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Women taking selfies in Meknes, Morocco

On Saturday night I was out watching the Six Nations finals and a friend-of-a-friend asked me: What was the best experience you had in Morocco?

It’s a tough question! I had so many different experiences in those six weeks of solo travelling around Morocco that it’s really hard to say. I met fabulous people, ate great food, and saw spectacular things—all of which have a special place in my heart.

So how did I decide which place was the one? It’s the same thing people say about relationships: I just know.

There’s no reasoning behind it, just a feeling. That’s how I feel when I find a place I love. There’s a feeling of anticipation and just walking around the city makes me happy, even if I can’t really explain why. I can count on one hand the number of places I’ve had that feeling in: Dublin, Barcelona, and the top two of my favourite places to visit in Morocco!

Read on to find on which ones made it to the top of the list (and head here if you haven’t read my top 5-8 places to visit in Morocco yet!):

4. Agadir

Agadir, Morocco, things to do in Agadir, places to visit in Morocco
The beach in Agadir as seen from the ruined kasbah

When Tom came to visit me, he pointed out that there isn’t much history in Agadir. To be fair, all of the historical stuff got destroyed in an earthquake in 1960, so cut the city some slack! I didn’t realize it before because it was the first place I stayed in when I arrived in Morocco. I was a little sad that he didn’t share my enthusiasm for the place but eventually I came to agree. It was the only place (besides Taghazout) I visited that didn’t have a proper medina and that had resorts.

What I liked about Agadir is that it still seemed like a community to me. Even though a part of the city is catered towards tourists, the rest of it seems quite unfazed by tourism. No one really tries to hassle you in the souk and none of the taxi drivers try to pull one over on you. Agadir was also one of the two places where I consistently saw restaurant owners give food to the homeless.

I think I can also say that I made the most friends here—most of the people I still talk to I met in Agadir. I would love to go back, especially to see more of the Grand Sur like Sidi Ifni and Taroudannt!

Where I stayed: Airbnb

Must-do: Go to the beach!

3. Chefchaouen

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The walls of the blue medina, Chefchaouen

I was most looking forward to visiting Chefchaouen throughout my whole trip—I changed my screensaver to a photo of the blue medina before I even decided to go on this trip! This town in the Rif did not disappoint.

Chefchaouen was the most breathtaking place I visited during my whole trip. Every time I left the medina or did a little hike, I could see the hills, valleys, and surrounding villages…it was just spectacular. I was just in awe all the time.

Chefchaouen was this close to tying with the final two, but I was disappointed with the food options. It was the same price as other cities but I got a lot less for my money, even when I ventured outside the medina. But it’s such a minor detail I feel silly even mentioning it.

I met some awesome travellers in Chefchaouen as well—a student from Oxford who ditched school without permission for his birthday (did you know Oxbridge students need permission to leave campus? What is this?!), students from France, and a group that met randomly on the boat to Tangier a few days earlier and decided travel around the country together.

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More blue!

Chefchaouen was so chill—except for when Grammy-winning producer RedOne was hanging out in the medina! We exchanged some hellos at the point when I had no idea who he was…so later on I asked a server at a restaurant why people were yelling for him. He was like “You don’t know who that is?”

Also, TOP MARKS for the hostel I stayed in: Casa Amina. It was hands down the cleanest hostel I stayed in the whole trip. It was also the cheapest. I paid about £8 a night for a two person room (I had to pay for both places) and then 70dh (£5) a night for a single room. The sheets were clean, the room had a heater, there were hot showers, and the WiFi actually worked everywhere (unlike in other hostels who are like “WiFi at reception only” – Boo). The family that ran it were especially hospitable, the dad was so calm and always saying “You are welcome, yes, you are welcome”.

Go to Chefchaouen, people! You won’t be disappointed.

Where I stayed: Casa Amina

Must do: Hike up the Spanish mosque; day trip to Cascades d’Akchour

2. Meknes

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More Meknes Yellow (and some red!)

Why aren’t more people going to Meknes?! It’s a 20-minute train ride away from Fez and maybe that doesn’t do Meknes any favours…but this place should be on the top of your list. There are very few foreign tourists but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tourism. The area making up Meknes and the nearby towns of Moulay Idriss and Volubilis (all UNESCO Heritage Sites) is essentially the mecca of Morocco.

Heri el Souani granary, Meknes, things to do in meknes, best places to visit in Morocco
Heri el Souani granary, Meknes – One of  the pieces Moulay Ismail was most proud of

The one-time ruler of Morocco, Moulay Ismail, had two loves: war and architecture. During his reign in the 17th and 18th centuries, he liberated Tangier from the British, subdued Berber rebellions, reclaimed a lot of land from the Spanish, and built some of Morocco’s most majestic buildings. In fact, a lot of pieces were taken from Meknes in order to contribute to buildings in parts of Morocco more well-known for its architecture!

