Hello, my name is Charlotte and welcome to my blog!
This is my first ever blog… I’ve wanted to do one for a while and plan to re visit some of my previous adventures but I thought I would begin with my most recent.. Morocco!
I have visited Tunisia and Egypt so had a slight idea of what to expect… but I didn’t venture out quite so much as Morocco… after reading some horror stories online before going I must say I was a bit nervous, especially as we were hiring our own car, and I thought what better way than to put my own amazing experience out there for others to read. Who knows, I may inspire just one person to visit this beautiful country!
This holiday was with my Boyfriend Michael, and our friends Finn and Kelly.
The itinerary was 1 week in Morocco- Saturday to Saturday in June 2018. We visited 3 locations, Chefchaouen, Asilah and Fez.
Michael is a freelance videographer, so knows his way around a camera.. he is also a hobbyist photographer so I will be including photo’s he has taken throughout our trip for you to enjoy and get a feel of what my trip was like 🙂
Firstly we flew in to Fez. We decided this would be our last stop before heading home, so we picked up our hire car at the airport to drive straight to Chefchaouen. I was quite nervous of driving through Morocco so the boys where designated drivers, but I must say it was a lot easier than I thought and you should not be put off driving here at all. I’d say it was much nicer than driving in England as the roads are much quieter (when not in a busy city)! A couple of roads we had to take it easy on, with the confident locals driving towards you on narrow roads and pot holes, I did hold my breath a couple times… but most of the roads were like anywhere else, easy to navigate.
You may think that driving to different areas is a waste of time and that you could be doing more exiting things whilst on holiday, but personally I think of it as almost a excursion in itself. You drive through many different towns, some big and some tiny. You witness the locals working away with their donkeys in the boiling heat wondering to yourself how they do it. You witness the beautiful landscapes you wouldn’t see otherwise, and you get a much better view of the country you’re visiting.
Tip: Download google maps and enable the areas you’re visiting offline.. it doesn’t tell you when to turn but you can follow the map, it was very straight-forward.
I was very surprised with how green the country was, here is a picture taken on our drive:
1st Destination – Chefchaouen
We arrived in Chefchaouen late in the evening on Saturday. We do airbnb as much as possible as not only does it usually work out cheaper than hotels, but it has a very personal touch. Our host in Chef was the best host I’ve experienced. He met us straight away, helped with our bags and took us to our apartment which was very central in the old town. If we had any questions he would respond immediately. I couldn’t recommend him enough.
Here is a link to the place we stayed: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/17678759?location=Chefchaouen%2C%20Morocco&s=sPByOZUN
We were told by our host to park in the car park at Hotel Parador which was full so someone took us to another space a few meters away. We paid approximately £2 per night.
Trip adviser is our bible for eating out abroad (and at home!), and always ask for recommendations by locals. Its also a great idea to keep an eye out, if you see a lot of locals at a restaurant it is no doubt a place where you should eat!
We went to Restaurant Beldi Bab Ssour for dinner and again for lunch on another day.
The views from here were beautiful and food was very tasty! There are many floors at this restaurant and the poor waiters were running up and down, yet the service was still very quick!
Tip: We all ate a lot of food, ordered many different sharing dishes and tajines and the cost was approximately £20 for everything!
Tip: Michael is Vegetarian, and Kelly is gluten free, and were both able to easily find something to eat everywhere we went.
It was the first time I’ve heard the call to prayer! I loved hearing a whole town come together in these moments throughout the day. It bellowed across the whole town on speakers.
We spent a lot of time wandering around the Blue streets of this beautiful town that is like no other I’ve seen. If your looking to spice up your Instagram feed this is certainly the town to do it.
Our airbnb host recommended us to go to Atlas hotel (you can get a taxi there for approximately 25 Dirams which is around £2.00) to go for a swim in the outdoor pool. It apparently has great views, however we didn’t go as the day we had planned was quite overcast. I didn’t mind this though as the mountains looked very beautiful with all the mist:
As it is a Muslim country there is of course not too many places to drink, but out airbnb host met us and took us for some drinks at Hotel Parador (which I mentioned previously for parking). We sat out on their terrace with a beer with a great view of the town and mountains and you could also see the Spanish Mosque. There is a lovely walk up to the Spanish mosque, it is an easy path up and an an amazing view of the city. It is by a restaurant that is in the waters of a small waterfall, so you can sit with your feet in the cool water while sipping on a lovely orange juice..
