Rocky Times in Morocco

For a long time, Morocco had been on my list of places I wanted to visit.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

15 Comments

  1. Sorry for this experience, I’m moroccan and I don’t like the way that scammers use to cheat tourists.
    When in Morocco always negotiate and ask lot of questions before doing something.
    About the hotel, I recommend check the rooms before, you can find good hotels with cheap price.

    • hey that’s ok, it wasn’t all bad! I still had a great experience in Morocco – travel cant be perfect all the time, that’s what makes it an adventure!

  2. This places always get a bad rep amongst travelers but somehow continues to be on lists of must go to destinations. Bed bugs suck.

    • Yes, they were the absolute worst and the heat didn’t help!
      It certainly is a beautiful place though.

  3. Morocco’s amazing – glad you got to go! It’s too bad the trip was riddled with problems, but to go is an amazing feat. I still wish I got to check out Marrakech at least, but Tangier was breathtaking, too.

  4. Oh no… bed bugs are the worst! I didn’t get them while in Morocco, but I did have a very similar experience to yours in Marrakech. We got ripped off multiple times (once also on a desert trek), hustled in the souks constantly, and a 5 year old tried to beat me up in the main square (how does that even happen?!?) It wasn’t all bad, but I can’t say I’d go back anytime soon. At least you enjoyed your time in the Sahara 🙂

    • Oh, I’m so glad that someone else really appreciates what I mean! Of course it was beautiful, but it’s one I’ve definitely crossed off the To Do list and I’ll leave it there!

  5. Hi Liz,

    Ah the things we do for the love of travel! I’d chalk this up to experience and know it will help you avoid similar scams/bugs in the future.

    As an old Kiwi expat (or older at least!) I think it does get easier to travel as you get older because at least you don’t get hassled so much! Something to take the edge off getting older 🙂

    • Yes, I’m hoping that now I’ve had my dose off bed bugs, I’m done with them forever! Have definitely learnt from it, and will be doing my best to avoid these situations! (ps, I really like your blog!!)

  6. Liz, what a trip! I am with you on trying to avoid the insects (ew…). but Morocco has been a place that I have been interested in visiting for a long time so while there were some not so good moments it still looks like you had some really great experiences!

  7. Sorry to hear about your experience in Morocco! I haven’t been but it is one of those mystical places (in my mind anyway) that I’ve always wanted to go to.
    But despite the setbacks, on photograph it looks like you had an amazing time in the desert camp 🙂

    • Yeah I’m definitely glad I went! And now that I’ve experienced bed bugs I hope that I never have to again!

  8. Aaah Morocco looks amazing, definitely on my bucket list. That sucks about the bed bugs but sounds like it didn’t get to you too much and you still did heaps of cool stuff! The desert camp looks amaaaaazing, love how you get to hang out with the camels!

    • Yeah it really is such a beautiful place, unlike any other I’ve been to! And my camel was so nice haha, although I was walking a little wonky the next day!

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