Adventures in Morocco

Posted by on 14 Oct, 2013 in Blog, Destinations, Guest posts, Morocco, Spain | 0 comments

For this post, I’ve handed over the reigns to my friend Andy, who is reliving the month he spent travelling around Morocco.

Morocco might be pushing the geographic boundaries of the blog slightly, but the country did enter Eurovision in 1980 and is featured in Lonely Planet’s ‘Europe on a shoestring’ guide, so I have made my peace. Morocco has been high on my list for a while and with budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair flying there from more and more UK airports, it seems there’s no excuses.

Please note none of the below images are mine (or Andy’s for that matter) but I have attempted to attribute them to the right sources.

So, enjoy!

When: I visited Morocco in summer of 3rd year of uni, so July/August 2011.
How: If my memory serves me well, we flew a combination of Ryanair and EasyJet, London direct to Agadir, and back from Tangier via Madrid. Don’t think it set us back more than £150 total from our friends at skyscanner.
Why: Why Morocco? Having been to South America the year before, my friend and I fancied another trip away, though it being roughly May/June time when we decided this, we realised any longer haul destinations would be on the pricier side. Equally, we wanted somewhere slightly closer, and a place where we could seek the all important tan, surely the most important trophy from any modern holiday. A brief brainstorm later, Morocco was settled on. Seemed ‘exotic’ enough, and Wikipedia helpfully informed us temperatures there were scorching. Done.
WORDS OF WARNING: check when Ramadan occurs. Do NOT go in July/August

Agadir

Our first stop, but in hindsight should have been our last.

Agadir beach (credit Joao Maximo)

Agadir beach (credit Joao Maximo)

A very touristy coastal city, the main feature of which is a pretty cool and long promenade along the coast, featuring never ending stalls, restaurants, cafes and whatever else. There are some non-budget options along the beach, so we went for one a stone’s throw away for a fair bit less. Had a nice pool and people from Manchester Uni. Standard. We only planned to be there for a few days, and so mainly stuck to the local area and catching some rays. There is a very old casbah (fortress) on a hill overlooking the coast, but sadly we did not rock it. Probably too lazy. It was reeeally hot. However, being on the sea, the seafood here is of a very high quality, and is thus highly recommended. There’s also a small zoo/animal park, called Valley of the Birds, which houses a fair few colourful and squawky species to whet any budding ornithologist’s appetite.

Essaouira

Another coastal town a few hours’ bus ride from Agadir, Essaouira is a fraction of the size but with oodles more character and charm.

Essaouira (courtesy of saharaservicestravels.com)

Essaouira (courtesy of saharaservicestravels.com)

With a large proportion of Moroccan towns, Essaouira has a medina, which is normally a walled section that is, or at some point was, the focal point of said town/city, usually filled with many narrow, maze-like streets and a market or two (hundred). Essaouira’s medina is no exception, and most hostels are located within it, giving your stay a slightly more Moroccan feel. For some reason, it is extremely windy here, and thus the beach is only frequented by the brave and sand-resistant. The old fort ruins, however, are not to be scoffed at, complete with cannons and pretty amazing vistas out to the North Atlantic. If you walk far enough down the beach, camel riding opportunities arise for those so inclined.

Marrakech

Recently visited by the cast of Made in Chelsea, Marrakesh is continuing to make a name for itself.  Being one of the busiest cities in Africa and a major economic centre and a real-estate developer’s paradise have all contributed to Marrakesh becoming a major tourist destination. Its souk (traditional Berber market) is the largest in all of Morocco, and offers an incredible array of goods and is an explorer’s dream.

Marrakech (courtesy of broadwaytravels.com)

Marrakech (courtesy of broadwaytravels.com)

The winding little alleyways will have you convinced you walked past that scarf stall 15 minutes ago (you probably did), and when you finally emerge, you’ll feel like you’ve just won a battle. All the ways into the souk start from Jemaa el-Fnaa, one of the most famous landmarks in Morocco and indeed Africa. More information can be found on Wiki, but it is a very big and historical square, which during the day contains mostly food stalls, serving incredible orange juice. Around late afternoon, the square morphs into a hive of yet more activity, the stalls replaced by rows of benches and temporary eateries, snake charmers, dancers, performers etc, all backed up by the call to prayer from the minaret a few hundred metres away. Sitting on the balcony of a cafe overlooking this transformation was one of the cooler experiences I had in Morocco: a walk down a tree-lined avenue leads to the Koutoubia Mosque, where the prayers spill outside – a sight to behold in the evening lights.

