- 64Minutes of study time
Travelogue to Morocco
I would be delighted to share with you the captivating story of my journey to the Morocco. As a passionate traveler, every trip I embark on is like a fascinating and informative story to me. I relish transforming my travelogue into a story-like format, where I describe my senses and emotions in vivid detail, while fully recounting all the events that took place. Through my writing, I aim to enable the reader to understand my mood during each moment of the trip, thereby getting to know me better.
Are you ready to embark on a journey with me? I assure you that reading my travel story will be an enjoyable experience.
To obtain a visa for the Morocco, you must first visit the Embassy of this country. Here, you will receive the visa application form, along with a sheet outlining the necessary information and documents required. It is essential to submit your documents to the embassy at least a month before your scheduled trip to ensure that you receive your visa on time. Although the embassy may not require all the documents, the examination process can be quite lengthy. Hence, it is crucial to carefully consider the date of document submission in your trip itinerary.
At present, there are no direct flights from Iran to the Morocco; therefore, you must use foreign airlines to reach your destination. I recommend applying for tickets as early as possible to secure the best prices. The cost of the ticket may vary based on the travel season.
When it comes to accommodations, Hostels are typically the most affordable option, as in most countries. However, I suggest not missing out on the opportunity to experience local living by staying in local houses or “Riads”. Riads are reasonably priced residences located in the medina of the cities, featuring authentic Moroccan architecture. The price of Riads varies based on their facilities and location, similar to that of hotels, and a night’s stay in a budget-friendly Riad could cost around twenty euros.
Most cities in the Morocco have a walled-off Medina, which is separated from the modern and new sector. The majority of the historical landmarks are located within the Medina. Therefore, tourists often opt to stay in Medina to experience the authentic local culture. The contrast between life in Medina and the modern sector is stark, with narrow and winding alleyways, bikers, local markets, and restaurants catering to both tourists and locals. I highly recommend the experience of staying in the Riads located at the end of these narrow alleys, where you can fully immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the indigenous people.
As I lay there pondering over where to head next on my voyage, I racked my brains, trying to decide on a destination that would offer me an experience unlike any other I’ve had before. It was then that I came across a photograph of mine, taken at the local Budapest market, which bore a striking resemblance to the local Arab markets. This sparked the idea of travelling to the Arab countries, and after much contemplation, I finally zeroed in on the Morocco.
Sometime in the midst of summer, I made the crucial decision to embark on this definitive trip. In August, I visited the Morocco Embassy, where I was greeted by a very kind and amicable lady who provided me with a visa application form and a document sheet. I duly submitted the documents at the embassy in early September, and was asked to call in three days to know the status of my visa. Fortunately, my visa was approved and issued within three days, but the passport would only be delivered a few days before my flight.
After having rescheduled my travel dates several times, I eventually managed to snag a reasonably priced ticket from Qatar Airways. With my visa sorted, I now shifted my focus to the most exciting part of the trip – preparation and gathering of necessary things.
- Day one: Casablanca
On the first day of my travel, I headed to Casablanca in Morocco. My flight was scheduled for four o’clock in the morning, and the journey from Tehran to Doha took around two and a half hours. After a layover of five hours in Doha, I caught another flight for a duration of nine hours before finally arriving in Casablanca. From the moment I set foot in Imam Khomeini airport till the time I reached the hotel, a total of 21 hours had elapsed. Upon landing, I was required to fill out a form containing personal information for entry into the country.
The most economical means of transportation from the airport to the city center is by train, and we promptly purchased train tickets for each of us at the airport. Trains from the airport to the city center operate every hour, and we barely managed to secure two empty seats on the train. Sitting in front of us were two middle-aged women with bright skin and beautiful colored eyes, which immediately caught my attention. We struck up a conversation with them, speaking in broken English and Arabic with lots of gestures and expressions thrown in. I was fascinated to learn that they were Algerians, and it intrigued me because I had assumed all Algerian people had dark skin.
