MAR 12,2013 - MAR 26,2013 (15 DAYS)
Surprised people: "So, where did you fly to?
Surprised people: "Morocco??!!! Wow... Who did you go with?"
Me: "With my dad"...
Surprised people: "No way man...Cool... And how were the rest of the people in the group?"
Me: "Actually we flew alone... No group..."
Surprised people: "Is it dangerous...? Scary...? Is it even possible?"
For me, Morocco was a destination I longed to travel to... When the company I worked for was shut down, I decided there would never again be a better opportunity. So how do you start? I found a partner (my dad...) and continued my plan by buying a plane ticket, beause from there, there's no way back! Job interviews can wait...
Traveling alone in Morocco is much less difficult than people think. There are plenty of things to see and eleven days should be enough. I hope this blog will help any of you planning a trip in this country.
Plane ticket: After several days of inquiries and reading background material, I decided the best destination to land, in terms of cost, is Casablanca. I purchased an airline ticket through www.kayak.com with Turkish airlines for a 15 day trip.
It's very easy to get around Morocco. The train network is good and orienting oneself is very simple. The same goes for the bus system.
The main bus company in Morocco is CTM: http://www.ctm.ma/
The train company is ONCF: http://www.oncf.ma/Pages/Accueil.aspx
You can buy a first class or regular (second class) ticket. I found that the regular class seats are comfortable enough when you travel between cities.
Some information about traveling times between the destinations:
As for the prices:
Another link with more information about the trains:
Personally, I wasn't too excited by the Moroccan food. The food isn't hot as I expected, with little or no spices.
The main dish served is Tajine - fish or chicken served in a clay pot - and it can be found in every restaurant - whether it's small or fancy - in the cities, or on the sidewalks. Another famous dish is the Couscous, served with vegetables and fish- usually fried.
In addition, there are many dough based food like Meloui (http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/pancakes/r/Meloui_Recipe.htm), tasty Sfinge and other kinds of sweets, and tea referred to as Moroccan whiskey. The tea is served with a lot of sugar - I usually asked for the sugar on the side.
In the markets, you can find many kind of dates, olives, the famous argan oil, spices, and delicious oranges!
Language: the common spoken language in Morocco is French. Because of this, most of the tourists come from France, Belgium, Canada and other French-speaking countries. English is less common, but you can get along. Personally, I had a little Arabic (with different dialect), but it helped me more than once. Generally, with English, some French words learned on the way, a few Arabic words and many hand gestures, you can get along just fine :-)
Internet - there weren't any issues with Internet access. There are places with WiFi and internet cafes.
Photography - There are plenty things to shoot in Morocco. However, the people are not accustomed to having photos taken of them. The Moroccans don't like it - the evil eye or something. Anyways, if they agree to let you take a photo for them, they'll probably ask for money in return.
Generally speaking, each man approaching you will eventually ask for money. Whether it's to help you find a certain place, take you to that place, answer a question... It will always be in exchange for money. Take that into account.
Sometimes, it was hard finding the Riad we ordered for the night. It's worth giving a kid some Dirhams in exchange for finding the Riad easily, especially when walking with all the bags.
Visa - We were required to get a visas. Check to see if you need one based on your country of origin. After searching the web, I found several agencies who would handle this. I personally used Morocco Travels http://www.morocctravels.com/visa_morocco. The cost was $70 per person. We sent them a copy of our passports and plane tickets, and we got a document to allow us to board the plane on the same day. I had to show this document when we boarded and on connecting flights.
This document is not a visa. You receive the visa itself when you land in Morocco. We were told that when we land, a representative will wait for us and arrange the visa. Actually, this process was rather fishy, but it is necessary.
When we landed, the representative wasn't there. Eventually, he arrived and waited with us. The border police who issue the visas behave in an archaic manner, and all they really want is to be bribed...
To my father's credit, I can say he read about the process beforehand and offered to put ten US dollars, in each passport. I insisted on not doing so out of principle...
Was this the best time to be a man of principles? You decide on your own. Without bribing them, they will stall you until the last arrivals (or at least the last bribing arrival). Eventually, with patience, waiting and smiles, we received the long awaited visa.
S-T-A-R-T-I-N-G N-O-W :-)
Basically I'll give only an outline on what to see in each city, places to say and costs. The method of this trip is to go where your feet take you... You'll reach where you need to.
Generally speaking, the cities are divided into the old city surrounded by a wall (the 'state') and the city outside the wall. Most of the action occurs inside the the walled city.
In every Riad we visited, we received a very user-friendly map with all the sightseeing in the city.
