A backpacking trip around Morocco
About cheap transport, clever camels and getting lost in medinas
Traveling on a budget from Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh to the Sahara: Backpacking between sun, sand and scams. Me and my partner went two weeks backpacking around Morocco in January 2014. We traveled from Marrakesh to Essaouira, Agadir and Targounite, from where we started a two days camel ride into the Sahara desert. We got lost in the medina of Marrakesh, met aggressively begging musician and extremely hospitable Berber people, clever camels and had a very intense and interesting time traveling around Morocco.
Concerning North Africa, Morocco is probably the best and easiest country for backpacking. It is well set up for travelers. You can find budged accommodation like hostels and hotels in every part of the country. The food is great and there are restaurants for each budget. Moroccans are very hospitable. There are many international travelers around backpacking Morocco. I experienced it a very safe country to travel. No problems to go for a walk in the lively medinas at night. I even met solo female travelers or women traveling together. Still, if you don’t want to stick to the tourist hotspots and are not an experienced traveler, you might feel more comfortable traveling in male company.
There is cheap public transport with different bus companies operating around Morocco. Just show up at the bus stations and ask directly there for bus timetables and fares as many companies are not able to find online. Bu for sure, you find online information about the biggest companies like Supra Tours and trains in Morocco. But there are usually many more connections available. Other buses might be slower, but cheaper. Backpacking Morocco is possible all year round. And you can still feel it in Morocco: The spirit of One Thousand and One Nights.
From the airport to Marrakesh city:
Saving money with the public bus to Djemaa el-Fna
We followed the call of the orient. It was January and me and my partner wanted to escape the cold European winter. That was why we started a backpacking around Morocco. I had seen beautiful pictures of lively Marrakesh and colorful Riads before, sunsets in the Sahara and giant waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
But the first thing, when we walked away from the Marrakesh airport area was a multilane street full of honking cars with high gray buildings around. It looked like a suburban ghetto. Nothing like The Arabian Nights. To safe money, we didn’t want to use the airport tourist shuttle bus or a taxi. We have read about a local bus line before, that takes passengers from outside the airport area directly to the famous Djemaa el-Fna in the city center. Of course, you can safe some money this way. The bus just costs 8 Dirham one way. And this is, how locals go to the city center.
- Read more about transport from the airport to the city here.
Surviving the bus ride to Marrakesh
Aggressive teenagers going crazy
To find the public bus stop from Marrakesh airport to the city center outside the airport area, we asked some people at the airport. Luckily, we speak English, French and my partner also a bit of Arabic, which all helps to get around in Marrakesh. It took around 15 minutes to get to the bus stop, easy to find. But standing around at the bus stop, some Moroccan teenagers from Suburbia turned up and started to attack us verbally. Luckily, we didn’t understand, what they were saying. We felt insulted, but didn’t try to provoke them. We tried to ignore them. Anyway, it was a totally strange first impression of Morocco. While backpacking around Morocco, we usually just met very friendly and hospitable people.
Luckily, the bus arrived after 20 minutes. When we sat down, the teenagers didn’t get a ticket, but jumped at the bus, climbing in and out of the open windows while the bus was moving. They were beating against the outside vehicle body, laughing loudly, scaring the passengers. No one said anything, but I was just happy, when we arrived in the city center.
- Read more about Morocco, sightseeing, culture and tradition on the government’s tourist website: www.morocco.com
Getting lost in the medina of Marrakesh
The atmosphere at the Djemaa el-Fna was overwhelming. Families, couples, groups of young men were strolling around the big square. Musicians played under the sky. Oriental sounds filled the air. Food stalls were offering traditional food. We felt like being at a fairground of a different world.
The only thing was: We were carrying our backpacks and just wanted to find our pre-booked accommodation as soon as possible to be able to enjoy the night without any luggage. It was getting late already. We asked some people for the way. No one was able to give us directions. First, I thought, that people didn’t want to help us. But it was probably just not easy to explain, how to get through the small labyrinth of the medina.
