Trip across the ocean… Morocco
Me and my wife are not standard laying on the beach holidays lovers. Many years ago we discovered that the best way to rest are productive holidays, with some activities, some challenges, and some contrasts, which are as much far away from your daily routine as possible. So for many years we are planning our holidays just like that.
This time destination – Morocco. Why Morocco? First of all, it is a country of diversity: impressive deserts, huge mountains, crazy but friendly people, endless bazaars, historical cities, great weather all year long and the Ocean. Secondly, it is easily reachable by air plane; the country also has good roads and fair prices.
As the time these days is gold value we decided to go to Morocco for 7-8 days. Of course it is too little time to see everything what is worth, so we were thinking, discussing, and checking all the information to create the right package of adventures in Morocco. It was difficult, but we were super happy about the final result!
Day 1. Our plane landed in Marrakech airport – cosy airport with polite stuff and 80˚F degrees. Thank God we had ordered a car from the Internet because those who tried to rent a car in the airport had to face some big challenges – service sellers were behaving like in a bazaar: prices were jumping up and down, no specificity, lots of emotions.
It is not a car we rent but this beauty (Renault 4 GTL) is very frequent in Morocco roads. Each time you see this car it provokes a smile in your face.
A bit tired after a long flight we drew directly to a cosy authentic hotel in Marrakech city centre. We were super hungry so the fastest way to fix this dramatic situation was to check hotel’s restaurant. That evening we got acquainted with tajine – national Morocco dish with tender meat and aromatic vegetables made in special earthenware pan. The taste was interesting, but good.
After dinner we went to Morocco bazaar, which amazed us with endless territory, thousands of proactive sellers and lots of everything to buy. Unique experience, which changed a bit of our understanding of selling and buying process in general: sellers provoke the contact, provoke the negotiation, and manipulate you to buy things which you do not need at all.
Day 2. The next morning after breakfast we left Marrakech and went to Imlil – a small village in high Atlas Mountains, 5’900 ft above the sea level. From this village it is usual to head up to Toubkal – the highest peak in Northern Africa (13’671 ft). Our intention to come to Imlis without doubt was the same .
It took us just several attempts to find a nice hotel, where we left our belongings and went for a short hike – to feel our bodies in a bit higher place. The weather was lovely, nice view and excitement before big adventure – reaching the Toubkal.
After hike the rest of the day we spent in a lazy manner: no rush, just some planning for the next day, maps analyses, good Morocco food and early bed.
Day 3. After breakfast we left all the unnecessary belongings in hotel’s storage room and equipped only with light bags we started the two – days hike to Toubkal. First three hours were very easy and comfortable. No challenges at all. Easy road. Lovely weather. No possibilities to confuse.
Suddenly the weather started to change: the sun disappeared, dark clouds covered the sky, temperature decreased. However, we remained positive because it was very good to stay fresh during our activities.
In the route we found many tourists, most of them were going with guides and also many of them with a help of donkeys. That was a bit unusual for us but seemed lovely and interesting. What is more, donkeys leave strong trace on the ground so it is much easier to stay on the route.
On the way to Toubkal you will find not only donkeys, but also some other services. For instance, in the yards of old houses you can buy snacks or even get some fresh orange juice. That’s a nice thing, because you can take less stuff with you and refill yourself in such a pit stops. By the way, one big glass of fresh orange juice costs around 1$.
After all those pit stops we felt fresh, so the last part of the route to Toubkal refugee we passed with no problems at all. Of course, the height was doing its job: the body becomes heavy, you are starting to breathe deeper and your legs becomes heavier. But as the route is comfortable (even donkeys can make it ), it is easy to reach the top of Toubkal refugee. In total, a hike from Imlil to Toubkal refugee took us around 6 hours.
Toubkal refugee is in 10’521 height. It is definitely not a place that you call ‘fancy’ but in such height you do not expect much. A roof over your head, hot food, some services as showers, toilets, shop and that’s all you need.
In refugee there are two type of rooms: separate or dormitory type. Dormitory type bead rooms usually are very big, with 25 or even more people, so it is difficult to get a good rest. Of course, you can meet interesting people but we decided to take a separate room and to be sure that at night time we will sleep and we will sleep well.
As I mentioned, the refugees in mountains are never fancy places, but dinner in Toubkal refugee was quite good. We received a good vegetable soup with lots of ingredients. The soup was followed with (of course) tajine. Good portions. After long physical activity you stomach is ready for big loads of food!
Day 4. As we knew that this day will be long and challenging, we woke up very early and we were ready just after breakfast at 6 am.
