Traveling Morocco: Essaouira, Marrakesh & Casablanca
In part one, I talked to you about how to prepare for the trip to Morocco, what to pre-book and whatnot, gave you tips on negotiating and told you all the experiences of a beautiful beachfront town Agadir.
I want to begin this video by telling a little bit about driving in Morocco. I finished my previous video with a huge pep-talk to myself about driving bravely in Morocco. It gets more complicated in the towns, especially during rush hours. Driving from Agadir to Essaouira, was not complex at all. We have enjoyed the beautiful shore views and the trip itself was pleasant. Trip to reach Essaouira took us around 4 hours with a stop for lunch. One thing to mention, there are a lot of police. Every 20 km you need to slow down to around 20 km/h and might be checked by the police. Throughout the whole trip we were only pulled once and asked for the documents. Was all good really but I did not have any intentions on speeding as it is cool to enjoy the ride itself.
We have reached Essaouira in the late afternoon, we checked in our hotel and took some rest. This hotel was our only experience of staying within the old city walls. The traditional Moroccan houses are called “riad”. A “riad” is a type of house which can be 3 or 4 stores high, formed by four walls, leaving the centre of the building open with light coming through the roof. Sometimes, in the middle is the garden or the fountain. So, this hotel was very sweet, the room was decent and had everything you wanted. It is still managed by the family.
As we had only one night to spend in Essaouira, we went out for a walk through the old town, explore the little shops they had. Essaouira is indeed small. We were not lucky with the weather. Although sunny, it was very difficult to walk because of the constant strong wind that was coming from the north. I personally noticed that nature is also a little bit different. It was greener and more humid than Agadir. One annoying thing I found about Moroccan cafes and restaurants is that they are not open from around 2 PM until 5 PM or in some cases 6 PM in the evening. Since we went out to town around at around 4 PM, we managed to find one place that served food. I will add the link in the box. They had some nice vegan options; the menu was also in English. It can be a bit dirty to sit outside as you are surrounded by many cats, but we were hungry. Finally, the food did not disappoint us.
After that we continue exploring the city, seeing different places but Essaouira is indeed a small town. We left the best for last as we wanted to see the port, one of the most beautiful sceneries of Essaouira. These images might be recognizable for some of you if you are Game of Thrones fans! Season 3! By now, we became a little bit more used to Moroccan style and grabbed some food from the street kiosk and had very delicious wraps and sweets for dinner that we have enjoyed in the hotel. Next morning, we had breakfast which was included in the hotel price while booking, packed the luggage and hit the road.
Parking for 1 night cost 7 EUR, which came as a shock to me because all the blogs we found out previously were saying that parking is around 2-3 EUR per night. Not sure if we got scammed but when leaving, the personnel came to us and said that there was an extra 1 EUR fee. I asked for what? He said, just for a coffee. I wished him a nice day and drove off.
The same evening, we arrived at Marrakesh. We had a lovely hotel very centrally located with a private swimming pool, restaurant and the most important the underground parking space. The first evening we went out for dinner and I was determined to find a local cheap food place. And I was lucky! We went to the restaurant where the staff did not speak almost any English but the menu was indeed in English. We had an awesome meal for an awesome value. Don’t take a complete menu because it will definitely be a lot! After travels and dinner, we went back to the hotel and rested.
We had pre-booked another tour via Trip Advisor called: Secrets of Medina, a 4-hour walking tour. We had to meet our tour guide at around 10 AM in the morning and we would be free by 2 PM. The tour guide was awesome. He knew all the cool things about Marrakesh and the old town. He was bringing us to little shops and places that almost none of the tourists would ever find. He showed a local school, explained the importance of religion, what people believe in, how people are working etc.
After the tour was done we sat down at one of the cafes overlooking the main square. About the main square… I honestly would not recommend spending there any time. And reasons because there are just loads of sellers who are abusing animals like keeping the monkeys on chains, drugging the snakes and making them attractive to the tourists. Better enjoy and spend your time in the souks.
After the market, we went on exploring Marrakesh further. We went to see the historical Tombeaux Saadiens – which are the only tombs remaining from the Saadian dynasty which reigned during the golden age of Marrakech in the XVI and XVII century. This is pretty interesting to see how it all looked since the XVII century and remained untouched or destroyed.
After seeing the tombs, we went to a close-by palace called El Badii which means “palace of incomparable”. Was built by the Saadian Sultan to celebrate the victory over the Portuguese army in the XVI century. This completely destroyed place is interesting to walk on for a couple of hours, however, it is still missing a lot of explanation about what happened here, what were the reasons that it is not kept etc. There is some information in the dungeons but unfortunately only in Arabic or French. It was enough for the second day in Marrakesh so we got back to the hotel for some rest and sleep.
On day 3, we had a plan to see two places: visit the famous gardens called Jardin Majorelle and just before lunch to drive and see the Ourika Waterfalls. The gardens were beautiful however, please go as early as possible. We waited for only 45 min in the line to get in but usually, it could take up to 2 hours. There are several entrances that you can have a combined ticket to accessing Yves Saint Laurent museum together with entrance to the gardens but we have visited only gardens. Here you can see all the plants that grow naturally in Morocco in different places of the country.
