in search for some February sunshine i’ve spent 11 days in Morocco.

on Saturday i flew from Stockholm to Agadir. airport is ~25km away from the touristic part; being cheap i did not take the taxi straight to Agadir [which would cost ~200mad] but rather shared cab ride to Inezgane which is local communication hub [20mad] and from there – local bus nr 7 [6mad] to the touristic part of Agadir near the coast. there should be some bus from the airport to Inezgane [22 or 37] but it did not show up within 20 minutes.

bus hub in Inezgane gave me already taste of Morocco suburbs – crowded chaos with tens of taxis, honking, food stands selling grilled meat and fish, fruit&vegetable sellers, trash thrown all over.

it was already after dusk when i arrived to Agadir; with help of GPS i’ve found my hotel in a few minutes, left my stuff and went out to get something to eat and walk along the seaside. +18C in the evening is much better than -15C :] seaside was full of the locals and tourists. i quickly found out that english is not of much use there; people speak french and arabic, waving hands works too.

Sunday – mass in 5 languages [there was even something in polish] in the local catholic church – Eglise Sainte Anne [schedule, location]. i’ve passed by the big & very lively bazaar and went to the gare routière‎ – big bus station – where i bought tickets for the next day ride. the big hill overlooking the bay/touristic part of the city was the next target. on the way up i saw some small wild snake between bush of cactuses. at the top – commercialized camels for tourists, some snack shop and ruins of old fortifications ruined during the 60s earthquake. and some goats, sheep and donkeys lazily chewing grass and… gsm tower using diesel generator. way back from the hill, brand new and clean marina, seaside.

Monday – bus ride to Essaouira [60mad + 5 for the luggage] over serpentine of the hilly roads; on the way – lots of poverty, simplicity, plenty of garbage dumped just beside homes.

on the way from the bus station to the hotel i pass veg/fruit bazaar and already like the city. with few kg of cocktail tomatoes, onion, paprika, some bread and fresh mint leaves i go to the hotel, unpack and go out for a walk to the seaside. there are some ‘commercialized’ camels, horses and mules waiting for tourists [to ride on or take pictures with]. it’s warm but very windy. after some walk along the coast i go first to the fisherman port and then – to the old town/medina surrounded by fortification wall. Essaouira is much more interesting than Agadir – less tourists, less modern buildings, very lively old part with markets, food stands.

during the next day i find 2 herds of wild camels on the dunes near the coast south of the city. it was probably the best sight and surprise for me during the journey. camels are… well big and completely oblivious to my presence. i can come very close to them, poke them with a stick while they continue pinching the grass and ignoring me. back to the old town and another round of getting lost and found in the maze of narrow passages.

on Wednesday i took a bus ride from the main bus station in Essaouira to Casablanca. it took ~6h, cost 90+5mad. during the ride i saw landscapes slowly changing from yellow-ish-dry to greener and greener with fields and plantations. my hotel was in the medina; i arrived ~19 and after short preparations left to see it. it’s seriously messy and very lively. live chickens? no problem; butchered on the spot? no problem. grilled just afterwards? move on 20m and you can get it. food stands, vegetable market, fake-branded fashion stuff, locally produced clothes and accessories, electronics, music – all mixed together with plenty of small open mosques, local bars, restaurants and internet cafes [called cyber].

Thursday – more walking around Casablanca – Hassan II Mosque, modern just being built marina contrasted with poverty just across the street, old town again. i’ve been walking a lot pretty much from here to there but i was not very impressed – it’s modern busy city. although strawberries bought from the cart pulled by donkey were great. and cheap.

on the Friday afternoon i took a train from Gare de Casa Port‎ to the Mohammed V International Airport [i had to change on the first station to another train]. train ticket price – 40mad, journey time including waiting for the 2nd train – ~ 1h30min. flight to Ouarzazate took 1h10min. Ouarzazate is quite small, airport is near the city – walk to the hotel was ~15 minutes, from there to the city center – another 10 min. ¡me gusta!

for Saturday and Sunday i’ve rented a car and drove a bit around – i tried to reach Sahara – M’hamid – but there was not enough time. i stopped and turned back ~70km before it – i did not want to drive back via the mountains after the dusk. nevertheless landscapes i saw on the way ware breathtaking – wild hills and plains without much vegetation, dry riverbeds, and oasis around ‘live’ rivers.

on Sunday i drove to this kasbah, valley of rouses and some hills. from a distance i saw some remaining buildings of atlas studios. on the way i gave a ride to more than 20 local hitchhikers getting from one village to another. nice people, i even got some snacks from them. unfortunately most of them spoke only arabic/berber and french – so not much talking. not with the hands on the steering wheel. there’s a catholic church in Ouarzazate but on that particular Sunday there was no service.

Monday – bus ride to Marrakech via Atlas mountains with mountain peaks covered in snow; it took ~5h and 80mad. bus stop in Ouarzazate for ctm line was not at gare routière‎ but rather here.

Marrakech was different – surprisingly refreshing compared with Casablanca. yes – it’s modern too but.. medina – less messy although still very original and lively; weather – much milder than in other places – night warmer, days not as hot as in Ouarzazate. catholic church – this time open 7 days a week [with visible police protection outside – as i learned introduced after 2011 bombings] – here.

On Wednesday morning i took the local bus 19 from here [it goes every 30 minutes, but i could not find any schedule] to the airport [20mad, ~20 minutes]. on the way back – to Stockholm Arlanda – norwegian’s airplane had free onboard internet access. it was not perfect – connection would drop at times; was way too laggy [800ms at best, 1000-2000ms] for any remote work but good enough for the web browsing. chats of all sorts [google talk, web version of it, skype] were reconnecting quite often. anyway – that’s much better than nothing.

some pictures from the trip here.

random thoughts:

  • prices are highly negotiable
  • surprisingly this time my stomach did not have problems with the local bacteria flora. for first 3 days i drank some vodka in the evenings [urban legend or does it actually help?], then i stopped to see if it makes any difference and later did not use it at all.
  • it’s mostly Muslim country – and you can tell it immediately by looking around – plenty of open mosques with calls for prayers 5x a day; woman dress very modestly compared with Europe [yet still very colorfully / attractively].
  • mint tea is really good; i have to reconsider my ‘no warm drinks’ policy
  • after visits in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Bosnia & Herzegovina i should not be surprised by the number of cats, but in Morocco that was quite a lot of domesticated dogs too
  • total trip cost including flight across Morocco, car rental and fuel for 2 days, cheap hotels and food – ~400GBP + 200e for the flight from Sweden and back.

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