Land of contrasts: seven mysterious cities of Morocco
mysterious cities of Morocco; If in one day you want to ride on one of the best surfing beaches, cross snow-capped peaks and ride a camel across sand dunes in the evening, Morocco is the place to be. The country, whose shores are washed by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, stands in stark contrast to other post-colonial African nations. Having been to Morocco, traveler Alexandra Ustinova tells us what you should pay attention to in this country, what difficulties you can expect and where to find souvenirs.
If in one day you want to ride on one of the best surfing beaches, cross snow-capped peaks and ride a camel through sand dunes in the evening, Morocco is the place to be. The country, whose shores are washed by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, stands in stark contrast to other post-colonial African nations. Having been to Morocco, traveler Alexandra Ustinova tells us what you should pay attention to in this country, what difficulties you may encounter and where to find local souvenirs.
The first thing that strikes you in Morocco is the combination of beautiful architecture, dirty streets and shabby houses. After the French left, the city centers were filled with spontaneous markets, where traders sell directly from the ground. Traders tend to set up in the medina, the old city, which is usually enclosed by a high wall, making it look like a medieval fortress.
Once in the medina, if you don’t pay attention to the new gadgets in the hands of the Moroccans, you may get the impression that you are lost in time and transported back a few centuries. Narrow roads seriously limit Moroccans in the choice of transportation, so locals move at best on mopeds, and usually – on donkeys. And also on the streets of the medina instead of stray dogs you can meet goats. The picture is complemented by barefoot and grimy children wandering around the city.
However, the first impression is deceptive. The standard of living in Morocco, as well as prices for goods and foodstuffs, are many times higher than in Ukraine. The per capita income is 3 times higher than in Ukraine, and a lunch in a cafe or restaurant costs 20-30 euros per person.
The level of service, however, leaves much to be desired and does not correspond to European prices. Having ordered in car rental a car “pirozhok”, at 3 o’clock in the morning we were told that we would be provided with a Nissan Qashqai. All would be nothing, but having 4 adults, 4 huge bags, a mobile hemodialysis machine and 10 more boxes of consumables to it, to say that we were in shock is not to say anything. But in the rental we were told “if you don’t like it – goodbye”, at 3am nothing else works anyway.
Later it turned out that one of the headlights in the car didn’t work, which we found out at the first police post, of which there are a lot, and one of the wheels was replaced by a spare.
Relations between people are mostly organized in the format of “make a deal” or “cheat”. You have to be ready to bargain everywhere, check everything, and put all agreements in writing. For example, we almost missed our return flight when they did not want to take our car earlier than the specified hour and demanded money for it, although we had a prior verbal agreement to return the car early.
Don’t believe the “kind people” who come up to you in the middle of the city on a scooter, welcoming you to Morocco. Then it will turn out that you are on your way, and you will not be able to tear yourself away from the intrusive escort. Then they will demand money for it, and you will have to explain for a long time that you were not following your traveling companion, but according to GPS. .Such con artists typically approach you at the first set of lights at the city’s entry.
. This is their favorite meeting place for foreigners, who are hard to miss. In the most extreme cases, we said we were going to call the police, and as a result we were left alone.
mysterious cities of Morocco; South
The southern cities of the country are very different from the rest of the country. Agadir, for example, is more like our Odessa. All young people come here on weekends to “party” in nightclubs, and in the morning to surf. The city is perceived as quite European – with piers, harbors, stores along a wide promenade. There are many Russian tourists in Agadir.
: view of Agadir
mysterious cities of Morocco; waterfront in Agadir
One of the most colorful and memorable southern cities was Essaouira, or Essaouira. This is one of the main places on the African coast for surfers. For this reason, the town is very pro-European. Essaouira will be remembered for its wide promenade, where they play soccer in the evenings, bicycle paths, beautiful medina, with a good European assortment in shops and, of course, unforgettable seafood. You can buy them from fishermen right in the harbor at the entrance to the old town. They have everything from lobsters to sea urchins.
: view of Es Sueira
entrance to the medina in Essaouira
old port in Essaouira
fish market in Essaouira
You can visit modest neighborhood eateries in Essaouira that don’t look particularly appealing yet provide incredibly good meals. Here, you may choose from a variety of fresh seafood that is grilled in front of you.
. The cost of dinner for four people 4, after which you will be hard to get up, will cost about 300 dirhams (30 euros). But be prepared that you will be asked to tip separately, both for service and for the kitchen.
spices and seasonings at the market in Essaouira
mysterious cities of Morocco; Morocco’s big cities
To be honest, world-famous Casablanca was the biggest disappointment of the trip. The city is memorable for the dirty, run-down French architecture in the center and the lack of a proper waterfront, which looks like it was going to be built but never finished.
The only two sights worth visiting are the beautiful former Sacrecoeur Church, which is now a vacant building, and of course the Hassan II Mosque. If you don’t spare 20 dirhams to go up to the roof of the former church, you’ll get a great view of Casablanca. It is worth spending 40 minutes before visiting the mosque.
