Morocco – A 2 week journey in December

I have finally arrived in the UK and a few days after my arrival, it was the flight to Morocco (one of my dream countries). I have dreamed about going to this country since I was 18, and finally! The travellers on this occasion will be of course, me (Maiko) and Chris.

Before you start reading, I would just like to define the terms I’ll be using:

riad – traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard

MAD(Moroccan Dirham) – 100MAD is 10.40USD

medina – usually refers to the “old town.” The medina is typically walled, with many narrow and maze like streets.

ITINERARY:

London – Marrakech – Ouarzazate – Todra Gorge – Merzouga – Fes – Chefchachouen – Tangier – Casablanca – Marrakech – London

Day 1: Arrival in Marrakech

  • 6:35am – Depart London Gatwick Airport for Marrakech via Thomson Airways
  • 10:05am – Arrival in Marrakesh
  • Changed some money and got a taxi to the medina where we we found a hotel — the journey took 10 minutes and paid 200MAD (dirhams)
  • As soon as we got off the taxi, there were many men waiting for us to get off to offer us riads
  • Since we just wanted to get one and drop our bags off, we decided to agree with one of the men, and he brought us to a beautiful riad called “Riad Le Orange de Blue” which was owned by a Spanish family who speak English/Arabic/French and was 500MAD/night. We also gave a tip of 200MAD to the guy who brought us there, since we were quite tired, we didn’t realise that it was quite a lot! Lesson learned.
  • After check in – We explored the Marrakech Medina and had lunch at “Le Terasse” wherein we spent 250MAD.
IMG_0036
Our first tagine
  • Visited Ben Yousseff (Located in the heart of the old Medina of the ocher city, this gem of Moorish architecture was, for more than four centuries, a shelter for students thirst for knowledge in various sciences, including theology). 60MAD/person which includes entrance to the museum.
IMG_0045
Ben Yousseff
  • Visited one of the tanneries (a place where leather is produced). If you don’t think you can take the pungent smell of this place, then don’t go. The smell is horrible but they’ll usually give you a handful of mint leaves to smell. They would usually ask for a tip so we gave 150MAD.
    DCIM100GOPRO
    Tannery
  • Got a taxi (80MAD, compared to 200MAD the first time we took one) to bring us to Supratours (bus company) to buy tickets for next day trip to OUARZAZATE pronounced: WARZAZAT at 90MAD/person.
  • After this, we just went back to the riad to chill out and had dinner at a nearby “posh” restaurant and spent 250MAD.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 1,930MAD or 200 USD for two people. 100USD/person.

TIPS FOR DAY 1:

Since we were in shock of everything that’s happening around us, we spent too much on the first day, but we quickly learned how to do deals, and how much everything really cost.

1. Don’t make small talks with people in the medina unless you need to, or are interested to buy something from their shop because the people can be quite aggressive and will just follow you and try to give you service or force you to buy a product that you don’t really want.

2. The people in the medina will always make up stories such as “they are working in a  shop and you should check it out” and then once you get there they will ask you again to check another shop which will be owned by the father, to make you buy more things. Everyone is one big happy family, so it seems.

