Mint tea, camels and surfing
a Morocco experience
At the end of my ERASMUS-Semester in Spain, I decided together with my classmates Mela and Simon to go on a trip through Morocco. As we have been in Barcelona by that time we decided to take a direct flight to Marrakech, which was pretty cheap, depending on the day you might find flights for less than 40€.
We arrived quiet late in the evening ont the 15th of June and my first impression was fantastic. It was the first time I left Europe and accordingly I was pretty much impressed by everything. New culture, different climate, food and everything felt like in the tales of 1001 nights. As we arrived to the old town, we were really impressed by how nice and helpful the people of Marrakech are. You can’t even walk through 2 streets on your own without getting asked by someone to help you finding the way. Usually people even bring you to your destination if you don't tell them not to do this. For the beginning that was really nice because the city Centre is quiet confusing with all its souks (alleys where people craft and sell different products) and small streets which ends nowhere. After some time all of that became just annoying because people where following you and constantly asking for money, even for the smallest advice.
In total we stayed three days in Marrakech. We booked our first Riad (a traditional Moroccan house with inner yard, which are nowadays often used as a hotel or hostel) online because we would arrive quiet late and were afraid of not finding an accommodation in the night. It was 15 euros per night per person. At the next day we figured out that you'll find the best price for accommodation by just walking and asking for it. There are enough hostels in the cities and villages and the people in Morocco love to bargain. In the end we spent on average from 7 - 12€ per night.
After our third day in Marrakech it was time to go on a little Adventure. We were taking the bus to Zagora, where we would meet a guy called Mohammed, who’s supposed to bring us to the desert. The bus started at 12 in the night and took 7 hours through the Atlas Mountains.
Unfortunately I got a food poisoning the evening before leaving. According to the most travel guides you practically shouldn’t eat anything in African countries to avoid such things. In my case even ice cubes from tab water where enough to make it to most awkward bus ride ever. After the arrival the next day I still felt really bad. Mohammed’s son picked us up from the station and brought us to their home. We had breakfast all together and decided to delay our trip for one more day. Mohammed organized us a free stay in a hotel of a friend. While I was dying in my bed my fellow travelers spent the day at the pool.
The following day we met Mohammed at his farm, he introduced us to his employees which would escort us to the desert and showed us our camels for the coming days. After a mint tea we packed our luggage and left society to experience the nomad lifestyle. The tour on the whole was really nice. Even though we haven't had a common language with our companions, we had a lot of fun together. The guys showed us how to bake bread on a bonfire, we cooked tajine together, spent the day in the shadow and moved in the morning and evening when it wasn't that hot. I can totally recommend Mohamed, his sons and employees for a trip through the Zagora desert. For more information click here.
After 3 days we arrived again to Mohammed’s Farm from where we took the bus to Ouarzazate. We arrived at night so there was not much to do. After dinner, we went to a nearby gas station to ask for the easiest way to our hotel. The guy who´s working there just called his friend who’s a taxi driver and told us to wait. Maybe 5 minutes later he appeared in a 1970s Mercedes with four other guests and told us to jump in. The ride in a group of 8 from one to the other end of the city was just 2 euros. We checked in and spent the rest of the evening in the hostel, which was pretty nice with a huge pool in the inner yard.
Straight after breakfast we went to a car rental service to pick up our Peugeot 206, probably not the best choice for Morocco’s poorly secured roads but hey who would declare to rent a car for one week for less then 100 euros. Our next destination was Agadir, on the way there we stopped by at the “Atlas Corporation Studios”, which are located in Ouarzazate and make it to the „Hollywood of Morocco”. Maybe I had wrong expectations of a film studio but it was probably the most boring thing which we visited on the whole trip and if you're not a crazy “Game of thrones” fan I wouldn’t really recommend it to you.
Agadir & Taghazout
In the evening we reached Agadir, which was different to the Morocco that we discovered so far. People seemed to be more opened, there where bars and clubs (so far it was even hard to find any place to get a drink). Young people were going out, girls in skirts and in general a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the more conservative midland. In general we had the feeling that the cities among the coast were more liberal minded than the rest of the country.
We decided to go on to find an accommodation in Taghazout which was really close and way more calm than Agadir. Anyways we wanted to go surfing and if there is one place which is made for that in Morocco its Taghazout. The small town exists besides some restaurants and exactly one hotel only out of surf rentals, surf shops, surf- and yoga camps. So we tried our luck at the only hotel and actually got a huge apartment with 3 rooms and beach access for twenty-something euros per night.
The next day we went to the first surf shop to rent some boards, we payed around 15 euros per person and got a board with wetsuit for the next 24 hours. Poorly it was out of the season but maybe it was just perfect for my first attempts to stay on the board. If you're searching for a real surfing experience in Taghazout the best time for that is probably between December and April. The guy from the shop told us that the town is full of tourists during that time because there is the perfect wind and waves. In the evening we went to Agadir and decided to stay a second night because everything got a little stressful and we haven't slept in a real bed since a while.