Marrakesh: About greedy guides and helpless travelers
When we started to enter the labyrinth of the medina with all the shops selling colorful lamps, clothes, pottery, jewellery, we quickly understood, that it is easy to get lost in the nightlife of Marrakesh. Even a map wouldn’t have helped us as the lanes were mostly not named. Some locals offered their service as guides. It was a way to earn money in the “tourist business”. And there seemed to be an unspoken law, that shop owners were not allowed to help the helpless foreign victims. The was the so-called guides’ business. At first, we refused to pay for a guide.
But after we had walked deeper and deeper into the medina, we had to admit, that we were completely lost. When we finally paid a guy who was working as a “guide”, he was going with us a totally confusing way, that took much longer, that it should have taken. When we realized, that we took some unnecessary loops, we asked him to speed up.
When we finally arrived at our guesthouse, he wanted more money. It was ridiculous. We had already paid him. But we had not really a choice, if we didn’t want to make a scene. We discussed a bit, but gave him in the end some extra change. And yes, to be honest, we are speaking just about a few Euros, not more.
But maybe, it would have been less stressful to take a taxi as our guesthouse was situated close by, but outside of the medina. You never know these things before. Later, we noticed, that it was always a good idea to ask local women for directions as they don’t work as so-called guides.
Sleeping in Marrakesh: Staying at a Riad with a rooftop
Our guesthouse, a traditional Riad, close to the entrance of the medina of Marrakesh, was basic, but nice. It had a colorfully tiled inner courtyard. And a rooftop with a beautiful view over Marrakesh’s roofs decorated with satellite dishes in front of the distant snowy mountains. There, we could catch some sun.
When we arrived late in the evening, the owner was still waiting for us. And we really enjoyed our stay there and the Moroccan breakfast in the mornings. We got great advise about orientation in the old city center. It wasn’t much easier during day time. But at least,we didn’t need a guide anymore.
- To find good accommodation deals in Morocco, check out for example:
The scams: Overpriced Henna tattoos at Djemaa el-Fna
On our first morning on our backpacking trip around Morocco, we walked around to discover the oriental daily life of Marrakesh. The medina looked friendlier to us than the day before. The mornings are for shopping and bargaining. But it quickly got on our nerves, that everyone constantly tried to drag us into his shop, tried to sell us souvenirs, asked about our nationality and tried in different languages to speak to us. I know, that this behavior is part of reality in many countries. And there were not a lot of tourists around in January. But in that moment, I felt intimidated.
We went to the famous Djemaa el-Fna, where some veiled henna artists wanted to paint my hands. Quicker than I could think, a lady grabbed my hand and started to paint. Okay, I wanted a tattoo, but was taken by surprise. I let her go before I could have asked for the price of her artwork. I was fine with paying a fair price. But when she asked for 50 Dollars afterwards, I didn’t know, if I should laugh or cry. I laughed.
Okay, I was maybe naive and not prepared for all the scams there. But her price for not even 10 minutes of work was ridiculous. I gave her, what I thought was a good price, around 5 Dollars, but surely not 50 Dollars. The result: She started to curse me, wished me bad luck for my life and my marriage. We walked away, feeling uncomfortable. I was embarrassed. Well, all we wanted was to have an interesting holiday. It surely was. Just in a different way as we had expected. The good thing was: The henna tattoo was really lasting a few days.
Escape the begging musicians of Djemaa el-Fna
But the next bizarre attraction was already waiting. When we wanted to take some pictures of Djemaa el-Fna, a few male musicians dressed in traditional costumes were jumping out of nowhere into our way like clowns or monkeys, played some oriental sounds, jumped up and down and asked for money. We were slightly irritated. We didn’t even take pictures of them. Anyway, we gave them some coins, but obviously not enough. They started to shout at us. What the f***. We decided to leave the so-called romantic old quarter of Marrakesh to walk around some other parts of the city. We almost ran.
We felt like stupid tourists and started to hate the center of Marrakesh. We didn’t feel comfortable in that place anymore. Today, we just laugh about these incidents. And we love to remember Djemaa el-Fna with all its characters and the experiences we had. Back then, I understood, that we were still beginners traveling Morocco. You need to be a lot tougher. The second time, we came to Marrakesh, we had a brilliant time.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed our walking tour outside the medina. We went to the train station and the bus station to get information about traveling on. And outside the old town, we were suddenly able to ask for directions without getting asked to pay for that.