We stopped at Casa Voyage station, one of Casablanca’s two main stations, which seemed more like an abandoned station. The most secure and cost-effective mode of transportation in Morocco is by train, and we made sure to purchase intercity train tickets for our onward journey a few days before the actual travel date. Since we planned on staying in Casablanca for a day, we also procured train tickets for Marrakesh at the station to avoid any last-minute hassles. As we made our way from the station to the hotel, we noticed that most establishments, except for bars and restaurants, were shut down, and the city seemed a bit unwelcoming. However, the thought of Marrakesh and its breathtaking beauty kept my spirits high and my heart content.
The area where our booked hotel in Casablanca was located was not very pleasant. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any news of Riad in the city, and the majority of hotels had relatively high prices. That’s why we chose the Astoria Hotel for a few reasons. Firstly, most hotels were fully booked, and this was one of the few hotels available for booking without a credit card. Secondly, it was reasonably priced, and lastly, it was located near the train station.
The Astoria Hotel had a typical appearance and was relatively small. We had a room facing an alley with a terrace, but it didn’t have a proper bathroom. In my opinion, besides a comfortable bed, one of the most important aspects of traveling is having a clean and well-equipped bathroom. We tried not to worry too much since we were only staying for one night, and we decided to change hotels when we returned to the city at the end of our trip.
We were almost bored and hungry, so we had to think about where to eat dinner. With the help of TripAdvisor and other people’s reviews, we decided to try out L’etoile Centrale restaurant, which was not too far from the hotel. This was our first Moroccan meal, and it was delicious. We ordered Tajin with meat, which had lemons, olives, and plums, and chicken Couscous with vegetables. Both dishes were very flavorful.
The restaurant had a traditional Moroccan ambiance, which was very beautiful. The prices of the dishes were also quite reasonable. After dinner, we headed straight back to the hotel. Even though it was only 7 in the evening, the city was very quiet. There was a cafe and a place where locals hung out and slept right below our hotel room. Unfortunately, I was woken up every few minutes by the sound of people who didn’t seem to be getting any sleep at all.
- Day Two: Casablanca to Marrakesh
To start our day, we enjoyed a delectable breakfast at the Casa Hotel. The spread included two mouth-watering pastries, a small round bun, cold boiled eggs, butter, jam, olive oil, natural orange juice, and Moroccan tea. It was truly a fantastic breakfast experience.
After checking out of our room, we made our way to the train station which was located approximately twenty minutes away by foot. Along the way, we stopped by a bank to exchange currency into dirhams. With an hour to spare before our train’s scheduled departure time, I decided to relax and people-watch at the park across the station.
Although the train was meant to depart at 10:45, it was slightly delayed. The heat made me anxious as I eagerly waited for the train’s arrival, hoping to secure an empty compartment and seats for us. Finally, the train arrived and I swiftly secured two seats in an unoccupied compartment. Interestingly, second-class intercity trains have 8-seater coupes with no numbered seats. It would be unfair for everyone to pay the same amount and some passengers would have to stand in the aisles for the entire journey. Additionally, it would be inconvenient for passengers to constantly switch seats.
During our train ride, we were accompanied by a lovely Moroccan family of four who were residing in Europe. They provided us with insightful information about Iran and the Morocco region, making the 4-hour journey seem shorter and more enjoyable.
Upon arrival at the train station, I immediately noticed the cleanliness and beauty of the city. The Marrakesh city train station itself was a sight to behold. We also purchased train tickets for our next destination, Tangier, at the same station.
From our conversations with our train mates, we learned that haggling with taxi drivers and merchants was necessary in Morocco to reduce prices by half or even more. For 50 dirhams, we took a taxi to the Medina. Along the way, I was struck by the city’s cleanliness and charm. The streets were lined with palm trees and houses painted in green and orange.
Arriving in Morocco was a moment of happiness for me. It felt like the real Maghreb experience. As we made our way from the modern district towards the old Medina, we witnessed a change in the urban landscape. The architecture, shops, and even the people’s attire were different. Men wore simple, monochromatic long dresses while women donned long, colorful shirts with minimal ornamentation on the upper body. Even the boys and girls were dressed simply, devoid of any luxuries or extravagant garments. Overall, the city exuded a warm, intimate feeling that made me fall in love with it even more.