After the gardens, we decided to hit the road and go for a 2 hours drive to Ourika Waterfalls. Drive was fine, you get to the point where you drive through the mountains and the road can get a little bit dangerous because it gets narrow or as you pass some small villages there could be kids jumping on the road trying to get a lift ride or just making fun of the cars that drive past. When you reach the destination, you will be greeted weirdly by some people trying to get you to park as soon as possible close to the road. Don’t stop. Try to navigate as close as possible to the waterfalls. Alright, here is the deal. You cannot really go there alone and trek the mountains without a local guide. Negotiate your price before you go on with him. This is a huge mistake we have made at the beginning because we did not understand what was going on. Once we were forced to park there, the guy started showing us the way, he talked about who he is, that he will show us the way a little bit. I agree, the road is quite tough and you need a local to show you. Anyways, as we climbed up to the waterfall it was really breath-taking. Then, the guide told us to climb further and have an even better view, there was a cafe, you could buy a drink, sit & relax if you want. Up until that point, the guy was really nice. Then, he said, alright, we can continue even more up and reach a better view where you can even swim. We were like: how difficult it is? He said: you can make it, might take around 40 min to get there… I said: oke, what is there other option? The guy said that would cost around 40 EUR per person and to go there and then go back. We were in shock. Was so much money! We said, no thank you, we want to go back. The trick here is that you cannot go back the same way down, it is just too steep, you might really risk getting injured. Then the guy told us that he will walk us down for 20 EUR each. I tried to negotiate with the guy, but it was not possible at that time. He was even calling us stupid that we did not talk prices at the beginning. It was my mistake, we assumed according to some blogs online, you could get it all for like 10 EUR in total. We paid 40 EUR (400 DAM). Anyways, that was not a cool experience. Does not matter we got some cool pictures; we went down safely. But the lesson was learnt. Additionally, parking was also an extra 1 EUR. We did not care anymore, just wanted to go back home. Drive back was also fine. The scenery was beautiful!
On day 4, which was the last one before driving to Casablanca, we stopped at the last thing we wanted to see in Marrakesh. It was the palace of Bahia. This wonderful architectural masterpiece was built by Ahmed bin Musa for his wife Bahia. That was one of my favourite places in Marrakesh because of its design, colours and how well maintained the place was. After that, we hit the road and drove to Casablanca.
Leaving from Marrakesh to Casablanca was not difficult at all and the road is pretty clear. We chose the road which is paid but honestly, it was around 10 EUR in total for the whole 3 hours road. However, once I reached Casablanca, it was the worst nightmare driving there. Streets were unclear, many people were driving the way they wanted it. There were almost no rules. At some point there was a big traffic jam, so the police came alongside and tried to scare everyone away so they would be moving, no matter that it was a red stoplight for some cars. I do not have the footage of it as I was focusing on the road and Thomas was checking navigation where to go. Driving there was THE WORST. Don’t do it. But that was it, we returned the car and said goodbye. No scratches or anything, although there were so many times close by of getting it!
Anyways, after having all of that stress, I was dying to try one of the traditional Hammans in Morocco. Guys, honestly, if you are in Morocco, Google a good place, which is recommended and you are not going to regret it. Men and women are separated but the whole sauna experience is great! They have everything for you ready. Once you arrive, they provide slippers, a cosmetic bag which includes everything they need for the sauna experience such as honey, essential oils, spirulina scrubs etc. It might vary from Hamman to Hamman of course but the one I went they had it all included in the price. Also, they give you a piece of clothing to cover yourself.
On our second day in Casablanca, we decided to explore it. We went down to see the local market. It is a small one but the food seems very fresh and you can also eat at the local restaurant the fish that you buy it yourself, they can make it for you. After that, we went to see couple of squares. United Nations Square and Mohamed V square. It is nice to have the walk down there but not too much to see.
We used a “red taxi” to travel around in Casablanca. They are the local one and you need to ask for a taximeter. If you are not local and don’t speak French or Arabic, they will try to scam you. Honestly, we only had 2 taxi rides that were completely fine and according to what we were supposed to pay. Others charged us double as an argument they said it was because we were two people and the price is not for a ride but for a person. As well they use the local “Uber” app version, so you have more chances to pay a fair price but the problem with that is, if they see someone else on the road, who is looking for a taxi, they stop and ask where to. So basically you can end up and share your journey with two other strangers in the car! However, you pay what the app indicated anyways. For your orientation, you need to pay around 1 EUR for 1 km. Another important thing to mention, make sure you have Google maps on and show to the driver the route - they don’t know where to go exactly. I found this mind-blowing. We had a stroll in the park called Parc Murdoch, just enjoying a tiny small piece of nature in the city.
Later we reached a beautiful courthouse called Mahkama du Pacha. It was built in the mid XX century and designed by french. You need to pay 10 EUR for the entrance and I swear, the day we have visited, nobody else was there. The feeling is really not great but just look at the footage, it was gorgeous.
After spending some time there we went on to see the King Palace, which is usually open but however, on the same day and weekend the King himself was there. Unfortunately, we were not able even to get closer to the Palace as there were guards everywhere and everything was secured. We wanted to see the palace of the king but it was closed because the king was visiting and had business to do in the town.
All the walking around for the entire day made us hungry and we sat down for late lunch/early dinner at cafe “Dubai”. Really delicious and good food at a very good price. Again, does not seem that any tourists would come here, were there the only ones not locals. So, you are welcome guys! Practical tips always on my blog :)
As I mentioned in some of my IG stories, the third day, at least for me, was the last one. We planned to see the biggest mosque in the whole Africa continent, which was in Morocco. We took a taxi there, it is built straight on the shore, however, we were unlucky with the opening times because there are only two options per day to visit it for a very short 1 hour. Of course, you are not a Muslim. At least we saw this masterpiece from outside and it was already very impressive. Then we took a very long walk by the coast, which was beautiful really and later we turned back to the city and had lunch at another great place but this time it was Italian called Little Mamma. Great food again at affordable prices. Everything was in English, a good place to check it out if you are around.
That was it for me. We came back to the hotel and I packed my luggage to go to the airport because I needed to catch my flight back to Agadir! I will tell you all about that big DRAMA I mentioned in my first video. Stay tuned for the next video and blog post to find out what is forbidden in Morocco and how to get it back :)
See you next week!