Alyssa Writes

Countdown to My Favourite City in Morocco, Part I

I made a selfie in Fez, Morocco

I made a selfie. Fez, Morocco

What an experience six weeks of solo travelling around Morocco was! I learned so much about the place and met so many wonderful people. I was going to do a full countdown of my favourite cities, but the post would have been a couple thousand words, so I decided to split it into a two-part list of my favourite places to visit in Morocco.

Every place has its own story for me and I’m quite sure that I’ll be talking about it for a long time to come. I’ll try to share some of them here but nothing can really convey all of the emotions I felt and experiences I had–and that’s what solo travel is really about! Because no one else can really understand, that time has really been about you, understanding yourself, who you are, and how you react to different situations.

All in all, I visited 11 cities throughout my six weeks there (and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t move around so much). Because I tried to stay in every place for at least 4 days I’m not including day trip locations, which were Moulay Idriss (though that comes with a great story), Ait Benhaddou, and Ouarzazate. You should also know that I wasn’t really backpacking–I was still working and therefore had high expectations of my accommodations and paid through the nose for it.

So, without further ado, a countdown to my favourite places to visit in Morocco:

8. Marrakech

Tom looking up at the grandeur of the Saadian Tombs, Marrakech

I know. I went on a rant about how I borderline hated Marrakech. Now with some distance (many thousand kilometres’) I’ve realized I was being a bit harsh. I really could do without the hassle, the touts, the horrible taxi driver,s and the frustration. But that doesn’t mean I wish I never went.

Marrakech is home to some of Morocco’s most important monuments, and enduring traditions like storytelling and the antics of Djemaa el Fna Square. People have been snake charming for centuries!

And if you know this blog, you know I love foodMarrakech has some bangin’ restaurants–I never ate better throughout my whole trip than when I was in Marrakech. From vegan/vegetarian restaurants to camel burgers, from posh food to street food, Marrakech really has it going on in the culinary department.

Where I stayed: Riad Charcam, a beautiful riad in the medina, with an amazing breakfast; Airbnb with Melissa

Must do: Maison de la Photographie; Dinner at Le Jardin

7. Taghazout

I’ve been meaning to write about Taghazout but I was determined to write something NOT titled “Things to do in Taghazout besides surf and smoke hash”. Alas, I could think of very little. And for that post, there were only two things I could think of, so here we are.

Taghazout is a very small village–I mean ‘blink and you miss it’ small. The place is filled with hippies here for the reliable, top-class surf. Unfortunately, both times I visited there was little surf to speak of (even the real surfers at my hostel were driving hours away) and I wasn’t feeling smoking hash.

I spent a lot of time…working, chilling, and eating. There’s a nice weekly market in the square if you want to stock up on Berber jewellery and the food round those parts aren’t too shabby either. I went for one surf session at Imourane which was nice.

The highlight of my time in Taghazout was going to Paradise Valley with the lovely Belgian girls I met. That place is firmly in the top 3 most beautiful places I saw in Morocco–it helps that I’m a girl who prefers rivers over beaches.

Where I stayed: Roofhouse Hostel (best to just show up and ask for a room and check it out); good breakfast, chill vibe.

Must do: Go to Paradise Valley, by any means necessary.

6. Fez

View over Fez from the ruined kasbah, and gah! Those digital mountains in the distance! <3

Fez came at the end of my trip and I was so tired of all the moving around that I said if I went home I wouldn’t feel disappointed. I was quite drained. I figured it be like Marrakech and I would hate it, so I only stayed 3 days didn’t really give Fez a fighting chance. I should say I would definitely go back to Fez.

The only thing I disliked about Fez was the size–I once had to take a taxi from one bab (gate) to the next! I didn’t see the mellah (Jewish Quarter) or the Ville Nouvelle (city built by the French) because they were just too far away! I was also swamped with work.

Now, what I loved about Fez:

There was so much less hassle than Marrakech. The touts weren’t nearly as aggressive here compared to Marrakech.

I ate one of the most flavourful tagines that wasn’t cooked for me by a family here. The restaurants were good and fairly priced.

Bouljoud Garden was gorgeous. I sat by the lake to read Ben Jelloun (and where better to read postcolonial literature than in the intellectual capital of Morocco?) and walked around the wonderfully landscaped garden. There are also quite a few places to walk up for mini hikes with views over the city, which I really enjoyed.

Where I stayed: Dar Chraibi, a traditional riad in Place R’cif. Good breakfast and hot showers, though my room was cramped and smelled of drains.

Must do: Eat! I didn’t do too much here, unfortunately.

5. Essaouira

The old Portuguese fort and Essaouira’s iconic blue fishing boats

I had a lovely time in Essaouira and feel free to read all about it! This is the place that made me realize a lot of good travel experiences come down to the people you meet. I had a really hard time deciding where to put this one on the list and I almost switched it with the city in 4th place. In the end the reason it doesn’t rank higher is just because I didn’t feel there was very much to do (unless you’re into kite surfing!).

I met wonderful people here and I found Essaouira very photogenic. The place is super chill (and chilly!) but I think I was a little bored after the first few days. I went to a little hanout style café and found reliable, cheap food, but really the best experiences I had came down to the people I was with, not Essaouira itself.

One thing I realized after I left is that Essaouira is truly the artisanal centre of Morocco. While I was in Meknes, I really wanted to find someone to paint a custom calligraphy piece for me, but I couldn’t even find a painter! I remembered reading somewhere that you had to be trained in this style and the only place I had seen people doing it was in Essaouira.

Where I stayed: Atlantic Hostel, cheap with a great party vibe; not as clean or with as good wifi as I like/need.

Must do: Shop!

There it is, ladies and gentlemen: the first 4 in the Moroccan city countdown. What do you think of the order? Any guesses for my favourite city? Leave your guess in the comments!