Our trip took place in late November – early December 2017. It was in Morocco that we gathered because we had never been to Africa. Not to say that we strongly wanted exotic. However, our imagination was agitated only by the thought of the endless ocean and the mysterious desert. It is to them that we were striving to find on our own terms.
The trip involved two couples–moderately active, moderately impulsive, but without measure, curious. All preparatory questions were solved jointly. On the route, I acted as a navigator. In general, as usual, the women were in charge of the kitchen, the men – the entertainment.
Tickets for the plane were purchased in the city of Agadir (Morocco), from which we flew back. In the 10-day gap between flights, we were expected to meet a new continent, a new country, a new religion, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Sahara desert.
Agadir was our starting point for a trip to Morocco. Next, the road lay towards Marrakesh. From there, we planned to make a march to the Sahara desert through the Atlas Mountains and the city of Ouarzazate. Then we wanted to go into the mainland part of the country – right up to Merzouga. This is where the large dunes of Erg Chebbi begin.
A mandatory part of the program was an overnight stay in the desert inside a Berber camp. Then we planned to drive to the ancient port of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Next – again in Agadir, to catch the plane, that would take us home. As a result, we traveled about 2000 kilometers by car, 50 kilometers on camels and, if to believe a pedometer, about 200 kilometers on foot.
To realize our wonderful plan, we decided to rent a car. We booked it online with registration upon arrival at the airport of Agadir. According to reviews by other tourists, renting a car on site can be quite difficult. The language barrier is a significant problem when there is practically no English spoken in the country. Hertz car hire service operates at the airport of Agadir El Masirah and is open from 07:00 to 22:00. We rented a Dachia Sandero for 10 days. The cost (excluding the security deposit) was 25 euros per day and six euros per day of full insurance. The result – 310 euros.
We refueled in different ways. For the whole trip, we spent about 400 euros on fuel. A full tank, on average, was 500 dirhams.
The route was worked out carefully. Also, all rooms were booked in advance online through the website Booking. In Agadir, we had the most expensive hotel called the Agadir Beach Club. For the room, we paid almost 3,500 rubles per day (the price included breakfast). The hotel is not as shiny and new as in the photos online, but for Agadir, it was quite decent.
In Marrakech, we decided to plunge into the exotic and live in a riad. This is such a house-well, which is the original invention of Moroccans. In the center of the riad, either trees grow, or there is a pool which is usually where a common seating area resides. The shower and the bathroom are individual. The biggest problem with a riad is finding the location of this house-well. On the map, everything seems to be clear, but on the spot, you could search for it indefinitely. If you choose a riad in Old Medina, you will have to solve the issue of parking because you cannot drive into Medina. For example, parking at the hotel will not work. Consider this point when choosing a vacation rental in Morocco.
We chose Riad Amskal. Room rate was 2500 rubles for two with breakfast, for four – 5000 rubles. The riad is located outside the Old Medina, not far from the Jem el Fna Square and the Koutoubia Mosque.
I liked both the riad and breakfast, but we did look for it a long while. Neither maps nor navigator could really help us. It is good that we had the phone numbers of the riad administration. After an hour of searching, we decided to call, and then we were met.
In Ouarzazate, we had an unusual hotel. Banal and predictable Ibis, but externally styled as a colorful local castle. Finding it was quite simple: Ibis Ouarzazate Center is located in the city center, near the Cinema Museum.
We booked two rooms for four. One of them cost us 2000 rubles for two, but without breakfast. However, according to our route, a rather early departure was planned, so this option was fine with us.
In Essaouira, we also chose the riad right on the ocean called Dar al Bahar. It took us again a long time to find it. The price was adequate though – 2000 rubles with breakfast for two. The cheapest rooms in the riad are on the first floor.
Ocean view rooms are the most expensive. Even if you live on the ground floor, like us, remember that there is a beautiful terrace on the roof – from there, the ocean can be seen while up in the palms. Here you can ask for breakfast in the morning. We did it every day.