3. HAGGLE! HAGGLE! HAGGLE! Don’t pay for the price they give you!

4. Do not be afraid to say no.

5. If you’re planning to travel to another city or town, buy your tickets at least a day in advance.

6. Always ask beforehand how much the service will be, or else you’ll be forced to pay more than what you think it is.

7. WEAR EAR PLUGS. LOL. If you’re a light sleeper and you don’t want to be woken up by the 5am prayers from the mosques.

8. Bring a French/Arabic phrasebook. Not many people speak English.

Day 2: Marrakech to Ouarzazate

  • 7:30am – Breakfast in the riad (different kinds of bread, pastry, boiled eggs, yoghurt, cheese and jam)
  • 8:30am – Taxi to Supratours, and this only cost us 45MAD. If you’ve got a big luggage, or backpack, you’ll have to pay 5MAD/bag.
  • Along the way, we passed through the “High Atlas Mountains” and this is a long and winding road, so don’t forget to take some travel sickness tablet beforehand
Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 12.08.21 PM
High Atlas
  • Around 1pm – Arrival in Ouarzazate. Just walked around the corner where the bus dropped us off, and found a taxi stand. Here we learned the difference of a “grand taxi” and a “petit taxi.” The grand taxi is a taxi that’s usually more expensive because it is private for only one group, while the petit taxi is a smaller one, cheaper, but can get more passengers along the way until the taxi is full. We got a grand taxi, since the petit taxi isn’t available, and we paid 50MAD to get to the “Taoist Kasbah” or a temple, since this is almost the centre of town.
  • From here, we walked to a nearby restaurant called “Douyria” which was affordable, but served extremely delicious food. I had a rabbit tagine, and wow it was good! Since we do not book our hotel in advance, we just asked the waiter to help us find one, so his grandfather walked us to a riad that he knew and we stayed there.
  • We checked in at “Riad Dal Er Nath” which is owned by a French-Moroccan couple who can speak only a little bit of English.  We were able to haggle the room from 500MAD down to 325MAD/night. I recommend this riad because the owner, Aziz is such  great guy, very helpful and the wife, whom we couldn’t really speak to because she didn’t speak English, was such a great breakfast cook, and made nice breakfasts for our 2 night stay. And they also have 3 cats!
  • I had a chat with Aziz, the owner of the riad, regarding the trip that we wanted to do, and he suggested to arrange the tour for us. He hired a driver that will bring us around Ouarzazate and will take us to Todra Gorge and finally drop us off at Merzouga, where we will spend a night in the desert camp.
  • We just rested until we got hungry at 10pm. Good thing Aziz had a menu for a pizza delivery where we got 2 pizza boxes for 60MAD.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 810MAD or 82USD or 41USD/person.

Day 3: Ouarzazate Day Tour

  • 9:00am – Breakfast in riad and organised the trip with Aziz, and the taxi driver who will drive us around came early.
  • The trip for the day costs 600MAD and the big trip for the next day which includes an overnight stay in the desert with food and 4×4 ride costs 2000MAD.
  • 10:00am – We left the hotel and first went to a nearby cash machine, then to Supratours to buy tickets from Merzouga to Fes. (Only 2 routes from Merzouga, either Merzouga – Fes and Merzouga – Marrakech, and only depart once daily). Tickets cost 190MAD/person.
  • Headed to “Fint,” which is an oasis in Ouarzazate, this is also where they filmed the movie “The Hills Have Eyes” and some scenes in “Gladiator” and “Game of Thrones.” I recommend this place!

11705563_10207182572942621_457728628_o
Fint
IMG_0073
Fint

  • Headed to Ait Benhaddou – fortified city between the Sahara and Marrakech and it’s about an hour drive from Ouarzazate. We hiked a little bit here, so I would recommend really comfy shoes. And there are going to be kids who are so used to tourists that they will instantly grab your hand and help you cross a mini river, so if you’re not interested just be firm and mean? LOL. Because they will demand some money. 15MAD/person entrance fee.
IMG_0121
Ait Benhaddou
  • An hour away from this is the Atlas Studios, which is like the Universal Studios of Morocco. This is a must see if you’re a movie fanatic! This is where shows and movies such as Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Cleopatra, etc. were shot. Entrance is around 50/60 MAD.
IMG_0163
“Egypt” of Atlas Studios
  • After this, we headed to the square, or the market, to shop for warmer clothes, as we have been told that it will be freezing in the Sahara. I got a pair of leggings for 90MAD, socks 2 pairs, 10MAD/pair and a scarf for 13MAD. It wasn’t bad shopping here, everything was so cheap and reasonable, especially that our tour guide/driver Muhammed was the one helping us find bargains.
  • After shopping, we went to a mini grocery to get some snacks for our trip the next day.
  • At 7pm, we arrived back in the riad, and Aziz, the owner arranged that Muhammed will be back again the next day.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 3223MAD or 329USD or around 165USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 3:

