Our Morocco

Who I am
Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Starting from Rabat, we rented a car and crossed all the symbolic places of this country. revealed wonderful for its artistic beauties, its cities? unique and its breathtaking views. Expectations met and exceeded. Some premise / considerations / travel advice before going into the details of our tour:

1) Can Morocco be? visit quietly alone,? it is enough to keep some more foresight than in other countries and surely a little French will give you? an extra gear? for less touristy areas.

2) It drives very well and without problems, the main roads are all in good condition. To the south ? It is necessary to take into account some dirt roads, however passable with all cars. Marrakech deserves a separate mention, chaotic and full of traffic, where? need to be careful, especially not to enter the Medina area. But coming from Rome ... one feels almost at home. The traffic police, so? feared and about which you hear a bit of everything,? absolutely on the tourist side. There are many checkpoints, practically at the entrance of every inhabited center, but no one has ever stopped us for checks and we have never been asked for money in any way. Absolutely necessary to have a good navigator with you, especially for some areas where road signs are only in Arabic!

3) The country? sure. Only in some moments did we feel alert. In the cities? the plainclothes tourist police? present everywhere and will be? a sharp, peremptory and high tone of voice "NO, MERCI" is enough to ward off all the annoyances and touts in search of unwary or disoriented tourists in the mazes of the Medinas.

4) Linking us to the previous point, it must be admitted that Moroccans know how to get quite heavy and will try to steal money from you practically anywhere: who wants? push you into his shop, who would you like? accompany you inventing closed roads or non-existent labyrinths, who wants? be your guide to tourist attractions to explain the true history of the place, who will invent? false unmissable attractions to lead you out of more areas? check and take advantage of the situation and, finally, all those who will run to ask you for money for taking a simple photograph ...
Also in this case the peremptory "NO MERCI" pronounced in two tones of voice above will be? resolutive

5) The weather in August: to go or not to go? To take the tour by car? absolutely necessary to avoid the winter, when the Atlas can? become impassable. In August ? it goes without saying that in Morocco? warm, but less hot than we imagined. The coastal areas are always cool and in the evening, both in Rabat and Essaouira, we had to use the sweatshirt. Marrakech? comparable to Italy. The areas on the Atlas and those around Ouarzazate are above 1.000 meters and the heat? always dry and not excessive. The only exceptions, where? better prepare to suffer were the city? of Fes and the desert area of ​​Merzouga.

1 day

We landed in Rabat in the late afternoon with a direct Ryanair flight from Rome and immediately went to collect the rented car from Italy. The renter himself preferred to provide us with the SUV category for free when he knew the type of itinerary planned. Reading various forums, we have chosen to pay the supplement for the total insurance with cancellation of the deductible, thus freeing us? from any thought about thefts on command and traveling in any case more? rest assured. Having set the navigator towards Rabat, we reached our first Hotel, the Hotel Kasbah des Ouadaias, in an excellent position right in front of the homonymous kasbah and a stone's throw from the city's waterfront. One of them accompanied us to park the car in the parking lot opposite (20 MAD / 1,80? Per day) and took the luggage to the room. Moroccan style hotel, very clean and with very kind staff. We spent our first evening on the busy promenade of the city, for a first immersion in the daily life of Moroccans. Immediately a slice of life and a striking atmosphere. Immediately catapulted into a reality? cos? different from ours, who already knows here? of Africa. We dined at LE DHOW, a beautiful restaurant on a barge anchored to the dock. Quite luxurious for the average of the place, food in the norm, but it allowed us to enjoy a nice cold beer while savoring the smell of the ocean together, toasting the holidays started.

