Day 10 – 14th January 2017 – Marrakech

We had a lazy start and Ed proved he was feeling better by having some breakfast!

We said some goodbyes before walking into the centre for a final wander through the Medina and souks with just three others, Simone, Sarah and Will.

After watching Simone barter for some more shopping we headed back to Kosy bar for one final drink before walking back to the hotel for our airport transfer.

The Marrakesh airport experience was not a particularly great one. It seems that the Moroccans expect you to know that you have to complete an exit form (like a landing card) before you go through the immigration desk. The jobsworth that I ended up with sent be to the back of the queue and told me that it was not his problem. Then, in the duty free shop, for some odd reason, they don’t accept Moroccan currency, only euros, and so we couldn’t use our last remaining currency.

The flight itself was uneventful but by now neither of us was feeling great and so when we landed and checked into our hotel, we simply went to bed. But of an anticlimax to a lovely holiday in an interesting country.

Day 9 – 13th January 2017 – Marrakech

After a broken sleep, our overnight train arrived into Marrakech at 8.30 and it was 9.30 before we arrived at the hotel Caspian and had some breakfast. 

As Ed was still feeling ropey we decided to wait until our room was ready and check in. We had a lazy day, popping out for a pizza at lunchtime. Ed spent most of it sleeping and I read on the rooftop of the hotel. 

We tried to walk into the centre in time to have a wander and meet up with our fellow travellers for a goodbye meal. However, Ed didn’t make it and after we walked back to the hotel I went into the centre on my own.

I found the rooftop bar that we’d been to when we visited Marrakech before and had a quick drink overlooking the hustle and bustle in the square below.

I then walked to meet the others for a final tagine. We agreed to meet for breakfast to say some final farewells. 

Day 8 – 12th January 2017 – Chefchaouen to Tangier

After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and climbed into a minibus which was to take us the 3 hour journey to Tangiers. The this was windy and it snaked its way through the lower Rif mountains. We stopped briefly at Tatouen before arriving at Tangier just before midday. 

After a short time exploring the area Mohammed walked us to the sea front and along to a small Lebonease restaurant where we had lunch and which would also serve as our meeting place later. It turned out that the restaurant was almost next door to the Rif hotel where I stayed on a family holiday around 30 years ago!  The sea front looked vaguely familiar, although it has clearly undergone some renovation, but the photo on the outside of the hotel showing the swimming pool was instantly recognisable. 

Next stop was the caves of Hercules where there is an entrance in the shape of the African continent (if you have a good imagination!)

It is also a place where generations before have come to hollow out mill stones for olive oil presses and it was clear to see where the stones have been carved. 

We were dropped back off at the main square and had 4 hours to explore veggie breeding to be back at the restaurant to leave for our overnight train to Marrakech. 

We wandered through the narrow streets of the Medina, done if which were brightly painted. 

Tangiers had a reputation for Street hustlers and although authorities have, apparently, attempted to clean up the city, we received far more attention than in places we’ve been before. 

As night feel we stopped for a couple of drinks in I’ve of the nicer hotels where they also bright a steady stream of canapés with our drinks. There was a very bright full moon rising above the port, although I don’t think this picture really does it justice. 

Ed want feeling well by this point and had been sick a few times so we walked back to the restaurant to meet the others. 

At 9 pm the minibus cane to drive us the short way to the train station and we boarded our train to Marrakech. The Moroccan sleeper trains seem comfortable enough and there were four of us out cabin. The train left, a little late, at 10.15 on, with not much else to do, we settled down for some sleep. 

Day 7 – 11th January 2017 – Chefchaouen

After breakfast which consisted of the usual bread, pancake, coffee and delicious fresh orange juice, we met with most of our group for a morning hike into the hills behind Chefchaouen.  The weather was better than yesterday and the route took us up a well made path to a mosque sitting high on the hillside, seemingly all on its own. It was built by the Spanish and isn’t in use. 

We walked in and up, waking along unmade paths and thurough farm yards with a mix of ramshackle farms and some nicely maintained buildings. 