We planned staying in Rabat for our first night of the trip. From searching on the web, I saw that there are variety of lodging options. Some are quite cheap and some aren't. One of the ways to stay in Morocco is in a Riad - a kind of boutique hotel or high level guesthouse which has up to ten rooms. I booked our first night through www.booking.com based on user reviews.
This site was quite essential to us during the trip - before reaching our next destination, we chose our next accommodation with it. I chose places with user ratings of 8.5 and above with an average cost of 50-70 Euros for a couple, including breakfast. Take into account that there are additional tax of a few Euros for night per person.
I'll give specific recommendations about Riads under each city.
We slept at:
Riad Dar Alia, 15, Rue El Hout - Bd Des Consults, 20000
The Riad is located withing the old city in an alley. From my experience, it wasn't easy finding those riads, but usually one of the locals led us easily to them in exchange for several Dirhams.
We payed 55 Euro for a night including breakfast. Number of recommended night: 1-2 days.
Breakfast in Morocco usually includes dough, additional dough, and for desert a little bit of dough. Breads, Malawi, Mufleta plus gem, honey, a glass of sweet orange juice and a very sweet tea.
From the airport, we took a train straight to Rabat. We left Casablanca for the end of the trip. I gave detailed tip on accommodation above.
Fes is the spiritual capital of Morocco. The main entrance to the old city is bab boujloud. From there, you only need to go where your feet take you... Plenty of little restaurants offering Tajines, butcher shops, leather shops and markets.
Places to see:
Our Riad offered many tours with a guide. I don't think they're necessary, as every kid on the street will take you to the same place for less money than what the Riad would charge you.
Coincidentally, the day we visited Fes, the king arrived for a prayer in the mosque near bab boujloud. It was an extraordinary experience waiting with all the people to his arrival. There was a red carpet, flags with his picture... And plenty, plenty, plenty, plenty of cops, troops, and undercover agents. Needless to mention, you cannot photograph the king! They were very serious about it.. (they took my camera and asked to erase some of the pictures). So better not to get in trouble :-)
8 Bis Derb Guebbas.Quartier Batha. Medina -Fes Maroc, 30000
Undoubtedly the best Riad we've ever been to - in terms of rooms decoration, service and people. The help, service and care of the staff was beyond expected and contributed a lot to our Fes experience.
We paid 65 Euros.
Recommended number of days: 1-2.
Marrakesh is the heart of Morocco. The most fascinating and interesting city. Absolutely the theatre of life.
The main square - jemaa el fna - you can't miss in daylight and definitely not at night. This square draws everyone - tourists and locals - and each evening is a celebration. Food stands, drinks (fresh squeezed orange juice), dried fruits, circles of people listening to storytellers, entertainers, oil stands (with the famous argan oil), oysters' eggs, hedgehogs, witchcraft, snake charmers, and you name it.
There are also plenty of things to see in daylight. Mainly, you should wander around, feel the atmosphere, take a picture and you'll reach all the nice places. But anyways:
21,Derb Dabachi,Derb Mouly Abdelkader, Medina, 40000 Marrakech
We payed 60 Euros for a night including breakfast.
Recommended number of day: 3-4.
We spent 3 days exploring the Sahara Desert
In Marrakech, there are number of travel agencies which you can't miss (if you look for them...). We signed up with one of those agencies for three day tour to the Sahara Desert.
The tour uses a mini-bus for fourteen people, usually from all around the world: British, Canadians, Spanish, French and more. It includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner and it costs 70 Euros per a person.
The tour visits:
The tour itself is highly recommended and you don't want to miss it.
Agadir is a beach town on the shores of the Atlantic. In 1960, an earthquake destroyed most of historic city center, and after its renovation, it became a bustling center of tourism and trade.
There's a local market in Agadir (the main market) and some fish market we accidentally hit, but the main thing is the beach and all the activities around it.
Best Western Odyssee Park
Boulevard Mohamed V, 80000 Agadir
Excellent hotel, great location, western style breakfast.
We paid 50 Euros per night including breakfast.
Recommended number of days: 1-2 days.
Essaouira is lovely beach town; calm and quieter than the rest of cities in Morocco. In the city itself, there's a Portuguese fort with an amazing view and a lot of seagulls. This city was another location for the Game of Thrones Season 3 shooting (Astapor) :-)
The town is very touristic with many small restaurants and many stores. You should hang around the seaport at sunset.
There's a fish market in which the fishermen sell their catch of the day. You can bargain on the price of fish.
Casablanca is the main transportation hub of Morocco and the center of economic and trade activities. The city is modern, which is apparent by how people dress.
In the city, you can find the Hassan the Second Mosque (Hassan II Mosque), which is the third largest mosque in the world. Besides that, there are several markets. Nothing too special...
We stopped there because we had a flight back from the city's airport.