Hotel Parador also had a small pool on the terrace which was not in use due to maintenance while we were there. Mo (our host) then took us to what I believe is the only Bar in Chef… We had drinks and they brought out free food! It was lovely to have a host so keen to make sure we had a great holiday and interact with us.
From left to right.. Mo (host), Finn, Mo’s friend, Kelly, Mike and me.
View from walk up to the Spanish Mosque:
There is a main square that is full of life in the evening. It felt like the locals really came alive in the evening and had a great atmosphere. You could hear kids up till late playing and having fun. There was a street just by the main square, and a stall with someone cooking. There were loads of locals gathered around and the smell was incredible. I didn’t stop to take a look at what it was at this point but when we walked back past later, I realised it was snails. I should have tried them but unfortunately I didn’t.
For breakfast we ate at a restaurant in the main square. I had the Moroccan pancakes with goats cheese and honey.. very tasty! And of course we also had a LOT of Mint tea (which in Morocco is just called tea or Moroccan Whiskey!!)
One morning me and Mike went for a wander to buy some fruit for breakfast and came across a man with a fruit stall. We asked for a Watermelon and he walks over, picks up an absolute beast of a Melon, and the shocker is it only cost aprox £0.80!
Also on a side note.. the picture above you can see my boyfriend had a mustache.. a local took a liking to it and in a joking manor called him Hitler (Cringe!) he probably didn’t realise the offence attached to it and he almost went back that night and shaved it off haha but he laughed it off instead.
Another favorite foodie place I enjoyed was a bakery ran by a very sweet elderly lady. It was so small that to get in she had to wheel the display case out with all the baked goods in to get in and out. I don’t know how many items I bought from her, or what they where, but I bought them every day pointing at as many different things as I could as it was all so tasty. We could not communicate by talking, I was just pointing at what I wanted, and handed over some money and she gave me change. As simple as that.
As you may be wondering, or never knew about, there is a heavy presence of Cannabis in Morocco and especially in Chef as they have farms very near to the town. We got offered it a lot. If it is not something on your holiday check list then simply say no thank you. They wont care if you say no but you will be offered it a lot so just a heads up.
Tip: it was very easy to communicate here. Main languages spoken are Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
We arrived in Chef Saturday night and left Tuesday morning, so we had 2 full days and 3 nights here. I felt it was enough time to relax, wander around the city and enjoy the views.
Tip: There are orange juice carts everywhere… buy one!! they are so refreshing and very tasty, it would be a shame to leave the town without having one 🙂
We drove to Cascades d’Akchour before driving onto our next location (it was approximately 50 minute drive from Chef) which has waterfalls and clear waters to swim in. I highly recommend a visit here. Hiring our own car gave us freedom and flexibility and was a lot less hassle than I thought. There was a car park when we arrived which we paid a very small price to park, approximately 25 Dirams for the day. You can also get a taxi from Chef which costs around 250 Dirams
There is two different walks you can take. Shown in the picture below, if you take a left You can walk down by the water and is a 3 hour walk to the big waterfalls. Or if you take a right there is a path to take a hike up the mountain to the Door of God which is about 1 hour. We decided to do a hike to the door of god and had a swim in one of the many spots you could take a dip in along the way. The walk up the mountain made the swim in the mountain water all the more rewarding! The water was crystal clear. There was some rubbish laying around which is a shame but didn’t ruin the views. Its so beautiful there nothing couldn’t ruin the views.
All along the river there are BBQ’s and places to buy water. We didn’t buy any food here as I had stocked up on baked goods from the lady with her little bakery in Chef and left over Watermelon!
We did stop for a cheeky ice cream on the way back to the car though. There was a row of stalls which initially I thought would be very expensive.. I am use to the western world where any Tourist hot spot the price triples, but it was still very cheap like everywhere else!