1. Make sure that you buy your tickets in advance if you’re traveling further.

2. December is their winter too, apparently, so make sure that you have the right clothes.

3. Start the day early!

Day 4: Ouarzazate – Todra Gorge – Merzouga

  • 7:30am – Breakfast
  • 8:00am – Departed the riad in Ouarzazate with Muhammed.
  • Stopped by the “valley of roses,” where the famous skin care products that’s famous in Moroccos is being produced, and everything is made out of roses. I bought a hand cream to try, and it was 60MAD.
  • 11am – Arrive in the Todra Gorges. This is a must see!
11667033_10207182572782617_1341015599_n
Todra Gorges
  • 12:00noon – Departed Todra Gorges
  • 1:30pm – Stop over at Tinejdad for lunch, spent 150MAD for 3 meals, including Muhammed’s.
  • 5pm – Arrived in Merzouga where the tour that Aziz arranged was waiting for us. They only spoke French and Arabic, but we managed anyway.
  • Muhammed left and we gave him 200MAD tip.
  • Our new tour guide/driver M’barrek was really nice and drove us to the lake and the Merzouga village, before we headed to the camp site.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 200MAD or 100MAD/person or about $10/person. This is because the tour has been pre paid and we were in the desert! Nothing to spend on here.
11696754_10207182572662614_1142126608_n
Lake in the Sahara in Merzouga
  • 5:30pm – Arrival in campsite and had some Moroccan tea.
Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 9.57.08 AM
Campsite
  • 6:30pm – We were served our feast that came with the camping tour package that we got.
  • 8pm – Sleeping time. It was very cold. But they have thick blankets, but seemed like it wasn’t enough.

The name of this Sahara campsite that we joined was “BIVOUAC ERG ZNAIGUI” by “Chez M’Barek Taghlaoui” contact number: +212670181042 and email address: bivouaccamel@gmail.com.

TIPS FOR DAY 4:

1. Make sure that you want an English speaking tour, or at least the language that you prefer.

2. Make sure that the tour includes everything, such as campsite, camel ride, food, and some other side trips.

3. The tent will be luxurious and there will be a proper toilet, so don’t worry, if you’re fussy about that.

Day 5 – Camel trek and Erg Chebbi (The best erg or sand dune in the Moroccan Sahara) Tour.

  • 6am – Call time
  • 6:40am – Camel trek to the top of the sand dunes to watch the sunrise.

DCIM100GOPRO
Waiting for the sunrise
IMG_0228
Beautiful sunrise in the Sahara

  • 8am – Back to the campsite for breakfast.
  • After having breakfast, we were offered an extra 4×4 tour to Erg Chebbi, but they said that it was 1000MAD for 2 people, so we tried to do what we were told, “haggle.” So from 1000MAD we got the tour down to 400MAD for 2 people. Yay!
  • 9am – Departed campsite with M’barek in the 4×4.
  • Then we drove through sand dunes. It was almost as if M’barek wanted to be a rally driver. We also stopped by a Nomad family who are living on the dessert in a small tent, they made us some tea, so in return, we gave them 15MAD.

DCIM100GOPRO
Outside a home of a Nomad family
DCIM100GOPRO
M’barek chilling out

  • 12pm – Departed Erg Chebbi for Merzouga just in front of Supratours, so we can double check the times of departure for Fes. And of course, we gave our very helpful tour guide and driver and host, M’barek 200MAD.
  • Since we were already hungry, we had lunch just across the Supratours office. It didn’t look like it was going to be a nice place, but it was surprisingly really good and cheap! It was only probably around 50-60MAD/person.
  • We stayed in this restaurant until 7pm departure for Fes.
  • And when the bus arrived, we had to pay 17MAD for both our bags.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 350MAD or 125MAD or around $13/person

TIPS FOR DAY 5:

1. Haggle for your tour.

2. You can decide to book your tour when you get to Merzouga or pre-book it.

3. There are many campsites, but some said that it’s up to you if you prefer a crowded one or a quite one. Ours was the quiet one, which was a bit lonely, but still a good experience.

