I’ve been dreaming about visiting Morocco for years…
I always wanted to visit Morocco; the idea of visiting a country that is vibrant, exotic, beautiful, warm, hospitable truly fascinated me. I even shared my wish with many people so Morocco was always under my radar until the opportunity arrived in January 2020 and finally, the dream became true. However, I had a very short time to plan for the trip so I ended up filling an 8 days itinerary in a very short time. Luckily, everything worked out according to the plan.
In 8 days, I visited 5 Moroccan cities. I landed in Marrakesh airport; the city of Marrakesh was my first contact with Morocco and what a contact it was! I spent 3 nights in Marrakesh. After that, I visited the cities of Rabat, Tangier, Chefchaouen, and finally Casablanca, where I left Morocco from the airport. I used trains for transportation (except the trip from Tangier to Chefchouen and back) and can’t recommend Moroccan trains enough; they are reliable, clean, affordable, and very comfortable.
I was amazed at the beauty of the country. Morocco is colorful, diverse, and really affordable. The infrastructure in big cities truly exceeded my expectations, especially transportation. Note that I traveled to 5 cities in Morocco so I can’t say much about the entire country. However, the impression I had was generally positive. I didn’t expect it to be that clean, safe, and even modern!
1st stop: Marrakesh
Marrakesh is the most touristic and the most visited city in Morocco and must be there in any Moroccan itinerary. I wanted to combine Marrakesh with Fes but due to lack of time, I had to choose Marrakesh over Fes hoping that I will have the opportunity to visit Fes in the future. I spent 3 nights in Marrakesh and felt that it wasn’t long enough so I would love to come back and visit it again. Marrakesh is a friendly city, Marrakesh is safe, and Marrakesh is much more beautiful than I thought; all buildings are painted in red colour and food is out of this world. I had some best meals in my life when I was in Marrakesh. Getting around in Marrakesh is fairly easy as there are cheap taxis (less than 2 dollars for a city ride) and buses. Take the small taxi (petit taxi) if you are a solo traveller or in a small group. Don’t take the grand taxi if you are 1 or 2 persons as it’s significantly more expensive than the petit taxi.
Places to visit in Marrakesh:
-Jemma el-Fnna square
-Bahia Palace (I didn’t visit it due to lack of time)
-Yves St. Lauren Museum (combined ticket with Gardin Majorelle)
-Walk around in Gueliz at night
-Marrakesh train station
-Eat in Chez Lamine
-Barometre Marrakesh (you can have cocktails with Moroccan spices)
2nd stop: Rabat
Rabat is such a beautiful relaxed city and it was an ideal stop after the crazy Marrakesh. It’s the political capital of Morocco. It is true that Rabat is a quiet city but it’s also very pretty, clean, and organized. I was fortunate to meet a friend there who showed me around (it’s always easier when you are with a local, isn’t it?). I spent only 1 night in Rabat and I guess that it wasn’t enough so maybe I should go back someday.
Its worth mentioning that I arrived in Rabat after a 3 and a half hour train ride from Marrakesh. You can check train schedule here . When I was there in Morocco, I was unable to buy a ticket online using my international credit card (only Moroccan cards were accepted). However, it looks like that it’s now possible to buy tickets online using overseas cards. Anyhow, you can easily buy tickets at the station 1 or 2 days or even a few days before departure. I recommend using any of the self-service kiosks as I personally did so and was done in less than 2 minutes. Note that I am not sure if these machines take international credit cards so you might need cash to buy your ticket.
3rd stop: Tangier
I arrived in Tangier after spending 1 night in Rabat. The train ride took around 2 hours and the price of the ticket was about 22 USD. I booked a first class ticket simply because the price difference between the 1st and 2nd class tickets wasn’t really significant. Besides, I wanted to experience the 1st class in the new Moroccan high speed train (the fastest train in Africa) and it turned out to be a good decision as it was one of the most comfortable train rides I’ve ever had.
Back to Tangier, it’s a coastal city in the North of Morocco and it’s Morocco’s gateway to Europe. From Tangier, you can take a ferry to Spain or many other European countries and many Europeans arrive in Tangier first when they visit Morocco. The city is nice and interesting and seafood is really good there (not a seafood lover but people insisted that I should try seafood there). Also, people are cool and open-minded there, you can feel the international spirit in the city so I generally felt good about being there. I spent 2 night in Tangier. In my first day, I had a great seafood meal in a local restaurant and then had a 25 minutes taxi ride to Cape Spartel, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. I arrived there at sunset so I was lucky to capture the golden hour. The beauty of that spot -Cape Spartel- is difficult to be described by words. Enjoy the photos below.
