Traveling solo in Morocco, in the middle of August. (Part 1/4)
I am sitting in the office and trying to work. I am simply looking at the computer screen while my mind travels. I have already booked a trip to Rome with some friends, but something is missing. I want something more. For a long time I wanted to make a trip on my own, and I never dared, because I was always founding company and of course I never had the courage to say “I want to go alone”. The point is that I really wanted to relax, spend time alone and enjoy the most of the trip, because I was so tired of job and the daily routine. So, it was about time to spend a little time with myself. As nomadicmatt says “You’re never alone when you travel” so what the hell I give it a try. One thing let to another and I leave aside Rome and start looking at Jetradar and HotelLook for possible cheap destinations for August. With a quick look my attention fell to Morocco. Cheap air tickets and exotic destination, was definitely a challenge that was calling my name. After a few days passed my mind was was still there so, searched for information, saw cities, places, life cost and in 2 weeks I booked the tickets. That was it, a new journey had just begun. I slowly announced it to friends and to a few and very close relatives. To my mom, for example. “You know I will not come to Amorgos, I will go to Morocco,” “but are you insane, August at Morocco?” “With whom?” “Just me, alone” “Oh ok”.
The time was approaching and the agony was growing. I was ready until the slightest detail. Of course things do not always go as we expect them but it does not matter, however, the small unexpected events are what give life to each of our voyages. That is why I prefer to go independently and not with a group somewhere. I like to have the choice to do my mistakes, and I will remember them… Anyway, August had already come and I was ready. The plan of the trip, to get an idea, was the following. Flight from Athens to Casablanca via Madrid , where I would stay overnight. From Casablanca directly to Fes by train, three nights at Fes. Then by train in Marrakesh three nights in Marrakesh and back to Casablanca where the last overnight stay would be before the return to Athens. On the three days in Fes and Marrakesh I would make a one-day trip from Fes to Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay idris (I do not remember how it was written, the forbidden city anyway) and for Marrakesh had not decided yet, but I had different things in my mind. I had read about some waterfalls, about Essaouira (I still regret about not going there) and other…
I will not deal with the Madrid part at all here, but in three words “it was perfect”. So I arrive at Casablanca Airport. It was crazy, I had no idea from Muslim countries, prayers, voices and I was looking for an ATM to make my first withdraw. While I was walking I saw to my left two ATMs the one was damaged. I put the card (national) and, by magic, holds it in for a minute. How to say it elegantly… Luckily, after a while, I’m going to take back the card. Money, of course, did not come off and I did not risk putting the card back on the same machine. Obviously, I had no intention of leaving the airport without dirham, and I had to get the train from the airport to Fes, which was leaving in an hour. Finally on the other side of the airport I managed to find an ATM that was working normally. I took my money and settled. Now I had another mission. I had to buy an inwi SIM card that according to what I read was the cheapest with the most interesting internet packages. I see a shop with mobile phones but the employee was not showing a hint of rush so I spent at least one hour in the shop. Eventually I had the SIM on my cell phone. Of course I had lost the train and if I remember correctly the next one was arriving after two hours, good night…
To get to Fes you had to go through Casa voyageurs and then change train to Fes. In the first and the shortest part of my trip I booked a class B ticket. The train was nice. I was sitting next to a Tunisian guy and a Frenchman with Moroccan citizenship. We talked a little and especially the Frenchman commented on the economic crisis in Greece, I can say that he was quite well informed. In the beginning they thought I did not understand French but when I stepped in to defend Greece, were chopped down. In the second half of the trip I had booked a class A ticket and for four hours I was sitting with four Moroccans who spoke intensely to each other. Of course, despite the brawls when we all arrived, they were absolutely kissed each other or gave their hands. On the trains, which I have to admit they are particularly good and come on time, when you book A class you are in a compartment that accommodates 6 people. The ticket tells you in which compartment you are and in which position. At last I arrived at Fes and I called Mohammed. The guy who worked in Riyadh who would be hosting me, to come and get me. He tells me “you will get a taxi and you will go to Bab Boujloud and I will come to get you from there and do not talk to any strangers”. Generally at Morocco always ask to taxi drivers to put on the taximeter or arrange a price in advance. Also the taxi drivers drive the taxi like a motorcycle, they change lanes, they horn, they yell, it is outstanding. At last Bab Bouzloud. Bab in Arabic means gate. This is one of the most central gates for the medina and from there, you can see the two main streets of medina. In one of the two main streets, in the middle of nowhere, was the Riyadh that I would have been staying for 3 nights.
Anyway, I settle in my room and I am ready for an evening walk in the medina and of course to eat something because I was starving. I am going up to Bab Boujloud. There just before the gate there were enough little local restaurants. I sit in Thami’s restaurant. The food was perfect. I ate soup, tagine with meatballs and mint tea and I had to pay around 60 dirham. Employees were very helpful. On the last day passing by there helped me put a card on the mobile and generally were willing to tell me where I can go for a drink etc. So I’m on my own and I look the crowd that’s going around. For me it was an unprecedented experience since I was in a Muslim country for the first time and everything from clothes to language and imam along the way, it was all new and exotic. After I ate, I walk a little in the surrounding area with great care in order no to get lost because it was my first night and I did not know the place at all. Then I went back to my room. I opened the windows and the evening breeze was so pleasant. Even without air condition the atmosphere was awesome. Sometimes technology does not offer everything, but it also deprives you of many pleasures. Like the breeze, the voice of the imam that scared me the next morning and goes on.
I woke up from the sun. Many kinds of bread, like cornmeal, pies, crepes. Jam, cheese, fresh juice, tea. That was my breakfast. If you are in a hurry, you busted. I arranged with a tour guide to saw me around. The tour lasted 4-5 hours. We visited Bou Inania madersa and many more. Many of the attractions were forbidden to non-muslims to enter so I admire them only from the outside. Like the Qaraouyine Library and the al-Tijani Mosque. We also went to the tanneries. We entered a shop with leather goods and climbed the stairs to the terrace. From there you had a view of tanneries. The colors were unique. The working conditions were miserable, and the smell intense. I was a bit bothered and it did not make me feel special. With 10 dirhams tip I walked into the tanneries and saw the working conditions closely.