Saturday, December 30, 2006

Morocco trip

We warned, this is not KDE nor Free Software related and it's long, i tried to use <!--break--> so that planets don't get it all, but i'm not sure it'll work.

So in this blog post i promised a blog explaining how my trip to morocco was, and i thought now would be a good time to write it. This is going to be long so grab some cookies.

Day 0:
Plane from Barcelona to Casablanca. Reach Casablanca late at night. My passport gets its first stamp on it. At the airport we get our first haggling experience to loan a minibus to bring us to the hotel, once we set on the prize the dude says there's no minibuses anymore, so taxi[1] here we go. We take the taxi to the hotel, our first introduction to a crazy way of driving, the hotel is an Ibis near the railroad station of Casablanca, very convinient as next day we are going to take a train to Marrakech.

Day 1:
Get up early, divide from the bigger group that came from barcelona, from now only four of us [photo] will stay together all the trip. Take a train[2] to Marrakech. Reach Marrakech some hours later, go to the hotel, Atlas Asni, very good and dirt cheap compared to what you would pay in Europe for a Hotel that has a fountain in the hall with real roses floating on it. Eat, go to the old part of Marrakech. Djamaa El Fna square [photo] its impresive, and more the first time you see it, snake enchanters, story-tellers and more. Go walking around the medina, but not in the tourist places, get lost, rain starts, we get a big feeling of "let's get to somewhere where there is someone". Ask a local for "La place"[3], he says, go left and right (well in french) and 15 minutes later, there we are, in the square again. Marrakech film festival is on, and all Matrix movies are going to be played at the time we get to the square, but it's raining so it gets cancelled. Go to the hotel.

Day 2:
Get up early, go to Saadian Tombs [photo], very nice site hidden through a small passage. Visit a small market nearby. Get lost again in a place not for tourists, well at least it's not raining and we are good enough to walk back our path. Go to Badi Palace and Bahia Palace, both are closed because it's already lunch time. Go to the square and eat[4]. Visit around the zoco (market), prices are cheap, but i have no need for the things they sell, so only see, sorry. Visit the Marrakech Museum and Ben Youssef Medrassa [photo], both well the visit and if you buy both tickets together it's even cheaper and you get a free ticket to see a small Kouba in front of the Museum, for me it was a bit disappointing compared to the other two sites, but it was free and near them :-) Go back to the square and take a carriage to see the city walls. I think the price he made us pay was more than the usual one, but it was still cheap for us and the trip was well worth even we had already seen most of the places while walking though the city. Go back to the square, at night it rocks even more as it's full of stands selling roasted meat. Go to the hotel.

Day 3:
Get up early, go to the Menara gardens [photo], a bit dissapointing if you ask, nothing more than a olive grove and a pond. Next step is another garden. Majorelle ones [photo], that's much better and there you can see any kind of cactus in my imagination. Go to the square, eat, be prepared so we can go back to Badi Palace[photo] and Bahia Palace[photo] when they open at the afternoon. Both are worth to visit even if very different, Badi is completely in ruins while Bahia is quite well conserved. It's our last day in Marrakech so go again to the square and enjoy it's nightly view from one of the restaurants with terrace.

Day 4:
Get up VERY early, the train to Fes leaves at 7am. 8 hours later we are in Fes[photo], the haggling with the taxi driver is unsucsesful so we find ourselves walking to the hotel that was not as near as we thought. Almost an hour later, three people that wanted to bring us to their hotels and a small attempt to get lost we get to the Hotel Batha. It's inside the old (XII century) medina. It's already very late so that day we don't have lunch. Go for a walk around the medina, it's streets are even more small than Marrakech ones, and as there, forget about doing good distribution in anything with motor, so donkeys and carts are everywhere. Unfortunately main medina street seems a "cheap bazar" from Spain, nothing to see. Kairouyine Mosque[5] is one of the biggest in the world but you can be in the very door and don't realize since it's inside a block of streets and there's no place to have a clear view of it. Unfortunately Fes seems to have much more fake guides and that makes our experience a bit worse as you have to keep saying "no thanks" every few meters.