Bab el-Mansour is one of the most elaborate gates I saw in Morocco and Place el-Hedim used to rival Marrakech’s Djemaa el Fna square. The medina has a qissaria, a covered market, and there was NO hassle from the sellers. Meknes goes down in my book for having the coolest calèches as well. I loved the yellow medina walls and well, everything! I felt so good there I decided to skip Rabat and extended my stay by 3 days!

I stayed in what was hands down the best accommodation I stayed in during my whole trip, Riad Bab Berdaine—it was newly renovated, clean, had hot water, and they had pet budgies that chirped and took baths in the fountains at breakfast. It was like a little slice of paradise. I loved Meknes for its “Moroccan-ness” but I felt like I missed out on a lot not truly understanding what that means (in terms of the historical and cultural importance of the city–I’m not Moroccan and I’m not Muslim!).

Moulay Idriss

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Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, closed to non-Muslims. It’s said that six pilgrimages to this mausoleum is equivalent to one haj to Mecca.

Moulay Idriss is one of Morocco’s most beloved saints (it’s said that five centuries after his death people found his body fully intact) and many Moroccans make perform a pilgrimage to visit his mausoleum. I did make it to Moulay Idriss but not the old Roman ruins in Volubilis—I was “abducted” by a Moroccan family who didn’t want me to leave.

A day trip to Moulay Idriss & Volubilis from Meknes is super easy. You take the number 15 bus for 7dh. It drops you off in Moulay Idriss and from there you can walk to Volubilis, which is about 3km away.

Where I stayed: Riad Bab Berdaine

Must do: Day trip to Moulay Idriss & Volubilis; explore the medina; Jardin Lahboul

1. Tangier!

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Cinema Rif, Tangier

Truthfully, Tangier and Meknes are a tie. I loved both of them so much that I would have a hard time choosing which one to go back to. The only reason I put Tangier first is because of its location—if you wanted to be close to Europe, well, you can see it from the old kasbah.

I was only going to stay in Tangier for 4 days but I ended up staying for a week–and even then I didn’t want to leave! I was tired of all the moving around and I was so comfortable I could have set up camp at the Hotel Mauritania for the rest of my trip. I had a regular café that I went to every morning where I did plenty of people watching. I went to the American Legation Museum, I chatted to random travellers and dragged them on adventures with me… I just dug every moment.

I also had the craziest experience meeting this crazy named Rachid (or Richard), but that is a story for another time…

richard, rachid, tangier
This is Richard…

Tangier is very lively but unfortunately doesn’t quite have that Moroccan essence that Meknes does. There’s a lot of history but still a very western conception of culture: museums, art galleries, cinemas, festivals, and so on. Of course, I liked that cosmopolitan mix! Another thing that worked really well is that the tourists go home in the evenings (back to Tarifa on the ferry!) and the city is at its most exciting at night time. Tangier seems to be full of young, liberal Moroccans who like to have a good time.

There are plenty of restaurants to keep a foodie like me happy and very little hassle in the medina. From my first full day there I just got that heartwarming feeling I’ve only felt twice before. That’s how I knew Tangier was the one.

Where I stayed: Hotel Mauritania

Must do: Cinema Rif; Café de Paris; Librairie des Colonnes; Spanish Cathedral; American Legation Museum; hike to the Kasbah

I think I’m still digesting my experience–6 weeks is a long time! What do you think? Have I piqued your interest in some Moroccan cities you hadn’t considered visiting before? Let me know in the comments!

17 thoughts on “Countdown to My Favourite City in Morocco, Part II”

  1. I’d have loved loved loved to have visited Chefchaouen – looks so magical! It’s really interesting to hear how parts of Agadir are unspoilt and unfazed by tourism – I haven’t been there myself but would never have imagined that!

    1. You just gotta hang with the locals! It may be touristy, but it’s so chill compared to Marrakech or Fez or example.

  2. Hi there Alyssa! Oxford kid here haha nice to see the article up! Wish I’d had more time to explore the country! You’ve had such a great adventure and I’m sure many more ahead! It was lovely to meet you, and shhh!! still haven’t told parents yet! Though now it’s out for the world to see 🙂

    All the very best and good luck!

    Ewan

    1. Hi Ewan! Wow, so lovely to hear back from you! I’m glad you didn’t get kicked out ha ha. I hope you get a chance to visit again (maybe with your parents’ knowledge this time?) and see the places you wanted to go to.

  3. I’m currently in Morocco, and I’ve been hearing good things about Meknes, and defiantly looking forward to Tangier. Good to see both made it to your top 5.

