Morocco is a country I would happily visit for a 3rd time. The smells and sounds. The markets and alleys. There is something special about Morocco.
My last visit was in 2015 where I joined an Intrepid North Morocco Tour for 9 days. I visited Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Moulay Idriss, Fes, Chefchaouen, Tangier and Marrakech. The main reason for my visit was to see Fes and Chefchaouen. I’d seen so many stunning photos of these two destinations and wanted to see them for myself.
My top 3 destinations
The old city of Fes is fascinating. Narrow alleyways opening up into markets. Something new around every corner. It’s like you’ve stepped back in time. The tricky part is finding your way out again.
Chefchaouen is as pretty as the pictures. It’s also called the ‘blue city’. All the buildings are washed in blue – originally thought to either keep the mosquitos away or the bad spirits. The best time to really see the full impact of the colour is at the crack of dawn before the shops open and spill their wares out onto the footpath. I love a good sleep-in, but happily wandered blurry eyed and on my own, with just the stray cats for company.
Moulay Idriss was a surprise. I had never heard of it before. There were no other travellers and is still off the tourist trail. It’s one of the holy places in Morocco and before 2005, non-Muslims were not permitted to stay overnight. Narrow alleyways and stairs means you walk everywhere with the call to pray echoed throughout the town.
What is the public transport like?
I was impressed by the trains. They are new and tidy and much, much better than Egypt. The overnight train is one of the best I’ve slept on. The system is organised and easy to figure out on your own.
There are smart looking trams in Rabat and it’s an easy process to catch one. They were a complete surprise to me.
Taxi’s… the driving is a little more chaotic than places like the UK, but a good way for getting to all the sights. Find out what companies are better before your visit. I seem to remember that the red taxi’s in Casablanca are good? I took a few on my own and found them fine. Except, Murphy’s Law, after a long day sightseeing, I suddenly couldn’t find a single free taxi to take me home! It was a loooong walk along busy and dusty roads before I found one.
I have heard that the main tourist areas have great trains, while the lesser known areas involve long journeys by bus.
How should I dress?
It’s best to dress on the more conservative side with covered shoulders and knees. I find it encourages the local men to be more respectful. Plus you are showing respect to the locals, as Morocco is a Muslim country. But saying that, I saw females wearing singlets the majority of the time, and they weren’t overly bothered. It seems to be slightly more relaxed than other muslim countries.
Why go on a tour?
While Morocco is safer and more relaxed than other countries I’ve visited, it’s a country where solo females can sometimes be bothered. I wanted to relax and enjoy my surroundings, rather than be on guard the entire time. Plus, sometime it just gets lonely travelling on your own. I enjoy Intrepid Travel, because it’s focus is on the country and the locals. I came away feeling like I’d experienced something more than if I’d travelled solo. I would not have taking an overnight train. I would never have made it to Moulay Idriss or seen the Roman ruins. And I would not have learnt about the Berbers!
What is a hammam?
Have you experienced a hammam? It’s also called a Turkish bath and every hammam seems to have a slightly different system. Basically, you sit in a steaming room, are covered in black soap and scrubbed extremely clean. There are male and women entrances. It’s best to go to a local hamman to get the proper/embarrassing experience, plus they are VERY affordable. And go before the rush of locals. You are expected to be completely nude, but I struggle with this cultural aspect, so wear a bikini bottom… one day I might be brave. Once your skin has softened from the steam, you are scrubbed thoroughly with a rough textured mitten covered in black soap. I’m surprised at the amount of dead skin and dirt that comes away, and from the expression on the staff, she was surprised too. You’re then dowsed in water and sent pink and clean back into the dusty streets.
Writing about this makes me want to go again, right now. It’s one of those places where you want to sit and people watch. To wander the alleyways and see what’s around the corner.
I ended up buying a rug, lamp and framed photograph on my last trip and they are now in storage, since I have no place for them in my caravan. Maybe one day they will have a home.
Have you been to Morocco? Is there anything else you would include? Do you have a question? Ask in the comments below.