). He was looking shocked when he got into the car of two european girls and didn't speak a word until he got off. Apart from that the drive was beautiful but quite uneventful. When we got to Rabat (it was dark already unfortunately) we met up with Achraf, our couchsurfing host for the night. He invited us for some tea with his friends/cousins/work mates (choose one :D) and took us for a night stroll through the Medina and the harbor. He and his friends (Hakim and Sofyan) taught us our first arabic words and Anne and I enjoyed their company a lot. We then drove to his place and settled for the night - sharing a room with Achraf, with his siblings sleeping on a mattress in the next room.
Day 3 Rabat to Oualidia
The next morning Anne and I were waking up at the same time but didn't know if we should wake Achraf or not. Lucky us his mum decided to help us and kicked him alive :D. Good to see that relationships between Mums and kids are the same in other countries as well ;). We then met his Family - Mum and Dad and his two brothers and we all had breakfast together. I treasure the memory of this morning because it was lovely being part of a family and experiencing the home environment. Afterwards we met up again with Karim and the four of us drove to the Hassan Tower, a minaret of an incomplete mosque. It was meant to be the largest minaret in the world but after the Sultan died it wasn't finished. The mosque is incomplete as well and you can see several walls and about 200 columns. There's the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and all in all its a sight worth visiting.
Around noon it was time for us to say Goodbye to Achraf and his friends. We left for Oualidia, a little town right at the shore. This time we took our second hitch hiker with us, and old man in traditional clothing. We had no means of mutual communication, so when he was talking to us we didn't understand a single word but Allah maybe. Thats at least what I thought because he then started to pray for us. That was very special and Anne and I felt quite moved about it.
We were blessed with a beautiful sunset again before arriving in Oualidia. Yassine, our host for the night, picked us up and we went to the markets. I really loved the experience there - all he people, hackling, choosing fresh food, talking to each other, the smells, the colors...AND I had the best mandarines ever, they were fantastic! At his place we cooked a very good Tagine and improved our arabic, we even learned how to write our names and short sentences, pretty cool if you asked me :).
Day 4 Oualidia to Essaouira
The next morning Yassine had to get up quite early for his work. He invited us to visit him in the hotel he's working at so we took him onto that offer and went there. I didn't expect the place to be that great but its got 5 Stars for a reason I suppose :D. Lovely interior, great location (right at the laguna), friendly staff and all in all very convincing ;)
As much as I love the way I travel with staying at locals and kind of on a low budget - One day I'm going to treat myself to a stay at a place like that. Oh yeah!
Having said that, back to what we did ;)...Yassine was a gem and organized a kayak for us to explore the laguna. Anne and I spent a lovely morning on the water with a stop for a dip in the water and that was lovely. We picked the right time as well because when we were about to head back, the beach filled up with other tourists whereas we had the beach all for ourselves.
Yassine tried to convince us for staying another night but we already decided on heading towards Essaouira so all we were able to was waiting for him to finish work and have a goodbye tea at his fitness studio (the place he seems to like most in Oualidia :D).
We then stopped by the market and got some more mandarines and some of that awesome bread they have and then we were off to Essaouira! (Note: none of the mandarines were left when we arrived in Essaouira a few hours later haha)
The drive to Essaouira wasn't eventful apart from the lovely views of course but I think pictures can't capture the beauty the way your eyes can. I therefore spare you the billion landscape pictures haha.
In Essaouira we got picked up by Rajjid who led us to our apartment for the night, a lovely place in the midst of the medina (read more here). After leaving our bags we went through a first stroll and found a nice restaurant called "Les 3 Portes". It must have been one of the best Tagines I had during my two weeks, the atmosphere in the restaurant was great and even though both waiters didn't seem to be professional they did a great job, being funny and attentive . If you're interested in checking them out, you can do it here.
