Morocco; souks and camels, tagines and mint tea. Morocco has long served as a gateway into Africa for much of the world and at just a stone throw away from the UK but vastly different in culture, the muggy hot souks, bustling medina and exquisite colours don't make it hard to see why. For those of you like me, who thrive in unfamiliar places and cultures and who only have a short time to explore Morocco is perfect. The country has a colourful culture that celebrates both global and Arabic influences and with direct flights from London Gatwick and Manchester with Easyjet travel is hassle-free.
If you know me you will know I have been talking about a trip to Morocco for over a year now. I had originally planned to head to North Africa for an adventure above 4000m to hike Mt Toubkal, however as most adventures go the weather took a turn for the worse, an ice axe and crampons were necessary to attempt to summit, which was not looking possible due to high winds and being on my own and a little nervous my plan quickly changed and I headed to Morocco with 5 days to explore.
Getting Around - Transport
Getting around Morocco was relatively simple and easy. If I was to go back with friends I would rent a car, I met a few people who had cars and it gave them so much freedom to get around, explore and see more parts of the country.
Tourist Buses - (CTM and Supratours) Comfortable buses booked directly at bus stations (Marrakesh to Essaouira 70 dh and Agadir to Marrakesh 100 dh).
Local Buses - A little longer and more cramped but meet lovely locals and cheaper. (Essaouira to Tamraght 40 dh and between 4/7/9 dh to get around).
Taxis - Convenient way to get around, and it is common to share taxis in Morocco so if one stops with people already in it jump in and the cost will be a lot cheaper.
Hitchhiking - I met multiple people who had used this to get around, plus if you are walking between villages on the coast people will stop to give you a ride at no cost.
Marrakesh is nosy, chaotic and it's pink. It never fails to entertain. I can guarantee you will be hassled but the best thing to do is to try and ignore it and get stuck in.
If you are heading to Marrakesh with a few friends I would recommend staying in a riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house that is built in an enclosed garden. This was one of my favourite things about Marrakesh, the city looks old and crowded, and from the outside, these riad's looked like nothing with the doors looking old and rusty. However, once you opened the doors you enter into a peaceful, beautiful garden with fountains and beautiful colours, an oasis in the middle of the busy and chaotic city. Since I was by myself I booked a hostel. I stayed in Hostel Riad Rouge, which was recommended by a friend, and is a super open hostel, with an open roof, rooftop, free breakfast and honestly the friendliest and most welcoming staff. Located right in the heart of the medina (the old town) and a 2-minute walk from Jemaa el-fnaa it is in a perfect location.
Accommodation: Hostel riad rouge from less than £5 a night and free breakfast and tours available.
The first night I arrived I quickly got talking to some American's and an English lady in the hostel who were just about to head out into the main square for dinner. Hungry and eager to get stuck into Moroccan culture I, of course, headed out to explore with new friends. We heading for Jemaa el Fna, which is home to one of the biggest communal barbecues in the world. The square was full of locals and tourists eating traditional Moroccan food which is cheap and the atmosphere was like nothing I had seen before. Since there are lots of stalls all selling the same food the chefs and staff, eager for customers, sing and dance and all try to barter with you for a good price. We had a great evening singing and clapping with the chefs and eating delicious olives, couscous, meat and vegetable kebabs and tagine all for only 30 dh each. By the end of my first night in Morocco, all I knew was after being in this country for only 5 hours my jaw hurt from laughing and my belly was content from the food I had just eaten. If eating in the busy square is not for you I would recommend heading up onto one of the rooftop bars just off the square and take in the smells and beautiful sunsets over the city from above. There are lots to choose from, I would recommend Café Des Espices.
Without a doubt put getting lost in the souks on your list of things to do, just walking around taking in the smells, colours and radiant stalls makes you feel like you are in another world.
On my first full day, I had been walking around the souks all morning by myself and was happy rummaging through stalls and getting lost. When I finally made my way to Jemaa el-fnaa during the day, which is the heart of the souks and market place. Jemaa el-fnaa feels as though you have entered into a circus, with snake charmers, monkey trainers, performers and stalls that sell everything and anything. Two ladies grabbed my hand and started to do henna, which they assured me was free and for luck. Since I have been in similar situations to this before I knew I would have to pay and this was just a way for them to be able to make money and I tried to pull my hand away. A few minutes passed by and I tried to pull my hand away again, for a split second I thought maybe they were being kind and genuinely interested in talking to me, but after another minute I began to get annoyed and asked them to stop. They refused and it wasn't until I said 'I'm not paying you' that they of course stopped and demanded money. I simply walked away as I hadn't asked for this, they called after me but then disappeared. I think had this been men I would have had to pay something though. I was annoyed, I had been happy walking around and taking in the culture and now I felt cheated. It was then I realised I wasn't going to learn about the culture and speak to locals in the touristy parts of Morocco and I decided to get out of Marrakesh.
Ouzoud Waterfalls (200 dh for a day tour plus 30 dh for guide)
A day trip to Ouzoud was one of my favourite days in Morocco. Cascades d'Ouzoud is situated north of Marrakesh in the Atlas mountains and these 110m waterfalls are magnificent.
Since I was here on my own I booked a tour directly through my hostel, which was advertised as a little more expensive but after speaking to the staff I managed to pay slightly less. If you were in a group I would imagine you would be able to get transport there and back for a reasonable price and once you arrive, there is a path from the village to the falls which is pretty straight forward without a guide. You can also camp in the valley by the rock pools which I would imagine would make for a wonderful adventure. The drive is around 3 hours from Marrakesh through old villages and desert hills, with snow-capped mountains in the distance which makes for some beautiful scenery.
