Morocco travel diary (ENG)
Few notes you have to keep on mind: As I have recently broken my leg I was still hobbling so was quite a slow walker. I went to Morocco alone. It was last minute trip and I didn't know anything about this country before.
5/2/09 DAY 1
Arrived at hotel around 20:30. Marrakesh has smell which is something like sandal. Nice. Also the air feels different – fresh. Streets very busy. Driving mad. But no tourists on streets. Architecture is very simple – like plain box type buildings, not impressive. Checked in in hotel. Hotel is nice in interior like Ryad (typical house) but like hotel with all amenities. But in general it gives 3 star impression. Room is very cold. And also they turned conditioner as a heater it's cold. TV has only 4 channels from which only 1 is in english – CNN news. Room is kind of clean but no on 100%. To rent the safe costs 3£ per night. There is a small fridge but you have to rent it as well.
Wanted to find a food shop. Asked at reception and 1 guy showed me a “shop” which was close to hotel but I was too afraid to cross the street – no traffic lights and mad driving. And it looked as kebab take away not food store. Plus in those 5 mins I was on street every man who passed me said something either in french or english to chat me up. A bit scary. So hungry and thirsty went to bed under 3 blankets in my cold room.
P.S. Airport is nice and from the sky Marrakesh looks beautiful. Also it seems very green city.
6/2/09 DAY 2
In morning it rains so I get worried. But after rainy and tasteless breakfast on the roof terrace it clears down. Also a rep meets me downstairs and tells a couple things about city. He also said that from Sunday the weather should be fine. So I put extra jacket, buy a map (by the way you can get it for free at Tourist Information Bureau) and am ready to go to explore.
First I went to Tourist Information Bureau which is an empty building with one guy sitting in it who barely speaks english. Well he gives me another map and shows me a company for good price tours. That's all I got out of him but that's all I wanted anyway.
So I start to walk down the main road Avenue Mohammed V towards Koutoubia. With my unfit leg it took me an hour to get there. Few notes on the way: men are very opened and all the time I have to listen to different kind of replicas towards me. Secondly the roads are with orange trees along road sides and all the time I just want to get them and eat. But I suppose they are not ment for that. Also the city is neither clean or dirty it's in between. To cross the road is a nightmare – no traffic lights for pedestrians, noone gives you a go plus when you start to cross the road they still drive on to you!
Koutoubia is nice but non-muslims are not allowed to go inside. After that I decided to find Saadian Tombs. But as in Marrakesh in barely any street signs it's a bit difficult. So I wonder around till I get into Kasbah area which is only with local people so it's a bit weird as everyone is looking at me, offering me something and I don't speak in french. Tombs were there but closed for lunch – 4 hours. So I go where my eyes take me and I went around Royal Place (no photos allowed and can't go inside) which is surrounded with nice gardens. Went around there and decided to go back to the city from the other side of city walls. So then I saw Mellah – jewish district where all houses look the same and it's quite residential area, but no people. So I decided to go back in walls of city and got into very muddy streets so my shoes and trousers were all covered in mud in 2 minutes. Then I took some pictures and sat in a nice square. Sun is shining, air feels very fresh and cats were fighting. Yes don't see dogs but cats are a lot around here but they all are so shabby. People are offering illegal tours and everyone is waiting to get in to El Badi Palace which is also closed for lunch now. Unfortunately I don't have any small change to give people for photos so so far I have to do it under-cover
Instead of waiting till El Badi Palace opens I decide to go back to Saadian Tombs. On my way I see an old woman having shit in public park and trying to get it out with her fingers. Nasty. Then I passed a street where all taxis and auto garages were located so I was almost the only woman daring to go through there. On my way to Tombs a nice guy who is selling oils and medicine started to chat with me and invited me for a tea. I skipped. Around the corner another guy who I passed earlier in the morning remembered me and invited me to have couscous with him. Afterwards I got to the Tombs (entrance 1£) but as I was about to enter a very heavy rain started. So I got in but to be honest there is nothing really to see inside so I was out in 7 minutes. I was already totally soaked but I still wanted to see palaces rather then to go home already. So I started my way to El Badi palace. A young guy started to walk with me and chat. After a while he asked me if I want to go to his house to change my clothes. After another couple of minutes he offered me chocolate cigarette (hashish) and sex. For money. He initially offered me 1 000 000 $ later on 2 000 000 $ for that. Do I really look that dum? But at least I'm not cheap Couldn't get rid of him for a long while but at the end I managed to walk away by myself.
