I was really looking forward to visit Morocco, my first steps in Africa. I imagined this travel through Annabelle's stories of when she was there. I was expecting to see things like desert, cities looking like in Aladin, eating pastries and having trouble negotiating in the souks.
Well, Morocco can be surprising, here is a summary of our thoughts.
Morocco is first known for its people and culture. Yes, people are welcoming and love to chat with tourists. But Morocco is also full of history. I would have never imagined seeing Roman Empire ruins, visiting Hercules' cave or discovering Berber's traditions.
We arrived 4 days before the end of Ramadan and to be honest the atmosphere was quite tense. People in the street were in a hurry, not really smiling and sometimes a bit rude. I guess I would probably be the same if I was not eating and drinking during this super hot weather. Couple of days after Aid (end of Ramadan), smiles were back and we started feeling more comfortable.
In the souks, we could see, smell and hear how people live: donkeys passing by the alley, someone cooking msemen (Moroccan pancake) and motorbikes honking to let them pass. It is where we had most of fun.
Religion has also a huge impact of how people live. Praying time is triggered by the muezzin singing a Sorate from Coran. It really gives an amazing atmosphere to the city when you can here all muezzin around singing at the same time. They are actually mosques everywhere and they all have an outstanding architecture. Very detailed, big and colourful.
Sometimes, like in Fes, you can feel like in Middle Ages. Everything is so authentic.
Our itinerary mainly included cities. However, as nature lovers, we have been able to escape it and discover peaceful places.
All cities we visited were organised in a similar way: a Medina (old city) with souk (markets) and a new city. Obviously, it's in the medina we spent most of our time. It is a very lively place where cafes, sellers of everything and craftsmen are gathered. Our favourite ones were definitely Fes for its authenticity and Chefchaouen for the blue colour and how nice it was to walk in the streets. In most places, we found panoramic terraces from where we could see the whole Medina. Those moments at sunset were unique, unforgettable.
I was expecting to see desert all arounds cities and I was really surprised by how diverse landscape can be. We saw mountains, lakes, waterfalls, forests, it was incredible! We loved Akchour, next to Fes, where we walked along the river to end in front of a big waterfall. We also had a fresh orange juice feet in the water, just above a small waterfall. How amazing is that?!
The mid-Atlas was very refreshing. Walking in the cedar forest surrounded by sheep, goat and monkeys was so relaxing. Really far from all the noise and busyness of the city few kilometers away.
Food was delicious. We mainly ate tajine, couscous (on Fridays), Moroccan salad which is made of tomato/capsicum/Spanish onion. Meals have usually a lot of flavour due to the spices they put in it. It is not hot, just very tasty.
We found vegetarian options in tourist places like Marrakech, otherwise it was quite hard. Tajine for example is a stew cooked in a special plate for at least an hour the main ingredient being meat with spices. Moroccan people eat it with bread.
My little pleasure was the traditional pastries: full of honey and almonds. Amazingly good! However, after one or two you feel like you have eaten for the day!
Although it was challenging to eat vegetarian, we enjoyed the food so much. But we have to say that after a month, we were happy to be back to France to eat pastries and cheese.
From a city to another, we took both bus and train. Trains were a little bit late all the time (around 10 min) but it is clean and with air-con. Buses from CTM company were good as well. It takes generally the same time by bus or train and it is also the same price.
We never used public transport within a city because it was just easier to catch a taxi, but make sure you ask the driver to use the meter. It is the law but many taxi drivers prefer to ask for a fixed price which is generally 3 times higher.
Morocco is a cheap destination overall. The only thing you need to know is NEGOTIATING. The is like a religion here. For everything, Moroccan will inflate the prices for tourists. Annabelle spent so much time negotiating things, even the prices of a menu in a restaurant or an entrance fee in a Museum.
When it comes to food and accommodation, you always have a wide range of prices. From the basic room to the luxury riad, prices can vary from AUD $25 to $150 for a double room, breakfast included. Generally, hotels are clean and nice.
You can eat a tajine in the street for less than $5 but the average we spent for a meal per person was around $11 including a starter and main.
It is very easy to go from a place to another with a taxi but once again, we will need to negotiate! In the city, a journey is around $3.
While travelling (without including the free accommodation while volunteering) we spent $108 per day for us 2 including transportation, food, accommodation, leisure.
In summary, we liked Chefchaouen, Akchour, the food and we didn't like Casablanca and having to think about how to be dressed depending on where we were going because of guys staring at Annabelle.
Watch the video below of our month in Morocco.