As most people know, our adventures so far, have been independent, slow-travel experiences, so when two Spanish friends invited us on a 6 night coach tour of Morocco we decided to try our first organised tour.
The journey involved a catamaran ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. Tarifa is approx 5½ hour drive from where we are based in Almeria, Spain & the ferry was due to leave at 11am. Therefore we decided to drive the day before & stay overnight.
Tarifa was a pleasant surprise, a charming historical port town & definitely somewhere I would like to explore more in the future. We had the chance to find an innovative tapas place and I tried my first algae tapas!
The ferry crossing is normally half an hour. However, I do not want to dwell on the details, but let’s say high seas & gale force winds combined with my ‘LOVE’ of boat travel, made it my No 1 WORST travel experience EVER (along with 3/4 of the boat’s passengers & crew, for 1½ hours of our lives).
Day 1: Tarifa – Fez
So we arrived and straight onto the coach to head from Tarifa – Fez. The journey took 7 hours, but there’s not much I can comment on it, as I was still feeling really ill & decided to keep my eyes closed. Once checked in at the hotel, I decided to be safe & not to eat dinner & go to bed instead. The others headed down for dinner in the hotel and then out for a walk to explore the immediate area (& search out beer which they didn’t find).
Day 2: Fez
After breakfast, the morning consisted of a half day tour of the city, part by coach & part walking.
We visited the 7 doors of the Royal Palace, the door of Bab Bou Jeloud (entrance to the Medina); Medersa el-Attarine (oldest Islamic university); Bab Boujloud (the main gate to the Medina); Fes al Bali (the Medina) & the main Tannery; a mosaic pottery; a metal works, & the Medina & souks. I found the Tannery amazing, but I don’t think I will ever forget the smell.
If the afternoon, we had free time and six of us decided to revisit the Medina again to explore and get lost in the many winding streets. The souk inside the Medina is complex, confusing and easy to get lost in, but as we found out, nothing in comparison with the Marrakesh Medina.
There was something about Fez I loved, but the majority of people on the tour much preferred Marrakesh.
Day 3: Fez to Marrakesh (via Meknes)
This journey took us across the ‘middle’ Atlas mountains & took 11 hours in total. The scenery in Morocco is much greener than I expected, with grass and hills reminiscent of Wales or Switzerland. There was a lot of rain the first two days and the countryside was covered in spring flowers, which made an amazing foreground to the snow covered mountains.
We arrived for allocation of rooms & dinner at the hotel. We took a quick walk after dinner to see if we could find anywhere that sold beer, but again were unlucky & retired for the day.
Day 4 & 5 Marrakesh
After breakfast, we caught the coach into the city. We visited the Bahia Palace; the Koutoubia (which is a copy of the Giralda de Sevilla tower); visited an aromatherapy manufacturer; walked within the packed streets of the Medina and had free time in Square of Djmaa el Fna with its snake charmers and monkey handlers.
That afternoon, six of us went back into the city to visit some more of the sights, which were unfortunately closed at 16.00, so it was a good opportunity to shop in the souk. We grabbed some street food in the Djmaa el Fna square later, as the rest of the group were at an optional themed dinner show.
The second day was a free day, so we revisited the Medina and souks; found the Saadian tombs and had lunch in a rooftop cafe opposite the mosque (where two storks were nesting). We got lost plenty of times in the Medina. Unfortunately as we found out, when you ask for directions, you end up in a spice/metal/carpet shop belonging to a relation of the person who is supposed to be giving you directions. After seeing £1200 carpets being rolled out, we decided to say something and were swiftly shown the door.
Day 6 Marrakesh to Rabat with stop over in Casablanca
Our next stop was Rabat, the capital city of Morocco with a pit-stop in Casablanca. Casablanca is a huge multi-cultural city with 4 million inhabitants (nothing like the Bogart/dreamlike image). Its streets have a modern tram system and a number of international companies are based there, along with KFC, Pizza Hut and Mc Donalds restaurants.
We visited the Mosque Hassan II, second only to Mecca in importance and size and boasting the largest Islamic minaret in the world.
We arrived with plenty of time, so stopped off at The Mausoleum of Mohammed V located on the opposite side of the Hassan Tower. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan King and his two sons the late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.
Day 7 Rabat to Tangier and boat home
The coach picked us up at 8am. We stopped at Assilah a beautiful seaside ‘town’ which was painted in blue and white (with amazing street art). We only had 45 minutes to explore and it is a shame, as I would have loved to spend a little more time in this charming place, but we needed to move on to make the ferry in good time.
Despite being panic-ridden about the journey home, the sea was like a mill pond and the journey perfect. We grabbed a snack in Tarifa and headed on our way back to Almeria to arrive shortly after midnight.