Half an hour from the border we find a glorious 10km beach with an older Spanish style hotel with 10 million dollar views right on the beach and next to Club Med Resort. Our room with ensuite and verandah and breakfast was €35, but jumps to €80 in July- 3 weeks away!! Two nights and we were on our way top get some true Maroccan culture.
It was a culture shock on this side of the Mediterranean. Things are not so clean, roads not so good, buildings old and in bad repair and capitalism is in its raw state. One biker we read about said that in Morocco he had more things stolen off his motorcycle than anywhere else on his round the world trip. We watch the bike very closely and had nothing stolen.
If we ordered something in a restaurant and didnt ask the price, then they will charge whatever they can get away with!! We ordered 2 mint teas (yummy) and expected to pay 2 dirhams, but got charged 20!!
The markets are the same as they were 1500 years ago and its amazing to see medieval cities alive and well living inside the walls of the old city or medina. The merchants were a lot pushier than in Europe and we really had to say No Merci many times before they got the message.
One carpet salesman invited us into his shop because he knew some Aussies. When we looked hesitant and said we didnt want any carpet, he looked shocked and assured us it was only for frienship, not business. That lasted about 2.5 minutes before he started laying out the carpets on the floor! You should have heard the sales lines like:
they are a good investment and go up in value,
you can sell them for a profit when you get home,
you could help out a poor Moroccan family!!
South of the Med coast we rose into the Rif mountains to find the old walled city of Chefchaouen. It was a small and quaint town with most of the stone buildings painted various shades of Santorini blue. The atmosphere was amazing especially in the amber light of sunset. Dinner was in Aladdins with the blue colour scheme inside as well. They tried to rip us off by charging too much, so when that didnt work they tried to short change us!! Still it was a great night. We then drove across the top of the Rif Mountains as its supposed to be the most scenic route and the marajuana growing area of Morocco. Everyone on the side of the road tried to stop us and sell us drugs and one car chased us down, nearly running us off the road, just to sell us drugs!! We could see it growing everywhere and could touch it as we drove past!!
Next stop: Fes, the largest of the medieval cities. We were warned that the touts, merchants and would-be guides are out to hassle the tourist and in order to avoid that pressure we hired an authorised guide from the hotel. It worked a charm as he allerted us to all the tricks and no-one really approached us. The guide was pleasant as well as very informative.
The weather was starting to heat up in Central Morocco, so we found that by touring the mountains or along the Atlantic coast we could stay 10-15 deg cooler. Wherever we went there seemed to be countless castles, ruins and Kasbahs (a small walled group of buildings housing a few rich families). This area has had an unsettled past with many races such as the Arabs, Romans, Spanish and the Aboriginal people called Berbers all fighting for occupation.
The most spectacular stretch of road was along the Northern coast of Morocco within view of Spain. It amazes us that the Med Sea is so crystal clear with so many European cities dumping their wastes for the past 100,000 years or longer. The sea is a beautiful opal blue and clear enough to see the bottom a long way out.
Crossing the border back to Spain after 2.5 weeks in Morocco was hassle free with only a stamp out and a collection of the motorcycle entrance papers. No reentry stamp or papers back to Europe. Fuel at the duty free city of Cueta was .60 cents per litre as opposed to .90 cents on the Spanish side. In general things are about half the price of Spain. We did not come across a single motorcycle traveller and only heard about one just ahead of us going down the west coast of Africa. This may be our next trip in 2006!!
From Morocco we go back to Spain and then towards Portugal.
Posted by Patrick Peck at June 28, 2004 05:14 PM GMT