A horror night at the medina
At night, we gave the medina of Marrakesh a second go. Obviously, we were a bit late after 11 pm. When we walked around the old town’s labyrinth, the shops in the small lanes were about to close. Still, we didn’t hurry to go home.
Suddenly, the streets were empty. When we wanted to get out of the old town, we realized, that the gates were closed. Not just closed, but locked. We walked from one end to the next. All gates locked. We didn’t see any people anymore. I felt thrilled, but tried to stay calm. Then, there was a guy showing up in the empty streets of the labyrinth. He assured us, that he wanted to tell us the way out, but at that point, we didn’t trust anyone anymore. He looked strange to us. Did he want money? We were slightly paranoid by then. We walked away into a different direction. We started to become worried. We were lost. My heart was beating faster. I slightly panicked. Whenever we saw someone, we turned around to use a different lane. I felt like trapped in a computer game. Just, that this was real.
Lost in the medina: A guard opened the gates
We were lost in the medina of Marrakesh at night with all gates locked. Then, we saw light in a shop. A guy was working in there. We knocked at the door and asked him for help. At that moment, we were really happy to be able to speak French. He was surprised to see us. But he understood our desperation and took us with him to one of the medina’s guards, who finally opened the gate for us. Big relief. What a horrible night. To get back to our Riad, we walked outside of the medina’s walls. Back then, we were happy, when we were lying in our bed. But today, this night is one of our most absurd Moroccan travel experiences, that we love to remember.
Space cookies and massive waves in Essaouira
Essaouira was the second town, that we visited on our backpacking trip around Morocco. I loved Essaouira with its relaxed vibe, the space cookies sellers, the sandy beach, the legends about the most popular guest Jimmy Hendrix and the massive waves of the Atlantic Ocean beating against the impressive, historical,white city walls, which made it on the Unesco’s world heritage list in 2001.
The relaxed beach town was one of my favorite places in Morocco in 2014. We finally stayed longer than we had planed. It is said to be a place, that attracts artists, hippies and people, who make the best of things. Indeed, there was something like a relaxed hippie vibe, that made us slow down and forget the stressful Marrakesh moments.
Traveling by bus to Essaouira: Rain inside the bus
The day, we arrived in Essaouira by bus, it was raining. We arrived there by bus from Marrakesh. We left Marrakesh with the Supra Tours bus from the company’s bus station situated a few kilometers out of Marrakesh’s historical center. The bus station was close to the train station. We had bought our bus ticket one day in advance and started our trip to Essaouira early in the morning. At that point, we didn’t know, that there are a lot of cheaper buses leaving to Essaouira from the central bus station. When we left to Essaouira, it was raining. Unluckily, there was also water getting inside the bus. Apart from that, it was a very interesting and comfortable ride.
Arrival in Essaouira: You can walk to the center of the city
In Essaouira, we arrived at the Supra Tours bus stop close to the gates of the medina, the bustling heart of the town. After we had escaped all the taxi drivers waiting in front of the bus station, we basically just walked a few minutes till we got to the old town. Even the regular bus station is located just a ten minutes walk away from the medina. Taxis cannot go into the little labyrinth of small lanes and white houses anyway.
There were a lot of shops inside the medina selling fruit, vegetables, bakery goods, all kind of groceries and a lot of souvenirs. Men and women walked along the small lanes dressed in traditional djellabas. It was beautiful and there was real life in the streets, an authentic atmosphere.
Riad Inna: Colorful budget accommodation in Essaouira
We were looking for a room and stopped at Riad Inna right in the center of the medina. 16 Euros for two people for a room with a private bathroom was the price for a night in 2014. For some budget travelers, it might already sound expensive, but we just fell in love with the colorful decoration of the room. After the rain stopped, the view from the rooftop was great. The seagulls were crying. In the background, we heard the soft sound of the powerful waves. The Riad was situated right at the heart of the medina in the center of action.
