The Magical Madness of Morocco! Plus Travel Tips

Ahhhh, Morocco.. Such a magical and crazy place all rolled into one beautiful country full of colour, energy and rich in culture & tradition.

To me there are 2 types of Moroccan people.. The scammers that are friendly while they think they are able to rip you off, then nasty as shit when they don’t succeed. Saying things like “rot in hell” when you choose a different taxi or food stall. And then the pure, genuine ones that just want to invite you for mint tea and tell you about their lives and share good conversation with you. They are constantly welcoming you to their city, their hotel, their house, their shop. They always ask how you are and where you are from. Truly the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world… And funny! 😉

My experiences in Morocco have either been incredible and amazing and had me feeling at the top of the world. Or some of the most uncomfortable experiences in my traveling life, feeling afraid for my safety and wondering if the bus ticket I just paid freaking double for is actually taking me to the destination I want to go to.The best experience was the quad biking trip that we did in Essaouria, cruising along the beaches and up the dunes. We got more than we bargained for when the guide then took us to Carrefour to buy booze and then 4WDing to an amazing sunset spot where we polished off a bottle of whiskey.

The worst trying to get a taxi to the bus station in Fez and a bus to Chefchouen, being harassed and ripped off, feeling unsafe and then to top it off had a woman trying to lock me in the station bathroom shouting something to me in Arabic.

So, Morocco to me has been the most “interesting” travel experience, but the good has definitely outweighed the bad. I wouldn’t change it for the world!
The cities are so colourful and full of life. People set up stalls selling spices, oils, juice, jewelry, ornaments or stolen Nikes and Ray Bans.

Most Moroccan people are so friendly and really want you to have the best time in their country they are so proud of. They generally speak at least 3 languages, but most more. Even the tripper Yaya who ran the hostel in Essaouira spoke 8 languages and I swear he was high as a kite every minute of the day!
They are always singing; whether they are working, walking the street or with friends. They are outgoing and full of personality and most have an amazing sense of humour. You really get in what you put out. If you smile at someone in the street they will absolutely smile back with the biggest appreciative grin you’ll ever see. If you walk around grumpy they will behave the same way to you. I walked around grinning like an idiot most of the time and loved the positive interaction.

We spent the first 2 days in Marrakech. Such an amazing city where we stayed in the most gorgeous riad run by 2 amazing French men. The decor was true Moroccan style, with an amazing terrace and plunge pool.
We went out the first night to get some food at the night markets and that was an experience in itself. One lap around was an insane 20 minute whirlwind of touts trying to get us to eat at their stall.

They’ve obviously done their research and learned some funny lines that relate to all nationalities. I had them saying Aussie things like “Look at me, look at me Kimmy”, “see you later, alligator” and quoting lines from Hamish and Andy. For the Brits traveling with me they were saying “Lovely jubbly”, “Sainsburys, taste the difference”, “would you like some mushy peas?”
They went on forever and the lines didn’t stop. It was hilarious!
I got asked “how many camels?” And the best was the guy who was saying they had a 2 year record of no diarrhoea. Good to know!

The Medina is bustling, full of food stalls, buskers, monkeys on leashes, cobras, horse & cart rides and people selling stolen shoes, watches & sunglasses.

Obviously we hadn’t done our research very well as we discovered the day after we arrived that it was  “kill the lamb” day. The biggest holiday of the year for Moroccans, where each household kills a lamb and shares it with their family. They kill it inside their house and then men set up fires in the street where they cook the heads and horns… Which I presume they eat, but they burn it to an absolute crisp.

We roamed the streets all day seeing this happening around every corner. It was definitely a test for the stomach. Later in the day some boys with a cart went around collecting the sheep skin.. Not sure what they were going to do with that, but an interesting sight.

