Adventures in Northern Morocco

After a great introduction to Africa in the lovely Port of Tanger at Morocco’s Northern tip, I had hopped on a bus to continue my adventures in Northern Morocco.

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Casablanca

I was super hungry once I reached Casablanca, so I tried to find a cafe where I could sit down for a meal. In Tanger, cafes always sold food, but it turns out that cafes in Casablanca only sold coffee, not food. Not even snacks. They also seemed to be full of men just hanging out watching a world cup match. Ahh, the perils of travelling in Africa during the FIFA World Cup!

It was time to give up on the idea of getting some food and hope that tea and Wifi could take its place. Once online, I’d received a message from my pre-arranged host saying that he could no longer host me. Uh oh! Panic mode engaged! I madly searched for another host. Luckily a couple of Khalids that I had been conversing with in the weeks prior to my trip came to the rescue. Khalid is a common name in Morocco!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Meeting the Locals

The first Khalid, let’s call him Khalid number 1, tried to organise a car to drive the 70 kilometres from the town he was in, to pick me up. He would then drive me the 70 kilometres back to his town and host me there. The Second Khalid, let’s call him Khalid no 2, also offered to help me out by picking me up and hosting me at his place in Casablanca. Aren’t Morrocans awesome?

Obviously, it was much easier to stay in Casablanca to save Khalid number 1 a 3 hour round trip. So I went to Khalid number 2’s house and met his housemates. One of the housemates was hilarious. He was walking around dancing whilst on a video call to his girlfriend. No talking, just dancing. Then he just handed the phone to me, so I could talk to his girlfriend while he continued dancing. I guess if you gotta dance, you gotta dance!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Exploring the City

After chatting with Khalid number 2, his housemates and the girlfriend for a bit, Khalid drove me and one of his housemates around for food. Then a tour of the city which included a drive-by of the biggest mosque in Africa, Hassan II Mosque. We ended up eating near the beach which is apparently where everyone, from partygoers to families, to rose and toy sellers, came out to play at night. The beachside promenade was lined with restaurants and clubs. The clubs seem to serve a slightly different purpose to what they do in other places. There was no pounding music and drunken dancing, just people sitting around and chatting while smoking and eating.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventure in Northern Morocco. Beach Club

The next morning, Khalid number 1 didn’t want to get up, so his friend drove me to the train station. There I boarded a train for a short ride to a little town, 70 kilometres away, called Settat, where I would meet Khalid number 2. Once I’d bought my ticket, I went to a small snack shop at the station to get some food. They had tacos! But they were a little bit different to your average taco. They were just meat and vegetables wrapped in tortillas. I guess you don’t go to Morrocco for Mexican food!

The train was not airconditioned, but I didn’t become aware of that until more than halfway through the journey. At that point, I was sitting right in the direct path of the sun. Let’s just say that last part of the ride was uncomfortable enough that I was really glad to exit the train once we arrived!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Settat

I caught up on some writing in a cafe near the station whilst waiting for Khalid number 2 to come and get me. As I was leaving the cafe, the staff called out to Khalid to say that I had to pay, even though I’d only had some hot water. Apparently, they charge 11 dirhams (€1) for using their WiFi. But only if you’re a tourist. Of course they don’t tell you that before you sit down. It’s not normal practice in Morocco but as Khalid later told me, this cafe is infamous for ripping people off. Even locals. They get away with it because they have the best coffee in town. The things people do for coffee!

Khalid and I hopped in a taxi to get to his district. After the taxi had driven off, I realised that my sports water bottle must’ve fallen out onto the seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the taxi number, so we decided to check at the taxi changeover depot later in the day.