Day 5 Essaouira to Agadir
The 5th day of our journey was quite a sad one. It started good, but then it got worse and worse :D
In the morning we went exploring the Medina. We stopped by at different stores and had lovely conversations with the owners, often getting an invitation for tea and one guy (he reminded me Lionel Ritchie somehow) even wanted to buy my jacket :D. I don't know why I didn't sell it to him but in the end I'm glad I didn't, because I was wearing it quite a few times :) We then went to the harbor, a very busy (and stinky) place. I liked the atmosphere didn't mind the smell, I think for Anne it was a bit harder. Anyway....the harbor was the place a very sad thing happened. I was positioning Yara for a picture and then a seagull stopped by and took her away. Just like that...and she was gone. Like..gone! Sad, very very sad...and a little bit funny too, I give you that. I mean..in what world gets a lion eaten by a seagull?!
This is the last picture of Yara (in the left upper corner you can see the circular window where I positioned her when the seagull took her away):
There's a video Anne took right away when she was stolen. It is too sad to be published but it looks like I'm almost crying haha. Just so you can imagine what it meant. That was he second lioness I didn't take care of. Thank God I don't have kids, who knows what I would do to them :D.
We continued our walk, stopped by at the beach and wandered through the narrow alleys. I enjoyed Essaouira a lot despite the thiefs! We ended our stay in the city with lunch in a restaurant serving fresh fish and a fresh juice from the street before heading to Agadir.
Something I find important to mention:
Morocco is a muslim country and tourist should dress appropriately, especially women. That means: be respectful and stay modest in Morocco! Walking around with thighs, shoulders or midriff uncovered will attract the attention and can exacerbate two perceptions:
- You don't respect the local customs and you don't have a problem with showing your ‘private’ parts of your body to the sons and husbands of local women
- Its a sign for the ‘availability’ and free morals associated with European women - most of them don't follow the normal Moroccan custom to refrain from Sex before marriage
In Saying that:
I was taken aback that so many girls were dressed in hot pants, bare shoulders or leggings and I was ashamed for how ignorant tourists act. When we were getting our juice from the man we were talking to him (well..we said the few words and sentences that we learned so far ;)) and then I asked him if I could take a picture. He was fine with it.
While we were still waiting there was a couple approaching - Woman in shorts and spaghetti strap top. She asked him right away if she could take a picture and you could tell that the man didn't feel comfortable. She was allowed to take a picture of the fruit but not him. This little episode shows how important it is to get to know the country and act accordingly.
If you don't like to wear long clothes, you might choose another country rather than a muslim one.
On our drive to Agadir we were lucky enough to spot the famous goats in the tree. We took tons of pictures and the shepherd even let us hold a little one. If you see them, remember to give them a few coins as a thank you.
We made it to Agadir just in time for the sunset, I think the first time we were at our destination for it :) AND we enjoyed it at the beach. Jackpot. We then met up with Muhammed and his cousin, our host for the night or at least so we thought. Remember, when I said the day got worse and worse? Now we're coming to that point ;)
So we met up with them and before heading to his/their place they took us to view point above the city which was lovely. When we got to the apartment complex he said he's living in it got weird though. First time I got suspicious was when the security just talked to his cousin and not Muhammed. When we walked through the gate and along the building the cousin had to tell him which is his entrance. I mean...why wouldn't he know where he lives?! We took the elevator to the 10th floor and then he held up the keys saying we need to look for Apartment 34. In this apartment were two people, a girl and a boy, who left on our arrival. Muhammed offered to make some tea but left in the middle of action saying he had to go to the shops to get some dinner. As soon as he left the apartment I said to Anne that I'm not going to stay any longer. We discussed this and decided to talk about it with Muhammed. By coincidence I opened the window for fresh air and what did I see? All three guys standing in front of the apartment talking with each other. I'm not scared easily but that was a fishy situation. After ten minutes he and his cousin came up again and then I told him straight away that I feel really uncomfortable and wouldn't stay at his place. He then almost cried, trying to explain the situation to us - him not having his own place in Agadir but staying with different people, sharing the apartment with his cousin among other things. It didn't help - Anne and I left his place. We got some dinner at a roadside diner and started driving towards the desert before parking the car a the side of the road and sleeping there.