Pretty much nothing but tourist cafes were open, but this meant having the medina and streets almost to ourselves which was a pretty cool experience! We bumped into a French-Moroccan man who ran a Segway tour business. He let the 3 of us try it out and cruise through the streets. At one point him and I were both on the one Segway, flying through the streets until I started to worry where the hell he was taking me. Such a cool experience! We managed to also find a bar that serves alcohol so we had an awesome arvo session there before finishing with beers on the terrace with our French hosts.

Then we headed for Essaouira, a beachside village in the south. The bus ride was pleasant (the only time it was!) And the hostel we stayed in was super friendly and had the most amazing terrace full of lounges and places to relax. Nearly everyone was smoking hasish. The day we arrived we had some time hanging out there and after trying to close my eyes for a nap a couple of backpackers and staff started to jam. I woke up and there were 5 of them playing bongos, banjo, guitar. It was amazing, a true backpacking experience!

For our full day in Essaouria we walked the stretch of the main beach in the morning. The first time since I’d been in Morocco that I wasn’t clothed like a parachute. Essaouria is considered the “Windy City of Africa” so it’s super popular for kite surfing. There are also horse, camel and quad rides along the beach. I am absolutely against any form of animal labour therefore we chose to quad bike… And thank god we did!

We went for an hour quad ride along the beach and dunes. No helmets, flying along as fast as I wanted, absolutely loving life! After the trip we bought booze and went 4WDing, pulled up at an amazing spot on the beach and downed a bottle of whiskey and beers with our guides. We talked about Morocco and the world and it was such an awesome experience with some amazing Moroccan locals. When I asked our guide Rashid if Moroccan women ever have fun he answered “yeah, in the house.” I asked what they do in the house for fun and he answered “cooking.” Haha, typical male comment, no matter what country you’re from.

I got to drive Rashids 4WD back into town, wrong side of the road, after wayyyy too much booze and went to an awesome bar called Taros. When we arrived we had a group of local guys say “oh you’re the Insta girl” and sure enough when he opened his phone there was my account opened up in Instagram. Crazy. We met Rashid again and ended up having a massive night, finishing up at one of the weirdest clubs I’ve ever been to. Surprising though as I wasn’t even sure they had nightclubs in Morocco.

We had a 12 hour bus & train trip booked for the following morning to get to Fez in the North. I rolled in at around 4.30am and stupidly went to sleep. We all slept through our alarms and didn’t make it out of essaouria until 3pm. We missed all the “nice” buses so went to the local station where we were basically mauled alive for an hour. On the way we saw a motorbike crash that turned into a massive fight (they drive like dickheads here.) Then we had a scammer harass us for every penny he could get.

The scammers here will buy the last tickets for a bus journey and sell it to tourists for double the price. You have no choice if you want to take that bus. Then the bus idiots charge you to put your bag on the bus, even if you carry it and try to put it on yourself. Then they try and charge you more for the ticket you just paid double for anyway. It’s all very aggressive and stressful. After only 3 hours sleep I had fucking had enough and ended up screaming at this scammer to f*** off. Eventually he left us alone after bleeding us dry.
I was so happy to be on the bus, I got all comfortable taking off my thongs (flip flops) and when we arrived someone had bloody stolen one! Not a nice experience walking through Marrakech with one thong and I looked like a right dick.

We made it to Marrakech where we jumped on a train for 8 hours, arriving in Fez at 3am, getting to our hostel and crashing for a few hours. After a few hours sleep I woke, super parched and skulled my “water” that was in my bag that was in fact vodka that I’d taken out with me in Essaouira. I smelled like a freaking brewery at 9am. We got up and went to the stupid local bus station as all the “nice” buses were full again. A scammer did the same ol ticket bullshit, sending us to a town we didn’t want to go to anyway, but close to our final destination.
It was at this station that a woman tried to lock me into a bathroom, yelling in Arabic. I had no fucking clue what she was trying to say and I will never know. I was so shaken up and over it, I was glad to see the arse end of Fez.

