How to fall in love with Morocco?

Traveling through Morocco was magical but sometimes rainy.

My two weeks in Morocco were very exciting, full of friendly people, interesting culture facts, unbelievable pretty architecture, tasty and spicy local specialties but then also the frustrating weather, with too many rainy afternoons. November in Morocco can be quite pleasant with warm temperatures above 20°C, but some rainy clouds made my trip a little bit less comfortable.

One month before I visited the Kingdom of Morocco, I read a few travel blogs about this country and most of them were negative – this country was called “challenging, exhausting, frustrating and disheartening” –  one female solo traveler wrote, or “this is not a country for female travelers. It is dangerous” – wrote another. I was quite disappointed, as I have already booked my travel ticket for a 2-week round trip and now all the negative thoughts and images of this country were born in my head. However, I was lucky because I haven’t experienced any negative stories, when it comes to Morocco, like any theft or sexual harassment. Certainly, you have to get familiar with the culture and dress respectfully.  Apart from the fact that my Swiss-EC Card was blocked for 2 days, I couldn’t withdraw money and I couldn’t buy sweet nuts and figs on the Casablanca market 🙂 A big advantage for me was the fact that I was discovering Morocco with a guide and a group of 10 people, so I felt safe.

 

My journey started at the Frankfurt airport, where I met Saad, a very friendly young man from Casablanca, who was waiting for the same plane. He spent a few days in Frankfurt and visited his friends, but he didn’t like the cold weather in Europe. He told me I will love the warm and sunny days in Morocco, and he was right…  most of the time, it was really nice. While I was struggling with the technical devices, trying to recharge my iPhone and find a wifi connection, he asked me where I am exactly traveling to, so I told him about my plans:

One of the things I love about every journey is meeting friendly strangers and starting conversations about the life, culture, food, pictures, travel… where have you been… how long will you stay… you must visit that amazing restaurant… join us for drinks tomorrow evening. He shared many interesting facts about Morocco, like for eg. how many languages are commonly spoken – he knew 5 languages very well, but due to the history, the majority of Moroccans is multilingual. Later on the plane, he brought me a glass of champaign from the 1st class, where he was sitting, as he’s not allowed to drink alcohol. At that point in time, I was trying to sleep in my small 2nd class seat and make myself comfortable. Also, I have pretended not to smell the stinky feet of my older German neighbor. Yes, she pulled them out of her old jogging shoes and I’m sure that has been for quite a while.. months, maybe years. Later, I have discovered she’s in my travel group.

CASABLANCA

Casablanca was chaotic and noisy and dark when I arrived in the evening at the Casablanca airport. It was warm outside but very windy and my long hair was scudding in my face. I saw the first palm trees and I felt like I’m on vacation. Every palm tree reminds me that I have left office, my hometown and now it is time for adventure and fun. Abdul, our tour guide, has welcomed us very warmly and introduced himself and the bus driver. He’s a friendly and funny older Moroccan with a warm low voice and funny German accent (contact details for a private tour at the end of the blog). 

The landmark of the city and an absolute highlight of this trip was the magnificent Hassan II Mosque  – the largest mosque in Morocco and the 13th largest in the world. From the top of the 210-meter-high minaret, a laser beam points directly in the direction of Mecca. What a masterpiece, I thought while walking inside the vast area. It seems like for every inch of it, a lot of attention has been devoted. Casablanca has also a modern face like the square with huge banks, offices, and shops, which are in contrast to the old town. Later, we took a walk through Casablanca’s market, where you can buy oriental handmade slippers, embroidered oriental blankets, and pretty scarves in every color. I couldn’t resist of getting a bag full of various olives – the small green once were the best, but also the larger brown and black olives were tasteful. What a good way to make new friends in my group, I though 🙂 Later, we arrived at one of the king’s palace with his guards. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to go inside as it is allowed only to the royal family. I have realized that I shouldn’t take pictures of people in Africa without their permission – look at the upset faces on my picture.

