Morocco I

Morocco has always intrigued me. Up there at the top of Africa but maybe part of Europe? There is an old world romanticism to the place and it makes me want to go back and reread James Michener’s Caravans set in Afghanistan, somehow their stories might be intertwined or maybe Michener could have changed the setting for Caravans ……

Back to now. We were going to be in Ireland for Easter and I was looking for a complimentary place to visit. Same longitude but further south lay illusive Morocco and a trip was born. Picked OnTheGoTours to show us around and take care of logistics. Into Casablanca and ending up in Marrakech.

Flew into Casablanca clutching two bottle of Spanish wine, not knowing how easy it would be to replenish in predominantly Muslim Moroc as the French called the country. Quickly found out that the Hassan II Mosque was one of the main tourist attractions. We were later given a tour but two things stick in my mind about Casablanca.

Besides Humphrey Bogart’s movie there is not too much to this financial city so they built this large Mosque and allowed non Muslims, i.e. tourists, to visit the inside. It was also located on a promontory based on the Quran saying, ‘God’s throne was built on the water’.

Hassan II Mosque.
ggg 60 stories high.
Playing tourist.
Inside it’s a massive marble cavern.
Entrance to a garden restaurant.
Vegetable tagine.

Moroccan Tagine is a slow cooked meal in a clay pot. With or without meat so ask what its ingredients are. In a nondescript building sits Rick’s Cafe. Rather over hyped but we did get a table for lunch and pretended it was 1942 again.

The outside.
Inside courtyard with limited seating.
Good menu.
Ahh, they serve beer.

Day 2 and we’re off to the capital, Rabat, 90 Km up the coast. Our first stop is the Royal Palace grounds where we’re told its OK to take photo’s of the guards but in general don’t point your camera towards officials in uniform.

A comment about how to visit and explore other countries. Do it on your own or as part of a group as we did this time. On your own you get to plan it as you will but might not see as much or be informed about what you are seeing. In a group, well we were taken to places we’d never heard of, always had a guide we could ask questions of BUT you have to do it on their schedule. No coming back later for a photo with the sun in the other direction or lingering too long for that photo op you’re waiting for.

Entrance to the Royal Palace.

Nearby is the Hassan Tower, an incomplete Mosque from the 12th century. Construction stopped when the current ruler died but the minaret tower survives.

Mounted guard to the Tower.

Two notable modern architectures can be viewed from here. The Mohammed spaceship a commercial building and the “python head” shaped Grand Theater which I’ve read has not opened yet having been started in 2014.

Mohammed VI Tower.
Grand Théâtre de Rabat.
Hassan Tower.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V in the corner.

We were then left to explore the Kasbah Des Oudayas near the medina where we would be staying in a Riad. Rose & I were wandering through the alleyways, half lost but finding our way up the viewpoint when this 20 year old starts walking besides us telling us where to turn and pointing out local info. I had an idea what he was up to but did not know how to shake him. Sure enough he then asks for money and I initially ignore him. I relent and offer him a small amount which he turns his nose up at so I go back to ignoring him and repeatably telling him, NO. He finally leaves us alone but this encounter spoils my visit. This is a common tactic and we even witnessed someone do it to our tour guide who also seemed to ignore him.

Rabat Beach viewpoint.
Outside wall of Kasbah of the Udayas.

Our group consists of 13, our guide Aziz and a driver, Abreheim. Two couples and a mother & daughter from the USA and 7 Aussies! 3 groups who all booked independently and we all met in Casablanca. We were a GREAT group and molded as one big family. There is still a lingering WhatsApp group that included Aziz full of shared photo’s and tit bits of information. Everyone certainly made the whole experience better for one & all.

Aziz pouring welcome mint tea at our Riad.

Later that evening some of us were walking the medina streets and stopped for some impromptu street food. A local “facilitator” (waiter) pulled table and chairs together and got our order for us. At the end of the meal he went around the table and each couple or person told him what they’d eaten and he gave us an amount to pay. A common trait for the rest of the trip.

Snack Alame in case you want to visit.
That’s us.
Getting our luggage to our bus.


Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

After Meknes  we drove north with a mandatory stop at Volubilis. Did I know it was there? Not really but with a guided tour of the roman ruins it was well worth it. Established around the BC/AD crossover it just takes one back in time and imagination as to what people were capable of constructing in those bygone days.

Entrance to Volubilis.
Story telling by our guide in the white cap.
That is not parched Morocco but fertile farmland.
Makes you simply stare and wonder  ….

We’re dropped off at our Chefchaouen HOTEL DAR BA SIDI a bit out of town. The grounds were rough and unkempt and the pool had the algae green of maintenance gone array but the rooms were OK for the few days we were here.


Next on the agenda was a hike to God’s Bridge and Akchour Fallsin in Talassemtane National Park.

Photo op looking into Talassemtane National Park .
Colorful stop.
I like the sandals at the door.
On our hike to “God’s Bridge” up the right side of the valley.
Standing on the bridge (arch)..
Not easy to get a dramatic view.
A bit of local color.
Second hike up to Akchour Waterfalls.

Back into the blue city of Chefchaouen where we had a quick tour through the narrow aleyways

Chefchaouen square.
Yours truly.
Les declaring the wondrousness of the blue city.
More blueness
Stolen shot.
Could not resist.

Of course there is a story!

I’m walking through these narrow walkways trying to keep up with the group, and pass these three. I’m 10 feet on when my brain says: “No, don’t give this one up”. So I retrace and observe; there are 3 women standing close by and I ask “Are they your children?”. No, they reply so I gesture with my camera and ask “Is it OK to take a photo?” Yes, they reply (I think) but that’s good enough for me and I turn to face these photogenic kids and quickly snap off a few shots. Love it.


We walk through the picturesque town and head up to the Spanish Mosque to observe the sun set. This is one spot where I could have spent a few days, pretended I was a local, and just hung out.

Spanish Mosque.
Waiting for the sun to set.
Chefchaouen – fun place.

Some group photo’s shared on WhatsApp

Courtyard of our riad.
On the way to God’s Bridge.
Lunch somewhere.