After almost 2 days of traveling we finally made it to Chefchaouen, nicknamed “Blue Town” because literally everything is blue. If its not blue it at last has a hint of blue in it. The doorways, the stair cases, the walkways, the roof, the table cloths, the pot plants. Just blue, blue, blue. I have never experienced anything like it before!

The Medina is small, but super confusing and its easy to get lost for hours and not know what is north or south or if you’ve just walked past that same spice store 6 times. But its definitely one of my highlights of Morocco, walking through those blue streets being welcomed by all of the locals and sitting in carpet shops drinking mint tea with the owners.

The first night we hiked up to a mosque on the hill to watch the sunset, which was incredible! Its hard to say where the best sunset in the world is, but this was one of the best I’ve ever seen! We had made a little crew from our hostel; 2 Aussies, 2 Brits, 1 Canadian and 1 American and we did everything together. Such a different group of people, but we meshed so well and had such a fun time. Every night we would go to our “local” bar which was a seedy old restaurant where we were always the ONLY women in there and probably the rare few that set foot in there, but we loved it. They brought us plates of fried sardines which were some of the best fish I’ve ever had! And in the background they played Celine Dion and a collection of other weird shit you would never expect to find in a mans bar.

Chefchaouen is famous (and lots of other parts of Morocco) for smoking hasish. I very, very rarely smoke anything, but “when in Rome!” We finished our second night at our hostel smoking with the receptionist where I laughed until I thought I may pee my pants. If you hike the mountains around the city you are bound to run into someone who take you on a tour of their plantation and people in the streets are constantly offering you cheap hasish. Its really a stoners dream!

Along with the quad biking/4WDing day in Essaouira the other highlight of my trip was going to Akchour Waterfalls from Chefchaouen. We took a taxi along winding roads through the mountains and were dropped off at the base where we were told to hike for 3 hours to the big waterfall.
I have never been so keen to get anywhere in my life so I led the pack and we smashed out the hike in just 1.5 hours and arrived at one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen! I had never expected to find such scenery in Morocco, thinking it was simply a desert. It was green and lush surrounded by red rocky mountains and an amazing cascade above crystal clear water. We met the nicest people there who bought us lunch and mint tea. We crossed so many people during the hike which we said hello to in 4 different languages, not knowing whether they spoke French, Arabic, Spanish or English. I have never been somewhere where you hear the sound of so many languages in one day. It’s really a magical feeling!

The water was literally like I am sure you would find in the Arctic, the most freezing water I have ever felt! But it was beautiful and again, one of the best days of my traveling life which will be forever in my memory.
That night I had by far my best Moroccan meal during the trip which was Goat Tagine and Pastilla with Avocado Smoothies. We finished the night at our local bar playing Kings before making the long journey back to Marrakech the following morning.
I sit here on the terrace of our Riad finishing this blog, having a mint tea thinking that this was one of the best trips of my life! Just 10 days ago I was sitting at this same Riad wondering what the trip would bring, no idea what to expect or how much I would enjoy it. It was above and beyond my expectations and my heart is full of travel love and my mind full of amazing memories. How many camels would I pay to come back? Let’s just say I may have to rob a bank 😉

Morocco Travel Tips

Modes of transport:
Bus – CTM and Supratours are preferred then “local” buses.
Train – not the most pleasant journey as you have 8 people crammed in a cabin and it’s hot as hell. Ok for a day trip but not if you want a good sleep.
Grand taxi – this is basically just a regular taxi with 5 seats, yet they will cram 6-7 people in for a few hours. We almost did this for a 3 hour journey, but pulled out at the last minute when we saw how crammed it was. You don’t save any money, it’s just if you are desperate when there are no buses.Buses:
Always try and get the “nice” buses which is CTM or Supratours. You only pay a few dollars more, but the price is the price, no one scamming you for the tickets, just a simple purchase at the station. You may need to pre-book some a few days in advance, but do it! Such a nicer experience than the local stations and when you’ve done that once you’ll never, ever want to do it again!Check your change/bill:
Check your change as soon as you receive, not afterwards. We were almost shortchanged at least 5 times. Restaurants, taxis, little shops, everyone will try it! Check your bill at the end of the meal and 1 in 3 times they’ve added random shit on there written in Arabic. Argue it! If you make a scene you are likely to put off other tourists eating there so they will eventually take the extra shit off your bill.