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ATLAS MOUNTAINS

Another day. It was a long journey to Volubilis and we were passing the wonderful Atlas mountains. It seems that they change the colors like a chameleon – blue and green shadows one time, and red, pink and orange shadows another time. We made a stop for lunch at a typical Barber house. Despite I’m not a big fan of meat, I have ordered a typical Moroccan tagine, while the others took some other dishes. Our table was full of tasty, spicy and aromatic specialties, full of vegetables, cuscus, and olives. Yummy! Fun fact: Morocco is a country where lamb is a favorite dish to eat and refusing eating meat is considered as impolite.

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VOLUBILIS

On our way to Meknes, I was curious to discover UNESCO World Heritage – Volubilis. Check out THE TREASURE OF VOLUBILIS / MOROCCO. Is a partly excavated Berber and Roman city in Morocco, commonly considered as the ancient capital of the kingdom of Mauretania. The remains of pillars and square stone blocks that once marked the entrance to colonnaded shops look, when viewed side on, like rows of regimented tombstones in a graveyard, blackened with age. It is unbelievable what humans were building in the 3rd century BC, and with what a great love for architecture and details. Just check the “Herkules selfie”, as I called it and made our tour guide laugh until he cried (picture below). Surely the selfies in the 3rd century BP took a little bit longer, than those I make today with the iPhone 🙂 A few member of my group were really fascinated by this place and carefully soaking every historical fact about it. On our way back to the bus I tried to catch a baby goat, so I can cuddle it, but they were just too fast running away from me with their little legs.

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FES

Fes has been one of my favorite cities, despite all the negative stories I heard and read from people coming here. Fes is the spiritual center of Morocco, crowded and fully alive, with mind-blowing architecture. I can imagine that this city is not very popular with solo travelers – the Medina reminds a huge maze of tiny alleys, which split again at the end of the street. It’s so easy to get lost here – I was wondering how long it would take me to get out of here, without our guide. Gigantic gates lead me through the one meter high walls into the medieval medina.  The smell of spices and fresh mint was in the air, while I was walking between the stall with souvenirs and food. I wanted to buy the handmade plates with the beautiful blue and white ornaments. I still can’t believe that such wonderful charming patterns were made by human hands. Fes is famous for the best ones. Found it! Since I couldn’t decide which one is the prettiest, the energetic seller has convinced me to take both. By the way – the best Argan oil you will get in a pharmacy and be aware that it is not cheap at all – the rising demand for the amazing beauty oil has driven the prices up and up over last years.  My residence was the wonderful Riad Arabesque and I have to say that it was so much more than I have expected! Just WONDERFUL. From all hotels during my journey I loved this one the most. It was quite cold in the night – but that gave my stay here a mystical and oriental touch 😊 The building was quite tall with a glass ceiling in the reception hall and under it a wonderful swimming pool with cold water. Around the swimming pool, there were the 3 largest rooms (picture below), one of them was mine and it was even bigger than my first flat as a student! The wonderful pattern, details, and atmosphere in this place made me feel like I’m living in an oriental palace and Prince Charming will come every moment to take me away on a further adventure… well, he didn’t but I didn’t want to leave this riad anyway. The food was typical from this region and better than in any other accommodation during my itinerary, especially the tomato jam with sesame was awesome 👏 . The next day morning rain was dropping through the slots of the glass ceiling right into the swimming pool making a lazy noice – I was still in my pygamas and put my legs into the cold water but I didn’t manage to immerse myself.

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RABAT

Rabat is not only one of the four royal cities in the country, it is also the administrative capital of Morocco. The guide took me to the most beautiful places in the city. Inside the fortified walls of Kasbah Oudaya lies an idyllic garden with pink flowers and leaves, wet from the rain. The white and blue colors of the Medine of Rabat were a wonderful experience and I can imagine how nice it would be to visit Chefchaouen, a similar city covered in blue (BLUE VIBES IN CHEFCHAOUEN, MOROCCO).   Another lovely attraction in Rabat is the white facade of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V with its filigree ornaments and traditionally dressed guards. Lovely orient! In the afternoon we have visited a Moroccan mint tea ceremony with local pastries, oriental live music and a lot of positive attitude from the friendly host. I realized that traditional mint tea is way too sweet for me as well as the local pastries, often soaked in honey, but it was interesting to try.