Location 2 – Asilah
We had a strange arrival to this town, we parked up at a car park which was right next to the Medina which our airbnb host told us about, and the parking attendant (he was wearing a fluorescent yellow waist jacket so easy to spot) and another local immediately started arguing in front of our car. We weren’t too sure what about but we left them to carry on and eventually paid our parking (approximately £3.00 per night) and got on our way! It was an intense welcome to the city.
This was really a chill out location for us. This is a great town to relax in and really soak up the sunshine! We had a great airbnb with a huge roof terrace. I have never been to Greece but from pictures, the view from the roof top reminded me of a mini Santorini.
Here is a link to our incredible airbnb: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/17549442?location=Asilah%2C%20Tangier%20Tetouan%2C%20Morocco&s=aFeOePkA
And the sun sets as you can see were gorgeous!!
One day me and Finn ran eagerly into the sea for a swim at the beach right in front of the Medina, whilst Mike and Kelly were on the beach. A life guard walked over to Mike and Kelly and we were called in. My first thoughts were ‘oh my god there’s a shark!’ but he had explained there is a lot of rocks/coral on the beach which you couldn’t see when the tide was in and was too dangerous to swim in. There was a safe spot to swim in which was to the very right, it was next to a sort of Jetty that went out in the sea, and was where all the locals were swimming, so that’s what we did! The waves were pretty big! I had to jump so that the waves didn’t go over my head. It is recommended to go to Rmilate Beach – also known as Paradise Beach as it is a sandy beach without any rocks, however we did not go here but I thought I’d include it for you guys.
I also must add… one of the highlights of my trip which is also very grose, was when we were all stood on the beach one evening with out feet in the water.. and Finn said ‘This is the Life, we’ve made it guys’ and in just that moment a nappy wrapped around his ankle which had been swept back in in the tide!!! Needless to say there was some rubbish around this beach but the sand was soft, the sea warm, and the sun sets beautiful and didn’t stop me going for a swim.
It was nice and very chill to walk around the shops, there was quite a bit of street art which was lovely to wander around and look at. Again everyone was friendly.
We spent a lot of time relaxing, playing cards and sunbathing on our roof terrace.
We also done a lot of cooking at our accommodation.
One morning Mike and Finn went on a wander to buy some ingredients so we could cook back at our pad, while me an Kelly realxed on our roof terrace, and came across a friendly local that took them to a food market which we most likely wouldn’t have found otherwise. There were many stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. The produce was all lovely and really fresh (and again, very cheap!!!) If you type into google maps Plaza Jdida as shown below you will find it.
We were also told by a local one evening who was on his way to buy some fresh fish that every evening, around 5pm the boats pull in by the jetty next to the beach with fresh fish. We didn’t visit here as we had already bought ours from the market I’ve told you about. It was nice that a local would reach out and let us know even though we hadn’t asked.
There were a lot of stray cats in Morocco. As an animal lover this did pull on my heart strings quite a lot… I was surprised with how many Kittens we saw, and some not looking too healthy… I wished I could pick them all up and bring them home with us. The way of life in Morocco is very different to the western world. We didn’t witness any cruelty to these animals but it’s not like England where if you saw a stray kitten you can take it to a shelter or vets to be homed and looked after.
Location 3 – Fez
Last but not least we left the peaceful sea side town of Asilah in the Morning and headed to the hustle and bustle of Fez Medina for our final night.
On our drive to Fez, we stopped at a round about in traffic and a very young girl came up to our car window. She was holding a bag with around four dates in it, putting her hand to her mouth. She was a very sweet girl and its very hard to see that this is her way of life out here, so we wound down the window and passed her some money. I’m sure this is how she spent most of her days.
We stayed in a Riad that was actually owned by a English couple who live in London. They randomly and unintentionally ended up buying it on their first holiday to Fez after following a little girl who said her Uncle was selling the place. They had a book with useful tips for the city and an album of them doing up the Riad which was a lovely personal touch.