2 day

It is 05:00 when we are awakened by the prayer coming from a Minaret that seems to border our room and at 8:00 we are already? on the terrace for a rich breakfast overlooking the sea and views of the Medina and the kasbah. Before leaving the hotel, let's go on foot to visit the KASBAH DES OUDAIAS, the capital's first unmissable attraction. Entering you have the idea of ​​being catapulted into a hushed and past world, of taking a leap in time. At this time ? deserted, with the exception of some elderly people walking and the many cats that populate it. A maze of alleys painted in white and blue, where ancient portals are displayed. From the main square, located at the end of the alleys, you can enjoy a beautiful view over the immense beaches of Rabat and the opposite Sal ?. We return to the entrance along other alleys, kidnapped by the peace of the place and by beautiful photographic views (and to be extremely honest also by the not exactly defined smell that you breathe!)
Taking back the luggage and the car we head towards the complex of the TOWER OF HASSAN and the MAUSOLEUM OF MOHAMMED V, located in a beautiful residential area. Surely the place more? beautiful city. The whole area? guarded by the royal guards in full uniform on horseback. The Hassan Tower? the very symbol of the city, stands out at the end of a sea of ​​columns that remain as evidence of the enormous unfinished mosque. In front of the tower c '? the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, a perfect architectural example of the Alawite dynasty, where? buried the beloved king. Very beautifull. Going inside and seeing the King's tomb below, the thought? went to Les Invalides in Paris and from the immediate confrontation Napoleon is the loser here ...

We get back in the car and set off towards Fes, with 215 kilometers to go to get to the destination. This stretch? covered entirely by motorway, with well-equipped, clean and extremely well-kept service areas. Before 13:00 we are already? in Fes, close to the Medina, where we park near our riad (20 MAD / 1,80? for 24 hours). Entering the Palais Sheherazade seems to us to enter heaven ...? a little more? expensive than average, but 120 euros per night are deserved! A luxury that in Europe we would not have been able to afford. Ideally located on the edge of the Medina, it allows you to reach it by car and park comfortably. After extensive research on the Medina of Fes and driven by the prohibitive temperature of 48 ?, we ask the Riad for an official guide to visit the most? complexes of the Medina. For about 4 hours we spent 25 euros for an official guide accredited to the Tourist Office. Advice ? not to book it in advance, it costs more? just ask on arrival.

At 17:30 pm, after enjoying the luxuries of our riad, we leave on time for the tour of the Medina. First by taxi we went up to the surrounding hills to have an overview of the city? old and on the older Medina? great of Morocco and then we are finally inside ... the first thought? that the guide is really useful here, especially if you don't have a whole day to try to orient yourself in a labyrinth that doesn't make sense. We don't see other tourists, there are no tourist shops, but a city? teeming with real life. The impact? strong, even for those like us who already had? visited other Arab countries. The Medina of Fes? hard to describe ... get inside, for better or for worse. You will love it or you will hate it but you will not be able to forget the sounds, the colors, the smells. We walked around for about 3 hours, stopping outside the Karaouine Mosque, the Moulay Idriss Mausoleum (both do not allow access to non-Muslims, but you will be able to take some nice photos). Although accredited, our guide also has his friends and shows us a cooperative where argan oil is produced and a fabric shop where agave fiber is processed. Do we go even further? and let's go to visit the tanneries pi? ancient of the city? in an area of ​​the Medina known as "shocking". They are the tanneries of Moulay Abdellah. The spectacle of the sun setting behind the minarets and on the colored basins gives us a beautiful postcard. We resume the journey and? already? almost night when we return to the Riad destroyed and satisfied. We have dinner at the Palais Sheherazade with Tajine and skewers accompanied by a good Meknes wine.