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MARRAKECH

Welcome to the most beautiful city in Morocco called the “Pearl of the South”. I couldn’t decide what I liked the most about that city, but I was really impressed by the beauty of the Menara Gardens, established by Abd al-Mu’min in the 12 century BC. The Atlas mountains are stretching behind the pink building of El-Menara, giving this place a romantic ambiance. In the shadows of palm trees, cypresses and olive trees I took a moment to relax and to take some pictures. This city has so much wonderful see sights to offer, like the Koutoubia Mosque with the magnificent Bahia Palace next on our route. The splendor of this palace is its elaborately carved cedar wood ceilings and the lushly planted country yards. The Saardier Tombs are an absolute must see for every Moorish art lover. In this place, 62 members of the Saadian dynasty were buried in the double mausoleum. It’s hard to believe that his testimony of the past was discovered 400 years later, behind its high walls. Next morning, after having a delicious hotel breakfast I took a cab with my 2 colleagues to see Jardin Majorelle. I can’t understand how one of the most visited sites in Morocco was not on our guide’s list.  It took French painter Jacques Majorelle forty years of passion and dedication to create this enchanting garden in the heart of the “Ochre City”. Green, blue and yellow colors is everything you can expect from here. A dream of trees, exotic plants, cactus and lotus flowers has become reality. The souks of Marrakech – later we have arrived at that big and crowded square of Djemaa el Fna. I didn’t like the rainy weather as much as the moment when two “magician” men throw some monkeys on my head and made me pay for it. I felt very sorry for those cute animals – they were so thin and really stressed and I wanted to take them home 🙁 The souks were a typical tourist attraction with lots of leather bags, clothes, shoes, and souvenirs but I didn’t enjoy it as much as other places in the past days. Finally, I have found my dream bedcover with a gorgeous, oriental pattern. Same as the oriental IKEA carpet I saw in Switzerland. This blanket was so large – I already knew, it would be pure magic if it fits into my full suitcase. It did! The sellers at the souks weren’t brazen as expected and they just occasionally mentioned what they were selling. Snake charmers, monkey owners, storytellers, and acrobats didn’t convince me about the magic of Marrakech souks as much as the warm evening lights of the stands in the heart of the soaks, followed by loud oriental music coming from the referral system. We spend the evening with the group at a round table, drinking wine and having our last Morrocan dinner, while sharing our best memories from this trip.

 

 

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I loved my time in Morroco and enjoyed the journey with my group (despite stinky feet lady). I loved the places I discovered and the people who proved that Moroccans can be kind, welcoming and helpful. My advice for any tourist visiting Morocco is to take a tour guide or join a group. There are few reasons for this – first of all the medinas in Morocco’s cities can be quite difficult and you can get lost easily. We were consistently told by our tour guide not to walk alone in the evenings as there might be some small thefts. Another reason is the fact that you will miss a lot of beautiful places without a tour guide, for eg. in Fes there was the wonderful Medersa Bou Inania, the finest of Fes’ theological colleges, which was so difficult to reach from outside. As a woman, I did not experience sexual harasment during my journey, despite I was ocasionally walking behind my group taking pictures, but I still wouldn’t recommend this country for single female traveler.  In the end, you want to take nice experiences from your journey back home, so it’s worth investing a little bit more money in this journey. Morocco is a beautiful and diverse country, and there’s so much more I crave to see.


 

 

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

The best time to travel is spring – April, May. In this time you will arrive in the blossom season and warm, pleasant weather. Summer months can be quite hot with temperatures up to 40°C in some regions, while winter months are still warm but rainy.


TOUR GUIDE RECOMMENDATION

During my Morocco roundtrip with a small group I had this very charming and nice guide – Mr Abdul taking care of everything and making my vacation super interesting! He’s a German, French, Arabic, and English speaker and since 2017 he is organizing trips for private tourist as well. (my recommendations are not sponsored)

Contact:

Abdelhak Bihiche
(+212) 06 61 38 37 57
Abdelhak.Bihiche25@gmail.com

 

 

One Comment

  1. Haha. Of course stinky feet lady would be in your travel group. Everyone’s experiences are so subjective. It’s good you went and had a good time despite the negative things you read online.

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