Marrakech

When Morocco is mentioned, people always think of Marrakech. This vibrant city is the most popular destination in the country, thanks to budget carriers that have direct flights from various cities in Europe. After Fez, we were ready to face the touts at Djemma El Fna Square and the souks.

Djemma El Fna Square
Orange cart at Drjemma El Fna square. The freshly squeezed orange juice is really yummy!

As the petit taxi drove through the gates of the medina, we eagerly took it all in, the crowds, the traffic, the noise. It was the complete opposite of Ouarzazate. After the driver insisted we pay more than what the ride should cost, we dragged our luggages down the street beside Cafe de France, the favorite meeting place of tourist and guides in the medina. As soon as I whipped out my iPod to look at the map, touts came to offer to show us the way. Waving them off, we continued walking, following our instincts and finding the derb where Amour Riad is.
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Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou

We claimed our bags from the bus’ hold and had to stop to stretch our stiff bodies. The trip from Merzouga covered a good part of the day; it was already 4pm when we arrived in Ouarzazate. This small town was added to our itinerary primarily for Aït Benhaddou and we had no idea what to expect from it.

Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate square

Our accommodation for the night was at Hotel Amlal, which we picked because it has Wi-Fi and offered half-board meals. Unlike Hassi Labied though, there were plenty of restaurants and shops in Ouarzazate, so finding food was no problem. Nevertheless, the were glad for the decision to go half-board as Hotel Amlal served the best tagine I’ve tried in Morocco.
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Hassi Labied and Erg Chebbi

Once again we woke up inside a bus, but the landscape outside is quite different. There seemed to be a seemingly endless nothingness, broken only by small clusters of buildings every once in a while. Slowly, the bus empties, until only half a dozen tourists remain. The driver pulls up to a small town in the middle of nowhere and announces that we have arrived in Merzouga.

Erg Chebbi
Erg Chebbi with dunes reaching up to 150 meters in height.

We were met with a bunch of touts, something that we are already used to in Morocco. Each one was offering to take us to a hotel, and we ignored the calls, except for one: Hassan Ougnir’s of the La Source Inn, where we made reservations for.
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Chefchaouen

I was jolted awake when the bus made a sudden turn. I looked out the window and was dismayed to see that it was raining. The rain was unrelenting, following us for hours as we journeyed from Meknes to Chefchaouen. It was nearly four o’clock when we glimpsed a sea of blue on the side of the mountain. So Chefchaouen really was blue.

Chefchaouen 10
Chefchaouen square

The rain still hasn’t let up when the bus pulled into the town’s central bus terminal. We dashed through the puddles and up the steps to the station’s offices to book our bus going down to Fes in a couple of days. We were hoping that the rain would have already stopped when we were done with our business, but it still continued to pour. Luckily, when we went down to the waiting area, a taxi drove in to drop a passenger. We asked the driver if he can take us to Pension Suika, and after some (half-hearted) haggling, we agreed on a price.
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Meknes, Moulay Idriss and Volubilis

Though Casablanca was our port of entry in Morocco, we considered Meknes as our first city. We merely transited in Casablanca, never going out of the airport and the train station enroute to the old capital.

Meknes
Bab Mansour

Meknes wasn’t really in our original itinerary. We wanted to go to Volubilis, and according to research, day trips from Meknes can easily be done. Though it can also be done from Fes, there was something about Meknes that called to us. Maybe it’s the prospect of adding another notch to our Unesco Heritage Site list, or maybe I was just easily swayed by a blog I read about how laid back the city was that greatly appealed to me. Nevertheless, it was one of the best decisions we made because Meknes was a great introduction to Morocco.
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