Travel across Morocco
At the airport in Agadir, the car was not issued to us very quickly, but according to the rules. We appreciated that later when the traffic police checked the documents on the car, and everything turned out to be in perfect order.
From the airport to the city, it was about 20 kilometers. In the evening, there were few cars on the track. The roads were great, with no real traffic jams. Local drivers, though, to put it mildly, do not drive very carefully. Plus there were motorcycles, bicycles and donkey carts. On the road, periodically there was some kind of chaos from the accumulation of all these vehicles in one place. Good thing I was not driving. It became clear that we were in Africa and not in Europe.
A distinctive feature of road junctions in Agadir and, as we later found out, in Morocco too, is the absence of traffic lights. Classic intersections with traffic lights are only in cities. Outside the settlements, there is a roundabout everywhere at interchanges.
We had previously met this kind of thing in Romania only. It is said that a similar organization of traffic allows minimizing traffic jams. I do not know if this is true. However, in Morocco, we were not stuck in traffic jams.
On the way from the airport to Agadir, we stopped in Inezgan. Near the road, there was a huge Marjane hypermarket. We bought water, juices, and alcohol there.
In general, the road from the airport took about an hour. Next was the hotel, bed, and sleep. In the morning – breakfast and a whole day to get acquainted with Agadir. Not much to do here, unfortunately. If you do not need to travel to Agadir – just safely pass by it.
In the morning, after the second night at the Agadir Beach Club, we left for Marrakesh. We crossed 260 kilometers along a good clean road with markings, tunnels, and speed limits.
The route was laid correctly – outside the territory of settlements. We were struck by the cleanliness on the road. Compared with the dirty streets of cities, the asphalt seemed to be sterile. The whole way was quite calm: the track was flat with two lanes, without bends nor steep climbs. For the first time in our life, we witnessed a sandstorm that appeared out of nowhere.
The air in a flash became white, the visibility on the road plummeted to zero. It was good that in this “milk” we were driving for a very short time. The sand fog disappeared as quickly as it appeared. On this part of the route, this was the most impressive moment. However, we still did not know what turns awaited us ahead.
In Marrakech, we had a wonderful day, rich and long. The next morning, we went to Ouarzazate. In the reviews from tourists on the Internet about the road between these two cities, we learned that the road was very beautiful and picturesque. In contrast, though, the track was steep and terribly dangerous running along the ridge of the Atlas Mountains. At each pass, panoramic views opened up, capturing the spirit of the country.
Driving here, though, was the hardest. As passengers, we gasped and groaned with delight, as every turn is almost 180 degrees. The day before, it had rained, which made our movement more complicated. In some areas, we saw small landslides. We topped three mountain passes and stopped at five different observation platforms to drink in the views.
The trip was slow because some sections of the road were set at 20 KM/hr; many times though we drove 10 KM/hr. In total it was about 200 kilometers of the road (between Marrakesh and Ouarzazate), and even though it was fewer kilometers than the journey from Agadir to Marrakesh, it took us longer.
The next day driving out of Ouarzazate, we wanted to see the sand dunes and had to cover almost 400 KM. The track was easy, the navigator did not disappoint, and it was on this part of the route that we were stopped by local police.
You will agree, it is impossible not to exceed the speed on a good road when there is a stone desert spread out before you on the road with few cars and no sign of life. We were speeding, and we were stopped. We paid a fine. Then we drove the speed limit to save money.
In the city of Merzouga, we left the car for one night. We traveled by camel to a Berber camp. Night in the desert among the sand and the stars were very romantic. However, December in the desert is quite cold in the evening.
After spending the night in the desert, our return home began. We drove back to Marrakesh and on to Essaouira. In this once Portuguese old port, we planned to eat plenty of fish, seafood, breathe in the ocean, and finally, wash off the sand of the Sahara. The road back did not please us with anything new. Gorge, mountains, cliffs had already become familiar. Maybe after the bright emotions in the desert, it was already hard for us to be surprised at something new.