All in all everything turned out to be ok but this half hour...well...I was glad we had a rental car :).
Day 6 Agadir to Ouarzazate
When we woke up the next morning we were surrounded by thick fog. We couldn't have wished for a better cover up of the car ;). People were standing at the street waiting to be picked up and it must have been a weird sight seeing two girls getting out of the car in the morning. We were glad we were safe and despite our little adventure we were in good mood and ready to take on the day. The kids at school were too, when we drove towards the desert we've seen so many of them on their bikes or by foot on their way to school. The first bigger city we passed on our way to Ouarzazate was Taroundant and since we didn't have breakfast we decided to have q quick stop. We found a little cafe and with my more than basic french (no one spoke english anymore) we ordered some breakfast. We never ate that cheap again, we paid for an omelette, bread, orange juice and tea all together 26DH, thats around 2,50 Euro. Exactly...:). We then wandered a little through the city and met Mustafa, a guy that said he would show us the huge berber market that was on that day, but in the end he was leading us to his store trying to sell some carpets haha. We've seen the city that way so no harm done ;).
I liked our drive to Ouarzazate a lot. The landscape became very dry and rocky but in between were little spots of green. I've never been in an environment like that so I couldn't stop looking and expressing my thoughts - I think Anne was glad when we arrived haha. Ouarzazate is a beautiful city with a huge Kasbah ( multiple buildings in a keep, a citadel or several structures behind a defensive wall). We decided to have a look inside before meeting up with Abdellah, our host for the night from AirBnB. The visit of the Kasbah is definitely worth the 20 DH entrance fee because you have lovely views over the city and if you like you can get a guide telling you all about the history ( I won't bore you with all the details, text me if you want to know more ;)).
We had dinner at the restaurant across the Kasbah - the food was alright, nothing too special but the view was awesome and so was the sunset, the best one ever!
Day 7 Ouarzazate to M'Hamid
This time we enjoyed our breakfast on the terrace in the sunshine before driving into the desert, our last stop before heading towards Marrakesh. On our way we stopped in Agdz do get some fruits and thats when a man was asking me about helping with writing a letter for him. We went to his shop, got tea (of course) and I wrote a letter for his friends in Germany. The mandarines we got at the market weren't as good unfortunately (we never found them as a good as in Oualidia).
The next bigger city was Zagora and the road was going through the Draa Valley, a region thats famous for its dates. My travel guide mentioned a little road thats even more beautiful than the main road, suitable for 4x4 cars. Well...we had a Fiat Punto..that almost counts as 4x4, doesn't it?
We therefore took the tiny road and it started quite nice - I was gravel but drivable and we passed tiny villages with no names, great views on the valley and a few people along the way. When we passed the last road that would have led us back to the main road, the gravel road got worse though. There was no way of turning back (I wouldn't have known how to turn the car on a tiny road like that) so we had to go on. Anne was jumping out of the car more than once to put some stones underneath the wheels, otherwise the underside of our car might have not survived that little adventure. he view was great though, I have to say that :)
When we finally hit the main road again I was relieved that the car survived.The rest of the drive was super easy, great roads, smooth ride, good company (not another hitch hiker, I'm talking about Anne ;)). We arrived in M'Hamid after nightfall (of course). We were meant to meet up with Aziz, our couchsurfing host. When driving into M'Hamid there was a taxi next to us and a guy jumping out of it, it looked a bit like Aziz I thought so I stopped the car and let down the window. But, surprise surprise, it wasnt Aziz but a random guy thinking we are tourists needing a place to stay or for going into the desert. Wow..they are very... how do I say...maybe a little intrusive ;)? We declined and drove to the restaurant where we were supposed to meet Aziz. When the next guy knocked at my window I ignored him...until he made clear he's Aziz :D. Well well...He took us to his place and we got settled for the night, getting another arabic lesson and playing some cards - Aziz and I were Team "Laboa" (Lioness) and Anne and Mustafa were Team "Nümeri" (female Tiger). Fun times :)
Day 8 M'Hamid
The next morning the guys took us to the old town of M'Hamid where people are still living but its not as "busy" as the new town. We wandered the alleys, took some pictures and were looked at by the people because tourist seem to be a rare sight. While Aziz was organising everything for our trip into the desert, Mustafa took us into town again tobuy some groceries, because Anne and I wanted to cook some german food (we wanted up with Spagheti Bolognese, almost German haha). It was interesting to see how meat is sold and how those little stores are organised. In the end you get everything you need, you just have to visit 10 shops instead of one supermarket :). After our german -not so german lunch the guys went to get the camels and when I looked again there were two of them laying in front of the door. What a sight! Quick selfie with the kids that were running towards us every time we set a foot in front of the house and then we were off into the desert!
