06.02.2017 - 11.03.2017 27 °C
Once again we hadn’t booked any accommodation but had targeted what we thought was a nice secluded hotel about 15km from Marrakech. We decided, this time, we didn’t want the hassle of ‘Medina’ parking and driving. For some reason our GPS changed direction and targeted a property in the middle of the Medina, miles from where we wanted to be!! We got exactly what we wanted to avoid and ended up driving the narrow streets of the Medina just on sunset in the busy crowds and traffic. Cars, motorbikes, pushbikes and people everywhere and doing just what they pleased! We did however remain calm and negotiated our way out again and headed for our original destination which was now 40 minutes away.
This, as it turned out, was not a simple journey. We had a 'destination' on the GPS but no roads getting there! We finally found a sign that directed us to where we needed to be but we would have been better getting there in a four-wheel drive! We finally found the hotel with an impressive front gate, which was firmly locked, and no reply on the intercom. Denis had a bit of look around in the dark but found no way in. It was now 7.00pm and about two and a half hours after our planned arrival. So much for winging it!
We were just turning around when a young man drove down the narrow road towards us and pulled up at the gate. Denis quickly rushed back to inquire about the possibility a night’s stay. He spoke no English but quickly got in touch with someone on his phone who could. To our relief we were in luck and were soon checked into a room!. We were the only guests and looked like the first for some time! By this stage all we wanted was a ‘stiff drink’ and the thought of finding somewhere to eat seemed far too hard and were resigned to staying hungry until morning. Once again to our surprise the young man handed us a menu! He soon had a simple but tasty dinner for us. We were even offered wine! At 200dh we declined and stuck to gin! Fortunately, we stopped at a road side shop on the way for tonic. After a shaky start to our Marrakech experience things began to look on the up!
We awoke to a bright warm morning and enjoyed the breakfast provided. We had a leisurely start to the morning before we headed off to explore the Medina around 11.00am.
We retraced our steps from the night before which was a much more comfortable feeling! We took the following video on the way out the next morning. You can imagine how we felt the night before in the dark!!@#
We headed to a large car park just outside one of the gates to the Medina that we had discovered the night before. It was on the airport side of the Medina and easy to get to.
Marrakech is serviced by many cheap airlines and it was obvious from the huge number of tourists about; by far the most we have seen in Morocco.
We spent the first couple of hours just walking the Souks and the back streets getting a feel for the city. We still wonder how so many ‘vendors’ can make a living from the goods they sell? It's hard to curb the suspicition that many of the products being sold are made in China!
We found a nice roof top café where we enjoyed a late lunch and coffee. The day was a balmy 27 degrees which was even warm for the locals at this time of the year. Ten days previously they had freezing temperatures.
After exploring a little more we drifted out through the walls of the Medina to watch the sun go down. The Atlas mountains provided a stunning back drop to the walled Medina.
The Marrakech night markets are worth visiting. The food stalls in the square open up in the evening and work hard to attract your custom! We settled on number 14 and chowed down on fried sole, aubergene, pomme frites and coke. Not a bad meal for $6 NZ.
The snake charmers of the daytime shift were replaced with buskers and con artists at night! Both locals and tourists enjoyed the rowdy atmosphere.
We only made one wrong turn on our way home and enjoyed a quiet gin on the terrace in the balmy terrace.
Our stay at Kasbah Chwitter was a nice surprise. After a rather wobbly start we could have easily stayed another day and spent the time relaxing in its peaceful environment. Instead, we hit the road and headed to Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. The driving was easy once out of Marrakech. Our only hiccup was being stopped by police as we exited the toll road to be advised we were doing 68kph when we should have been doing 60! Not sure where the sign was and considering we were following another vehicle that wasn’t pulled up we feel sure that it was a bit of additional income going straight to the pocket of the officer. He decided 200dh ($25) was enough after initially asking for 300. And we did see the cash go straight to his pocket with no paper work completed!! He waved us on with a smile and good wishes for happy travels in Morocco!
We were again staying inside the Medina in Essaouira so this time we planned our approching drive a bit more carefully. We drove directly to a car park near the port. Parking was a very straight forward process with helpful and cheerful blokes attending the carpark. It was a warm windy afternoon and after settling into our Riad we went walking. Essaouira is port town and faces the harsh moods of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a rough day so the fishing fleet had not been out. It was interesting to see the boats all tied up in the harbour. They were obviously designed to handle the conditions however they looked a bit of a ‘rag tag’ bunch. Not sure we would have taken up an offer to go out in one for the day!
A quick shift in the wind direction meant the temperature must have dropped about 10 degrees in 10 minutes. We watched a beautiful sunset and headed back to our Riad to warm up. We enjoyed a very traditional Moroccan dinner in a small family run restaurant in an alley not far from our Riad. We drank tea and chatted to a group of young people from Vilnius in Lithuania for the hour while our meal cooked.
After breakfast on the terrace the next morning it was back on the road and up the coast to El Jadida about an hour south of Casablanca. We took the road along the coast and enjoyed the change in landscape from the previous week. After beach resorts, small farming and fishing villages, it soon moved to more a 'industrialised look' the further north we got. The drivers also became more aggressive the closer we got to the city!
Although we found El Jadida a 'nice surprise', we're not sure most foreign travelers agree!
The town is very much the holiday destination for Morocco's more wealthy city dwellers. With long beaches and a more relaxed atmosphere, it makes a welcome relief to the hustle-and-bustle of the larger cities inland. The town's other economy is its fishing industry.
The town is famous for the remains of Portuguese buildings and the Cistern. Although these are fairly limited attractions. Even the most dedicated historian may find their interest waning after an hour.
We arrived late in the day and only managed a short walk before it got dark!
We had decided that after leaving Essaouira it was pretty much a case of a road trip back to Tangier Med to catch the ferry to Spain. We had three days left and the forecast looked decidedly average. We would just drive and enjoy the countryside (if we could see it) as it flashed by. The drive from El Jadida to Asilah was wet all the way apart from the last 10km.
We stayed in a hostel which was staffed by some great young people from all over the world (even a girl from Auckland). It was a very comfortable, welcoming hostel, as most of those we have stayed in are!
We took another quick walk around the town before dark. The town is best known for the Portuguese Fort which dates back the 1400's. The town looks like it has tried to develop waterfront accommodation for tourism however the Global Financial Crisis may have slowed this down somewhat! The main town however was very busy with locals going about their business.
We had a flexible ticket with FRS Ferries which meant we had 12 months to get back to Spain. We chose to make it much shorter and after our ten memorable nights in Morocco we opted to take the 11.00am crossing back to Algiceras. It was a straight forward drive to the port in clear sunny weather and minimal paperwork to leave Morocco.
Visiting Morocco had been on our 'bucket list' for some time. As we parked up in the queue to board the ferry we smiled and reminisced about our 11 days in this remarkable country and felt great satisfaction having ticked off this experience.
From the words of Vanessa Hudgens, "I want to go to Morocco really bad!"
Well Vanessa, we've been and it was great!
The Woodsies xx