In front of the entrance gate of Medina, a considerable number of young people were standing, and each one was doing their utmost to satisfy the tourists carrying suitcases and bags, by showing them the way to their hotel or place of residence, and in return, receiving some monetary compensation. We did not escape the challenge of navigating the winding alleys of the Medina and ended up spending half an hour aimlessly wandering around. Just as we were about to give up, we stumbled upon an orange-colored and delightful little alleyway, which led us to our destination – the Riad “Lakouas”. The entrance to the Riad was marked by a wooden door, which added to its charm and character.
The room that we were initially assigned was situated on the first floor, directly opposite the courtyard. However, in terms of convenience, it left much to be desired. I expressed my dissatisfaction to “Azdin”, the hotel manager, who kindly informed us that if an available room on the upper floors was vacant, we could switch to it. Fortunately, such a room was found, and we were able to relocate upstairs. The new room was exquisite, adorned with Moroccan decorations and original architecture. One of its most striking features was a wooden window with intricate carvings, which opened to the courtyard of the Riad. Every morning, the sweet melodies of a sparrow perched on the windowsill would greet us, reminding us of the true essence of Morocco.
The word “Riad” is derived from Arabic and means “garden.” The design of a Riad, or traditional Moroccan palace, is such that the rooms are arranged around a central courtyard, which is typically adorned with a fountain or basin. Surrounding the courtyard and fountain are potted plants, such as orange and lemon trees, which provide shade and a cool respite from the scorching sun. This feature is perhaps the most defining characteristic of a Riad and is what sets it apart from other types of Moroccan architecture.
The design of most Moroccan homes, including Riads, is rooted in two key considerations. Firstly, it is intended to preserve the privacy and seclusion of the home and its occupants. Secondly, it is designed to provide natural insulation against the harsh climate, which is characterized by drought and high temperatures. As such, the focus of Moroccan architectural design is primarily internal, with little emphasis placed on external facades. Islamic culture dictates that windows facing the outside should be small or nonexistent, in order to preserve the privacy of the inhabitants. Instead, windows facing the courtyard and garden are larger and more ornate. Although the exterior of a Riad may appear unremarkable, upon entering through its modest door, one is transported into a world of wonder and enchantment – a true Moroccan dream house.
I was enveloped in an overwhelming sense of excitement at the prospect of exploring this city, so much so that I opted to take an exceedingly brief respite in order to immerse myself in the labyrinthine alleys of this city. Exiting Riad with eager anticipation at 6 o’clock in the evening, I quickly realized that capturing candid photographs was an ill-advised endeavor in this locale. Each and every individual, regardless of age or gender, seemed to be overtly averse to the presence of cameras and mobile phones, which caused me to feel quite disheartened. It is my innate nature to document my experiences through sight and sound, so this prohibition was particularly distressing.
During the train ride, my spouse had apprised me that obtaining permission prior to taking photographs of individuals was a necessary and prudent measure, as it could potentially escalate into physical altercations or draw the attention of the authorities, resulting in the potential destruction of one’s camera. Henceforth, I proceeded with extreme caution, taking out my camera only intermittently in the alleys and, on occasion, when interacting with individuals.
We traversed through the winding alleyways, losing ourselves in the labyrinthine passageways, only to stumble upon a small gate which led us into an expansive square. When I say “Meydan,” it is not in reference to the circular squares found in Iran, but rather a vast, open expanse, accompanied by the sounds of instruments, drums, and the clamor of people. This is none other than the renowned “Jemaa el-Fnaa” Square, the pulsating lifeblood of this city.
The field was teeming with locals, each attempting to capture the attention of tourists and earn a living through their various skills and crafts, whether they possessed them or not. Some people wearing traditional attire and adorned with tassel wicker hats, peddled water to the passersby. A few individuals were playing local instruments, albeit not with professional finesse. The transient melodies were sufficient to captivate the senses.
There were also those who utilized animals as a means of procuring earnings, such as monkeys and snakes. It was enough to pause and observe for a few fleeting seconds, or else they would coerce you into allowing a monkey to perch upon your shoulder or a snake to be draped around your neck, with payment being a mandatory requisite. Furthermore, there were processions of monkeys and musicians, as well as women who would clasp the hands of tourists and apply henna to their palms.