In March 2017, the room price at Riad Inna was already almost twice as high, so that we had to find a better deal on our third backpacking trip around Morocco. In spring 2017, the prices for a nice, but relatively basic double room inside the medina were around 200 Dirham per night including the breakfast. Some rooms even had ensuite bathrooms and TV. We also found crappy rooms for around 100 Dirhams per person and okay rooms for around 150 Dirhams without breakfast. If you plan to stay longer in Essaouira, it is worth to have a look around, to ask, to bargain or even look online for good deals. And there is no shortage of really expensive upmarket options.
Essaouira: Reggae music, acrobats and heavy rain
We started to discover Essaouira immediately. January was a perfect time to be there as the town still wasn’t overrun by tourists. But all the cafés and restaurants at the main squares were open. We had our first tea, enjoyed some reggae music and watched some Moroccan acrobats showing their skills. We could smell the fish at the harbor with all its gloriously blue colored boats. A few restaurants offered fresh fish. Vendors sold fresh orange juice. Kitesurfers were taming the waves.
Some tourists went for camel rides at the beautiful clean and sandy white beach. It still was quite natural. In 2017, we were surprised and a little shocked to find there a long big concrete promenade with some expensive tourist beach bars around. Today, the beach had become a lot smaller, a lot more commercialized. We felt the wind, while we were walking barefoot in the sand right at the Atlantic ocean. It was still winter, but warm enough to take off our jackets. We were in a perfect mood. And if you want to walk more on the beach, you can go on South, pass the river Ksob and visit the ruins of the fortress Borj el-Berod, that is said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix to write the song “Castles Made of Sand”. Obviously, that is rubbish, because the song was published, nearly two years before Jimmy Hendrix spend 1969 a few days in Essaouira. But it is a nice story.
The next days, we found some great lookout places along the city walls of Essaouira. The small fortress with old canons attracted seagulls and tourists at the same time. In between, there were hidden galleries, souvenir shops, traditional houses. I loved the light, that changed with every hour of the day.
Gloomy streets in the run down old Jewish quarter Mellah
But we knew, that there is more to Essaouira than nice restaurants and beautiful architecture. Not everyone there takes profit out of the tourist business. Some old men and young people with disabilities were begging in the streets and happy about getting a few Dirhams.
And while we walked around the old town, we suddenly ended up in some gloomy streets, where there were no tourists and souvenir shops anymore. In the run down old Jewish quarter Mellah, we saw some guys, that looked like drug addicts, hanging around in the streets. It was not the best feeling to be there.
In contrast to that, we enjoyed our walk into the new part of Essaouira, where you see daily life of Essaouira. Travelers, who want to experience something else than the stylish old town’s restaurants, can fill up their stomachs much cheaper there. Just don’t expect English menus everywhere.
Coping with heavy rain in Essaouira
All in all, Essaouira with was a place to live for the moment. One of the downsides definitely was the weather. But in January or during the winter, you can experience authentic life in Essaouira. We were lucky and had some sun, but also had to cope with heavy rain and wet feet. One day, some buildings got flooded. We saw a lot of water in the streets. There was no dry place to walk anymore. We were not really prepared for that and were finally wearing plastic bags inside our trainers and had to get back to our hotel room a few times a day, because we didn’t want to get a cold.
Essaouira: A good place for souvenir shopping
We used that time also to do some shopping. I realized, that prices were much lower than in Marrakesh. Of course, you need to bargain everywhere, but the shop owners in Marrakesh had started with much higher prices than the ones in the easy breezy beach town of Essaouira. On a backpacking trip around Morocco, Essaouira is a good place to get souvenirs like colorfully painted plates, cups, ashtrays as well as colorful leather sandals and handbags, CDs, jewelry, musical instruments, herbs, argan oil, cotton clothes, spices and paintings of local artists. Many shops have fixed prices. We have been back to a shop three years in a row, that always has everything on sale. You can watch out for good souvenir deals there and don’t have to bargain as hard as in many other places.