3 day

The first joy of the morning? a fabulous breakfast served by the pool on the patio of the riad. The whole morning? still dedicated to Fes and its wonders, voluntarily not included in the tour with guide. Asking for advice at the hotel on travel to limit the time as much as possible, the boy from the Riad? offered to come with us allowing us to avoid cos? the "annoying troublemakers" of Fes (and there was no way to give him something, he was incorruptible in accepting any form of thanks).
We walked to the BAB JALOUD gate, the largest. famous entrance to the Medina, from which you can see the beautiful minaret of our destination, the MEDERSA BOU INANIA, a Koranic school that there? permission to visit (admission 10 MAD / 1 Euro). Is it still early and not there? nobody. The wonder of the courtyard and its decorations leaves us speechless. We cross another piece of the Medina and along the walls we look for a taxi that takes us to the opposite side to go and visit the most? famous tanneries of the city: the TANNERIES OF CHOUWARA. We access a terrace on top of a leather shop, as happens with any other terrace, and we stay here for about half an hour, being absolutely captivated by a scene that seems to come out of the time machine. I want to underline that the visit to the tanneries? FREE and to dispel the myth of the sprig of mint under the nose to bear the stench of the place. There? stink, ? true, but nothing so? atrocious as it is usually told. Another small note? to dedicate to the shop that will host you ?:? natural that they will try to sell you something, proudly showing you the five floors of exhibition ... but with enormous kindness, many compliments to their work and leveraging the crisis gripping Europe we managed to get out without spending a single euro!
From the terrace? It is possible to see the tanks where the hides are initially whitened in lime, then washed and subsequently dyed in the tanks with natural colors. It is amazing to watch these men using the same process for centuries, diving bare-legged into the tubs. Calling it beauty would be inappropriate for the fatigue and living conditions you have before your eyes, but? a something so? strong that I will not be able? than to leave you bewitched.

We take a taxi back to the Riad, where we still have time for a swim in the pool and a shower before reluctantly leaving our dream room. We set off again, destination Errachidia, 341 km from Fes. From here the highway no longer exists? and, as soon as we leave the city, we begin to discover the real Morocco, that of the villages perched on the Atlas mountains and that of the breathtaking views that will accompany us for the entire journey. We cross Mouzzer du Kandaar, Midelt and even more? to the south the marvelous Ziz Gorges. From here we also discover the art of patience, since? the single lane road? traveled by vehicles of all kinds ... trucks, carts, carts, donkeys and people on foot. What? we enjoy the views by observing without words the small rural settlements where the weather is? stopped.
We reach Errachidia which is almost 19:00, we take advantage of it for a swim in the beautiful swimming pool of the Riad "Le Riad", where we spend the evening with an aperitif and dinner.

4 day

Also this morning we wake up early and after a nice breakfast served at the hotel we set off again heading south. The landscape begins to change and we begin to savor a light that seems different. The first stop? to the Blue Springs of Meski, reachable with a small detour from the state road. The entrance? for a fee (around 2,50 Euros per car). It is a real oasis with lush palm trees that lap the water channels of the source. Said so? it would seem like a paradise, but in reality? the tourist attraction? represented by a swimming pool (rather dirty) with a bar and souvenir shops from which you will not leave without accepting at least a tea. We didn't see any tourists but it was full of locals camping out with all sorts of means around the crowded pool. Sin. We thought better. We get back in the car headed for Erfoud. Soon the route winds through truly unique views; from above ? possible to admire the course of the Ziz at the bottom of the canyon surrounded by palm trees and Berber villages and? cos? that the Draa-Tafilalet region welcomes us. The road descends and begins to follow the course of the river through date palm groves, villages, gorges and canyons. We don't stop in Erfoud but? enough time to cross it to discover a chaotic and crowded town. We continue to Rissani, where we appreciate the beautiful portal and touch its famous market. We continue on to our final destination, Merzouga. From here the panorama changes again; the cars disappear, the heat becomes suffocating, the long strip of asphalt that runs straight in front of us reminds us of the States and finally like a true mirage the orange dunes of the Sahara appear in front of us. We are enthusiastic and reached Merzouga we manage to avoid the hordes of Bedouins who try at all costs to place camel rides and excursions to head towards our accommodation, the Kasbah Azalay. It is simply fantastic, right at the foot of the dunes, clean and well-kept with rooms in perfect Berber style and mud walls. It is 13:30 and after recovering from a rich Bedouin salad they begin to discover some small defects ... apparently the only electric generator in Merzouga in the middle of August is having a tantrum and the air conditioning does not chill the air. A small fan cannot move the hot air around us. The only salvation there? given by the beautiful swimming pool of the kasbah where we stay until 18:00 and then prepare for the ride in the desert with the quad set for 18:30. We are only two quads preceded by our guide and for two whole hours we wandered among the dunes, being literally struck by the immensity? of the Sahara, from the beauty of nothing, from the majesty? of nature and absolute silence. The sun was down disappeared when the guide asks us to hurry ... the wind yes? raised and clouds on the horizon do not bode well. We are almost at the Kasbah when we are hit by a real storm of sand and wind. We have dinner at the Kasbah (5 Euros per person) enjoying a real Bedouin dinner accompanied by a good beer bought for us at the market after 1000 vicissitudes. To tell the truth it was not good but the taste of the forbidden made it exceptional. Long last ? time to rest for a while. But no ... no ? over like this. We had forgotten the generator ... never felt such heat coming out of the walls and so? we moved to the poolside.