In the midst of the square, you can find an abundance of canteens that offer a wide variety of kebabs, as well as local food stalls, potash shops, and juice stalls that serve natural fruit juice. Both local and non-local restaurants are located far around the field, and they tend to be cleaner and more touristy. Positioned in front of these establishments are young people who are eager to advertise for their respective canteens, and their efforts are focused on encouraging people to relax on the comfortable metal benches of their own stalls.
Eventually, we decided to choose one of these canteens and sat down to enjoy a meal. To our surprise, everyone clapped in our honor! Of course, their welcoming demeanor was mostly because they had managed to attract tourists. Ultimately, we savored a few different skewers, and they even offered us free Moroccan tea. However, they eventually added that amount to our factor.
After spending the day surfing through the alleys of Medina and “Jemaa el-Fnaa” Square, we found ourselves quite exhausted. As a result, we retreated to our hotel to rest and prepare for an even more exciting tomorrow.
- Day Three: Marrakesh
Early in the morning, according to the time in Iran, I woke up feeling refreshed. The time difference between Iran and my current location was about two and a half hours, which gave me plenty of time to entertain myself while waiting for breakfast. Due to the hotel’s poor internet connection, breakfast time was the perfect time to amuse myself. I was excited to try out a Moroccan breakfast and see how it differed from an Iranian breakfast. The breakfast spread was delightful, and we were served a small bowl of milk with granulated seeds.
Although we couldn’t understand the names of the seeds, it tasted like bulgur or wheat, and it was served warm. When I asked about it, the servers informed me that it was good for warming up the tummy and guts. The breakfast spread also included honey, jam, butter, and three models of bread that tasted incredibly delicious. I was particularly impressed by the fact that the bread was not refined and was likely fried on gas with very little oil. To complement the meal, we were served natural orange juice and Moroccan tea, which made for a perfect breakfast experience.
Our first activity for the day was to visit the Bahia Palace, which was located a little distance from our hotel. As we entered the garden, we were greeted by a wide walkway lined with fruit and pine trees on either side. The palace itself was a sight to behold, with its stunning and breathtaking Moroccan architecture and beautiful tiling. The predominant colors of the palace’s tiling were dark blue and gold, and the wood and plaster carvings were incredibly elegant and beautiful. In addition, the ceilings of the mansion were adorned with artful paintings on wood, which epitomized everything one would expect from an authentic Moroccan architecture. We spent hours exploring the palace and admiring all the exquisite art and decor.
Before heading to school, we decided to take a break and rest in a nearby park. As we walked down the path to the school, we quickly realized how winding and confusing the alleys of Medina were. We stopped to ask a young boy for directions to Ben Youssef’s School, and he responded by asking us which school we were referring to. After clarifying that we were looking for Ben Youssef School, the boy informed us of a color festival that was taking place that day, which was related to the barbarian tribe – a tribe that lived in the deserts of Morocco. The festival was set to continue until 5 hours, and it was just a few minutes away from where we were. He directed us to the left for the school and to the right for the festival, which was on the next street. As we were about to set off, a young man passed us by, and the teenager suggested that we follow him as he was also heading towards the festival. He even called out to the man to show us the way, and he behaved so indifferently.
The temptation was so great that I just had to postpone my scheduled school visit. The Festival of Color had me envisioning something akin to the Indian Holi Festival. I imagined all the pictures I could take and without any hesitation, I turned right and followed the young man. My companion, naturally, followed suit. The man walked around for a while before eventually slowing down and walking alongside us. He informed us that he was not a guide, but that we could join him because his path was the right one.
The path was much more complicated and lengthier than the teenager had initially conveyed. We failed to achieve whatever it was that we had set out to do. I grew increasingly weary from the lengthy, hurried strides I was taking alongside the young man. Slowly but surely, the number of tourists we saw dwindled and we found ourselves in the area where most of the indigenous people lived. A strange aroma was wafting through the air.