4. Trip to Fes is over 10 hours, so make sure you can fall asleep, cause it’s a long journey.

DAY 6 – Fes (Day 1)

  • 4am – Arrival in Fes
  • Walked to Ibis which was next to the train station to check in, but obviously it was too early, so we waited in a cafe across, where all the Moroccan men hang out to have tea and nap (don’t know why), and hung out with an American traveller who was with us in the same bus.
  • We had breakfast in the cafe called “Megacafe” and spent about 40MAD, they had wifi too!
  • 7:30am – Walked back to Ibis and had breakfast for 118MAD for 2 persons.
  • 10:30am – Checked in in our room in Ibis via Agoda, 587MAD/night and booked 2 nights, so 1174MAD total.
  • Just stayed in the hotel, because we missed a proper warm room and a nice shower.
  • 4:30pm – Left hotel to go to the Fes medina and had dinner at “Cafe Clock”

IMG_0254
Just a normal day in the Fes medina
IMG_0262
Moroccan spices in the Fes Medina

  • Taxi to the medina cost 20MAD. Not bad. (That rhymed)
  • 5pm – Dinner at “Cafe Clock.” (Recommended) Had couscous, lamb burger, mint tea, and lemon tart, all for 235MAD. Average price for a good restaurant. This is a nice restaurant with nice artistic feel to it. They offer cooking classes, crash courses and introduction to the Moroccan culture, and have storytelling and jamming sessions almost every night.
  • After this, we went back to the entrance of the medina to wait for a taxi, but it was too difficult, suddenly there was this shady black rape van looking kind of van, but we took our chance and took it and learned that it is a “tourist van” so it gets tourists along the way, and a lot of people knew about it, so while we were in the van, people were also hailing this van to get a ride, as it was cheaper.
  • 7pm – Had drinks at Ibis bar. Drinking can’t be done anywhere, only in hotels, or private bars. Spent 185MAD.
  • 9pm – Rest time!
  • TOTAL SPENT: 1185MAD or 121USD or 60.50USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 6:

1. If you arrive early, find a place like a cafe to chill out and kill time, or stay in the hotel lobby where you’re gonna check in.

2. And just so you know, you’ll notice that we will start staying in hotels instead of the riads, because we were getting tired of the medina lifestyle, it was making us even more tired. So I recommend this to recuperate from the tiredness.

3. Taxi is 20MAD maximum to the medina. Make sure it’s a petite taxi! But petite taxis will get more passengers on the road which makes the journey  a little bit longer.

4. Be tough with the aggressive sellers in the medina. Say “no” when you want to.

DAY 7 – Fes (Day 2)

  • Basically this was just a rest day.
  • At 2pm, we visited the medina again
  • At 3pm, had late lunch at a cafe called “Le 44” and spent 135MAD.
  • Got a taxi to the main gate to go to CTM (bus office), since Supratours doesn’t have the journey we wanted. Fes- Chefchaouen for 75MAD/person. Paid 30MAD for taxi.
  • 6pm – Back in the hotel.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 315MAD or 32USD or 16USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 7:

1. Fes is a more tamed/less touristic version of Marrakesh. You’re not gonna be hassled as much.

2. The Fes medina is much bigger!

3. Taxis are a lot cheaper, maybe because it’s less touristic?

4. Fes houses/buildings are starting to differ in colour, compared to the pink Marrakesh, Ouarzazate and Merzouga. Looks more modern too.

