Morocco (Nov-Jan 2019/20)

 

Morocco… where do we even begin? Maybe by telling that it was one of the most diverse countries we have ever been to. Common thinking could be that Morocco only consists of sand (which we did see) but we also drove through lush green hills, snow covered mountains and along valleys full of palm trees.

If you are lucky with the snow fall you can experience these 3 pictures within 1-2 weeks of driving.

But let’s go back to the start. Despite the rather unstable, cold weather in the north and us being sick twice within the first month we decided that we did not want to rush to the south. So we visited a handful of cities and towns in the north: Tangier, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Meknes and Fes. We walked through many narrow alleys, drank a lot of very sugary mint teas, ate our first Tajine, bought nuts and dates in the souks, enjoyed the calls of the muezzins and petted and photographed a lot of cats. Probably the most famous town we visited was Chefchaouen and we were surprised how relaxed and unbothered we could walk through that beautiful blue town.

Chefchaouen

We stayed a week on a campground near Meknes and there we finally found the time and a good mechanic to install our heater in our van. Looking back we can say that we are both very happy that we had a heater in Morocco 🙂 In the cold mornings we usually turned on our auxiliary heating and got out of bed 15 minutes later when it was warm and cozy.

After the city marathon in the north we were both longing for nature and also to find some solitude again. As beautiful as the landscapes and scenery in Morocco is we also have to mention one annoying side when traveling through Morocco (this counts especially for the north): we had our problems with the vendors and sometimes the general attitude. We got hassled a lot. Every time you stop somebody comes out of nowhere, tries to sell you stuff persistently and does not leave. As soon as kids realize you’re a tourist they start begging for money. At the same time we know that Morocco partly is a poor country with high unemployment and we often felt guilty and sorry for not buying something from the vendors. Their life is definitely not easy.

We made our peace with Morocco in the mountains and further south. We spent several weeks in the desert. Other than you might think the majority was stone desert and only rarely sand desert. Dry air and low population density in the south meant very nice night skies. As always we were in awe of the milky way.

campground near Agdz

We passed oases with uncountable palm trees, saw Kasbahs, Ksars and Agadirs along the road, visited big bustling souks where we bought heaps of very cheap vegetables. We had nice walks through the sand dunes, saw many dromedaries and had sand and dust in the van always and everywhere!

Erg Chebbi (thank you Ludo for that nice picture 🙂 )

Driving through the mountains was really wonderful with all these beautiful and colorful rocks often shaped bizarre with fascinating structures. We drove along several gorges with steep cliffs, saw lots of shepherds keeping an eye on their sheep and goats, passed many locals on or with donkeys, marveled at cacti along the road or all over the hills and to top everything we got some white snow on top of the red rocks higher up in the mountains!

south of the mountains close to Er-Rich

Except for the rainy first weeks we had sunshine almost all the time and it would often be weeks without a cloud in sight. Temperatures during the day were usually around 18°C with nights around 3°C. We had our coldest night up at 2300m where we went to bed at -7°C.

at 2300m near Imilchil

Food wise we were not that impressed. Sure we had some delicious Tajines but some were also a bit dull and besides Tajine choices were a bit limited and rather on the fast food side. At the same time we have to add that while camping we don’t go to eat dinner very often. Vegetable supply in Morocco was vast and insanely cheap.

As we are both not the biggest Christmas fans a muslim country is a good place to go at that time of the year. We were delighted to spend our most un-christmasy Christmas ever. Also New Years Eve was without big dram-dram… just some nice people, a BBQ and a big camp fire!

We didn’t want to leave Morocco without having been to the Atlantic. And even though knew that the coast is crowded with retired people in their massive motorhomes we still managed to find some nice, calm villages with beautiful sunsets, nice beaches and the big waves crashing against the rocks.

it was impressive how much force is behind the big waves of the Atlantic

We met a huge number of wonderful, like-minded people in Morocco and made many new friends. We always stayed in contact with them and as the majority of them was traveling faster than us we got good insider tips – often with precise coordinates. Especially Verena was pleasantly surprised how many other travelers here seemed to be able to handle coordinates! :-)))

In Morocco we hardly read a travel guide but relied on what people recommended us – what to see, where to go or where to sleep. Many of the people we met have either come to Morocco for many years or have travelled many other countries or continents… they all definitely fed our desire to explore more and we are thankful for that and hope to meet our friends again somewhere in the world 🙂

 

NOTES & ANECDOTES

in Morocco – or in muslim countries in general – everything happens “Inshallah” (if god wishes). Ask for an arrival time? “7PM Inshallah”.

we did not buy a single bottle of water – we always purified the water (from the tap or from sources) with our Steripen

we had 4G almost everywhere. The network coverage was certainly way better than in Germany. Downside was that often it was hard to take a picture without an antenna in the frame 😉 

schools are (almost) always far outside of towns

we had the intention not to drive in the dark. We violated that intention on the first day.

some things in Morocco are VERY gender divided. For example in Cafés you see 100% men

Morocco has an official time but many still use the older time (which is 1 hour different) from several years ago. Fun fact: if you go to Morocco with an Android phone this phone will still tell you the old time and you will always be off by 1 hour whereas an iPhone will give you the official time. Then again time is relative in Morocco… they have a saying: “the Europeans have the watches and we have the time”

it is strictly forbidden to bring drones to Morocco

services offered on several half official camp spots by locals right next to your car:
mechanic, food delivery, henna paintings, paintings on your car, hairdresser, offroad tour guide, selling of bread, argan oil, honey and cosmetics

contrary to other muslim countries we have been to in Morocco as a non-muslim you can only visit one mosque in the whole country

we saw many police controls but they never stopped us (probably because we were tourists with a foreign numberplate). In the more populated areas they controlled the speed limit with laser pistols very often.

BMCI was our favorite bank to withdraw money – they were the only bank we found where we could withdraw money without fees

Westerners usually handle gas bottles with lots of care. In Morocco when they unload them from the truck they just throw them down on the ground from 3m high (which explains the way the gas bottles look like…) 

we often said that Morocco feels like “Africa light” – it is different to Europe but not as different as Africa further south

who would have thought that there are 1 million flies at the edge of the sand desert?

our exhaust pipe fell apart every now and then. Edgar used the picknick mat a lot to lie under the car… it took him approximately 5 tries to finally fix the exhaust pipe properly.

 

NUMBERS

we spent 3 months in Morocco

we stayed 53 nights on campgrounds, 3 nights on parking lots and wild camped 27 nights. Average campground price was 6,60€ (70 MAD) without electricity. Optional electricity usually cost around 2€ per day.

average diesel price was 0,93€ (9,90 MAD) per liter

we drove 5576km in Morocco – an average of 66km per day.

we spent 16,50 Euro per person per day (including the car ferry for 900€ to and from Morocco and the local car insurance for 180€). Excluding fixed costs like car insurance + taxes and travel health insurance.

we went to a mechanic 9 times. 5 times because it was rather necessary and 4 times voluntarily because it was so cheap to get stuff fixed in Morocco (install the auxiliary heating, rust removal, bigger second battery)

road condition: ranging from 4 to 8 (out of 10 points); very varying – from good tarmac to rather bad roads

driving style / manners: much more pleasant than expected. Respectful, friendly driving and mostly mild overtaking.


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