This day alpinists call “summit day” – the day when you reach the top of the mountain. Usually it is a long and hard day. For us it was also not a lying in a beach day We spent 3 hours 30 min to reach the peak. The weather was foggy so the view at the peak was not as majestic as we expected, but still the feeling and the satisfaction was really amazing!
After short relaxation and photo shooting it was time to start going down. Going down is much easier and faster as compared to climbing up, because a bit other sides of muscles are working, the height is decreasing and, of course, it’s always easier to go down then up! As going down was much faster we decided to go directly to Imlil. Actually, it’s the best solution in general – to skip the refugee. It took about 6 hours to go down directly to Imlil.
The process of hiking was not as difficult as we could imagine, even 65 year – old lady or 14 year – old kid can manage it. The biggest challenge to deal with is an altitude sickness. Some people take it easier, for some it is more demanding. But, believe me, the feeling that you reached the highest peak in South Africa and all Arabic countries on your own will remain in your memories forever!
In Imlil we stayed in the same hotel – hot shower and possibility to choose to eat whatever you want for dinner was like a small miracle after two days in the wild hike.
Day 5. Just after breakfast we said bye bye to Imlil and to all the High Atlas mountains. Adventure time in mountain deserts turn has come. So we took the long road to Merzouga. Merzouga is a village in Sahara – the largest hot desert in the world. The size of Sahara is practically the same as USA.
We finally reached the Merzouga. By the way, under the village is a huge natural underground body of water, probably that’s the main reason why this village exists. The panorama of the city is quite clear – sand, sand and once again sand.
At first you could think that Merzouga is an empty place but you can find civilization there: hotels with air conditions, swimming pools, WiFi and all the other basics. We took a room in one of these places and were not disappointed. Everything was good: authentic interior, tasty food, and clean rooms.
Day 6. The destination for today is clear – to feel the spirit of Sahara as much as we can. After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to try the four-wheel drive jeep services. We traveled through the desert with a skilled driver and visited a Berber tribe living in a desert and separated from civilization. It is difficult to grasp how to live in a tent that is surrounded by desert, but the tribe lived and lives that way. And people look happy, without worries, smiling, sipping a sweet tea.
In the evening, we had a tour of the camels deep into the wilderness. That was the first time we ever rode a camel. The feeling is really interesting, and quite different than riding on a horse. Sand is not the most stable surface, but the camels have moved through it skillfully and with stability.
On a camel with Berber’s escort, we traveled to a tourist-oriented Berber-style tent town. The journey took a good hour, but the time passed so quickly because our eyes were enjoying the boundless views of the desert. In the end we reached the goal.
The first thing we experienced when we arrived was the feeling of indescribable tranquility: no leaf shrubs, no insects, only naked deserts, sand around everywhere. Absorbing and sweating, we got acquainted with local Berbers and got an authentic gourmet dinner prepared in their own place. There was so much food that we could not overcome even half of it.
After dinner, we were pleasantly surprised, all the Berbers of the tent camp gathered and started to play and sing local folk songs. In the dark under the starry sky, it was magical. We were very impressed by their sincerity and radiance of joy. They just had a very good time, and this mood surrounded us, we felt as if we were a part of this community.
At the end of the evening we found a tent prepared for us, so we did not wait for anything and tried out how comfortable it is.
Day 7. Surrounded by desert and peace, we just dreamed perfectly. It is time to get up early because we had to go back with camels as early as possible and avoid the heat. So we had breakfast when we came back to Merzouga.
Having settled down and scratched to the end, knowing that there was a long way to Casablanca, we left the fairy tale of the wilderness and sat in the car. We travelled for a long time, with stops on the way to dine. We finally reached Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, an important North African port city and business center. It is no secret that many call this city one of the most romantic ones. Most probably because the Hollywood movie of the same name, Casablanca, was set here.
We stayed in a cosy hotel in the Old Town. After a long trip, we wanted to take a break. We went to the Casablanca Old Town, more precisely the new Medina – Habous, which was built in the 20th century by French occupants. Casablanca, unlike the rest of Morocco, is a very western city. It may feel like you’re not in Africa, but in Western Europe: narrow streets, modern-day people, many cosy cafes, shops, lots of shores, a few Arabic attributes.
After dinner in one of the Moroccan cafes, we returned to the hotel. We began to realize that our weekly African tale is over. There are a lot of different things to do. We saw a lot, we experienced it differently. We came to the conclusion that this is one of our best vacations and that we will come back here in some time in the future. Morocco has its magic and we really got into the spells of magic!
Day 8. Accepting the idea that the holidays are already over, we traveled to the hotel, walked a little further under the Casablanca Old Town, bought the missing presents for our family an friends, and left for the airport.
This is it. See you soon, pleasant and colorful Morocco!