Then I went to El Badi Palace (entrance 1-2£) which I suppose used to be very beautiful as it was made from gold and so. But at these days there is nothing more then just a fundamental left. But you can get some nice snaps of city from watch tower. I then decided to use wc in there and it was my first public attendance. Oh my … It's in tourist object but it is soooooo dirty that you can't even touch the doors...plus it's just a hole in floor and no paper.
After this I made my way to Bahia Palace ( entrance 1£) as now the rain stopped for a while. Wow this was a very beautiful place needs to be seen. Some people tried the oranges from the trees there but from their faces I couldn't understand if they are good or bad. Then again very heavy rain started. Plus I was hungry ( I couldn't find a proper cafe on my way so far) and my legs got tired. So I decided to make my way towards hotel. I took a cab (3£) and asked him to take me to the food supermarket ACIMA which my rep suggested in the morning. WoW. The prices for food are so expensive!!! Some products are even more expensive then in London or the same price. Anyway I bought some cheese, bread, juice and mandarines and paid 12£. Then I went to 1 tour company Imzi Tours and I booked a trip to desert with camels for 2 days and 1 night in Berban tent for tomorrow (80£). The man there was very nice to me and made me some tea and had a nice chat. Peppermint tea with lots of sugar – they call it Whiskey de berber – as if made properly it really gives you a bit of dizzy head .. I got dizzy after 2 glasses
Then I went back to my hotel, took a bath and started to prepare for early morning departure 7am.
P.S.1. I missed today the smell or Marrakesh – it wasn't in the air anymore, maybe 'cause of rain.
P.S.2. I've been followed and chatted up from almost every man here but they understand that you're not interested then sooner or later they will leave you alone.
P.S.3. Even young boys like 13 year old were chatting me up so the cheek must be in their blood.
7/2/09 DAY 3
My legs hurt so much I can barely move. But I got up early in the morning and got picked up for Sahara tour. My group was 2 ladies from Netherland and nice guy from London.
We started our trip at 7 am and the way to Sahara leads through Atlas mountains. When we got to pass on mountains it was snowing a lot and we got stuck. First the watchers closed the road and we had to wait 1 hour till they open it again. Further on one bus slipped on ice and blocked the road. While we were waiting I came up with new expression: In Morocco you can experience the unexpected or you never know what will happen. So after another hour of waiting the driver decided to go back to Marrakesh
We went to agency and arranged that they will call us in the evening to let us know if roads will be open and we can try again tomorrow. I hope!
So I got back to hotel and planned to go to Majorelle Gardens but it was raining. I went 1 block around and went for lunch at Dream Land cafe near hotel and understood that today it will rain non-stop. So I went back to hotel and booked hammam (traditional bath) (15£) and massage (30£).
Hammam was interesting. You're asked to sit on tiled block. They poor water on you, soap you and wash. Then a naked woman comes in and scrubs you – a bit painful all over. Then she washed my hair, face, intimate zones etc. An interesting experience. But afterwards you definitely feel very clean The massage was very nice but in freezing cold room It was full body massage for 1 hour.