Day 8 – Chefchaouen (Day 1) 

  • 7am- wake up
  • 7:30am- Depart hotel to CTM station and checked in baggage for 5MAD for 2 big bags.
  • 8am – Departed Fes for Chefchaouen.
  • 12noon – Arrival in Chefchaouen. Walked from the bus station to the city, but decided to get a taxi halfway through, since we had no idea if we were going the right direction.
DCIM100GOPRO
Road to the hotel
  • 12:30pm –  Checked in at “Masion D’Hotes Lalla Khadouj Guest House” and we had an awesome room, which is the top floor with the view of the mountains. And from 400MAD/night we got it to 300MAD/night so we booked 2 nights for 600MAD total.
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.30.16 PM
The room and the view
  • 1:30pm – Left the hotel to find food and we were led by this local (who probably knew the owner of the restaurant as he seemed like he got a commission for it, this is typical in Morocco tourist spots anyway) to a small restaurant called “Assaada” in one of the alleyways in the medina. The food was actually good and we only spent 80MAD total.
IMG_0278
Restaurant Assaada
  • 7pm – We went out for dinner at the plaza in a restaurant called Morisco 2 (as there was a Morisco 1, which I found funny) and spent 120MAD total.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 810MAD or 405MAD/person or around 42USD/person.

TIPS FOR DAY 8:

1. Don’t worry about the cost because this is probably one of the cheapest places in Morocco in terms of food and accommodation .

2. A lot of locals will offer you “hashish” or “weed” here, since this is the place for it.

3. This is my favourite place in Morocco, and I hope you’ll like it too.

DAY 9 – Chefchaouen (Day 2)

  • 9am – Wake up call.
  • 11:30am – Had food at Morisco 1 (LOL) and spent less than 100MAD for two people.
  • Then headed off to the bus station to buy bus tickets for the next day to Tangier. We got one with NEMTA bus for 75MAD/person. Taxi was about 20-30MAD.
  • Went to the medina and explored

IMG_0338
Some locals in Chefchaouen
One of the alleyways in Chefchaouen

  • 2pm – Had some Moroccan int tea at a restaurant called “Alibaba” and spent 20MAD.
  • 6pm – Dinner at a restaurant called “Paloma,” which is also in the plaza. Spent 145MAD total
  • TOTAL SPENT: 340MAD or 170MAD/person or 17USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 9:

1. Bees like mint tea because of the sugar. So try to avoid having your tea at day time outdoors as you will be swarmed by them.

2. Petit taxis are usually just 5MAD/person to anywhere in the area.

3. Food is cheap and most restaurants offer a “full menu,” which is a 3 course meal and will cost around 40-70MAD.

DAY 10 – Tangier (Day 1)

  • 8:30am – Departed Chefchaouen
  • 12pm – Arrived in Tangier
  • Got a taxi (mini van) for 30MAD to the hotel. We thought this was a little bit of rip off.
  • Checked in at Hotel Chellah. Nice hotel and nice location. Around 40USD/night. Booked 2 nights.
  • 1:30pm – Had lunch near the hotel at a restaurant called “El Dorado” spent less than 200MAD.
  • 3pm – Left hotel and walked to the market and the beach, then walked back up the “Ville Nouvelle” which was like a posh area and managed to find our way back easily.
DCIM100GOPRO
Beach in Tangier near the hotel
  • 9pm – Had dinner at “Number One” which was like a hipster kind of place. Spent 330MAD.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 76USD or 38USD/person

DAY 11 (Tangier Day 2)

  • 11am – Had breakfast at “Comedia Cafe” in Mohammed V Avenue. Brunch is 35MAD/person and there are many options to choose from. I got the typical Moroccan breakfast, which was different kinds of bread, yogurt, orange juice, and mint tea.
  • 12pm – Got a taxi to tour us around the city for 2 hours. We paid 250MAD.
  • The taxi driver showed us around the city, and we learned that Tangier being so close to Europe has got many different influences, and the actual city is divided into many parts, the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Belgian, British and American area. We also saw some posh houses, some of them were the summer or vacation houses of the King of Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

IMG_0360
House of the King of Saudi Arabia
IMG_0358
The Beverly Hills of Tangier

  • We also traveled along the coast to see the beautiful beaches.