    1. I loved them them both! I’m heading back in June so let me know if you discover any “hidden gems”!

  4. I’m actually moroccan ,from Meknès and I find that you did a good work . I love it !! you’re all welcome .

  5. Hello from USA , I’m married to a Moroccan we bought a home in Aglou south of Agadir. (1 1/2 hours drive)
    A town outside of Tisnit by the ocean. I love it there,
    Some French live there. Visit the Man selling bread
    On the corner out of a makeshift brick/propane oven
    Also the Cafe on the corner of the boardwalk, you can have nisnis or tea and watch the people pass by! The Manager is so sweet ( tiny little guy) .
    I used to Love Agadir but now I love Tiznit and Aglou
    so much more. Tiznit offers a nice size Souk, with a lot of silver craftsman. Also the old part of Tiznit is pretty cool
    I know there is also a park there but I haven’t visited.
    I find when you go further south or towards the atlas Towns the people are so much more friendlier..
    Tafrout is another nice place, but I would suggest dressing more modestly there, and just a day trip.

  6. Dear Alyssa

    Enough is enough. I am actually quite a big fan of you and your fresh approach on things and life, and share with you a passion/love for both Martinique and Morocco, where I have been literally dozens of times (for Martinique I have a valid excuse as my Mum is of Martinican origin), but this time I feel I have a duty to speak up.

    I do also appreciate a lot Fes, Tangiers, Marrakech, Essaouira, Chefchaouen and Meknes, but I am having a hard time pardoning your mentioning of Agadir ! such a “faute de goût” ! (typical judgemental French attitude, apologies). Agadir is in my eyes probably the only city in Morocco without any true history, beauty, authenticity – a grotesque set of concrete filled with European tourists in search for beach, beers and wurst… on an ugly beach. Definitely not my pick, and because I love you I will consider that you may have been experiencing a mental mirage due to your exaggerated passion for surf….

    Personally my beloved part of Morocco, a country blessed by god who deserves a life of exploration, are the magic remote towns/villages of the desert fringes, on the saharian slopes of the Atlas mountains, where you could believe you are back 300 years in time. Besides being off the beaten tourist track and hosting one of the best cuisine on planet earth, they boast in my view some of the most beautiful landscapes in this galaxy, and a magic atmosphere with a preserved desert culture and strong berber/black Moroccan influence. On top of my list of my travel orgasms : Rissani in the Tafilalet Oasis, Tineghir in the Valley of one Thousand Kasbahs, Mhamid el Ghizlane at the ultimate end of the absolutely incredibly magnificent, bible landscapes looking Draa valley (to picture the Draa Valley, 50kms south of Ouarzazate, imagine the Nile river, boarded with a 200 hundred meter wide green lush strip of palms, flowing across 200 kms in mineral red/violet desert mountains resembling Monument Valley, with hundreds of little Aid Benhaddou looking pisé traditionnal villages, before dying in the desert sands at Mhamid), and Figuig at the southeastern corner of Morocco, right at the Algerian border.

    If you are interested in beauty and authenticity, or in redemption (for pardoning the abovementioned faute de goût), you could give it a try !

    Bruno

    1. Bruno, Bruno, Bruno…. I also forgive your offense because of your earlier kind words! Agadir certainly does have a history – it was just destroyed in an earthquake! What I liked about Agadir was the people. Even though it is touristic, it stands out for being a place where people were truly kind. I was eating at a restaurant and this miserable little boy walked up asking for food. The man at the restaurant lovingly prepared a sandwich, loaded it with all the fixings, and looked him in the eyes as he put it in his hand. In other cities, I’d seen similar situations where the needy was chased away for the comfort of tourists. Taxi drivers loved having chats, and the women at the hammam I went to were really friendly – they teased me a bit for not knowing what to do but helped me out eventually haha! I just have a good associations.

      Sounds like you’ve done quite a bit in the country! I went out to Merzouga on my second trip. It was awe-inspiring. I’ve never been to a place like that – and at night we could see the lights of Algeria’s border (or maybe they were stars? haha). Now that I’ve visited some of the major cities I’d definitely like to go back and see some of the more the remote and natural landscapes. (Would you believe I’m learning Arabic just for these purposes?) I’m hoping to spend half a year in Spain, so I’m sure Morocco will be on part of the itinerary.

      Thanks for your comment Bruno, I’d love to hear more from you – I like a challenge!

  7. OK Alyssa… really because that’s you and out of pusillanimity (not sure that’s real English) I am ready to drop the charges for this one and declare you redeemed !

    I am actually more than keen to believe you’re learning Arabic for that purpose, as this is also what I’ve done! I bought a few years ago in Paris a small booklet of 70 pages (passport size) or so on Moroccan Arabic (i.e “Darija”) from the excellent “Assimil Travel” collection – super useful and fun to read, and much easier than the classic, more complete Assimil guides which are more boring.

    B’slama / A an lot soley’ !

    Bruno

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