A little over a month ago I flew to Marrakech with my best friend, ready to embark on a adventure through Morocco. Getting onto that flight I was a little nervous about the trip, mainly because of the reactions I had gotten from family members when I told them about our plans. I got comments like “are you sure that’s safe? For two young girls?” and “you know what the culture is like there, right? Are you sure you want to go?”. It wasn’t until my family talked about Morocco in this way that I started to feel a bit wary; when I initially booked my flights I was only excited. I’m annoyed at myself that I let their negative energy get to me, because my trip to Morocco was absolutely amazing.
With only ten days in the country, my friend and I decided we wanted to do and see as much as possible. We started in Marrakech, which was even more amazingly hectic then I imagined. I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with the movie Aladdin; the countless alleys, the bustling markets, the rooftop terraces. It was a little bit overwhelming at first (especially when you’re trekking through alleys with big backpacks, tired and very lost) but I got used to it much faster than anticipated. We spent a day and a half seeing as much as we could, and weren’t disappointed. Some of the highlights for me were the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Majorelle Garden and of course the iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa square (both during the day and at night). After a day and a half I felt comfortable in the city, having seen a lot in a short amount of time.
After Marrakech we embarked on a 4 day, 3 night Sahara desert trip. We booked this trip through our hostel, and while I’m not a big fan of organised tours, this was pretty much the only way we were going to see the Sahara desert without paying a lot of money. There was a lot of driving involved (think 8+ hours a day in a hot van) but we made it, and it was so breathtaking. Our final destination was Erg Chebbi, one of Morocco’s vastest dune landscapes, and arriving there honestly felt like a dream. The sand was red, the dunes looked nearly untouched and it looked exactly like what you see in the movies. We raced up the tallest dune just in time for sunset and afterwards headed to our desert camp. If you’re ever in Morocco, I could not recommend a trip like this enough. It’s a lot of travelling, but you instantly forget that when you’re lying on the dunes at night stargazing, with the sound of Moroccan drums in the distance.
The next day we had a lot of travelling to do, and I know both my friend and myself were a bit anxious about how it was all going to go. Instead of heading back to Marrakech with the rest of our tour group, we wanted to go to Fez. This meant we were dropped off at Rissani, a town close to Erg Chebbi, and left to our own devices from there. It was 8:30am, I was in a town I’d never even heard of before and we had to find a way to get 400km to our next destination, without really knowing a word of Arabic or French. To say my anxiety levels were rising at this point would be an understatement. We had done some prior research and headed towards to town’s “taxi” stand. We managed to get into a grands taxi to Errachidia; a grands taxi is a local shared taxi, kind of like a small bus. This is how we ended up in a car with 5 local men (Imagine 7 people squished in a car meant for 5) for two hours, and it’s also how we met one of the kindest people on our whole trip. The man I was sitting next to turned out to be a Moroccan living in Japan, and who was visiting his family due to his mothers recent death. He had worked in the police force in Morocco, and now had a wife and daughter in Japan. Two hours of talking later, I felt like I knew him pretty well. Once we arrived in Errachidia he guided us to the bus station, arranged cheap bus tickets for us, gave us the number of one of his police buddies in Fez (“in case you need help”) and left us by patting me on the head and saying “remember; no boyfriend for you until you finish university!”. All in all, it’s one of my favourite memories from the trip and I’m so glad to have met him.
7 hours in a very slow bus later, we arrived in Fez in the evening. We were cranky and hungry, so we got some food in us and headed to bed. The next morning we woke up to pouring rain, but decided to brave it to explore the city, as we only had one day there. Unfortunately, Fez was my least favourite place during the whole trip. I felt like there wasn’t really too much to see, and we had some unpleasant experiences with men saying vulgar things and following us. We headed back to our hostel early and ate dinner in our room; we were happy to head off the next day. I don’t want this to dissuade other from visiting Fez; the rain could have impacted my experience a lot and we might have just gotten unlucky with the guys. Always try and experience a city for yourself!
Our last destination, and one of my favourites, was Chefchaouen; Morocco’s blue town. This place is every photographers dream, and I felt so happy walking around it’s alleys. We decided to spent two nights here, and while there isn’t too much to see in Chefchaouen (attraction wise), the town itself is an experience. If you have time I suggest you hike to the Spanish Mosque, from where you have a great view of the town. For the rest, walk around, take plenty of mint tea breaks and enjoy the chill vibe of this place. Just know that you’ll get offered weed on numerous occasions; it’s very common to smoke here and they’re not secretive about it. We got offered a weed plantation tour during our hike, but kindly declined. They’re not pushy at all, so if you don’t want any just say “no thanks” with a smile and they’ll move on! Chefchaouen was the perfect place to end our trip; after the hectic city of Fez is was a great escape.
Our flight back to London was from Rabat, so on our last morning we caught a bus there. We had originally planned to spend nearly a full day in Rabat before our evening flight, but these plans changed when we got very VERY lost. Upon arriving at the bus station, we were pretty sure as to where we were on the map, and figured it was only about a 30 minute walk to where we wanted to go. Easy, we thought. However, we soon realised we weren’t quite where we thought we were (we were off the map, to be exact), and so it took us more than 2 hours to get to our destination. At this point we just wanted water, food and to take our backpacks off, so we were happy to find a quite restaurant in the medina. After we headed towards the beach and relaxed there before heading for the airport. Not exactly what we had planned, but we still got to see some of Rabat.
I was so sad to leave Morocco. I never want my trips to end, but I really felt a connection with this country. I had barely any of the bad experiences everyone was warning me about, and instead experienced a kind culture with so much to offer. I can’t recommend Morocco enough, and if you’re still reading this post (which is over 1300 words; sorry!) I urge you to buy a ticket as soon as possible.
If you have any questions, or want recommendations for accommodation and tours, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org