We came across another mosque, decorated in the same blue and white in the town. 

Towards the halfway point in our walk we came across a farm where there was cannabis growing.  Our guide explained that most of it has been harvested but we could still see odd plants growing along the way. (cannabis is illegal in Morocco but it’s widely sold and there have been many offers by locals as we’ve been walking around Chefchaouen.)

Slightly further on we came across a rough building, hidden in a dip behind some trees where there was a rhythmic stunning noise which is apparently the processing of the cannabis plants. We didn’t venture any closer however! 

The return journey was down a slightly different route to the outward one and passed more goat herders and could see many more high on the steep hillside. 

We arrived back at our hotel in time to head into Chefchaouen for lunch which we ate on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the main square. The chicken cous cous was delicious!  

After some more exploring we wandered to the parador hotel where we sat on the terrace with a beer and exchanging travel stories with some of our fellow travellers – one of the real delights of travelling in a group, gaining ideas of where to go next! 

After a couple of hours rest we had dinner in the hotel – goat tagine for me- before a few games cards and an early night…. Tangier tomorrow!

Day 6 – 10th January 2017 – Fez to Chefchaouen

We left the hotel at 9am after breakfast in a minibus. The bus drove out of Fez and after about an hour’s drive we stopped overlooking a damn which is used to hold water for drinking. 

We drove on for another hour or so before stopping for a coffee at a service station. 

A bit further along the road we stopped to buy some fresh oranges – really sweet and very fresh. 

About three hours into the journey we stopped for some lunch in a motel type place – probably very busy in summer but a bit like a ghost town in January. 

We finally arrived at Chefchaouen at about 3pm and to our very nice hotel. (Intrepid usually use at least one boutique type hotel during a trip and this is clearly it. We’re just outside the old town and our room is in a small chalet so we also share a living area. The rooms are lovely and the showers promise to be warm. There are also great views over the old city.

After a short rest period we meet Mohammed for a walk around the Medina. The city inside the walls is beautiful and most of the houses are painted in blue and white which really makes an impressive sight. 

We were left to our own devices once in the main square and after wandering around for a bit and seeing all of the wares on offer we found a hotel in which to have a beer, before meeting the rest of the group for food.  The restaurant we were booked into was full so we were accommodated in the overflow area which is actually the owners lounge area!  The food was fresh and delicious and we left feeling full a sleepy so we walked back to the hotel for an early night. 

Day 5 – 9th January 2017 – Fez

After breakfast we left the hotel at 9am and were taken by mini bus to the ‘new’ city. It seems we’re staying in the ‘Nouvelle’ city, built by the French in the early 20th century. The new city dress to the 14th century! 

We stopped issue the seven gates to the royal palace, confusingly actually added in 1968! Very impressive nonetheless. 

The gates are extremely ornate and all hand produced in pottery and bronze. 

Next we walked alongside the walls issue which is the Jewish quarter. The street was busy with locals going about their business. We saw another impressive gate which takes you into the new city and had storks nesting on top of the tower. 

The bus picked us up and took us to a viewpoint above the city. Or local guide was keen to tell us that Fez is considered to be the oldest city in the world which has not been destroyed and rebuilt. The are some 10,000 alleyways, within the old city , all of which are too narrow for cars. 

Next we visited a pottery where they make and decorate pots and also intricate mosaics.  

The rest of the day was spent wandering through the narrow streets of the old city, much of which dates back to the 9th century. 

We saw the university, also considered the oldest on the world, apparently.

Before lunch we stopped at the famous tannery, also contained within the city walls. The smell wasn’t as bad as we were told but I suspect that it was much stronger where the men were dying the leather by hand. 

After some of the test of the group had purchased from the leather shop we went for lunch in a riad. The lunch was delicious, but like much of the city the room temperature was chilly!

Next stop was a metal work shop where we were shown teapots and plates, all intricately carved in silver and bronze. 

We visited an old madrassa, the school where children used to go to learn about Islam. The walls were decorated with intricately carved older and more mosaics.