Afterwards I went up to my room and it was shining outside. So I quickly got ready and went outside. Wanted to go to take City Tour Bus but on my way I found one shop so decided to by some more warmer clothes for the desert. Bought some jeans and t-shirt. Bus tour was closed already so I decided to go back to hotel as it started to get dark already. Wanted to change some more money but the hotel was out of dirhams, nice.. but they gave me UK-Morocco adopter to charge my phone Went upstairs, had some bread with cheese and oranges I bought yesterday but they were so sour not what I expected. Also I heard another prayer time which I think is when someone says prayers in speaker as you can hear then all over the city or at least part of it
And it's confirmed that we're going to Sahara tomorrow
8/2/09 DAY 4
Early in the morning we started our trip to the desert. Some roads were still closed to regulate the traffic but we didn't give up this time and waited. Also the sun is shining bright today so everyone is in better mood. In arabic language word of Morocco means sunrise and surprising. And they have a proverb – In Morocco never be surprised! So it's almost the same thing I came up with yesterday
The road through the Atlas mountains over 2260 m above sea level was beautiful. A guy from London is Clive and ladies are Mariella and Ester. We had quite nice lunch at Ouarzazate. I had tangine which was beef meat steamed with vegetables this time bean roots and carrots. Then we kept driving to Zagora. The way to Zagora was first through stony desert where also city trash was dumped. Then through oasis. After Zagora we went to beginning of Sahara where we had our camels waiting for us. I was a bit concerned about camel ride as I don't like riding horse. But actually it was quite nice. Suggestions: hold on while camel is getting up and down and try to sit as much to the back as you can – more comfortable. And don't wear jeans – they rub your bum The way to tent was very very nice – we were exactly at sunset time so it was beautiful – first through oasis then through stony/sandy desert. Afterwards we had full moon. And it was sooooo bright that you could see everything and felt like you can touch it The was the best moment so far – the absolute silence, moon, going to nowhere on camel. And the moon gave me such an energy!!!
The camp had about 5 tents. Unfortunately as in Muslim country Clive had to sleep in separate tent from us girls But first we had tea, dinner and talks in tent sitting on pillows. Our driver Nur told us many interesting things and facts about Morocco, their life and changes in last years. By the way – 1 female camel costs 20 000 Drh which is around 1666£ and 1 male camel costs 12 000 Dr or 1000£.
So after dinner there was supposed to be local music and dancers by fire but the organizer had to go away so we didn't get that It was missing ' cause at some point noone knew what to talk about so we decided to go to bed. We had to sleep on ground but we were provided with thin mattress and blankets. But it was soooo cold! I couldn't fall asleep at all 'cause of cold, thoughts, etc. Then I heard somewhere drums playing, then donkey was crying (spookey) and then I heard some guy close to our tent and coughing. Then dogs were barking all night. So I didn't sleep almost at all. That's why I suggest to do this trip in spring/summer when it's warm and you can sleep outside under stars And also the real desert not this beginning! It was good but not as good as it could be in real desert (but for that you need at least 3 days!).
9/2/09 DAY 5
I got up exactly for the sunrise before 7 am which was nice. But still cold. We had our breakfast outside watching sun rising. Then by camels we went to the car. This time I sat on another camel and it was not that comfortable and once he kind of fell and started to run so it was a bit scary. Then we stopped at hotel nearby to take a shower and change clothes. Then we were driving through Zagora, then Ouarzazate and we went to Kasbah. Which is like very nice palace and also movie Gladiator was taken there. But to get there we had to cross the river on donkeys! I was sitting on one together with Clive and “ donkey driver”. But this was much worth as camel for me. For some reason I was falling to one side all the time. So it was hard to balance. But other girls said they were fine so maybe it depends on donkey.
Then we climbed up to the Kasbah and poped in to one real berber home. Notice – berber is like peasant – they grow products to survive not to sell them. The house had nothing in it – there were 1 small playroom for kids with a table and chair. Same kind of room but bigger for guests where they also sleep. And a bed room – sleeping on floor. No heating, nothing from electrical equipment, nor kitchen.
Then we walked to car and kept going to Marrakesh. On the way we stopped in many places to make photos and for a lunch (tangine again but this time with chicken). Also the weather is so nice that I decided to extend my stay in Morocco for 2 more days. I'm out of dirhams but I booked the return flight so now I had to find a cheep hotel. Unfortunately everyone was very tired so my plan of going together to bar didn't come true. But it was nice trip. We saw sunset again. Then we dropped everyone to hotels and I was the last. Crazy days and I just wished this trip would have been longer and everyone in car agreed with me. From snow to sun, camel and donkey riding. Many experiences. What's next?