On a side note, our stay in Marrakesh was made ever more pleasant by staying at a family friend’s house on the outskirts of the city, complete with pool, being driven around and cooked for. As such, I can say that genuine, homemade Moroccan cuisine is some of the best I have tasted!

Casablanca

Casablanca's Grand Mosque (Courtesy of miriadna.com)

Casablanca’s Grand Mosque (Courtesy of miriadna.com)

Staying only one night here, my experience is somewhat limited. Casablanca is Morocco’s biggest city, but also the most industrial. It has the very grand Hassan II mosque, third biggest in the world and possessing the tallest minaret. For avid film buffs, the romantic movie of the same name was sadly not filmed in the city, and the Rick’s Cafe that exists was a relatively modern addition.

Meknes

My visit to Meknes was overshadowed by slight stomach problems, but nevertheless it was enjoyable. You can visit the tomb of Moulay Ismail, a former ruler of Morocco in the impressive Dar El Makhzen palace. There is also a small museum, and very importantly, a magnificently air-conditioned McDonald’s. The shame.

Fez

Leather pits of Fez (courtesy of CN Traveller)

Leather pits of Fez (courtesy of CN Traveller)

Fez is Morocco’s centre of leather. A vast majority of items on sale in its souk are leather products, all of which are made to a pretty high quality at a reasonable price. What is definitely worth doing is asking at one of these stalls to see the leather pits, at which point for a small tip, you will be taken down an alley and up to the top of the surrounding buildings, to give you a view of many multi coloured pits, smelling of rot and manure, where the leather is dyed by people standing knee deep in the colourant for hours at a time.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen (credit: Mark Fischer)

Chefchaouen (credit: Mark Fischer)

Chefchaouen was probably my favourite place in Morocco. It’s small, very hilly, and for some reason, most of the houses are painted blue. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, has a small fort/museum that you can visit, and a main square that gets fairly lively in the evenings. Essentially, it is a small town, with a very friendly atmosphere, and most of the people speak Spanish.

Ceuta

Ceuta is a Spanish enclave at the top of Morocco, playing the same role as Gibraltar does to Spain. Morocco also wants it back. Pot, Kettle. There is a border to cross, passports to be shown, and Euros to be spent. It is, in a word, lush. It has open sea on both sides, everything is clean and pristine, and generally seems like a small slice of paradise. One of the main attractions is the Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo, a leisure complex consisting of three artificial salt water lagoons, filtered directly from the sea. It’s huge, has bars, restaurants and even a casino, and was a very nice way indeed to spend my last days in Morocco.

Morocco

Morocco

Overall, Morocco is definitely worth a visit. For those who enjoy dusty markets, dodging noisy sellers of questionable goods, and soaking up the atmosphere during the final call to prayer, Morocco is a must. Equally, one can relax in a hammam, sample Morocco’s incredible, flavoursome cuisine, and visit some of the more impressive sites in the Arab world. During my trip, I met relatively few Westerners, so if you are worried that this is just another Thailand or Peru, then you can sleep easy. Similarly, the very agreeable price of flights makes it a destination that I’d most definitely recommend checking out. If nothing else, you shall come back tanned…

319058_10151131465384213_1306737133_nAndy is a keen linguist and traveller, having visited 27 countries across five continents. He enjoys the sporty things in life, be it a simple run, sweaty gym sesh or a hike to Macchu Picchu. Having no idea what he wants to do in life, what better way to pass the time than using the carefully crafted skill of rambling to occasionally write a blog post?

 

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  1. Having a Taste of Meknes, Morocco (Morocco Travel Guide) « writers haven bubbles - […] Adventures in Morocco (continentalbreakfasttravel.wordpress.com) […]

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