Our host gave us the location of a car park to park in (30 Dirams per night) and a Cafe just round the corner which the cafe owners greeted us, and served us drinks. whilst we got our selves together and sipped on our drinks, they all sat around a table together with a large plate of cous cous and veg in the middle and a spoon each. The owner then said ‘come over my brother and sister, come join us’. At first I said no thank but they offered again, and I thought, ‘why not!?’ so we all went over to try some (apart from Kelly who is Gluten free!) and was shocked by how friendly these people were. It was probably the friendliest greeting we’ve had. One of them took us to our riad (as our host had said they would) and told us not to worry about paying for our drinks and that we could come back and settle it when ever. They had food, beers, sheesha and live music that evening and a lovely roof terrace to chill on so of course we went back that evening.
Cafe on trip advisor; https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293733-d4156516-Reviews-Khmissa-Fes_Fes_Boulemane_Region.html
The car park is called Ain Zliten, and is found on google maps:
When we got to our Riad, the house manager named Imane welcomed us and answered any questions we had. In the morning she made us a lovely breakfast on the roof terrace.
Here is a link to where we stayed: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/697112
The view from the roof terrace was incredible:
My expectations of Fez were that it would be really busy. I imagined people to be grumpy like the London undergrounds for some reason – I was completely wrong. It was calm and not too busy that you couldn’t casually walk around the Medina.
People were really friendly here, as they were in everywhere we visited. We didn’t get a guide as we were fairly confident to find our own way around and didn’t mind getting a little bit lost and wondering the many streets of the Medina, however if you do want to get a guide it is highly recommended to speak with your hotel or host and they will provide you with someone trusted. I’m sure this will be mentioned on any site you read about Fez.
Shopping here is all about bartering. I suggest you get involved and enjoy it as an experience in itself, it can be quite fun. We didn’t feel pressured to buy anything if we didn’t feel the price was right. Often if you go to walk away they will offer you a good price.
Visiting the tanneries is a must. It’s incredible to see what these people go through to produce leather products here. The smell was very intense, they gave us mint as we wandered up through someones shop to their balcony, but it didn’t complete mask the smell.
Although we read a lot about not letting someone guide you to a location, we had a friendly Moroccan who could clearly see we were lost (whilst trying to find the tanneries) ask us if we wanted him to take us there. We were very dubious of his intentions at first (thinking he would take us to a shop to try sell us items or something) but hand on heart he didn’t want a penny out of us for doing so and guided us straight there. He took us to the shop, and told us we didn’t need to buy anything if we didn’t want to. He didn’t ask for a penny but out of gratitude we gave him a bit to say thank you anyway.
The Leather at the tanneries is a lot more expensive so I would highly recommend going else where and checking out the prices instead.
The Medina is pedestrians only, no vehicles, so every now and then you would be walking up a lane and suddenly a man with a donkey is right behind you.
Grande Porte Bab Boujeloud, also known as The Blue Gate of Fes is a iconic entrance to the Medina, and is truly beautiful with the blue mosaic tiles.
Tip: there is a cash machine right outside this gate
It was filled with interesting shops selling all sorts. I could have spent hours walking around, but unfortunately we only had about 1 day here.
One of the most shocking things I saw was a cows head hung up at a meat stall in the Fez Medina with its tongue hanging out. As a vegetarian this was a tough site for Mike to take in.
All in all I really enjoyed my experience in Morocco, my only regret is not being there longer, but I do know I want to go back.
Our stay in Morocco was really made easy by our airbnb hosts giving clear instructions of where to park and who could help us. We were never left in the dark and always had good responses so again I highly recommend all 3 hosts I’ve included for each location.
Tip: the main languages spoken here are Arabic, English, French and Spanish. We had no problem with communication at all. If we weren’t able to converse with people we would just point and they often put the number of what we owed into a calculator which made it very easy.
Overall I believe your experience somewhere is what you make of it. We had a couple people hassle us and follow us trying to get us to buy things from them (once in Chef and the other in Asilah), but after saying no a couple times we just ignored them and carried on our way. They soon left us alone.
You have to remember that you are a tourist in their country and they don’t make a lot of money, so you will have a lot of people asking you to come into their shop to take a look and want to sell things to you, and you either have a look or just say no thank you and carry on. They are really welcoming people!
Thank you for reading my blog, I hope I have given you some great tips if you are planning a trip to Morocco, or just a interesting read… and if you have any questions at all please feel free to get in touch 🙂