In 2013 after 5 months backpacking around Europe I met Graceie in Spain and we decided to spend one month Traveling Morocco. We mostly hitchhiked and this gave us some very unique experiences that most travellers don’t get. The hospitality of the people who picked us up on the side of the road was overwhelming and the best hospitality I’ve seen in any country to this day. People would invite us home to their families, want us to stay with them for 2-3 days and feed us amazing Moroccan food!
Some weeks before we had hitchhiked from Greece to Spain via the Balkan countries and we were keen to try hitchhiking in Morocco. Of course everyone told us it was incredibly dangerous and that we shouldn’t do it and this made us want to do it more. We stood at the off ramp from the ferry terminal and sure enough, we got a ride in just a few minutes!
The first day we made it most of the way to Chefchaouin. We asked our driver to drop us on the side of the road in the middle of a forest and we walked away out of sight, down into a creek and made camp. We were very careful to make sure we were alone as we didn’t know how much to trust people. During the night it rained.
Forest and rain weren’t what we expected! This is Africa? What we didn’t realise is that the northwestern tip of Africa is actually green and is quite cold in winter. The Atlas mountains even have a ski field and small ski villages with European style houses. Africa! Hmm, what a surprise!
The next day we made it to Chefchaouin and found a cheap hotel to stay in. In Chefchaouin all the buildings are painted blue and it’s a lovely town tucked away in the mountains. Houses are made of concrete and have flat roofs.
When we got to the city of Fes, Graceie’s breathing was getting very bad. She has had asthma for many years and in the previous 2 months had been to hospital 3 times to get oxygen and medications. She really didn’t want to go back to hospital again. However, during the day her breathing was getting to the point where she could hardly walk across the road. Very serious. We used Wifi and found where the closest hospital was at about 7pm. We had no place to stay and could hardly walk anywhere. Luckily we found a taxi and he took us to the hospital.
The hospital room was almost like what you would expect a war hospital to look like. There were about 5 patients in one small room; one was bleeding all over the floor, one was throwing up, the cleaner was scrubbing the floor and putting the dirty water down the sink where everyone washed their hands. Not the ideal place to be!!
Breathing problems are taken very seriously so Graceie was rushed to the oxygen tube, the only oxygen supply in the room. She was treated, given medicine and by midnight she was OK again. We were ready to go, but where??
One of the nurses, Rauia surprised us by inviting us to stay at her house. She lived with her family and we were welcomed by her family with open arms at 1:00 in the morning!!
We ended up staying with her for 2 nights and her mother cooked us the most delicious meals! We also explored The Fes Old Town. Very small tight streets, like a maze of markets and food. Well worth a look if you are in Fes.
After Fes we headed into the mountains in search of a traditional medicine man who was meant to cure asthma. All the locals swore by him and recommended we go to see him. He didn’t manage to help Graceie’s asthma very much but we did stay with a very cool family in the mountains. We were walking out of the village to find a place to camp when a lady insisted that we follow us back to her house. They were a very poor family but so kind and generous. We had some goat meat that we were going to have for dinner and we gave it to the mother. She cooked it and we all shared food with the family.
None of them spoke a word of English and we didn’t speak a word of French. It was an interesting conversation. We managed to understand a little between us with hands and a few words that we learnt along the way!
As we were leaving Fes the second time we got picked up by Adib who invited us home to stay with his family. We ended up staying with them for 3 nights and they made us so welcome! They were staying at their farm but showed us the city as well. Only one of them spoke good English, the others just a little.
We hitchhiked to Errachidia then were picked up by some people going to the “end of the road”. This sounded good to us and we got to Merzouga in the evening. We had lots of water and food so skipped the hotel and walked straight into the sandunes. We walked and walked as the light faded until eventually, we lost all sight of the lights from Merzouga. There we pitched camp and stayed for 2 nights. In the morning we were woken up by camels walking past!!
From Merzouga we started to head towards Marrakesh, the biggest city in Morocco.
We hitched a ride for a few hours with a guy who invited us to his friends’ wedding!! That night we were “guests of honour” at this amazing cultural wedding. Lots of dancing and tea- drinking tea; as Moroccans are Muslim they don’t drink alcohol. Sadly, we didn’t feel comfortable about taking many pictures.
The bus ride to Marrakesh from Errachidia was horrible. 8 hours including winding through the Atlas mountains, with a crazy driver. There was a huge cliff on one side and he would be passing cars. Apparently everyone was killed when a bus once went off the road here.
In Marrakesh one night in a market, we haggled to buy a pair of pants. The guy wanted triple the price that it should have been. An hour later we realised that Graceie had left her camera somewhere. We guessed it would be the place we bought the pants and went back to find that he had the camera and was waiting for us to return for it. The moral of the story is that Moroccan people may seem unkind when they are trying to charge you extra but really, it is just normal in the culture. It doesn’t mean that they are not honest in any other way and they are actually very kind people.
We stayed in a very cool hostel near to the centre square of Marrakesh. This is a crazy square; there is always dancing, lots of food and people everywhere!
We met some cool people at the hostel and decided to go to Sidi Kaouki Beach, just south of Essaouira and west of Marrakesh.
We found a place to camp just south of Sidi Kaouki village on the beach. Very sandy but an amazing place to camp. And very hot during the day!
Nina and Christian who we met in Marrakesh, caught us up next day as they were cycling. Esmile from Mauritania also found us. One of the locals loaned us a Tagine for cooking on the fire and we made the most delicious Moroccan meals ourselves.
We were very sad to leave. 5 years and 49 countries later, I still see Traveling Morocco as the most different, culturally and geographically. The people are much more Arabic than African, while green in the north gives way to a very dry harsh desert further south.
The hospitality of the Muslim people was also the most welcoming we have received anywhere in the world. Hitchhiking is easy (you hardly wait more than 5 minutes) and very safe. Sure there are problems but all countries have some. Moroccan people are so concerned when they see you hitchhiking that they pick you up immediately and look after you.
I don’t recommend travelling alone. You can but will attract a lot of unwanted attention and it would be better not to hitchhike. Travelling here as a guy/girl couple is perfect!
From Morocco we flew to Germany then hitchhiked to Turkey to Fly back to New Zealand. Read my full post of the next adventure HERE: Morocco To New Zealand Via, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and China.