Morocco North Adventure

Pippa Wilson on 20 August 2023
Morocco is a country with a long history of tradition and has a fabulous climate all year round making it a fabulous destination for travellers. This was my first trip to Morocco and I had chosen an escorted tour with Intrepid, exploring the North of Morocco. We landed in Marrakech took 2 and a half hour train journey to Casablanca where we were to meet up with the rest of our group. We had been advised to get 1st class train tickets however the next 2 trains were sold out of first class so economy it was. Aircon was pretty non existent and it was very hot however the journey passed quickly. We checked into the hotel in Casablanca and met the rest of the group. 11 in total

In the morning we were transported to the station to take the train to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. We had a short orientation walk up to the Medina (Downtown) and the Souk (marketplace) close to the Kasbah of the Udayas (fort) by the sea and from there took a taxi to the Mausoleum of Mohammad before heading back to a café close to the station for lunch.

Train to Meknes It was 47 degrees and with little breeze. We were taken by car for around 40 minutes to Moulay Idriss, a town famous for being the site of the tomb of Idris – the first Islamic ruler of Morocco. Here we were to stay with a family in a homestay. Our luggage was transported through the narrow steep streets by donkey while we walked up the hill to our accommodation. Our meal that night was a traditional Morrocan meal of cous cous and beef meatball tagine with egg. We took a walk to the top of the village to watch the sun setting over the hills.

The next morning we packed up and set of to Volubilis – a partly excavated Berber Roman city in Morocco close to Meknes. Volubilis is one of the best preserved Roman ruins and was originally the home to some 20,000 people. . We returned to Meknes where we had lunch with a local family who cooked the most beautiful camel burgers for us. They tasted like beef but were very soft and tender. As we boarded the train to Fez the temperature reached 50 degrees We checked into the Hotel Olympic for our 2 night stay here which was located in the centre of the town. A much larger and bustling city than we had experienced so far. The next morning we had a guided tour of some of the highlights of Fez including a pottery museum where we were shown how the local pottery and mosaics were made. We then made our way in to the incredible Fez Medina, which is a vibrant and vivid network of passages, alleys and shops. Here motorbikes are banned unlike in Marrakech and this makes for walking around the shops much more pleasant. We had a guided walk which was essential in order to be shown the trades that are still carried out manually and by hand. Making cloth, weaving, silk dying, the tanneries, metal goods being worked and many many other items for sale and on display. We even learned how to wrap the desert head scarfs. The medina is a labyrinth of laneways and I would not be confident to explore here without a guide.

We had lunch in Le Patio Bleu – a lovely homely restaurant in the centre of the Medina with the usual range of Moroccan salads for starter and the a great choice of main courses. The following morning we set out to drive to Chefchaeoun – the roads mostly pretty good. The was an audible gasp as the town came in to view – it is knows as the Blue Pearl as all the houses have to have at least the lower meter painted blue and no other colours are allowed. We dropped off our luggage to be taken to our accommodation and we made our way on foot through the Medina to the Hotel Dar Mounir. This was a small riad and beautifully decorated. This town is top on the list for instagrammers and there were numerous places where we had to stop to take photographs. Exquisite little alleys and streets and so much to see and visit. The central square was vibrant and had live music and dancing. We ate at a local hotel as a group and I spotted that they had a pool so asked our guide if we might be able to visit as day guests the following day. The heat was intense so we cancelled the planned hike into the mountains and instead did some wandering around the shops, and then made our way back to the hotel to enjoy a swim and relax by the pool. After two nights here we headed north towards Tangier. We drove through the marijuana plantations en route. On arriving in Tangier we stopped at a supermarket to purchase food for a picnic lunch and then made our way to a view point beside the sea – where the Atlantic ocean meets the Mediterranean. We could see across the water to Spain. In the afternoon we headed to the beach where we were the only western women in bikinis on a very muslim beach so we had a few odd looks. The sea was warm and refreshing and it was lovely to relax at the end of the day. We were killing time as our train was at midnight but luckily there was plenty of entainment on the sea front with festival drumming and fountain shows.

The midnight train from Tangier to Marrakech was an experience and actually I got a pretty good nights sleep. We were in couchettes of 4 and it was pretty warm with little aircon. We had sheets and pillows supplied and blankets offered although not required.

We arrived in Marrakech at 9am and here the group split and all did optional activities so I chose to have a couple of hours pampering at a Hammam. My first Moroccan Hammam and it isn’t for the faint hearted or prudish. First you are given a tiny pair of paper knickers – basically a G string to wear. I’m not sure why they bothered as it didn’t cover anything and was moved many times during the process. We were washed and scrubbed using black soap, then rinsed and washed again from top to toe and I mean EVERY part of my body was washed. After the hammam we were taken to another room for a lovely back and neck massage. After a week on the road this was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

The following morning we left at 5am and headed out of town for a hot air balloon ride to watch the sun rise. A magical experience followed by a traditional Moroccan breakfast in the desert. The afternoon was spent exploring the Marrakech Medina – another labyrinth of paths but this time we had to contend with the mopeds and scooters whizzing along the tiny alleys. In the evening we headed out to the Agafey desert for an evening of food and a camel ride at sunset. A spectacular location and a lovely way to end my Moroccan experience.