However, on the section of the road between Marrakesh – Essaouira, we were pleased with the goat athletes. Along the route, the whole territory is overgrown with argan. These goats eat the fruit of the tree straight from the branches. And climb on them, like a real female athlete.
In Essaouira, the parking situation was even more complicated than in Marrakesh. In the end, the owner of our riad agreed on parking in one of the chain hotels for quite a nominal fee.
At the end of the trip to Morocco, another bonus was waiting for us. It turned out that the road from Essaouira to Agadir is the best of all, mostly along the ocean.
Of the 170 kilometers on this road, we enjoyed 100 kilometers of an ocean view. In the village of Tagazout, we went down to the beach and swam until we were blue. The Atlantic Ocean is not the Red Sea. We strongly did not want to leave, however. Magical!
Road traffic police in Morocco
The roads in Morocco, as in Europe, are very good, even in the mountains. However, traffic rules must be followed. Traffic police are strict but fair. The best advice is to follow to the letter of the law, the speed limits, and other traffic rules because the police seem to be everywhere.
During our entire trip, we were stopped by the traffic police three times.
The first time, we were speeding 20 KM over the speed limit. We were stopped, our documents were checked, and we were issued a fine of 400 local dirhams. We paid and decided not to break the rules anymore.
On the way to the Sahara, at a deserted crossroad, we were stopped again. The officer just checked our documents and wished us a happy journey. We also had prepared to show our passports, but he did not demand them.
Our last conversation with the traffic police was the classic, “our way” sort of traffic stop. The person driving did not stop completely at a stop sign. As if from under the ground, a police officer appeared suddenly. He wanted to fine us 300 dirhams, but we bargained down to 100.
If anyone does this kind of road trip to Morocco, I recommend the following: don’t break any traffic laws and don’t bargain with the police.
Choosing cultural events in Morocco
The beauty of this country is infinite. Here are some of my most vivid impressions of what I saw.
In Agadir, the bough struck — in our opinion — the market was huge and filled with goodies, with cheap fruit and dates. I do not even know what we would do if it were not. It was here that we, at the beginning of our journey, bought souvenirs and presents for all our relatives.
In Marrakech, I liked the park “Majorelle” – the one in which Yves Saint Laurent worked. It was also nice to walk around the ruins of the old royal palace – storks now live there.
And, of course, I liked the evening fun at Jem el-Fna Square. Henna drawing on a hand – from 20 dirhams, fresh – from four dirhams, snails – from 10 dirhams.
In Ouarzazate, many films are made here. There are several working studios with decorations and a cinema museum. We were neither in the museum nor in the studio. However, we climbed on the famous Kasbah Ait-Ben-Hadd. This pleasure is free.
The Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean is the real pleasure of this trip. Only epithets filled with delight and admiration are relevant here. This is real Mother Nature in its pristine beauty.
In Essaouira, the most impressive is the port. Fishermen in this city, like hundreds of years ago, go to the ocean on gnarled wooden boats, and then sell fish right on the pier, in the port. Here we tried the freshest oysters. We also ate tasty fish that were caught a couple of hours before and were fried up in 10 minutes. In the evening, followers of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix played their music, and the city itself is one big attraction.
Results of visiting Morocco
All our impressions, fears and delights, delicacies and overnight stays, a great car and souvenirs, and even a couple of surfing lessons cost us only 2,500 euros. Divided into four – it was 624 euros for one person, far from being an economy option. Nevertheless, we got a lot of pleasure, which we wish for all who travel after us.
Melisa Marzett is a freelance writer who is currently working for http://resumeperk.com. She enjoys writing, but she also likes having time for her own during which she watches short movies, listens to music, goes to the theater, and simply walks by the river to feed the birds and to think.