P.S. As that one guy offered me 2 000 000$ it turns into 789 female camels Not bad as my friends in London said I'd get offered only 2 camels Also Marrakesh has it's sandal smell back so I need my plan for next days.
10/2/09 DAY 6
In the morning after breakfast I went to get cash from cash machine and then I went to Imzi Tours to book trip to Essaouira for tomorrow. Afterwards I took city tour bus (11£ 1,5 hour) through already known places. I got out at Jamna El Fna square and went to find my next hotel. After enquiring prices (5-25£ per night) and tired from people chatting me up and wanting to drink a tea with me I decided to stay in Hotel Afriqua which is a proper Ryad – cheap (6£ per night) but has common toilette and shower and nothing more than bed, table, chair, wardrobe and sink in a room. But they had very nice roof terrace. Afterwards I had a famous orange juice in square (0,25£) which really is superb.
Square has it's musicians, ladies making henna tatoos, snake charmers, etc. But I wasn't in mood to take photos and pay them for that today. So I went to city tour bus and finished my trip. Then I changed to second route which led through Palmarie. I've understood that I don't really like Marrakesh as here is nothing much to see apart from few objects, the architecture is boring and everywhere the same. And it's too dusty and tiring from given attention from men. I also don't see those colours and don't feel those smells I've expected.
After Palmerie I went to Majorelle Gardens which was really beautiful garden but much smaller that I thought. It's been designed by one of Yves Saint Laurent designers and is very nice.
Afterwards I grabbed lunch and went to hotel's terrace to eat and read my book.
In evening at 8 pm I went to Chez Ali Fantasia show (32£) which was a bit outside the city. The place was very beautiful with nice buildings and tents. We were met with men on horses, inside many musicians were singing and playing music. We went to the tent were the traditional dinner was served. My group had a french couple. Italian couple and neither spoke in other's language so it was a bit awkward. The dinner was: national soup, grilled lamb, chicken tangine, fruits, biscuits and tea. For drink you had to pay separately so I was very surprised that my one bottle of Casablanca bear (nice) costed me 5£!
After dinner there was a show in the arena with horses, music, very bad belly dancer and flyring carpet But to be honest I was very disappointed in the show – it was short and boring.
On my way back to hotel the driver said that I can go to Essaouira (30£) tomorrow with them (as Imzi Tours didn't have a group) so I decided to go!
11/2/09 DAY 7
I was supposed to be downstairs at 7:30 am. At 7:35 receptionist called my room that I'm awaited but he woke me up! Don't know why I didn't hear my alarm but I panicked, put on first clothes, grabbed cosmetic with me and just managed to brush my teeth and pee. Today's “group” was me and a mum with daughter from Belgium. The driver didn't speak english so all the way it was a bit boring for me although I did get some ideas of their french.
The way to west coast was so beautiful and much more different from what I've seen before. It was lowland with bright green grass, yellow flowers and Argan trees. In two of the Argan trees I saw goats standing on branches.
On our way we stopped in carpet co-operative where lovely old guy in perfect english explained all about carpets. The price vary from 200-250£. Afterwards we stopped at Argan oil shop where we found out all about famous oil rich of E vitamin.
Essaouira lies by the Atlantic ocean. It's a beautiful port city all in white but unfortunately we were given only 1 hour to see it. So I went to medina (old city) to souks (market) and was pulled by one guy in his shop, then his other shop. But I din't want to buy anything. After that I saw some nice necklace and as soon as I asked for price I was in the bargaining. At the end I got it for half price as I'm very bad at this.
Essaouira is ex-hippy city so obviously I was offered hashish and I also saw Moroccans with dreadlocks After medina we went for lunch at the beach cafe and I finally tried pastilla from chicken and almonds. Surprisingly it was very sweet with cinnamon but very very lovely. Also expensive – 8£. After lunch we were given another hour so I was just catching the sun and tried the ocean water which was freezing cold although outside was +28.
When we got back in Marrakesh around 7:30 driver asked if I want to go with him but I said I was tired. So he gave me his phone number if I want to do it tomorrow. Had dinner, packed suitcase, went to bed.
