For a long time, Morocco had been on my list of places I wanted to visit.
A friend and I finally made it there this past May, after finding cheap flights on Skyscanner.
What followed was not quite the amazing intrepid holiday I had hoped for, but I think it at least makes for a good story.
Our cheap flight flew into the capital, Rabat, where we stayed one night in one of the only available hostels – International Hostelling Rabat, with some awesome bunk buddies…
Yes, it was very basic, and although I’m not super squeamish and I don’t mind ‘roughing it’ sometimes, I was pleased to be out of there after just one night. Although unfortunately this wouldn’t be the worst hostel we would encounter.
The next day we caught the train to Marrakech.
Now, although Crosby, Stills & Nash, would have you thinking that the Marrakech Express is a bundle of fun, they missed out one key detail in their wee jingle… the train is stupidly hot, with no air conditioning or open windows in the cabins. It was like sitting in a sauna for 4 hours.
I left the train slightly damp and delirious, but alas, in Marrakech, which was super exciting.
We had booked in at another bargain hostel, which proved a little hard to find as it was hidden in a back alley and had no sign out the front (genius marketing, so mysterious… not). After looking around for a while, we ended up being shown to the signless hostel by an over-friendly kid, who quickly screwed his nose up at our generous tip and demanded we pay him more… (dude, that took 5 minutes and I’m still slimy from the train, no.)
Then we set out in Marrakech.
The ‘Big Square’ in the centre of Marrakech is simply electric. Surrounded by twisting souks (enclosed markets) full of leather, shoes, argan oil, jewellery and more, the square itself is home to food stalls, snake charmers, fortune tellers and ladies offering hena tattoos.
However there are also a lot of hustlers lingering in the square, preying on tourists.
Naturally, we fell for one immediately (suckers).
We were lead through the winding souks by a seemingly friendly local, who promised to guide us for free to a nearby tannery and leather market (a popular tourist stop in the city). Although our guide smiled and assured us he was just a selfless guy ‘You don’t have to pay me, I do it for free’, he seemed to change his mind within 15 minutes and insisted on a tip anyway, before ushering us into a leather shop, where the owner shut the door behind us and tried his best to sell us everything and anything. So uncomfortable.
After this experience and determined not to be scammed again, we decided to stop being so polite (aka. gullible tourists) and took an attitude of ignoring anyone that called out to us.
We did talk to one guy in the Big Square, a promoter for desert excursions, as a few nights in the sahara was something we had wanted to do anyway. With our stern ‘don’t-BS-us’ attitudes, we haggled down the price of a safari adventure, and then found our way back to our hidden hostel, to get some sleep before our 7am tour start the next day.
The tour itself was a little unorganized.
Although we were picked up at 7am, we didn’t leave the city center until around 8:30am, and we must have hopped in about 3 or 4 different vans, before the driver decided which one he wanted to drive – this marks the start of my patience levels dropping.
The drive to the Sahara took 10 long hours.
It shouldn’t have been this long, but our driver stopped almost every hour at random roadside stalls to 1) have a cigarette and 2) convince us to buy things. Being that each shop had exactly the same things in them, by about the 3rd stop everyone was over the stops as they were totally unnecessary – patience levels dropping further.
Oh and the other thing, I couldn’t stop itching… and neither could my friend.
What? Itching? Yes, itching.
Turns out our bargain Marrakech hostel had a wee bed bug problem.
Shitballs. Red itchy spots all over. Made even worse by the hot Moroccan weather. Itchy as a mofo. Seriously, bed bugs are the WORST – patience levels gone.
After the long drive, we finally arrived in the Sahara Desert, where I was happy to swap Smokey Joe the driver for Lucky the camel, for a gentle ride out into the desert.
And Lucky really did seem to live up to her namesake. Not only was the scenery along the way stunning, but she was easy to ride and had just been washed, so probably had less bugs on her then I did!
Once at our desert camp we were treated to a delicious traditional Moroccan meal and music performance, before it was off to bed where nightmares of bed bugs ensued – luckily to no avail!
Back in Marrakech after this we immediately changed hostels (obviously) and spent one last day getting lost in the souks, before boarding the heat-train back to Rabat to catch our flight home.
So that was my trip to Morocco. there were good times, and there were other times.
I can’t say it is one of my favourite places, as a few things really spoiled my experience (screw you beg bugs) but I’m still glad I went. The views in the Sahara were truly stunning, the cuisine was delicious and we met some great people along the way.
BUT I don’t mean to sound like a big sad-sack and just complain about this trip, so here’s a post on my Moroccan Highlights.