Our final stop was at a weaving shop where they make items using silk which is produced from aloe Vera plants. Again the work is not very mechanised, although they do use hand looms. 

We headed back through the alleys and finally excited the narrow streets of the old town. We caught out minibus back to the hotel and spent the evening chatting with our fellow travellers over a few beers purchased from the off licence opposite. 

Day 4 – 8th January 2017 – Moulay Idriss to Volubilis to Meknes to Fez

After a breakfast of flat bread, jams and the freshest bread, along with very fresh orange juice we left our accommodation and got our taxis to Volubilis, Roman ruins. 
Volubilis is apparently the furthest south that the Romans ventured and the were some amazingly well preserved floors, although much of the site was destroyed in a 17th century earthquake and remains to be excavated. 

We saw remnants of what were clearly some huge Roman villas and had a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around with the help of a knowledgeable guide. 

Our taxis took us the 30 minute drive back to Members where we left our luggage and then dropped us off for a walk around the city with another local guide.  We saw the grain store and stables, destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake in the 17th century. 

Next we wandered around the city walls, behind which used to be a number of palaces with some very ornate gates. 

By now it was passed lunchtime and so we were taken into the souks for a camel burger… Nice but hardly distinguishable from beef, but served in a flat bread.  The place we ate was tiny and we squashed into two booths either side of a narrow alley. I don’t think the camel below was related!

After finishing our burger we walked back through the narrow streets into the main square. This was now busy with hawkers and snake charmers, people with monkeys, sadly chained up, that you could have photos with amongst the stalls selling the usual wares. 

We caught an aging Mercedes taxi, probably about 35 years old and seemingly showing almost 900,000km on the clock, back to the hotel where we’d left our luggage. We then made the 10 minute walk to the train station to catch a train to Fez. 

The train was only about an hour and when we arrived we were taken the short since to our hotel by mini bus. The hotel Olympic is clean and modern, although the shower was only luke warm when I had a shower to freshen up. We we greeted with a glass of mint tea. 

We had a couple of hours before we were due to meet for tea so we had a short where they the busy streets around our hotel before buying a couple of beers at a shop issue and bringing them back to the hotel lounge to drink – the hotel has no bar!  The off licence was small and busy with locals.

We meet the rest of the group at 7 and walked a story distance to a restaurant for food where I chose some kebabs which came with potatoes and veg. Finally we returned to the hotel, via the off licence and had a few drinks with some of our fellow travellers! 

Day 3 – 7th January 2017 – Casablanca to Rabat to Moulay iddris

We met for a simple breakfast of pastries, bread, eggs and coffee at 7am and then left the hotel to get a taxi to the station. 

It was pretty chilly outside and we caught a train to Rabat which took just about about hour. 

We walked thru the city, passed the cathedral and then within the Andalusian wall into a souk which was very pretty and clean! 

We eventually arrived at the Kasbah, a fortified castle sitting at the mouth of the river. The Kasbah was very pretty, had a lovely garden area and we also had a mint tea with local cake overlooking deep blue water. 

 Next stop was a walk along the river to a 12th century tower which never got finished because the king died.

Opposite the tower is the mausoleum of king Mohammed V, a very pretty and ornate building. 

By now we only had 10 minutes to make the 20 minute walk back to the cafe where we were having lunch. The weather had warmed up and we were pretty hot by the time we got back. The small group of us were not last though and it seems that Mohammed had given a sensible reserve of time. We had an unmemorable lunch of omelette (cold) and French fries before heading back to the station for our next journey, a 2.5 hour train ride to Moulay Idriss, burial place of the same, a very religious city in Morocco. 

The train took us back inland and through lush green landscapes to the city of Meknes. From there it was a 30 minute taxi ride to Moulay Idriss. We checked into our homestay for the evening which was up narrow side streets and, like many Moroccan houses has a very bland exterior but once u to the door it opens out into a home based assertions a central courtyard. 

After a welcome cup of Moroccan whiskey (mint tea) we went for a walking tour of the town. 
Until relatively recently the city was closed to non Muslims, and visitors still are not allowed into the mausoleum which is in the grand mosque. 

