Just over a year ago I went on a crazy two week tour of Morocco with five chums. When I booked my flight I had no idea it was going to be such a hectic holiday. I had visions of pottering around Marrakesh, enjoying the sunshine, generally relaxing and perhaps, if that got boring, taking a day trip out to the coast. How wrong I was! My friends had all been to Marrakesh before and wanted a little more adventure so, on day two (and with a horrible rum hangover) we jumped on the train…destination El Jadida. The coastal resort of El Jadida had a bad vibe, which wasn’t helped by the lack of sleep and rum consumption of the night before, but the bad vibe was there regardless. The taxi driver laughed when we told him to take us to the Hotel De France…when we got there we understood why. The hotel was falling apart, cockroaches clacked across the stone floor at night and my friend had to use his substantial copy of “Shantaram” to prop up his wonky bed. By the following morning I was in the grips of a full blown panic attack and another member of our party had done a disappearing act in the middle of the night leaving nothing behind apart from his hat and a note to his wife wishing her “good luck”. Hmm, not a great start to the holiday. We made an executive decision to get out of El Jadida as quickly as possible and headed to Fes (where at least there was an airport for me to escape back to the UK and for said wife to possibly follow in her husband’s footsteps, although we weren’t sure he had flown out).
OUR LUXURY ACCOMMODATION AT HOTEL DE FRANCE – EL JADIDA
We arrived in Fes very late at night where Mr Disappearing Act met up with us (having spent the day traveling around in an El Jadida haze…God that place was bad!). We had something to eat and settled down in a more comfortable hotel. My panic attack had subsided and I would have been quite happy to stay in Fes for a couple of days but first thing the next morning we were off again, this time to Chefchaouen.
My panic attack had been partially prompted by talks of the hair raising coach journey through the Rif mountains which we had planned to make. So when a friendly chap accosted us at the breakfast table in Fes offering to drive us in a luxurious taxi all the way to Chefchaouen I managed to persuade the others that this was a very good idea. It all turned out very well indeed. Our driver Hassan took us on the four hour journey at a leisurely pace, no screeching of tyres around the mountain bends, and no smell of burning rubber. Hassan took us to his house briefly to show us the tiles he manufactured somewhere in Fes and we also stopped off for a very pleasant lunch.
ROADSIDE REFRESHMENT ON THE WAY TOO THE MOUNTAINS
ME, IN THE VERY PINK HOUSE OF HASSAN
Upon arriving in Chefchaouen Hassan took us to a beautiful hotel (of course he had friends there who gave him a percentage) but for once I didn’t mind as the hotel rooms had en-suit, toilet paper and soap (rarities) and we had a whole roof terrace to ourselves. My pals (we were now down to four, as the other two had gone back to Marrakesh to discuss their marital difficulties) were quibbling about the extortionate rate of £14 a night per room. Were they being serious??? After the horrors of El Jadida and the non stop traveling I put my foot down hard. “We’re staying here, come on it’s seven quid each, per night. We CAN afford it!” We ended up staying two nights as Morocco belly hit us and we didn’t feel much like moving again, but on the third night we went a few streets down and spent the night somewhere super cheap (that made the other three happy).
WANDERING THE MARKET IN CHEFCHAOUEN
OUR PRIVATE ROOF TERRACE
From Chefchaouen we decided to go further up along the coast to Asilah. Again, we caught a taxi (I was glad to see my preference for luxury was rubbing off). Asilah is a beautiful place, probably my favourite spot out of all the places we visited on the trip. The Atlantic rages beside the clean, blue and white town which has an English coastal feel about it, but with a hell of a lot more sunshine thrown in. We stayed in a fairly non nondescript hotel, not too good, not too bad, and for the first time I had a room of my own (my old buddy and I had decided we’d spent enough time cooped up together). The worst thing about Asilah was the ridiculously long walk we made to “Paradise Beach” only to find a burned down cafe and the usual mountain of rubbish piled up on the sand, the best thing though was the discovery, at every turn, of amazing murals painted for the Arts Festival, which takes place there every summer. The festival started 33 years ago in order to strengthen cultural links between different nations. I was incredibly glad to have my camera to capture the brilliant art works as every year they are painted over by the next group of artists.
A SELECTION OF THE MURALS IN ASILAH – Click Thumbnails to view
We headed out from Asilah late at night a couple of days later, catching the night train back down to Marrakesh. The night train was superb, the linen was clean, our bunks were comfortable and we all slept very well arriving in Marrakesh the next morning at 8am. The four of us went back to our original hotel, Hotel Afrique and found hubby and wife there too. On our last day we all felt the need to scatter off and do our own thing, meeting up later in the only place we could find which would serve beer…and 36 bottles later we wound our way back to the hotel for the last sleep in a country which was challenging, inspiring, beautiful, and never boring.