The Hassan II Mosque is the tallest mosque in the world. It stands right on the ocean. Pompous, beautiful, but only Muslims are allowed inside. Only by signing up for a guided tour, which is possible only a few hours a week, non-Muslim tourists can get inside. Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
: Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Courtyard at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
This is a city of many tourists, the only one where we encountered horse-drawn carriages that take tourists to their hotels. horse-drawn carriages instead of cabs in Marrakech
Marrakech’s downtown area
a street in Marrakech
: city center in Marrakech
The most colorful place in Marrakech is, of course, a huge, probably the largest market in the country. Here, in addition to many fakes of famous brands, you can cheaply buy things for which Morocco is famous: leather jackets, bags, wallets, all kinds of lamps made of metal and colorful glass, an incredible amount of body oils, spices, dried fruits, nuts. The most popular, of course, is argan oil, as in Morocco it is produced on almost every farm. You can even safely stop on the highway and buy cosmetic oil and all kinds of sweets from nuts based on honey and oils from the villagers.
The main rule of all markets in Morocco is to bargain and bargain again. The main rule of all markets in Morocco is to bargain and bargain again.
: Marrakech market
: spices at the market in Marrakech
The market is open until 21-00, and then the nightlife of the city begins in the square in front of it. Here you can watch dancing snakes, street fights and make bets, listen to local folk music and even watch belly dancing. Many food courts open up in the square towards evening.
One of the largest cities in Morocco with the largest medina is Fes. The city subsidizes the people living in the medina, so it is quite large and bustling with life. Here is the best choice of leather goods and it is here, on specially equipped terraces, on which you will be lured by local invigilators, you can see how the hides are handmade, dried, dyed.
By the way, in the city it is very popular to impose guides to foreigners, which is not strange, because in the medina is very poor GPS signal, so you can easily get lost
Photo: view from a rooftop in the medina in Fez
Photo: ruins of a Roman city in Volubilis, which lies between Fez and Rabat.
Rabat is the capital of Morocco. It is a fairly small city, but with one of the most beautiful views of the ocean.A sizable Muslim cemetery may be seen along the coast, close to the beaches.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter it.
mysterious cities of Morocco; street vending in Rabat
Merzouga is a small village on the border with the desert. Exactly the desert that any traveler imagines – with dunes, barchans and camel caravans.
But in fact the desert is many times bigger – sand makes up only a small part of it. For the most part, these are stone steppes, on which you can drive endlessly, occasionally meeting oases with settlements.
It is best to come to Merzuga in the evening to meet the stars. You will hardly see such a sky as above the
mysterious cities of Morocco; desert and Snowboarding in the Sahara near Merzouga
What to see/try
Goats in the trees
Since food on the ground, particularly grass, is sometimes quite scarce, goats graze in the trees. Driving along the highway you can safely see trees that are lined with goats peacefully munching on leaves.
On the way to the desert, crossing the mountains, don’t be surprised if a monkey comes out and in a couple of minutes will cheekily take away your bag of nuts. They live here in the forests, but they are very socialized by the locals, who make good money on them by selling nuts and other goodies as their food.
mysterious cities of Morocco; Drinks
Morocco is the country of freeshes, which you can buy here on any corner, especially orange ones. The prices are ridiculous, around 5-6 dirhams (0.25 dollars), but the drinks are very tasty.
Everyone here, especially men drink tea. They laugh and say it’s their aphrodisiac, that’s why they have so many children in their families. The tea is mint tea, based on green tea.Actually, a lot of fresh mint and sugar are added to brewed green tea.
The latter they only have refined, and for one small cup you will usually get 1 lump of sugar, which will take up half of that cup. At the same time, black tea is nowhere to be found.
Every day, as early as lunchtime, you can observe a situation where most of the café terraces are occupied by men. This is a standard pastime of men: with a small glass of tea or coffee they can sit for hours watching the street and passers-by. You will never meet women there, it is exclusively a male ritual.
Do not be guided when choosing a cafe by its name – you will not be served anything but coffee and tea.
At the same time, you are unlikely to find alcohol anywhere in the store. In some provinces, for example in Fez, its sale is prohibited at all, and in several others it is allowed only for tourists.
However, at one time the French taught Moroccans how to make wine, especially in the north of the country. The most popular here is the so-called “gray” wine, which is very similar to young wine.
mysterious cities of Morocco; However, Moroccans have fine wines of Food
Local food is not full of variety. But in Morocco they make delicious couscous (Berber food) and tajir (stew with vegetables). It is better not to take tajir earlier in the evening, because according to traditions it is cooked from lunch and just under the evening it will be ready.
Moroccans have enough different street food. Especially popular, besides classic burgers and fries, are local burgers with fish, which are cooked right in front of the customer in a few minutes.
All the fruits we bought in Morocco were incredibly juicy and sweet. Be it watermelon, melon or strawberries the size of half a palm. They cost pennies here. The only disappointment was apples.
For lovers of oysters and other seafood here is also a paradise. You can buy oysters or boiled snails from a bucket at local markets and sometimes just on the street.Cabernet, Merlot and other standard varieties
This is part of the local culture. You can find such variety as in the local markets only in Istanbul. In fact, it is part of their life, as everyone sells everything.
mysterious cities of Morocco; Sahara and fossilized remains
Much of the Sahara is dead earth, where, if you look closely, you can see a variety of fossilized remains of mollusks and insects. This is one of the most common tourist souvenirs you will be offered to buy. They are usually polished fossilized beetles or shells