Day 5:
The bad experience of fake guides makes us take an official one. It's well worth because with his guidance we get though places we would have not gone alone (too small streets, etc). As all guides in Morocoo it ends the guidance getting us into shops trying to make us buy because he'll get a comision, so don't buy anything while you are with your guide, come back later and everything will be surprisingly cheaper. Go back to the train station (this time with two small taxis) and take the train to Rabat, this time only fours hours. Go to the hotel.

Day 6:
Rabat is a much more occidental city than Fes or Marrakech, but it still has some nice places to visit like the Mausoleum of Mohammed V[photo], the Kasbah and the old medina, that is not as big nor impressive but it's worth a visit too. Get to the hotel to have lunch and dress well[photo], and off to the wedding! Yes! I went to Morocoo to a wedding of my friends Siddharta (Spanish even if the name doesn't seem like) and Meriem (from Rabat)[photo], both i knew in the Computer Science faculty. We get to Meriem's aunt house, not without problems because it's on a non tourist place and the taxi driver could not understand what we want to do there. We get up beign early and we are there even before the groom. Hours later we rejoin the group of people we came from Barcelona. Bride's family is very hospitable and gives us the better position in the lots of sofas so we can have a good view of the Henna cerimony in which bride's hands and feet are decorated with it. [photo] After a very good dinner, in which hospitality forces again foreign people to eat first we get to the hotel, more wedding tomorrow night!

Day 7:
Some walking around the new part of Rabat, it feels like a European city but we don't have anything better to do until the night. It starts raining so we run back to the hotel and stay there until the night party. The party is at the wedding hall of the Force Auxiliere, some kind of military force that rents the hall to live better. About the party, i can only say that it's georgeus. The bride weared five different suits during the night and the groom two. Each time they changed suits they entered the hall in the top of a throne carried by four people that did a dance while carrying them[photo]. They had two different live music groups and lots and lots of small typical moroccan cakes[photo]. All in all impresive, and even better, it was demostrated one can have a big party until late night and don't drink a bit of alcohol.

Day 8:
We got at 7 from last night party, but that is our last day on the hotel so get up early and get a train to Casablanca. There we check in in the same hotel as day 0 and go for a walk. Casablanca is an european city too, but in my opinion an uglier than Rabat one, there's nothing to see except the immense Hassan II Mosque[photo], that enough is worth the visit.

Day 9:
Get a train to the airport and back to Barcelona. A trip to remember!

[1] Note about taxis:
In Morocco there are two kinds of taxis, Petit and Grand (Small and Big). Petit taxis usually works like one would expect from a European taxi, there's taximeter and that's all you pay, except that it only takes three persons, very bad when you are 4 people. Gran taxis on the other hand take up to six + driver, for local people it works sort of as a bus, if there's free space, and it goes in your direction, you can get in. For tourists it does not work that way, you usually pay more than a local and that keeps the taxi for you only, they don't have taximeter so be careful!

[2] Note about trains:
Train system in Morocoo is very good, cheap (for a foreigner), clean and fast enough. First class is even wider and only 4€ or so more expensive. Well worth if you are doing long trips as we did.

[3] Note about people:
If you remove people that wants to sell you anything (from carpets to grass), all other Moroccan people is very helpful and sincere, so if you get lost like us, just ask!

[4] Note about eating:
All restaurants aimed to tourists have a very similar menu composed of salads, meat and pizzas. If you are vegetarian you can get into trouble because it's not logical for them someone with money does not want to take meat.

[5] Note about mosques:
Only Casablanca and Meknes mosques are visitable for non muslim people, and those two have to be visited with the hourly-visit-guide.

Notes about language:
[Almost] everyone in Morocoo speaks arab and french. Most people in the north can speak somewhat fluid spanish. There's few english knowledge but with a bit of interest from both sides you can get understood too.

Notes about toilets:
Local people don't use toilet paper so places not aimed for tourists and some of the aimed ones don't have it.
In from of almost all toilet's theres a person that will ask you a small tip, take it into account!

Notes about temperature:
In december the weather changes a lot from the middle of the day and the morning and night, so get you a coat but also a bag to put the coat in once the temperature starts to rise.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post, thank you :)

I am from Morocco!

Anonymous said...

Me to im from morocco, good post !


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I am Morocco bound in a few weeks (March 2008). So, I enjoyed the pictures and information.