The landscape is surrounded by olive trees and tiered pools which are perfect for swimming and heat up nicely in the summer sun. There were boats which cost 20 dh that took you close to the waterfall and the walk back up the cliff makes for magnificent views of the falls.
Surfing in Morocco had also been on my bucket list for a couple of years. I meet a few friends in Marrakesh who were heading to the coast and getting a bus to Essaouira so I jumped on a bus with them in search of the coast and some waves. Once I arrived in Essaouira I realised I had got on the wrong bus for where I wanted to be, I wanted to be 3 hours south of Essaouira in a small village called Tamraght. Since I was already in Essaouira I decided to spend the day wandering around with my friends from Marrakesh and then jump on one of the local buses later that evening.
Essaouira is vastly different from the chaotic streets of Marrakesh and located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco this fishing village will blow you away. The city is surrounded by the colours blue and white with the breeze from the ocean. Make sure to explore the medina, which is much smaller and more laid back than Marrakesh and you can wander around looking at spices, juices and trinkets without being hassled at all. I would also recommend heading down to the port to grab some cheap food and you can see all the fishing boats, Essaouira used to be the main port connecting Europe, Africa and America and even today is still used for fishing.
After spending the day roaming around with my friends and relaxing in a new city, I headed to the bus station to head south. This was the first time of the trip I felt like I was in Africa. Once I arrived everyone was jumping on and off buses, there were stalls and people were selling mint tea, people were sleeping on the sides and I had no idea how I was meant to find which bus I wanted to be on as I couldn't seem to find the actual bus station. Thankfully a lovely local man came to my rescue and asked where I wanted to go and pointed me in the correct direction of a bus leaving to go to Agadir, which would be stopping at the village of Tamraght, where I had planned to spend a few days. The man selling tickets on the bus told me it would cost 70 dh, which I was very reluctant to pay as I had just spent 70 dh on a tourist bus from Marrakesh to Essaouira, which was a lot nicer than the bus I was about to board. I told the man I had 40 dh and I would pay this amount, I took a deep inhale of breath handed him the money and to my surprise, he said okay and ushered me on. Success! I ended up meeting a girl in Tamraght who had been staying with a local and he had told her the correct price for the local bus from Essaouira to Tamraght was 40 dh. The local bus was meant to take 3 hours, however since we stopped at every small village for some mint tea it ended up taking around 4 and a half, but I wasn’t in any rush and it meant I got to see more of the traditional way of life on the coast. The views from the road were breathtaking, going through the hills and with the ocean still in sight.
Tamraght is a small traditional Berber village in between banana Village and Taghazout and is just a walk away to Devil’s rock surf spot. I stayed in Lunar Surf House a beautiful hostel with a rooftop, morning yoga, free breakfast and family dinners for 50 dh every night. The free breakfast was the best breakfast I have ever seen in a hostel with fresh fruit, Moroccan omelette’s, granola and Amlou (a must-try in Morocco, it is sweet almond butter). The family dinners were served buffet style and were traditional food shared between everyone in the hostel. Every night after dinner we would have a bonfire on the rooftop under the stars and the hostel owners would play music on guitars and drums. Just a short walk away to the beach it is the perfect place if you want to surf and relax.
Tip: There are no cash points in Tamraght, make sure to have cash on you before you arrive. The closest one is in Banana village (25-minute walk from Tamraght).
While I was on the coast there wasn’t any serious swell in Tamraght or Tagazhout but I was just happy to be in the water and on my board. (Board hire was 100 dh for a day from the hostel). Over breakfast one morning I starting speaking to two boys from South Africa who had hired a car and were heading north in the hope for bigger swell, they asked if I wanted to join them and eager to surf some proper Moroccan waves I said yes. We packed up the car and headed about 30 minutes north, to a spot called Tamri. To all of our surprise, the waves were 5-6 foot and apart from a few locals out the spot was pretty much empty. We paddled out with huge grins on our faces and got chatting to the locals, who were more than happy to share waves. This was an experience I will never forget being out in the water with two new friends from South Africa and a few local Moroccans and despite being brought up in different places the love we had for surfing and being out in the water had brought us all together.
If surfing is not for you there are plenty of activities on the coast to make you fall in love with Morocco. Head along to Banana Village, which as the name suggests is a perfect place to pick up bananas or other fresh fruit and allows you to explore more Moroccan villages. Taghazout is a short walk or bus ride away and has lots of surf shops and delicious cafes and the skate park is also a great place to relax and chat with locals. The coast is home to beautiful stretches of beaches and is perfect for relaxing.
I would also recommend a day trip to Paradise Valley, located 30 minutes inland from the coast in the foot of the Atlas mountains, paradise valley consists of lots of majestic hidden pools between rock cliffs and is perfect for cliff jumping and exploring. Most hostels run tours which you can book directly through reception to the valley, or if there is a group of you, you can jump in a taxi.
From the kindred spirits and gentle souls I met along the way in Morocco and the wonderful colours and culture I was emerged in, I found Morocco is full of waves, sun and thousands of unexplored coastlines. I know it won’t be long before I’m back.
Languages in Morocco: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Berber—you will hear almost every language. If English is your only language you can get by, however knowing a few French phrases is very useful!
Most places in Morocco only accept cash, make sure to have this on you so you don’t get stuck.
Dress appropriately. This is mostly a Muslim country so as a girl you are expected to cover your shoulders and knees to show respect, particularly in Marrakesh (on the coast you can relax more and are able to sunbathe on beaches).
It is very common for males to shout at girls, try to ignore it and keep moving.
If it doubt speak to locals, they are kind and more than happy to help and give their advice, no one knows better than people who live there.