5 day

Of course we open our eyes before dawn and armed with a camera we go up to the terrace where we discover that we have not been the only ones to sleep outdoors. The first rays of sun on the dunes give us another indelible image of this journey. We enjoy a rich breakfast and d? time to say goodbye to Hamid and his staff to get back in the car. Before saying goodbye to the desert, we try a couple of dirt tracks at the foot of the dunes for some other magical shots. We don't want to leave but we have to be in Skoura tonight and? the case to leave. We return to Erfoud via Hassilabied and turn inwards towards Tinghir. Once reached Tinghir we cannot miss the detour to the Todra Gorges. The whole area around Tinghir? beautiful and the Gorges are worth the visit even if quite crowded in this period. We continue along the Way of Roses and the 1000 Kasbahs admiring the infinite spaces and passing through villages. We make another short stop in Kelaat Mgouna, famous for the collection of rose petals and for the sale of derived products. We arrive in Skoura around 18:00 and before looking for our hotel we immediately head to visit the Kasbah Amridil. The entrance is nonsense and the kasbah? small but really well kept. Not to be missed if you pass by here. And finally we arrive at Sawadi, our lost accommodation in the palm grove of Skoura. Run by a French couple this property? beautiful, clean and well cared for. Didn't they have other guests like that? they assigned us a suite and cooked a delicious dinner by the pool based on chickpea cream and turkey tajine with figs. The best way to recover the fatigue of the day.

6 day

After a fantastic breakfast at the Sawadi we leave for the nearby Ouarzazate, the Mecca of Moroccan cinema. In reality? we stop for another coffee, a look at the smaller shops? taken care of than elsewhere and especially for the visit to the Kasbah Taourit. The entrance? for a fee,? pi? larger than the others visited and going up the different floors the rooms increase in decorations and frescoes. Undoubtedly a destination to visit but the restoration has taken away a bit of charm and, above all, absolute criticism of the authorities? that leave phantom guides at the entrance zealous and rude, more? difficult than others to be removed. After the visit we continue to our next destination, the much more? famous Kasbah d'Ait Ben Haddou. Gi? its view from afar enchants and even more? wandering through the narrow streets enclosed by the mud walls recalling the scenes of a tea in the desert, the Gladiator and the Jewel of the Nile. Beautiful and rightfully included in the UNESCO heritage. Our day is not? finished, the crossing of the Atlas mountains awaits us now, which will bring us? in Marrakech. The kilometers are not very many ... but we proceed slowly and the climb to the Tizi n'Tichka pass is challenging between trucks and donkeys. After stopping at the pass for the usual photo, we face the great descent until we reach Marrakech. Entering the city? ? a real shock. A great chaos. It becomes difficult to drive and find the right direction since? even the navigator is lost in the streets pi? narrow. Trying to go by intuition we found ourselves in the forbidden and worst area of ​​the Medina, but the fortuitous intervention of the Police helped us find the right way to reach the front door where the man of our riad awaits us. I want to say a few words about the Riad Palais Sebban for the kindness of the staff and the perfection of the services. From the parking, to the baggage handling, to the beauty, care and cleaning of the riad. A real jewel of the medina just a few steps from the famous Jemaa el fna. Time for a shower and when the sun goes down we are already? out for a first taste of the true soul of Marrakech. Jemaa el fna? difficult to tell. She is beautiful? in reality? no. There? something special to see? No. Yet will they capture you? at any time of the day, especially in the evening, where the whole city? seems to come together. Sounds, smells, colors and the crowd around the many street artists will remain impressed on you. Stereotype of an entire country. Spectacular are the many street food stalls that animate the square, a must try, and, if you are a foodie, you will be amazed in front of the snails and lamb heads! We have taken advantage of it and without suffering consequences, so the advice? not to think too much about cleaning and enjoy an unrepeatable dinner.