Fourth stop: Chefchaouen (the blue city)
Another reason why I decided to spend 2 nights in Tangier was because I wanted to visit Chefchouen. It’s not very easy to reach Chefchaouen as no trains go there. One way to reach it is by taking a bus from Tangier to Tetouan and then change there and take another bus to Chefchaouen. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded doing that but since I didn’t have time, I needed to find a quicker way to reach there and then come back in the same day. Therefore, for the first time in my trip, I decided to take a tour! I found a reliable tour online with good reviews, registered and paid. Next day, they picked me up and drove me to Chefchoauen; it was a beautiful scenic drive but it was a bit exhausting for the driver as roads are a bit narrow and mountainous and there is a very strict speed limit control. We made a stop in a nice cafe then continued to the blue city.
After about a 3 hours drive, we arrived in the beautiful Chefchoauen. A very nice and friendly guide was waiting for us where we had a tour in the city. I had great conversations with the guide and he even told me that he’s originally from the city of Ouarzazate which is a city in Southern Morocco; it’s the gateway to Sahara desert and one of the most beautiful cities in the country. I will definitely include it in my itinerary when I visit Morocco again. Along with cities of Fes and Essaouira, which I couldn’t visit in this trip.
I am a native Arabic speaker so it was an interesting experience for me to communicate in my mother tongue while traveling as I rarely do that (I rarely travel to Arabic speaking countries). However, I realized that Moroccan Arabic isn’t exactly the same as my Middle Eastern Arabic. In fact, it’s totally different and sometimes it’s impossible to understand it. North Africans (especially Moroccans and Algerians) generally understand the Middle Eastern dialect but unfortunately, we can’t understand much of what they say and therefore, I was lost in translation in multiple occasions that I even asked the guide to shift to English, imagine? Yes, it was that hard. Moroccan Arabic is heavily influenced by Amazigh language and to a lesser extent, by French and Spanish.
After an interesting tour and some great conversations with the guide about history and politics; Palestine, Canada, Europe, Morocco, etc … The cool and friendly tour guide recommended a place for a bite. I checked google maps reviews (like I always do) before heading there and it seemed to be alright so went there and had the best Couscous in the entire Morocco trip. It was delicious and very colorful. After the meal, I walked around in the city again, bought some little souvenirs for friends and family, and went back to the car to drive back to Tangier.
Last stop: Casablanca
Well, many of you heard that Casablanca isn’t the prettiest city in Morocco and it’s probably not a great idea to spend a lot of time there. In fact, some people even truly disliked the city. I think that I can understand this opinion about the city. However, luckily, I still managed to have a good time there but the city is definitely not as charming as other cities I visited in Morocco. It’s the commercial hub of Morocco and a huge city; it’s very busy and crowded and sometimes it can be really stressful to be there. The only gerat landmark in the city -in my opinion- is Hassan II Mosque which is a gigantic mosque set on outcrop jutting over the ocean.
I had a great time in Morocco; it was exciting to learn more about a culture of a country which is exotic, beautiful, and mysterious. I can confirm that Morocco is a very safe destination to travel to. It’s also an affordable spot where value for money is really good. Moroccans are generally friendly and hospitable and I had great experiences dealing with them there.
During my stay, I stayed in airbnb apartments. I recommend using Airbnb or traditional Riads. You can also stay in hotels but I guess that hotels there have international prices (a bit expensive for Morocco). I didn’t stay in hotels myself so I can’t say much about it. About hostels, I read there are some great hostels in Moroccan cities with wonderful reviews and of course, very cheap prices. Morocco is an ideal destination for back packers as it’s one of the most affordable countries I’ve ever been to.
Transportation between cities is very easy and convenient using Moroccan trains. They now have high speed trains between Casablanca and Tangier (stops in Rabat). Apart from that, other non high speed trains which I tried between other cities were really good and comfortable.
About food, Moroccan cuisine is delicious but it’s probably not the lightest food in the world (just like any other delicious food). The bread there is really good and tasty and was enjoying that everyday. Something else I liked about Morocco, which is the fresh orange juice, it’s everywhere and it’s very cheap and tasty! You should try it.
About best time to visit Morocco; I think the best time to visit the country would be from mid of March till end of May and then end of September till beginning of November. Some people might disagree with me but I heard that Morocco can be really hot and incredibly crowded in the summer. I was there in January so it was a tiny bit cold (I’m Canadian so as long as it’s above zero then I am fine) but I guess it was alright as it was always sunny and beautiful.
You will need a lot cash as credit cards are not used everywhere, be prepared to that.
Finally, if you fly in or out of Casablanca, be ready for some delays as there are numerous security checks so make sure to arrive in the airport ahead of time. My passport was checked in Casablanca airport more than 5 times and there were long queues everywhere. Even my luggage were checked thoroughly, more than in any other airport I’ve been to so that can be a pain sometimes but I was there ahead of time so it went fine.
That’s all about Morocco for now. It’s my first long blog and I hope you enjoy reading it!
Stay tuned for more!