After breakfast the next day we went to surf again and continued our way to Essaouria afterwards. The seaport is located at the Atlantic coast and counts 85.000 inhabitants and there is something which made me fall in love with that city. I guess it’s that medieval feeling and all those hippies that probably came for the cheap hashish. It’s a really colorful city with a huge bazar and lots of interesting stuff. The best thing compared to the other cities we visited its calm, you can just sit somewhere and relax without being afraid to get into a crash with some of these crazy scooter drivers from Marrakech or Rabat. In general there is very less traffic because you can´t enter the city Centre by car. We arrived in the day and reached the city walls, when a guy came and charged us for parking. After some small talk he introduced us to a friend of him who wanted to rent his apartment to us. Same thing like usual, quiet comfortable, in a nice location and incredibly cheap. If you're not that lucky to get your apartment mediated by your park attendant, it’s really not a problem. On your way to the city Centre there are plenty guys standing on the streets waving with their keys, just stop to check if their place fits your needs and he will guide you to the flat, the price is of course matter of negotiation.
We stayed two nights to discover the city, really recommendable is the seafood and fish at the harbor. The second night we met some locals who took us to a „club“ which was basically only a huge hall with some sofas and a dancefloor. The equivalent to dancing in morocco seemed to be sitting around and smoking shisha. Maybe it was just due to the preparations of Ramadan, nobody was drinking or dancing there, probably not the right time to have a party.
For the next day we planned to move on to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, which took us the whole day including short stops to visit some villages on the way. In the evening we reached Casablanca, poorly it was too late for a stop and since some people told us it’s not worth seeing it we decided to continue to Rabat. Its around 90km from Casablanca to Rabat and the whole road is covered by small villages and single houses, so it’s a bit hard to distinguish between the two cities and even more hard to find a free space to spend the night at the sea. At half the way we stopped at a village with a small road to the beach. We drove on it, had a BBQ and went straight to sleep on some blankets which we bought in Taghazout. Basically it´s possible to sleep outside at night for the whole year, our blankets where quiet thin and it was really alright, even in winter it’s possible to camp in Morocco.
The morning after we woke up with the sunrise. After the breakfast we packed our stuff and figured out that our offroad-peugeot got stuck on the beach. After some unsuccessfully tries to move it backwards, three very kind guys came to help us with that. All together we moved our car back on the street from where we could continue with the last 50km to Rabat. We arrived at early noon, this time it took us around 3 hours to find a free hostel. I remember Rabat as really crowded and stressful, its also a bit more expensive compared to the other cities we visited. After we checked in we went for lunch and explored the city Centre. The city itself is quiet lovely with its harbor and the old castle. The streets are like the other cities covered with tables where people sell basically everything from fruits, meat, pirate copies of software, cigarettes and clothes. It doesn't matter what you're searching for just tell it anybody and he will guide you to the next person who sells it. If you'll ever make it to Rabat I can really recommend you the sugarcane juice which they sell on the streets, they just take the whole thing proceed it through a chopper and sell it for maybe 50 cents. Juice in general seems to be a thing in Morocco, 1 liter of fresh made orange or grapefruit juice is barely 1 euro.
We decided to leave the city the next day because our flight back to Germany from Marrakech would be already in two days. Originally we wanted to see Meknes and Fes before we return to Marrakech but poorly we already spent too much time on the travel. We decided instead to go to the Ifrane National Park to see the monkeys. This time it took us also more than one hour to leave the city because of the traffic, roadworks and our disorientation. Just before we left the city we got pulled out by the police for … actually we still don’t really know, apparently he didn't like how I turned over on the road. In the end I could decide to pay either 80€ or to give away my drivers license. Beside these 80 euros we also lost around 1 more hour of our time. We decided to skip the monkeys to start our backway in the direction of Marrakech. We planned to spend the night at the Ouzoud-Waterfalls between Rabat and Marrakech. Eventually we ended up somewhere in the mountains close to Ouzoud, it got already dark and there was no sense to keep on searching for the waterfalls. We camped, had another BBQ and I experienced my second food poisoning these holidays, this time all of us. I guess things like that just happen but it shouldn't be a reason, to restrict your nutrition, for that the cuisine of morocco is just too delicious.
This morning we got aroused by a horde of sheeps. We went to the next village for breakfast and straight after to Ouzoud, which is a very beautiful place. It wasn't really far away but in return really high, it took us 2 hours to drive through the mountains but its really fun and an amazing view. We reached the farest place to go by car and walked for another hour to reach the waterfalls. In my opinion it was a bit too touristic to really enjoy the nature but anyways it was really nice, the water in the small river is super refreshing and you can take a shower below the waterfalls.
After our stop we spent the rest of the day on the road to Marrakech, where we arrived in the evening. We checked in and went straight to the center to take some pictures, because we lost our SD-card with the material of the first 3 days. Afterwards we where watching our last Moroccan sunset on the roof of a restaurant and got back to our hostel. The people there told us about the time change because of Ramadan (during Ramadan Arabic states move the clock for one hour back, so the sun sets earlier and the believing Muslims can start to have their dinner). Actually this also counts for international airports, so if you’re traveling during Ramadan in the Middle East or North Africa you should keep that in mind. The following morning we rushed to the airport, almost missed our flight and went back to good old, cold Germany.
In total I can really recommend a holiday in Morocco. You have the chance to experience a nice culture shock while being fairly safe, relax at the beautiful seaside, having good opportunities for watersports and hiking trips and meet super friendly inhabitants.