Anne didn't want to ride first so I was the lucky one jumping on. Riding a camel is nothing compared to riding horses but its still fun. Only thing is, its boring being the only one in the sky so I let Anne take my place real quick. She had her fun too and then all four of us were walking :D. The camles were lovely and the guys trusted me enough to give me one on the hand and walked ahead. I dont know what marks they saw but they led us to the spot were they always tent, a place right in the dunes with a little hill for seeing the sunset and sunrise :).
We set up the tent, let the camles roam free (well, not exactly, they have their forelegs tied together) and then enjoyed the evening with some freshly cooked food, fresh fruit and a campfire. Different from german guys, the two of them love to sing and do that all the time. I'm really sorry for that romantic stuff now but it was great sitting at the fire snuggled up in some blankets, them singing their songs, the stars above us...yes yes...I liked that a lot! Anne and I decided against the tent and slept under the stars and you'll probably understand that this was my favourite night.
Day 9 M'Hamid
I got up early enough for the sunrise, which wasnt as spectacular as the sunset the night before but still a lovely way to great the new day. We then had breakfast and while Aziz and Mustafa were diligent and packed everything, Anne and I did a little photosession in the dunes. On the way back I even got to lead both camels and it was a peaceful walk back to the village.
This day we didn't do to much but "relax max without paying tax" and we spent another night under the stars because we just couldnt get enough of it. Since Aziz' place is a Riad (a riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard) we just had to get the blankets out and were rewarded with another beautiful night and the open sky.
Day 10 M'Hamid to Ouzoud
In the morning we had our 20th tea!
Aziz was as spontaneous as we were. Instead of going to Marrakesh we postponed that and went to Ouzoud instead, a village about 3 hours east of Marrakesh and famous for its waterfall. Aziz took his chance and went with us to Ouarzazate so we didnt have to part ways right away. He dressded up for the city in "normal" clothing but said he missed his turban after just 10 minutes. He also missed his Mustafa, so they were exchanging audio message after just 20 minutes. In town we had lunch together and then we had to say our Good byes.
Now we had to decide about which road to take - good roads but with a detour or right through the high Atlas. Of course...you already know us by now..we took the road straight through the mountains :D
It was adventorous, at times scary (sometimes there wasnt even a road anymore because of a previous landslide/rockfall) and it took foreeeeeever BUT in saying that, the views were breathtaking! Unfortunately half the trip it was dark so we missed part of the scenery :( on the other hand we've seen a terrific night sky again, I'd even better than the one in the desert because the moon wasn't up yet so we could see the Milky way and billions of stars.
Arriving in Ouzoud we got greeted by the most adorable hostel ever, I fell in love with it right away (see here why I did!). The owner Denise even prepared a vegetarian soup with some bread for our dinner and we relaxed on the roof top terrace and let the day pass in review.
Day 11 Ouzoud to Marrakesh
First, let us appreciate that gigantic and most delicious breakfast, Denise prepared for us :)
I wonder how we made it to the waterfall, stuffed as we were :D. But we did, maybe because the Dar Ouzoud is located very conveniently a 5min walk away from the waterfall. I let the pictures speak for themselves :).
