Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wonderful Morocco

Here at JMA we don't spend all the time coding or reading IT books or swearing against SOAP, XML and WSDL. Once in a while we remember that there is a wonderful world out there.

I have spent my last 2 months in Morocco. It's a wonderful country and the people here are very open minded, friendly and helpful. Almost everybody here can speak fluent French, so no communication issues. Probably with Spanish you can also get by. English is less common.

I live in Casablanca Medina and I love the atmosphere. It's a bit like living in the Middle Ages, I think little has changed in the last 100 years here. Plenty of life in the street until late, bars are fully packed with people socializing and watching together TV, cars are NOT allowed (and this is my favorite spot, I hate cars).

The rest of Casablanca is simply appalling, too modern, a concrete jungle, and extremely polluted. I would suggest seeing Hassan II Mosque - very inspiring, next to the ocean, the waves have a soothing effect on my soul.
Also the Houbous quarter is nice, with Palais Royal and the traditional street market.

Rabat is much more quiet, don't miss:

Kasbah of the Udayas,
Archaeological Museum

Marrakesh is a very enjoyable city, although you will be stopped continuously in the street by street sellers. Remember to always bargain the price, the first price is always at least 3 times the regular price. You can walk for hours in its narrow streets without feeling bored.

A trip to Meknes is very rewarding, particularly nice its Medina full of Berber traditions, the impressive Bab Mansour gate, the immense Royal stables;
at 30 minutes by taxi there is
Volubilis, definitely worth a visit both for the Roman Ruins and for the beautiful view on the hills.

Volubilis Ruins

Fes is extraordinary city, there you can admire many Madrassas and Temples. Its tanneries are very impressive, you can admire the entire industrial process and feel lucky your profession is not the tanner.

Ifrane was definitely disappointing, the High Atlas is no competitor for Italian Alps, the mountains are more like highlands and the landscape quite boring, forests are small and sparse, and Ifrane city very modern and dull. I walked 10 minutes in its street and run away.

Some travelling tips:

inside the Casablanca Medina there are many cheap (10 Euros or less) hotels: the IH Youth Hostel, Hotel Des Amis, La Victoire, Candide.... they are decent, comfortable, the only problem is no hot water - but you can get a hot shower in some Hammam for 1 Euro.
In Medinas, often rooms have no electricity plugs.

Trains are excellent (see and VERY cheap.
Many buses are run by CTM - I have never taken them.

In Casablanca you can find "petit taxis" and "grand taxis", the former are RED and more expensive, the latter are Mercedes, collective (6 people) and less expensive.

From Meknes to Volubilis you can take a collective taxi for 2.5 Euros. Same price from Meknes to Ifrane (60 Km).

A few taxi drivers will try to overcharge you - react firmly and invoke the meter. In the worst case say that you want a policeman to settle the case.

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