It was a private neighborhood and we occasionally saw a few children playing around. The alleys grew narrower and more secluded. Every time we asked how much longer, he would simply say that we had arrived. Just a few more minutes, he claimed!!! I began cursing myself internally for being swayed by the festival’s allure. If it were indeed a festival, surely Azdin would have informed us.
My heart was racing and I felt a twinge of fear. I asked my colleague how much money he had and he replied that he had brought none. While I had no cash on me, my camera would surely suffice as currency. I gradually realized that if we could manage to safely extricate ourselves from these narrow streets and make it onto the main road, we would run with all the force. But the young man had claimed we had arrived. And then, finally, we arrived. I was ecstatic to see a few other tourists at this moment – I had never been so elated to spot fellow travelers.
As soon as we entered the so-called Barbarian neighborhood, the stench immediately gave away our location. I had read about it in travelogues before. How could I have not realized what ceremony it was? Of course, it was a neighborhood with a few tanneries and leather shops. The young man introduced us to one of his friends before bidding us farewell and walking away. The middle-aged man handed us a few sprigs of mint and instructed us to take a whiff. We walked into an open space where there were numerous pits, each with a man working in it. The odor was indescribable.
To say that the scent was overwhelming would be an understatement. The spiciness and pungency of the mint leaves blended together to create an intense aroma. It was midday and the sun was beating down on us mercilessly – no doubt intensifying the smell even further. In fact, the aroma was so strong that when I breathed through my nose, my vision momentarily went black.
The middle-aged gentleman, in his infinite wisdom, took it upon himself to enlighten us about the intricacies of the various job functions of the men who toiled in the pits. Additionally, he took it upon himself to elucidate the various stages involved in the skin tanning process. Unfortunately, I must confess that his words fell upon deaf ears, as my mind was preoccupied with capturing a moment in time, which I could reflect upon later, and remind myself to make decisions with utmost thought and deliberation.
During the interminable ten-minute wait, my mind wandered to thoughts of how these laborers could work in such conditions. With bated breath, I implored the gentleman to hasten his pace. Finally, he took us to a store that was conveniently located opposite the tannery. We perused their impressive collection of bags and shoes, but ultimately decided not to make a purchase. Upon exiting the store, we were accosted by the gentleman, who demanded payment for his services. While we were aware that there would be a monetary exchange involved, we were taken aback by his effrontery. However, we were in no position to argue, and reluctantly handed over 20 dirhams, equivalent to two euros, to extricate ourselves from this predicament.
While this tannery was similar to others we had visited, the city of Fes offered a gamut of exciting tourist attractions. From paint ponds to paint sheds, there was no dearth of entertainment options. We noticed that other tourists had also fallen prey to the same ruse as us, and were feeling equally disgruntled. In hindsight, I berated myself for wasting precious time on such a mundane pursuit. However, I realized that it was all part of the collective experience, and that every journey has its ups and downs, which ultimately contribute to our growth and development.
To be honest, the young men had played their respective parts with aplomb. The teenage boy, in particular, had displayed exceptional coordination and execution skills. While we encountered several other teenagers who were soliciting tourists for the Festival of Color, none of them quite matched up to the standards set by our guides.
After this harrowing experience, we were at a loss as to how to find our way to Ben Youssef’s school. The labyrinthine alleys and by lanes seemed to merge into a blur, leaving us disoriented and perplexed. However, we were lucky and we stumbled upon the school quite fortuitously. It was a relatively easy route, and we arrived there in a state of exhaustion. We took rest under one of the arches, and then proceeded to explore the school in all its glory.
Around 500 years ago, the magnificent Ben Youssef’s school was constructed right beside a mosque that bears the same name. This grandiose Islamic school used to be the biggest in North Africa, with an impressive number of over 900 students at its peak. As you enter the school, you will be welcomed by an inscription that carries a message intended for the students, which reads: “O one who walks through my door, hoping that you will also exceed your highest expectations.” Isn’t that a heartwarming and inspiring message?
After our visit to the school, I must admit that I felt quite parched and weary. However, the lovely folks graciously led us to the bustling and tourist-friendly Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, where we decided to have our lunch at one of the many restaurants situated around the area. We then headed back to our hotel to rest and recharge our energy. As the sun started to set, we made our way to the charming Jemaa el-Fnaa Square once again.