Bartering:
Barter everything by 3-4 times. If the taxi is a rip off, walk away. No doubt they will agree to the original price you wanted anyway.

Stay:
Marrakech – If you want to spend a little more in Marrakech for a nice Riad where you are safe and comfortable then Villa El Arsa is incredible. Still affordable for 2-3 people, but not hostel cheap. I wouldn’t recommend it for a solo traveller, but otherwise it is stunning!
Essaouira – definitely Atlantic Hostel. Amazing rooftop and staff!
Fes – the hostel Funky Fes. Beautiful, gorgeous hostel and great staff.
Chefchouen – Aline Hostel is a great, cheap hostel and great to meet people. Or inside the medina Casa Amina is beautiful, just a little more quiet.

Planning your trip:
Don’t underestimate the distances. We had 10 days in Morocco and thought we could see 5 different places, but it’s just too rushed. 10 days is perfect for 3 places considering there are huge distances between some cities, especially if you want to do North and South. You can absolutely wing it and find cheap accommodation as you go. It’s just buses I recommend booking the day before if you can.
A lot of people hire a car here which would be nice to avoid the bus bullshit, but bear in mind they drive like absolute idiots. I had a friend do this and doesn’t recommend it, however I didn’t try it.
It’s a great idea to fly in & out of different cities to avoid long trips backtracking across the country. For example into Marrakech and out of Casablanca. Or from Tangier you can take a ferry to Spain.

Traveling solo/friends:
We traveled in a group of 3; 2 girls (Carla and I) and 1 guy (Martin.) We found that things were easier when we were with Martin in terms of being harassed by men, but we were actually ripped off more when with him.. I think the men are generally friendlier and more inclined to give you a discount when you are just girls. When Carla and I went out without Martin we found things were cheaper. I also did some things alone and had no hassles at all. However, I would have never done the local bus station thing by myself.

Speaking:
English is widely spoken in tourist areas at least and by all the scammers. But it’s really handy to have some French under your belt or someone with you who speaks French. There were a few situations that were much easier because I speak a little (very basic) French. Then there are towns such as Chefchaouen where Spanish is more widely spoken than English or French.

Tours and activities:
Book through your hostel rather than being ripped off in the street. I highly recommend Diabat quad tours in Essaouira!

Covering up:
Apparently you should have your shoulders and knees at least covered. I was covered the entire time from ankle to past my elbows and had such more of a pleasant experience than some tourists I saw wearing next to nothing. On top of the male harassment you are also disrespecting their culture. So cover up! Buy some flowy clothes if you are traveling summer or the months around it as it is super hot.

Alcohol:
If you like to drink like I do I definitely recommend getting a bottle of something duty free. Cafes that serve alcohol can be few & far between and you can’t buy alcohol at the supermarket on weekends (which is Friday & Saturday.)
We had a “local” bar in each place we went as these were one or some of the only ones serving alcohol:
Marrakech: Salama
Essaouira: Taros
Chefchaouen: Oum Rabie

Budget (all approx in AUD at the time of writing):
Average meal at restaurant $7-14
Street food $2-5
Beer at cafe $4-10
Beer at supermarket (Carrefour) $2-$3
Bus for 3-4 hours $10-$20
Train for 8 hours $30-$40
Hostel dorm bed $9-$15

**The lower range prices are generally from Chefchaouen which we found cheaper for everything. Bear in mind this is based on 4 different cities, but there are much more in Morocco which I am unsure about.

If you have ANY questions please email me: travel@talesofnadine.com
I am happy to share advice with you! 🙂

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