7 day

Today full day dedicated to Marrakech. After breakfast we go out on foot towards Koutobia first stop of the day. We continued with the visit of the Saadian Tombs, a must see for the richness of the decorations, and through the Mellah we reached the Palais Bahia, another masterpiece of Moroccan architecture. Stop at the Royal Palace and always through the Mellah we return to Jemaa El fnaa square in the morning version. Snake charmers and lone players are among the few occupants of the burning pizza at this time. We slip into the souks behind the square trying to find an orderly way to visit as much as possible. possible. Continuing inside the souks we reach the less touristy area of ​​the Medina for a visit to the Medersa Ben Youssef, absolutely not to be missed. We continued on to the area of ​​the tanneries that we do not visit here. It was the only time we didn't feel safe. Area ? seedy and the patrons seemed less pleasant and willing to negotiate. We left the Medina and returned to the hotel by taxi. A few hours we decided to dedicate it to the pampering of our riad to succeed again in the evening in the direction of Jemma el Fna.

8 day

This morning ? still dedicated to Marrakech, but we take the car for a bird's eye ride in the most? modern city? and go to visit the Majorelle gardens. No doubt they are very beautiful and must be seen if you arrive here but, honestly, we considered it a theft to ask for 14 euros for gardens when the real historical jewels of the city? they have 1 euro entrances ... we would have preferred to pay for Moorish art rather than nice cacti. After the visit we are back in the car, this time headed to the sea ... Essaouira awaits us. Our hotel? inside the pedestrian area then we decide to pay for the guarded parking of the port. We stayed at the Hotel Desdemona, where we were assigned the superior category room with a fantastic terrace overlooking the sea. Nevertheless we immediately find a certain difference in the care of things and above all in cleaning. We also have the same impression of the hotel from the first tour of the Medina. Essaouira? true. Despite the large influx of tourists, the Medina appears intact and seems not to care about the best aspect that Marrakech does? committed to giving. Essaouira smells of the sea ... and more. Spices, fruit, meat covered with flies, intense smells are released everywhere. But you will also find beautiful art galleries, the most? nice to bring a nice souvenir from this country. At sunset, the ramparts overflown by the seagulls give us another postcard of this contrasting country. Finally fish. And ninna.

9 day

After breakfast, we do another city tour? in the morning light when everything? pi? calm and silent. And then back on the road, even more? south towards Agadir. Ed? when we arrive we are overwhelmed by an incredible disappointment. The pearl of Morocco? The one praised by the agency brochures? This ? a personal and subjective thought but I found it ugly, dirty and with nothing to see. The atmosphere? spoiled by fast food, casino? and clubs of all kinds. The beach, although long and busy, has nothing that could arouse interest. In short, we ran away, without even a photograph, preferring to spend the afternoon continuing through the park of Sous Massa to the fishing village of Tifnit and finally reaching our accommodation, the Paradis Nomade, on the hills outside Agadir, allowing us the last few hours relaxing in the pool. . We also have our last dinner here in Moroccan territory, a country that has bewitched us for good and, sometimes, for bad.

10 day

We get up early and head to Agadir airport where we drop off the rental car and where are we ready to board the Binter Canarias flight that will take us? on the island of Fuerteventura!

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