On the second floor of Café France, you can find one of the most breathtaking cafes in the square, with an unparalleled view of the surroundings. So, we indulged ourselves with a delightful cup of Moroccan tea, though we must warn you that the price was a bit steep. Nevertheless, it was worth every penny. While we were there, I took some fabulous shots of the people and the square from up high.
On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon a peddler selling cactus fruit. We couldn’t resist the temptation and bought some for ourselves. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s quite a unique and exotic fruit that will surely tickle your taste buds.
- Day Four: Marrakesh
This morning, much like yesterday, we had an absolutely fantastic breakfast. During our meal, we had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of tourists who had only been staying in Marrakesh for a mere 14 days. They had already managed to visit all of the tourist attractions around the city.
Our schedule for the day was straightforward: we were going to visit the Majorelle Garden. This beautiful oasis is located a fair distance away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh’s old city neighborhood. Here, the sound of vendors shouting and the aroma of various spices fill the air. Walking through the garden of Majorelle provides a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Before delving into the history of this terrific garden, let me tell you a little bit about Jacques Majorelle. He was a French painter who arrived in Morocco in 1917 seeking relief from an illness. After spending a short time in Casablanca, he fell in love with the vibrant colors and street life of Morocco. He decided to remain in the city permanently.
After his initial visit to Morocco, Jacques purchased a plot of land next to a palm-grove, located just outside the city walls. He brought a variety of plant species from all over the world to the garden, which he expanded and built a small villa for his personal workshop. Due to economic difficulties, he decided to open the garden to the public, and it quickly became a popular attraction. Jacques Majorelle passed away in Paris in 1962.
Spanning roughly 5 hectares, the Majorelle Gardens are home to a wide array of colorful plants, waterways, shaded pathways, and a small museum. The structures throughout the garden are painted in a stunning cobalt blue known as Majorelle blue, which has become the signature color of the building.
After Jacques’ death, the garden was in danger of being sold and turned into a hotel. However, French designer Yves Saint Laurent stepped in to save the garden. He and his partner, Pierre Bergé, did not purchase the garden, but instead committed themselves to restoring and improving it. After Saint Laurent’s passing in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the Rose Garden of Majorelle, and a memorial was installed in his honor.
After touring the gardens, we decided to try out one of the restaurants that my friend had recommended. According to him, we would be entering a small paradise amidst the chaos of the medina. And he was absolutely right. Le Jardin restaurant was a beautiful little garden with a splendid entrance. Tables and chairs were arranged under the shade of trees, and the entrance of the restaurant was adorned with various fresh vegetables and jars of pickles and jams. While the food was a bit pricier than other restaurants, it was well worth it for the delicious fare. Then we went for a rest as usual.
We had reserved a double table at a cozy restaurant for dinner the night before. Despite serving regular food, the restaurant boasted a charming and artistic ambiance. It was also featured on TripAdvisor as a recommended spot.
- Day Five: Marrakesh to Tangier
Today was the final day of our delightful stay at Riad of Lakouas, where we were graciously hosted by Azdin. During breakfast, we caught up with the friendly middle-aged couple we had met the day before and followed their suggestion to visit al-Badi’ Palace. After completing the tour early, we headed to the Saadian Tombs, which they had also recommended.
The Saadian Tombs, a 16th-century cemetery, house the remains of 66 members of the Saadian dynasty, who ruled Morocco for many years. We found the beautiful altar in the main tomb particularly impressive, and the unique architecture reminded us of the elegance found in the design of most mansions in the country. The surrounding area was not as crowded as the medina and offered wider streets, making it easier to take photographs of locals.
Our checkout time was 12 pm, but our train to the airport wasn’t until 9 pm. Azdin kindly allowed us to stay in the hotel until we headed to the railway station. After a brief rest, we made one final trip to the lively Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. We opted for non-local cuisine at one of the restaurants around the square, which was a refreshing change after several days of local food. Finally, we said our goodbyes to dear Azdin and his helpful colleague before heading to the railway station an hour or two early.