After three weeks travelling through Ethiopia and a long layover in Dubai, we arrive in Casablanca, Morocco. It’s Maartje’s second time in Morocco and for me, it’s the first time! We have two weeks to explore the country but are planning to take it easy. Or well, that’s what we thought. As soon as we arrive in Morocco we get excited and want to see everything. From glamping in the desert to driving through the Atlas mountains to getting lost in the medina of Fez, we want to do it all. It does include almost freezing to death in riads, unfortunately. Yes, winter in Morocco can be cold!
Everybody knows Casablanca from the movie right?! I actually never watched it but still have plans to see it! Casablanca is a nice city to explore for a day or afternoon. And for us, it’s a good place to start our Morocco trip, since it’s not a super busy city (if you compare it to Fez or Marrakech) – it’s apparently the most populous, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. We especially enjoy visiting the Hassan II mosque, such a gorgeous building. And the sunset we see, sitting next to the mosque, is even more incredible. We enjoy our first Moroccan tea sessions and try Moroccan cuisine. Good to know: if you order tea in Morocco it’ll come with lots of sugar!
By train, we travel from Casablanca to Fez. And wow, the train system in Morocco is so fancy. Especially after coming from Ethiopia we are impressed with the convenience of public transport in Morocco. And it’s not expensive at all! Maartje visited Fez five years ago with our student association Particolarte and she loved it. So I’m extra excited to see the city myself. We stay in the medina (old city) of Fez and it’s a bit difficult to find our riad (traditional Moroccan house) since the streets in the medina are super narrow, it’s like a maze. Luckily we downloaded the app maps.me (super convenient), because as soon as we set foot in the medina multiple people ‘attack’ us with questions like ‘Where are you staying?’, ‘Shall I bring you to your riad?’ or ‘This road is closed, you can’t go there!’.
Freezing Temperatures in our Riad
Our riad is cosy but so cold. Before coming to Morocco we knew it could be cold (around 13° C, 55.4° F during daytime), only we didn’t expect it to be cold inside houses. The cold outside is fine, but being cold inside is horrible. It’s only 8° C in our room and our shower is cold! Guess we won’t shower during those three days. Luckily the old medina of Fez is very beautiful and authentic. Fez is famous for its tanneries and normally they smell disgusting but since it’s winter the smell isn’t too bad. The owner of our riad shows us around and takes us with him to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Volubilis. It’s about 1.5 hours away from Fez and I never heard of this place before. We arrive after opening hours, but who cares? It’s Morocco, so we jump over the fence and bribe the guard. It would be so handy if we could do that in the Netherlands haha. Volubilis is gorgeous and we are right in time for an amazing sunset.
Glamping in the Desert
Chefchouen and Rabat were on our initial itinerary, but have to wait until next time. We simply don’t have enough time, so we make our way to Marrakech and prepare ourselves for a glamping trip to the Agafay desert. Glamping is something neither of us did before, so we are freaking excited about it. We went camping many times, but this is next level. The Agafay desert is only a 45-minute ride from Marrakech, so it’s perfect for an overnight trip or even for a day trip. There are many luxury camps in the desert, we go to Inara camp. As soon as we arrive we know we never want to go back to ‘regular’ camping ever again haha. In Fez, we didn’t have a hot shower in our riad and here in the desert, we have a tent with a bathroom and a hot shower!
The Inara Camp we stay at is an Instagrammable paradise. It’s so perfect for pictures and the rainbow cacti are the best. We enjoy everything about our glamping experience, it’s so comfortable. The food is good, the scenery is amazing, the Berber people who work there are super friendly and our tent is the best (it even has a wooden fireplace to keep us warm at night). The red wine next to the campfire is the finishing touch. If you never went glamping, go and try it out, we can highly recommend it!
From the Agafay desert, we make our way to Essaouira, with a quick stop in Marrakech to catch the bus. When we were looking for Morocco tips everybody told us to go to Essaouira. But nobody could exactly tell us why we had to go there. As soon as we arrive in Essaouira and step inside the medina we know why it’s a must visit: this town is soooo cute! And the vibes are great. It feels very peaceful and the people are very friendly and not pushy at all (unlike Fez’s medina). Essaouira is located next to the sea and is famous for its fishing and adorable blue fishing boats. During sunset, many boats come back to the harbour and there are thousands of seagulls trying to steal fish, it’s fascinating to see and gives some amazing shots. There were also so many cute cats everywhere – and they looked really well! If we had more time we could easily spend a week here! Definitely put Essaouira on your Morocco list.
After visiting Fez, even the people in Marrakech seem very friendly. We heard many stories from people who visited Marrakech and told us it was chaotic and the people are pushy. So it’s a good thing we visited Fez first because after Fez you can easily handle the other cities. We really enjoy walking around Marrakech. We only have one day in the city but it’s enough for us to see the things we want to see. Marrakech is perfect for pictures too, but it seems that the whole country is picture perfect!
Aït Ben Haddou
The Agafay desert is a stone desert, so not the typical sand dune desert. We really want to see the ‘real’ sand desert as well and therefore go on a three-day group tour to the Merzouga desert, aka Erg Chebbi desert. The Erg Chebbi dunes are part of the pre-Sahara and are absolutely stunning. But first, we make a stop in Aït Ben Haddou. Aït Ben Haddou is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site village and is mostly famous because several films have been shot in Aït Ben Haddou, for example, The Gladiator and Prince of Persia. Game of Thrones also used the village for shots (as well as Essaouira!). It’s an incredible village and the hour we get for exploring isn’t enough. That’s the downside of group tours, we don’t get the time we want to take pictures etc. But we’ll come back one day, next time we’ll rent a car – this part of Morocco is so beautiful. The perfect scenery for a road trip!
Want to see more Morocco pictures? Check out our article: A Magical Visual Journey Through Morocco!
Erg Chebbi Desert
We cross the High Atlas mountains and Dades valley before we hop on a camel that brings us to our camp in the desert. Luckily we arrive just before sunset and have half an hour to take the shots we want to have. That’s pretty stressful as we normally like to explore the area first and take our time to take pictures. But luckily we get some wonderful pictures and at night we enjoy the ambience in the camp. Sleeping in our tent isn’t as cold as we expected (lucky us, since this time we don’t have a wooden fireplace in our tent). The next morning we leave our camp when it’s still dark. We get to see the sunrise while sitting on the back of our camel. It’s very cold and so uncomfortable, luckily it’s just for 1.5 hours. After the camel trip, I have a hard time walking again, gosh, my legs hurt. But it was an amazing experience. Plus camels are the cutest. NOTE: When you ride camels, always make sure that they are well taken care of!
Bye Bye Magical Morocco
It’s a long drive back to Marrakech but we do it all in one day since our tour is just a three-day trip and we fly out of Morocco. We are heading back to the Netherlands again!! We are finally going to see my new little nephew, our families and friends again and to catch up on some work. It’s not the best time of the year to go to the Netherlands as it’s cold (we like hot temperatures) but hopefully, we can go ice skating! I really love ice skating. For now, it’s time to say bye bye to Morocco, we loved travelling through this beautiful country. We never felt unsafe and felt pretty welcomed as a couple, so see you next time!!