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Our Crazy Moroccan Adventure

This ones for those of you who have seeing the Sahara Desert or a bit of Africa on your bucket list! Morocco is a place that will take your breathe away. This one’s not for the faint hearted. It will give you a massive culture shock, but it’s nothing you can’t handle, you’re a big girl now

We had a pretty rough ride trying to get to Morocco. We almost didn’t make it there, but we are SO glad we did, because it was nothing like we had ever experienced before (and yes we both grew up in South Africa). We missed our flight from Madrid to Marrakesh because a mean lady at the airport said we needed to show proof that we were LEAVING Morocco before we could enter. (We asked ourselves, does she think we are illegally going to move back to Africa??) So we had to step aside from the queue and quickly book ourselves a ticket back over to Europe. It’s times like these that a proper itinerary would be useful. Nonetheless, we decided to book a ferry, as our Eurrail pass covered ferries over to Morocco too. By the time we were finished booking the ferry for a few days later, and had joined the queue again to try and check in once more, the lady told us that check in had closed. Seriously?

So we were stuck in the airport in Madrid, with tears of stress and empty stomachs, the next flight was only in 2 days time. So we decided that we HAD to get to Marrakesh some other way, because we had already booked our accommadation for that night. The Eurrail took us all the way to the bottom of Spain, where we spent a night in a small town called Algethiras on the coast, and got up at 6am the next morning to get a ferry across to the tip of Northern Africa, where we had to cross the border between Spain and Morocco. There were thousands of people seeking assylum, in what seemed to be a deserted war zone, where we walked in a cage-like passage way to the border security. The sun was scoldering but we tried to cover ourselves and our belongings with scarves as the people stared at us, like they had never seen tourists before. It was dry and silent, and we thought no way are we taking the same route back to Spain, but we got through to Morocco without any problems. A few taxi drivers tried to hustle us to get in their cars but we thankfully found a trustworthy driver who drove us along the beautiful mountainous coastline all the way to the main station in Tanger, a city in Northern Africa, where we bought a train ticket to Casablanca, and then to Marrakesh. It took us 2 full days to get there, but we arrived alive. Hungry, but alive. At 11pm we got to our Riad (that’s what hotels are called in Morocco), only to be told that our room had been given away because we were 2 days late! Like, come onnnn. They didn’t have a website or a contact number so we couldn’t previously call them to tell them our situation and that we were still going to come. But the man who owned the riaad was the kindest man we had ever met, he walked us around the medina of Marrakesh for about 2 hours, knocking on his fellow riaad owner’s doors, trying to find us another place to stay, but they were all either fully booked or not open. (For this purpose I suggest staying in a hostel, that has wifi and other backpackers such as yourselves. There are hostels as little as $4 a night!!!). The kind man (who found it offensive when we asked for his name) eventually took us back to his riaad, got out some mattresses and sheets, and set up a bed for us on the floor of his dining room. He even woke us up with a massive breakfast platter layed out on the table in the morning, with fruits, breads, pastries and coffee. We were so thankful and felt so at home.

View from our Riad at sunset. View from our Riad at sunset.

By this time, the other visitors had left, and we then got our actual room back, which was beautifully decorated in a Moroccan style with wooden furniture and strong cement structure. (Everything is so cheap in Morocco, we only paid about $10 each a night.) After our delicious breakfast we went out to explore the Medina, which had a completely different vibe to the new part of Marrakesh (where we first got off the train). The modern area reminded us a bit of Dubai, with a buzzing nightlife and big modern buildings and casinos. On the other hand, the medina was crowded, dirty and poverty stricken, but beautiful nonetheless. We were a bit on edge walking through the narrow streets whilst scooters and motorbikes whizzed past us what felt like centimetres away, and people hassled us, trying to get us to buy their products or help us with directions before trying to rob us. People will be extremely kind in Marrakesh, but most of the time they will expect money in return. They will try and help you with anything and everything, so one needs to be aware. We got lured into a place where cows get skinned and leather is made (which, being a vegetarian I did NOT want to see) because a man was trying to help us see some tourist attractions. After we tried to escape he made sure to receive all the cash we had in our wallets, which thankfully wasn’t a lot.

People will also ask you for money if you want to photograph them. People will also ask you for money if you want to photograph them.

After we made the executive decision to trust no one, we walked around the interesting alleyways, filled with markets, jewellery shops, fruit sellers, snake charmers, pet shops, you name it. We got pulled by these big strong Moroccan women who immediately started painting henna all over our arms and then held one of us hostage while the other was told to go to the bank and draw out money to pay for the henna. We ran away eventually then got hassled by a man who threw snakes over our shoulders, grabbed our phones, started taking photos of us and then demanded 400 Dirhams (around 40 Euro) for his work. He was pretty scary and we couldn’t get away so we ended up giving him the 2oo dirham we were hiding just so he could leave us alone. It was complete and utter chaos. We decided to get something to eat and go back to the riaad where we felt safe. The view was magnificent, we could see the Atlas Mountains in the distance, overlooking all the joint roofs of the medina, that you could walk on top of and watch the sun set.

Above the Medina Above the Medina

We spoke to our riaad owner about visiting the Sahara Desert, which is about a 10 hour drive away from Marrakesh. He suggested a minibus tour that cost us around $80 each for 3 days. It was perfect for the amount of time we had as well as our tight budget, as this included accommadation, food and transport. A bus picked us up from the edge of the medina (as cars cannot fit in the small streets beyond the walls) and drove us around 5 hours to Todra Valley, one of the most incredible canyons in the world situated in the Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel there for the night where we got dinner and breakfast (both of which consisted of mostly bread). The following morning we headed on to the desert, stopping at the absolutely amazing Ait Benhaddou, where the movie Gladiator as well as scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed. We walked around this ancient village for a couple hours and got a little lesson on how every women in the village weave carpets for a living as they are not taught to read and write. The village, that only received plumbing a few years back, and is yet to have electricity, is made solely of a straw and pink coloured clay made of the rocks surrounding them, creating a beautifully coloured village, still in it’s original form.

Beautiful woman of Ait Benhaddou Beautiful woman of Ait Benhaddou

We then carried on to the Sahara, where we got dropped off by the bus and picked up by our very own camels who took us deep into the desert after about 2 hours of rickety riding (hell of an ab workout trying to stay balanced). We made it just in time over the most beautiful sunset you could ever imagine over never ending sand dunes as far as the eye could see.

We slept in a camp site made purely out of rugs, without electricity or running water that night, after some desert men cooked a big pot of rice and potatos over a fire, played drums and sang us some traditional desert songs. Party in the desert woooo! The night sky might have been the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen, the number of stars was indescribable and the moon shon bright enough for us to see our camel vehicles waiting for us about 100m away on a hill. We got woken up around 4am the next day to begin our trip back to Marrakesh. Our time was short but it was worth it. We rode our camels back whilst the sun rose and we stopped halfway to make a fire and warm up a bit (the desert gets FREEZING at night). We then had breakfast and headed on home, a long and windy road back to the same riaad we stayed at before.

Colours of the Atlas Mountains Colours of the Atlas Mountains

This post just sums up our time in Morocco, we tried to keep it as short as possible but so much happened and we couldn’t resist telling it all! Thank you for reading and there are many more stories to come!

Saraha Sunset Saraha Sunset

#morocco, #travel, #marrakesh, #saharadesert