Moroccan Hospitality

Upon arriving at the home of Khalid’s family in Settat, I was greeted with hugs and kisses! These kind people welcomed me like a member of the family. How sweet! After a small rest, Khalid took me to the local butcher so I could buy my dinner. But his family wouldn’t let me cook it. Or even help them to cook it They insisted that because I was their guest, they had to take care of it for me. This Moroccan hospitality is really something!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Friendly Neighbourhood Butcher
Friendly Neighbourhood Butcher

They insisted that I drink some tea and talk while I waited for them to prepare my dinner. Moroccan tea is pretty awesome, so I didn’t argue. It has fresh mint added to it before it is boiled. That means that it’s fairly strong, but oh so delicious!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Home Cooked DinnerHome Cooked Dinner

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Exploring Settat

After dinner, Khalid and I went for a walk up a hill to see the sunset. On the way up a couple of boys walking a dog called out to me. After they’d asked all the standard questions aimed at foreigners, one of them told me I had “beautiful hairs”.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Settat Sunset

On the way back down, Khalid flagged down a taxi to see if we could find my water bottle. The driver told us to get in, despite the fact that he already had a passenger onboard. Apparently, taxis in Settat will take as many passengers as they can carry, then the driver will just decide what each person pays when they want to get out.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Settat

Upon finding the depot closed, we walked to the main square to check out a local craft maker fair that was happening. While we were there, we searched some local shops for a small Moroccan flag to add to my collection. Khalid offered to get it for me, because he believed that he would be able to get a cheaper price due to the fact that he was Moroccan. After walking around the town for a bit, we went back to the family home for more food and tea.

Schedule? What Schedule?

The next morning, Khalid’s family had kindly prepared for me a delicious breakfast. After I’d finished eating, Khalid took me to the train station. The taxi depot was just down the road from the train station, so we made a quick stop there. Unfortunately, my bottle wasn’t there, but there was a heap of other things there. Like keys, handbags and other miscellaneous things that had been left in taxis.

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Getting to Marrakech

Once at the station, we had to wait in line for a while, so by the time we got to the ticket window, it was 3 minutes after the scheduled departure time for the train that was yet to arrive. We waited on the platform for a further 6 minutes before it arrived. The delays didn’t end there either. About 20 minutes into the trip, the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere for 30 minutes. Almost as suddenly as it had stopped, it started moving again, albeit it very slowly, only to stop again just 10 minutes later. For an hour! A few more random stops along the way turned a 3 hour train trip into a 5 hour train trip. I guess the arrival and departure times indicated on the timetable are only suggestions.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Marrakech

At the end of the train line in Marrakech, I had to transfer to a bus at the bus station behind the train station. The driver ushered me on to the bus and I took my seat thinking that it would be leaving soon, but of course, I wasn’t to be that lucky! I guess the bus driver was waiting for the bus to fill up, so I was sat there for nearly an hour before we moved. It seemed my half day trip had now turned into an almost full day trip. That’s just how things work in Africa!

More Moroccan knowledge
– Moroccans will go out of their way to help someone in need
– Locals can’t comprehend having a meal without bread
– schedules really, really don’t mean a thing
– Moroccan families just can’t do enough for their guests

The adventure continues into Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

For more information about Morocco visit the official Moroccan National Tourism Board website.

Check out all of the overland adventures from North to West Africa:
The Port of Tanger
Northern Morocco
Southern Morocco and Western Sahara
Mauritanian Coast to Capital on the Iron Train
The Mauritanian Capital, Nouakchott and Beyond
Super Social Senegal
Gambia
Southern Senegal
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Sierra Leone
Liberia
Côte d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

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A Local Experience in The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco

I had excitedly boarded a ferry at the Tarifa port in southern Spain ready for a new adventure! Just 35 minutes later I’d stepped onto another continent. Beginning at the sunny port of Tanger in Northern Morocco.

The Port of Tanger

It was a fairly short walk from where the ferry was berthed to the road out the front. I hadn’t even made it out of the secured area of the port before the touts started. The first person to stop me was a registered tour guide who promised the best tour of the port of Tanger in Northern Morocco, of course! He let me continue on my way once I’d told him that I was meeting a friend in town. There were also the familiar calls of, “Taxi? Taxi?” on the way out. It seemed like an eternity before I made it to the road. Once I finally made it, an older man stopped me. He thought that I looked lost. He gave me directions to the medina (city centre), then told me not to trust anyone. I’m not sure if that included him or not.

