Madrid – A few weeks ago, the weather took a turn to gorgeous in Casablanca. where my Egypt Air flight from Saudi Arabia with 4-hour layover in Cairo landed smoothed and safe with a lot of questions running in my mind. It was a feeling of excitement with a lot of questions. “Hafiz, stay calm and travel”.
I took a deep breathe while the cabin crew announced that within a few minutes the plane will be landed in King Mohammed V International Airport. I grabbed my DSLR camera and shot the verdant landscapes, dramatic platues, and the iconic Atlas mountains while clouds greeted me with joy and I felt that this place is what I will call home.
I was warned and told, Morocco is different and I will have a barrier speaking with the locals. I resist and said. “Being different is unique”. With limited French and the middle eastern Arabic that I had, I took no limitation to know the culture of Moroccans aside from UNESCO heritage sites that every Moroccans should be proud of.
This is my travel confession and a love letter to Morocco.
When our plane touched down in Casablanca, I was equally nervous and excited. It was an anticipation when I am about to jump into something new. I was picked up by a hotel driver that I had arranged in advance and stayed for a night while preparing for my trip through train going to Marrakesh. The next day was full of inspiration and my love story began.
Don’t miss to visit Ifrane
Situated in the Atlas mountains, this place is truly the cleanest city in the world. I took more than an 8 hour travel time from Marrakesh to Fes to visit this magnificent city that every tourist is talking about. It is indeed the “Switzerland of Africa”. I arrived in Fes at 5 o clock in the afternoon and headed to the bus station that left the terminal at 8 o clock in the evening. I came in Ifrane after more than an hour travel with a cold temperature. I was shivering, waited for a taxi cab that can drop me to the hotel until I finally got one. Although I checked in late at 2 am with 12 noon check out, my experience to visit the place is unforgettable.
Tips for travelers: Manage to get a car, if not find time to travel earlier than 2 pm from Fes. Taxis around the city of Ifrane is limited in the evening
The underrated Rabat
The capital city is often overlooked by tourist or travelers. Yes, including yours truly. One thing that impressed me about Rabat was how the old buildings were built and the influence of French can be felt through the city. Don’t miss to visit Sale, which is located in the coastal area and the old village similar to Chefchaoen’s blue houses.
Tips for travelers: You can ride a tram from the train station where you can tour around the city. Walking is fun, though!
The historic Ouarzazate
During my first two days in Marrakesh, I was looking for a way on how to visit Ouarzazate, a historical village where a lot of movies shots its location including my favorite Game of Thrones. While my visit to Souq Medina was cool, I was approached by a young guy who offered me an excursion to Ouarzazate for 300 Moroccan Dirhams. I was with other tourists who picked me from my hotel and traveled all the way to Ouarzazate.
Tips for travelers: Don’t forget to bring your extra camera for your DSLR and storage card
Landmark of Marrakesh
When I first arrived in Marrakesh, one thing that caught my attention was the famous Jemaa el-Fna. Yes, the famous Souq Medina is there and the magnificent Riads that you can stay with. Jemaa el-Fna is too way historic in Marrakesh and every traveler has to visit the famous landmark of the city. It is located just across Souq Medina- the oldest market in Africa.
Tips for travelers: You can have a horse ride outside Jemaa el-Fna and Souq Medina.
Due to overwhelming tourist spots that I visited, while I haven’t explored all places of Morocco yet, one thing that you can observe is accessible of railways which are enough to visit the country. If you are a solo traveler and renting a car is not an option, railways are the best mode of transportation that you can choose.
Tips for travelers: Plan your travel and ride a train based on the destination from the place that you will stay, you can start traveling to Tanger from Marrakesh if you will stay in Marrakesh then going South. I ended in going to Casablanca, Rabat, to Fes and going to Tanger, no regrets, though!
I speak conversational middle eastern Arabic since I work and live in Saudi Arabia as an expat and Spanish is my mother tongue aside from Tagalog. I thought I will be found in speaking Arabic but it turns out NOT. You know the feeling of speaking Arabic that I used to but can’t understand the response? I was doomed. But I found it unique, although most younger generations whom I talked speaks English than the older ones. Morocco speaks Berber and French. So you better ready for that!
Tips for travelers: Always put smile when asking directions, Moroccans are damn nice and helpful!
In general, it was a great journey and I will be visiting this country again. Thank you for meeting you, my Morocco.