The streets are all painted green up to about waist level which represents holiness. The streets around the town are all narrow and the locals seem to use donkeys to transport stuff around the town. 

Our tour included an amazing sunset high above the town overlooking the mosque. 

We walked back down to the bustling main square where there we loads of stalls all along similar stuff – scarves, slippers and jewellry. 

It is definitely much cooler here as we’re higher than on the coast. 
We returned to our hotel and allocated our rooms. Ours is on the fourth floor rooftop and it’s just as well that the is a heater as the temperature dropped significantly after dark.

Dinner was prepared by the owners’ wife and we were shown how she makes cous cous before being served a warm salad, soup and then chicken cous cous with meatball koftas- all very tasty! No beers tonight as the town dues not serve alcohol due to its religious status! 

Day 2- 6th January 2017 – Casablanca

After a lazy start, shortened by the fact that despite having coffee in our room there was no milk, we had some breakfast at the hotel. In the light we realised that we had a pretty good view of the Hassan II mosque from our room on the 10th floor! 

We then headed out to wander the streets. The locals all seem pretty friendly, although lots of them want to show you the various ‘attractions’ as we wandered along the wide tree lined boulevard. 

 We walked past the old sacred Coeur cathedral… no longer used as a place of worship.

Shortly afterwards we arrived at then Villa Des Artes, a gallery set in a restored art deco villa. The pictures were good but I was more impressed by the setting…

We strolled back towards the old Medina and stopped off for a coffee at a street side cafe where we were badgered by shoe shine boys despite the fact that we both had fabric shoes on!  
A short walk through the big market and we ended up stopping for a couple of beers at la bodega, a bar/restaurant. (Well it was passed midday by now!). 

Our next stop would be the Hassan II mosque which was about 30 minutes walk away. The route to it was along the edge of the old Medina and we eventually arrived at the very impressive building which, according to the guide who led the tour that we purchased tickets for, is the third largest in the world and has the tallest minaret in the world standing at over 200m in height. 

A further 80,000 can pray in the square outside in the front of the mosque!  

Finally, the mosque has its own Moroccan and, also, Turkish baths, neither of which are used!  After our visit we took a long walk back to the novotel to retrieve our bags. 
We arrived at the hotel and picked up our bags before making the 10 minute walk to the hotel where we’d be staying overnight and where we would meet our tour. The hotel Maamoura is a typical ‘Intrepid’ hotel, clean but a little old fashioned. 

With a couple of hours to kill we wandered out and found a bar for a quick beer before returning to the hotel for a 6.30 meeting. 

There are 15 on our tour, 7 Aussies, 3 New Zealanders, 2 girls from Peru and one which, at the time of writing we haven’t met yet!  After our tour leader, Mohammed, explained our itinerary, we meet at 7.30 to head out for a meal and our first tagine of the holiday…. One of many I’m sure!  

By 9 pm most people were ready to head back to the hotel and so Ed and I decided on one more drink at la bodega, where we’d been earlier before we called it a day. It seems we walked over 9 miles today so no wonder my feet are tired. 

Early start tomorrow as we have an 8 am train to Rabat!

Day 1 – 5th January 2017 – home to Casablanca

Not really very much to say about today… But here goes anyway! 

Left home at 7.30 am and had an uneventful trip to Gatwick. We checked in and headed to the lounge to wait for our flight. 

Our flight left and arrived on time and there were some great views of the desert as we came in to land at Marrakech.  

Once clear of customs we headed to get a taxi. Having read up about the taxi touts we did as recommended and declined the offer to take us to the train station for 20 Euros. We eventually bartered a journey for about 4 Euros and still think this was probably too much. 
We managed to purchase our train tickets and the boarded a darkened train!  Once the lights were on we could see that the train was clean and reasonably modern, although no beer on sale!  The three hour journey to Casablanca was smooth and we arrived just after 10pm. 

Another taxi ride to our hotel and then having dropped our bags in our room, we had a rather pricey burger/sandwich and beer in the hotel before a relatively early night!  The adventure starts tomorrow! 

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