I spent 9 days here exploring various bits of this country. Although I never like to complain about travel and I realise I’m pretty lucky to go everywhere that I do, this wasn’t my favourite trip – and I would definitely do it a little differently if I had this time again.
I went here with a mate to go surfing at the end of August. Although this was definitely on the bucket list, the timing probably wasnt ideal. I spent a lot of time looking into surf camps, but in the end we decided to do it ourselves. We stayed at Surf and Waves Hostel – not bad, given you are in Africa, but definitely not western standards of accomodation of cleanliness. But very cheap. The owner, Sidi, also has a surf shop down the road that we rented boards from. Taghazout is a pretty small little town, with the only real attraction being the beach and proximity to surf spots – and amazing seafood!
Given we werent with a surf camp, we’d hired a car – which gave us the freedom to do as we wanted, it would have been pretty difficult to get us and the boards to the beaches and surf sports without. For the time we were there, most of the surf spots were either really messy (not ideal), or quite small breaks (also not ideal). We spent most of the time at Banana Beach, although the breaks were small, the surf was safe and we got some good (albeit, short) rides. Good for beginners, and the surf camps spent a lot of their time here – indicating it was probably the best of what was available. it was a bit risky going in the shoulder season – if I was going there to go surfing again, I’d make sure it was over winter as it really wasnt that worth it.
After Taghazout, we caught a three-hour bus to Marrakesh, which was relatively straightforward. The bus went from Agadir, the only downside being that you need to go into Agadir a couple of days in advance of your bus trip to get the tickets. We booked accomodation at Equity Point, which, like all the reviews suggest, has a massive bed bug problem. The hostel was great, appeared very clean, staff helpful and the pool a massive bonus – but I’m not sure it was worth it to get anhiliated by bed bugs. I requested to move rooms after the first night, and they did move me – but i dont think the second room was any better than the first, and I continued to get bitten.
Marrakesh can be done in a day or so. The most significant sites are probably the markets in the Medina, which are colourful mazes of shops with a whole varity of wares – a lot of leather and pottery as well as foodstuffs and imitation brand label goods. After a while you will start to notice a lot of repetition between the goods in the stalls. Right up the back of the Medina is the tannery, where the leather is made – although this was an intersting experience, the lack of sanitation and the displeasure of those working there made the experience quite unpleasant. I wouldnt go out of my way to see this again. You can also do a walking loop around the city and visit the gardens and the various palaces (not in use).
The most intersting time of day in marrakesh is the evening, where the Djemaa El-Fna square really comes alive with juice sellers, food stalls and entertainers. Make sure you grab some food at one of the stalls and take in the atmosphere. Dont get too close to the snake charmers of the monkey owners – apart from the monkey owners being boarderline cruel, if you get too close you may end up wearing an animal and having to pay the owner for its removal. The dancers and musicians however, are worth watching.
Whilst in Marrakesh I also had a traditional hammam, at Hammam Ziani – this blog describes the experience well.
If you get the chance, do a day trip out to here. The trip will include a local guide, who will tell you a lot about the Morrocan people and culture, as well as taking you around the falls – which are breathtaking. Pack your swimmers as you will get to swim in the river (much needed to cool off). The walk requires a mild level of fitness, as there are a lot of hills – I’d also suggest sturdish footwear and note it is quite slippery in places.
Although somewhat of a backtracking route, I also did a day trip from Marrakesh to Essoaira. You probably only bneed a day in this seaside town. It’s worth a walk to the Skala du Port, an old fortress on the edge of the island. You can visit the port and the seadfood markets in front – and also worth a wander through the streets of the walled town. However, having come from Marrakesh the markets and their wares here were much the same, so I lost interest quickly and headed for the beach. There is however, some awesome street art painted on a lot of the walls within the old town. The beach was fairly packed, but I was fine to sunbathe in swimmers here.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU EAT. I was ill with food poisoning for a lot of this trip, and I am ususally very sensible when it comes to food. If you do get sick, dont do what I did and just wait for it to pass – it might not. Get yourself to a pharmacy ASAP and get some medication. I left it too long and was in absolute agony with stomach cramps – as soon as I took the medication given by the pharmacy, I was a whole lot better very very quickly.
Although Marrakesh is an easy city to visit and navigate independently, if I was to do this again and had the intention of seeing a large amount of the country, I would do it on an organised tour. Having had friends who have done so, I feel the overall experience might have been better and I might have seen and experienced more than what I was able to achieve independently. Marrakesh is very tourist-friendly, the rest of the country not so much so.
There is a lot written about needing to dress conservatively in Morocco. I didnt find this to be absolutely necessary or as troublesome as I’d expected. As long as you are dressed reasonably, you wont have any problems. I didnt feel it was necessary to cover to my wrists/ankles, I always wore knee-length shorts but went out with uncovered shoulders a couple of times and had absolutely no problems. I found the markets/stall owners to be far more agressive in Asian countries and Egypt than what I did in Morocco.