IMG_0363
Coastal area/beaches in Tangier
IMG_0373
Coastal area/beaches in Tangier

  • We also got to see the Cap Spartel, here you can see where the Atlantic and Mediterranean Ocean meet.
IMG_0365
Cap Spartel
  • We also wanted to see the Hercules cave, which was sadly closed.
  • After this, we dropped by the train station to get tickets to Casablanca for the next day. This was 125MAD/person.
  • Went back to “Comedia Cafe” for dinner and spent 135MAD.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 705MAD or 70USD or 35USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 10 and 11:

1. Tangier is a more modern city, and you will find nice restaurants and people and the things you pat for are more reasonable.

2.  Hotels are nice and quite cheap too.

3. Not packed with tourists.

4. Try to see the Hercules cave, if you can, as I have missed this!

5. And as always, book your train/bus tickets in advance.

Day 12 (Casablanca Day 1)

  • 9:25am – Train departed Tangier for Casablanca
  • 3pm – Arrival in Casablanca
  • We decided to skip Rabat, even though it was on the way to Casablanca, as there was nothing that attracted us about it.
  • Checked in at Ibis. (Sorry, but I wasn’t able to note down how much we paid for this)
  • 4pm – Took the tram which was across our hotel . It was 7MAD/person one way and it is rechargeable so don’t lose the card so you can use it again.
11778031_10207280000658253_1324671775_n
Tram
  • When we got off the tram, a “local” tried to talk to us as we seemed like tourists, and talked his way through, but we didn’t know what to do anyway, so we joined him, he brought us to a small restaurant which looked a bit sketchy to me, but just ate anyway. Paid around 50MAD for two people for the food. Then after this, he brought us to his bosses shop, where they sell argan oil and spices. I got a 100ml bottle of argan oil for 90MAD.
11751291_10207280000458248_1877390478_n
Our meal at this “sketchy” restaurant
  • Took the tram back, 6MAD/person.
  • TOTAL SPENT: 166MAD or 17USD or 8.50USD/person.

TIPS FOR DAY 12:

1. Do not talk to the locals pretending to help you if you don’t wanna be forced to buy things that you don’t really need.

2. Do not, do not, do not eat at restaurants that are not recommended on Trip Advisor, or by your travel book, or if you think it’s quite sketchy, because after this, Chris caught campylobacter, and was sick for about two weeks after this.

3. Keep your tram card.

DAY 13 (Casablanca Day 2)

  • 9:30am – Breakfast at hotel. 53MAD/person.
  • 12noon – Visited Ain Diab, where the biggest mall in Morocco and in Africa is. Took tram for 6MAD/person. Journey took 30 minutes.
  • From the tram station, took a petit taxi to the mall, which was 10MAD for the two of us.

11751179_10207280000778256_1203008361_n 11748609_10207280000618252_808679449_n

  • Spent 3 hours in the mall. It was a mixture of local and branded shops. We got food and takeaway for less than 100MAD.
  • Got another taxi back to the tram station, around 20MAD this time and took the tram back near the hotel. 6MAD/person
  • TOTAL SPENT: 260MAD or 27USD/ or 13.50USD/person

TIPS FOR DAY 13:

1. Don’t get petit taxis that are parked, as they’re usually expensive. Try to hail a petit taxi that’s already on the road and moving with at least one passenger in.

DAY 14 (Marrakesh and last day in Morocco)

  • 8:50am – Departed Casablanca for Marrakesh. Journey took just over 3 hours.
  • Checked in at Ibis Hotel in Marrakesh which was next to the train station, as Chris was already sick and this was the most convenient option. (Sorry again, didn’t get to note down the price)
  • Rest day.
  • TOTAL SPENT: No actual figures, but just hotel accommodation for one night and lunch and dinner.

DAY 15 (Marrakesh – London)

Until next time Morocco!

cropped-img_0117.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s