12/2/09 DAY 8
In morning I moved to the other hotel. Today temperature is already around +30 I'd say. Nice. Had a walk through souks (the market) and finally got the smells of Marrakesh and also the colours but it's really only in Medina (the old city). Then had a little walk and sat in Cyber Park (big park with internet screens in it). Afterwards read my book on roof terrace and was catching sun. Then I went for dinner and took some photos of square and people in it. It's nice in the evening when “restaurants” (more like food servers) open there and turn on lights. One guy Hassan (quite nice) pulled me for free tea to his food place. When I left he asked me to meet him at 00:00 when he finishes work for tea.
By the way the snake charmers in square don't really make those snakes dance. And story tellers speak in arabic. At 7pm I was tired from strolling through square and didn't know what to do. So I went back to my hotel. But my room was so freezing cold that I couldn't stay in it. I had a chat with receptionist Omar who is partly Brazilian but speaks good english. Then got tooo cold so decided to go again to the square and have another tea. On my way I was dragged by one guy so much that police had to pull him away from me. So I went to Hassan's place who saw what happened just now and he said: “You know all these guys here just want to have sex with you and so..” So I was thinking if he is a nice guy and doesn't want to offer me that. But after I finished my pastilla and tea he asked me if he needs to book for us a room for tonight as locals are not allowed to come to hotels. Ha. Nice. When I returned in my hotel I chatted with receptionist Omar in the inner garden who later on brought more tea. Then I went to my room but later on there was a knock on my doors and turned out that Omar brought me more tea and tried to seduce me as well so had to kick him out of my room too.
13/2/09 DAY 9
Today I wanted to go to aqua park to have a swim and tan as Omar suggested that place. But apparently there is no bus going to that place during the winter. So I spent all day catching sun on the roof terrace and reading my book. There I met some people from Iceland who invited me to join them in evening for beer. I went for a lunch and saw Hassan. I think he saw me and passed me but didn't even say hi. Afterwards I had perfect sunset on roof for hours while I was listening to perfect moment music and I got a bit depressed of being alone here and feeling lonely. Then I met those people and we went for a beer – Christian (turned out being Polish and living in London), his girlfriend Jara (from Iceland) and their friend Tony (from UK near Newcastle). 40 yrs old drinking artist, but seemed nice person. After beer in the bar of one of hotels (where we also got a chance to listen to local music) we took wine (they were traveling by car from UK down to Morocco and had lots of Andalusian wine with them) and we went to park. All the locals were asking us for the wine and coming to chat with us so it was quite interesting. Then we had a stroll through square and suddenly Jara got pissed off about something and run to hotel and Christian followed her. So me and Tony kept walking around till we met one local guy with who Tony spent the previous night. He invited us for drink so we went with them. It was night time and we went through labyrinth where no people were and suddenly they (he had a friend too) stopped and said that one of them will go to black market to get drinks while the other stays with us. So we gave them money (in total 15£) and stayed with our guy. Then suddenly many locals turned up and started to chat with us and meanwhile our guy said he's going for a piss. When locals went away our guy was nowhere to be found. We sat down to wait a while but one local snuffing glue stood in front of us and kept staring at me so we got uncomfortable and went further to more busier area. We understood that we've been robbed and went the other way (thankfully I knew where we were) to the centre. We took some more wine from car and went to the square. We sat down there drunk wine and had nice chat. Till...police came up to us, took our bottle and pulled us to their car... Shit... I tried to stay out of their eyes hiding by column while they took Tony's passport, details etc. But at the end he managed to by them off and they even returned our wine bottle. So we started to go away and then suddenly a police man started to walk with us and kind of just chatting but making us understand that we should go back to hotel. What we did.
Conclusions: Morocco is very nice country but I didn't like Marrakesh. Next time I'd go to West coast, Essaouira and so. The desert trip was nice but next time I'd do it in more warmer month and to the real Sahara in middle of Dunes. I got very tired from all the bargaining and attention from men but as I said if you make them understand that you're not interested they won't harm you. Also keep in mind that it's muslim country meaning for ladies that you can't wear shorts or mini skirts and even with no sleeve shirts you get attention even from local women.