Hotel staff gave helpful advise about Sahara travels
We stayed a few days longer in Essaouira, because we enjoyed it very much, but also didn’t have a clue, where to go next. Our dream was to see the Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara within ten days. But we didn’t know, if it was manageable. The hotel staff in Essaouira helped us to figure out possible routes by bus. We decided to head in the direction of the desert – and to stopover in Agadir.
Among package tourists in the beach town Agadir
On the way traveling to the South of Morocco, we just stopped for a few hours in Agadir, because we had to wait for our connecting overnight bus to our Sahara town. Agadir is mainly known for attracting package tourists to its all-inclusive resorts and sandy beaches. But even travelers backpacking Morocco might enjoy the comfortable climate in Agadir. It’s less windy than Essaouira. If you don’t like waves, it can be a good holiday option.
At the main beach, there is a big concrete walkway right at the Atlantic Ocean, where tourists stroll and dine in overpriced restaurants with sea view. A lot of restaurants were advertising menus written in German. It is a bit strange. I experienced the place to have a clean, relaxed and hassle free atmosphere with a lot of sun, that you are paying for.
Agadir is also a place, where you are officially able to buy alcohol in a lot of shops and to drink alcohol in a lot of bars. That is not very common in the rest of Morocco. Agadir is one exception, because it is a tourist area.
Be careful, if you travel to Agadir by bus. Even if there is a bus station in Agadir, some bus companies just stop in Inezgane, a main transport hub 13 kilometers away from Agadir. Better ask, when buying your ticket to Agadir for example in Essaouira or Marrakesh. But if it happens, there are cheap local buses taking you to te city center of Agadir. It takes around half an hour depending in the traffic. The local bus lines stop just outside the bus station. Ask locals about the right bus number. On our first backpacking trip around Morocco, we experienced Inezgane as a very busy and rough place with a lot of different buses, people, luggage, cafes, restaurants, traffic, noise and market stalls. When we arrived there, we took a local bus to Agadir’s beach immediately. But Inezgane can also be a good place to get a cheap meal before entering the tourist area of Agadir.
High restaurant prices at beachfront in Agadir
The contrast between Inezgane and the beachfront in Agadir is quite big. And as soon as we arrived at the beach and saw the restaurant prices, we wished, we had eaten somewhere on the way. Between Agadir and Inezgane, we passed a lot of shops and restaurants and drove through a bustling city without tourists.
The foreign people all seem to hang out at Agadir’s beach. Alright, we paid almost European prices for a few fries and a burger at the beach. What can you expect, when the menu is written even in German? It was still nice to walk around, but in January far too cold to swim.
Cheap dinner at Inezgane bus station
Before we had to catch our bus at Inezgane in the evening, we went for dinner in one of the local restaurants close to the bus station. The staff suggested us to sit inside for safety reasons. Well, I had no idea, what they meant, because so far, I had experienced Morocco as a very peaceful country. And inside the restaurant, the other guests were openly staring at me. I felt totally uncomfortable, so that me and my partner went back to a table outside. In that place, we got a massive plate of food with soup, salad and chicken for almost no money.
It was very good food, but really not a tourist place. When I wanted to go to the toilet, I passed a guy doing his prayer on a carpet. The staff was extremely friendly asking us all the time, if everything was alright. And yes, it was safe and very alright.
Feeling the Sahara – Day 1
Exiting start of a two-days-two-nights-Sahara-trip
We didn’t get a lot of sleep on our backpacking trip traveling overnight from Agadir to Targounite. But it was all worth it. Every sleepless moment was rewarded by what we experienced afterwards. Our plan was to do a multiple day camel tour in the Sahara.
When our bus arrived early in the morning in the little desert village, there was a traditionally dressed Berber man waiting for us. He was dressed in blue. And he gave us a big smile. He ordered some tea for us in a nearby café. His name was Said and he was organizing very individual Sahara camel tours. We were exited. Very exited.
We had gotten his contact number at the bus station in Inezgane. When we wanted to buy our bus tickets there, we spoke to the office staff about our plan to make a Sahara trip. And by incident, they knew Said and suggested us to phone him and to arrange a tour with him, so that we were able to get a good experience organized within short time.