K in Motion Travel Blog. The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco. Near the Ferry Port

Finding the bus I needed to catch to my friend’s place in the suburbs of the port of Tanger in Northern Morocco proved to be a little more problematic than one would think. Firstly, it was almost impossible to find someone who understood English. Everyone was expecting me to speak French. Then I was sent in the wrong direction several times by people that wanted to help, but obviously had no idea where the bus left from. After an hour of walking around Tanger and bugging strangers for directions, I almost accidentally stumbled upon the correct bus stop. You could say I was very relieved.

K in Motion Travel Blog. The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco. Tanger Town Centre

A Local Bus Ride in the Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco

Happy that things in Tanger should start to get more simple from then on, I cheerily got on the bus. I advised the driver of the name of the place I needed to go. The only problem was that the driver didn’t know the name of the place I had given him. Firstly I thought I was pronouncing it wrong, so I wrote it down for him. He still had no idea. Then a nice lady on the bus who knew a little bit of English helped me out. She went around the bus asking everyone where the place was. It took nearly the entire journey, but she found one person at the back who knew. Thanks to a wonderful group effort, I was finally able to get to my destination.

My host, Noissair came to meet me and we went back to his place. There I met his lovely housemates, who chatted with me for hours. They were very happy to share their thoughts with me, especially about what a lot of Moroccans think about the French language. Apparently, there’s a bit of a movement to try to change the second language in Morocco from French to English. It came about because many think French as useless for communicating with the world, particularly in business settings. Some interesting points were made.

After such an interesting and challenging day, I was exhausted. I retired to bed to ready myself for the adventures to come.

The Challenges of Getting From the Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco to Casablanca

The next morning, I got myself back to the intercity bus station in the city centre. Once there, I couldn’t walk two steps without someone trying to get me on their bus. It seemed that buses to Casablanca run extremely regularly. That meant it would be easy to get one whenever I needed it, so I decided to walk around for a bit. I wanted to find something to eat before getting on a bus. Well, that did not turn out as planned due to the fact that people were smoking inside all of the cafes near the station.

Seeing as lunch was a bust, I decided to change some money. That also didn’t go according to plan. The first 2 places I went to, that looked very much like currency exchange places, didn’t exchange currency. Surely a bank can change it, right? Apparently not when there’s a problem with their system. I finally got to a bank that could change currency and they wouldn’t accept one of my notes. Because it wasn’t new. It wasn’t particularly old either, that back just had high standards. Luckily I had more where that came from.

Back at the bus station, I was again accosted by the first person upon entering. They got me on a bus leaving within 5 minutes that was 10 dirhams cheaper than the one someone had tried to get me on earlier. Before we left the station, a young boy got on the bus selling ‘Kleenex’, which is apparently the name applied to all tissue products in Morocco. He was followed closely by an older guy selling portable USB chargers. Those guys certainly did their market research!

Drama on the Side of the Road

To break up an otherwise long and boring bus ride, the bus stopped on the side of the highway. We were there for about 20 minutes while a woman argued with the bus staff. She wanted them to drop her in a town that the bus wasn’t scheduled to go to. Many passengers got off the bus to watch the exchange because, as I was informed by the young man sitting next to me, Moroccans love to watch arguments.

After the commotion was finally over and we started moving, the young man, who was by far the best English speaker I had come across in Morocco so far, started telling me about how he hates the French language. That’s why he doesn’t speak it. He also revealed that he’d learnt all his English from watching television and movies. He told me that the English taught at schools there isn’t nearly good enough for use in the real world. I guess that’s bound to when it’s the third language most people learn.

What I’ve learned about Morocco so far –
– schedules are just a guide and rarely adhered to
– simple things are way more challenging than you would expect.

Let’s see what else I can learn before I’m through. The Moroccan adventures continue here

Check out all of the overland adventures from North to West Africa:
The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco
Northern Morocco
Southern Morocco and Western Sahara
Mauritanian Coast to Capital on the Iron Train
The Mauritanian Capital, Nouakchott and Beyond
Super Social Senegal
Gambia
Southern Senegal
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Sierra Leone
Liberia
Côte d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

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If you’ve enjoyed reading about a local experience in the port of Tanger in Northern Morocco, let your friends know and click the picture below to Pin It for later! :o)