The drive to Marrakesh was , compared to previous roads, really boring. No desert, no mountains - just houses, trees or fields. Yes I know...I'm spoiled....
In the city we dropped off the car - more or less successful as we had to pay an additional 50 DH for cleaning the car haha We then met up with Aziz (not the one from the desert, a new one ;)) and he organized a cab for us while he was taking his bike back home. Welcome to the big city - the cab driver made us pay double the price Aziz agreed on with him, so we paid 40 DH instead of the 20 DH. Hm..I understand that I have more money then they do but being ripped off is not nice.
Everything was forgotten though when we had dinner with Aziz and played some cards at his place before settling for the night :)
day 12 marrakesh
My last full day in Morocco I spent with Anne in Marrakesh. We left the house early (well..early as in 8.30 am :)) and went to the medina. We got off at the Koutoubia Mosque, the biggest mosque in the city and one of the oldest. We decided against using a map and drifted through the streets, a true maze. We found a restaurant with a roof top terrace for breakfast - compared to what we usually paid and what we got, it was quite expensive though (80 DH). Afterwards we found the Medersa Ben Youssef by coincidence although we knew we wanted to visit it. The medusa was an islamic college and the biggest in Morocco. Its 130 student dormitory cells are clustered around a courtyard, which is richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco, very impressive! Afterwards we went to the Saadian Tombs, also by coincidence :D. They were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum to numerous Saadian rulers. We kept wandering through the city, stopping all the time to appreciate the little wonders the maze of alleys has to offer. We had a million more teas and a very relaxing day in Marrakesh. In the evening we met up with Aziz to enjoy a tea above the roof of Marrakesh and to get some street food - most delicious but in retrospect my stomach wasnt to happy about it :(. Anyways, I didn't know that until I got home so I still enjoyed my last day :D
Ben Youssef Medersa
Day 13 Time to say goodbye
My last day in Marrakesh we went to the Bahia Palace because Aziz recommend it as one of his favorite spots in the city so we didn't wan to miss out. The palace is a set of gardens located in the medina and was built in the late 19th century. Bahia means "brilliance" :). Si Moussa had it set up for his personal use and his harem. Its beautifully decorated and has very lovely gardens.
We then went back to Aziz' place because I started to feel unwell. My flight left in the late afternoon and I got home around 1am. And then..just as quick as the two weeks were, I was at home again.
In a nutshell: Morocco is a beautiful country and I'm glad I didn't listen to all the people saying "Oh no, Morocco? Its dangerous, be careful." Of course you have to be careful as in ever other country of this world too but I experienced two weeks full of adventure, outstanding hospitality, I met great people and fell in love with yet another country.
Until we meet again!
Oh, before I forget..our list when we had tea. The ones marked with a * were for free, just saying ;)
- Chefchaouen Breakfast
- Chefchaouen Waterfall
- Rabat with Achraf *
- Rabat Breakfast *
- El Jadida afternoon tea
- Oualidia Dinner *
- Oualidia after dinner ;)*
- Essaouira Dinner
- Essaouira Shop of Ismail *
- Taroundant breakfast
11. Taroundant Mustafa (the shop owner)*
12. Agdz Ali Shop (Translating the letter)*
13. M'Hamid Dinner*
14. M'Hamid breakfast *
15. M'Hamid lunch*
16. M'Hamid Desert dinner *
17. M'Hamid Desert breakfast*
18. M'Hamid Lunch*
19. M'Hamid dinner*
20. M'Hamid breakfast*
21. Ouarzazate Lunch
22. Ouzoud dinner*
23. Ouzoud before breakfast*
24. Ouzoud breakfast
25. Marrakesh lunch
26. Marrakesh breakfast
27. Marrakesh lunch
28. Marrakesh dinner
And I might have forgotten some from Marrakesh :)
So you see: Anne won :)