Price for the Sahara tour: Less than 100 Euros
Said spoke English. And the price for a two-days-two-nights-Sahara-experience including transport to the base camp, all meals, camel ride, personal guide and camping was very fair. At that time, it was less than 100 Euros per person. We carried the cash with us as we didn’t know, if there were working ATMs in every desert town.
To organize a desert tour, it makes sense to keep ears and eyes open as everyone knows someone in Morocco. But also most guest houses as well as the agencies for example in Ouarzazate can organize trips. In the end, you never know beforehand, if you get a good deal or not. Our decision was easy, because we didn’t have a lot of time to compare offers and were happy, that everything worked out spontaneously.
By car to the dusty desert camp
In Said’s old car, we drove into the desert. To his camp, which was popular for individual travelers backpacking Morocco on a budget. It was the start of our real backpacking adventure in the Sahara. It was warm outside, but not too hot to wear a long sleeve shirt. January was a good time for a Sahara trip. In summer, it can get too hot out there.
First, we got invited to chill in the Berber tent, where some cheerful guys were preparing a great lunch for us – chicken skewers, salad and vegetables. All in all, the food had been great everywhere in Morocco so far. After lunch, the camels were waiting for us. I got a bit nervous. The camels had to carry food, water, camping gear and some of our luggage – and of course us. It was just the two of us on that tour. Yussuf was our guide. With him, we started on our two-day-Sahara-trip. Just sand, sand, sand.
Enjoying the Sahara silence on the camel
It got a bit windy, while we were riding on the camels into the Sahara, so that I used a scarf and sunglasses for protection. My bum started to hurt after two hours riding. But I felt more and more secure, started to enjoy the view, the loneliness, started to let my thoughts go, to calm down, relax. We made a few short stops before we looked for a place to build up the tent in the middle of nowhere. Yussuf knew exactly, what he was doing. I felt safe with him. We all together cut the vegetables, that Yussuf cooked for us in a clay pot. One hour, two hours. It was taking terribly long. Berber style.
I was nearly starving while we were watching the sunset and started to chat about our different daily lives – in the desert and in the city back in Europe. We listened to all the stories about lost tourists in the desert and how Yussuf always managed to find them again. We spoke about the life of the Berber, in Morocco and Algeria, about politics, about love and stupid racism.
And we watched the overwhelming glowing stars at the desert sky. It didn’t take long until I fall asleep on some blankets, while my partner and Yussuf went on talking for hours. Yussuf used every chance to improve his English. And my partner, who speaks some Arab, had his first encounter with the Berber language. I was just completely exhausted after a long day.
Feeling the Sahara – Day 2
Thinking about what is important in life
The following morning on our Sahara ride, the sun woke me up. No wind anymore. Just the camels had disappeared, although Yussuf had tied their legs together before we went to bed. They still had managed to leave. But Yussuf knew, how to trace them. With the bonds at their legs, they were not able to go far.
We had some tea and started the second part of our trip on the back of the camels. My bum was still hurting. There was sand everywhere, in my hair, under my clothes, that I couldn’t change. We didn’t carry water to wash ourselves. The desert was our bathroom and toilet. We just made sure to leave no papers and no rubbish behind. Although I enjoyed the ride through the sandy vastness, the silence, the sun, the lunch under a tree and the changing light, I was happy to get down from the camel at the end of the day.
We learned a few things about the life in the desert and the Berber hospitality, that open their tents to every desert traveler, offer water, food and a place to rest. All in all, being there was a very impressive experience, that make me think about what it necessary to be happy. Not that much, I guess. But the right things.
A camel blocked the toilet tent
In the evening of the second day of our Sahara camel trip, we arrived back at the camp, just in time to climb up a sand dune and to watch the amazing sunset. It was beautiful. Afterwards, we got a great dinner in the main tent. Some more travelers had arrived in the camp and some Berber friends came over to chat and play music together. We still heart them singing late at night, when we were laying on some mattresses in our private tent, still sandy everywhere, but happy. There had not been any showers. We slept like little babies.
It was just a short night, because we needed to catch a bus back to Marrakesh early the next morning. When we woke up again, it was still dark outside. I needed to go to the toilet. But no way, there was a camel sitting right in front of the entrance of the toilet tent. It didn’t want to move.
When my partner tried to make it move, the camel tried to bite him into his arm. We were not trained in moving camels. And when we asked Said, he just suggested to use the desert instead of the toilet. Well. Okay. There were no western style toilets anyway. And we had done the same during our camping trip. Also for days, we haven’t had a shower.
After a cup of tea, Said drove us back to the bus station – not without stopping at the local mosque to do his morning prayer while we were waiting inside the car. We got a bit nervous, because time was running. We would miss our flights, if the prayer was taking too much time. But it all went fine. Said knew, what he was doing. We had already bought our bus tickets at the day of our arrival and caught our bus.
Passing Ouarzazate and snowy mountains
It was a long bus ride back from the Sahara to Marrakesh. Probably more than 12 hours. This time at daytime, which made it a very interesting ride. We shortly stopped at Ouarzazate, passed the Atlas film studios, where visitors can see sets and requisites of some blockbusters, that had been produced there like “Babel” staring Brad Pitt.
We passed snowy mountains and stopped a few times to be able to use a toilet or get some food and tea. On these stops, I was always happy, that I wasn’t traveling by myself as a woman. I felt much more comfortable having my partner at my side. I felt people watching me. I was dressed with long clothes as it was not very warm outside up in the mountains in winter. But I wasn’t wearing a headscarf or traditional clothes.
I was different and I felt different. Although, everyone was friendly and almost reserved towards me, I understood, that many people are obviously not used to see masses of tourists.
Last day in Morocco in a run down hotel
When we came back to Marrakesh, we felt much more comfortable and secure than during our first stay. We knew already, which bus to take from the bus station to the Medina. In the bus, we met a French lady, a hardcore traveler, who had been on the road for years already. She was maybe around 50 years old and the type of person, who usually bargained about a 3-Dirham-soup on the market. She wanted to show us a great cheap hotel very close to the Djemaa el-Fna.
Well, on our backpacking trip around Morocco, we just had one more day in Marrakesh left until our plane should leave the following morning. We gave it a go and followed her. The hotel staff was a bit strange. The whole place looked a bit run down. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have chosen staying there, but I was caught in the dynamics of the moment. The price was around 5 Euros for a room. Some travelers test limits for the sake of saving money and being able to travel longterm. I knew a lot about it from former trips.
Checking the mattress for bed bucks in Marrakesh
So we spent our last night on our backpacking trip around Morocco in the worst run down hotel in Marrakesh. The French lady traveler was overwhelmed by the deal she had made. And I was maybe to polite to refuse. Me and my partner got a double room. First, it looked acceptable. But it truly wasn’t. It was terribly cold and without a heater. Strange noises from the staircase. A bit later, we started wondering, when the sheets had been changed the last time. I even felt, that I had to check the mattresses for bed bucks. There was a common bathroom. And yes, we were able to have a hot shower – finally after a few days. The common toilets instead were flooded so that I used my trekking shoes to go in there. We tried to ignore everything and to laugh about the circumstances.
So, if you travel on a budget and don’t care about a bit of dirt in your room and an unconcerned hotel management, there are definitely super cheap possibilities to stay right in the city center of Marrakesh. I had stayed in bad places before, when I needed to safe money on long trips, but it never was great fun.
We tried to see it as an adventure and went for a last Moroccan dinner on the Djemaa el-Fna. It was raining again. But the food was good and the city seemed a lot less scary and stressful, that we had experienced it a few days before. We enjoyed our last walk there, even liked the busy lanes inside the Medina. We had a short night and took the local bus to the airport the next morning. We were quite sure, that Morocco is for us is definitely a country to visit again. We still left a lot to discover, a few challenges waiting for our next backpacking trip around Morocco. And we went back in 2016 to see the North of Morocco like Nador, Chefchaouen, Fes and Essaouira. In 2017, we visited Tanger, El Jadidah, Essaouira and Taghazout including the Valley of Paradise.
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- How I survived my 12 worst travel experiences ever - November 18, 2017
- Backpacking China: The top 20 places to visit - October 29, 2017