Our journey to Casablanca began at 9AM on our final long bus ride with Gate 1, which took us about 3 hours with one small stop to complete. There was absolutely nothing to see along the route until the city of Casablanca emerged. We first went through the fancy California district and eventually made it to the corniche for a pizza lunch at La Tropicana (some of the blander fare we had encountered). We took a quick stroll on the boardwalk after lunch and then got back in the bus for a 3 hour city tour. We started by driving by Rick’s Cafe, the one used in theory in the movie Casablanca (the real restaurant was a set in Hollywood). It had been purchased by an expat American and turned in to the restaurant with the same namesake. Casablanca was Morocco’s economic capital full of expats and the place where business was done. As such, it was the most modern of all the cities we had visited thus far. If you blinked you might have thought it was Santa Monica. Our first stop was the Hassan II mosque, the largest mosque in Africa and 5th largest in the world. It….
Our final full day in Marrakesh we spent catching up on sleep and relaxing at the hotel until the late afternoon hit and we were ready to take on Marrakesh by night. Having slept great for the first time in 2 days, and after a full morning of rest, we decided to hit Marrakesh by night and made for the main square, Jmaa al Fnaa, at 4PM. We walked and it was pleasant and easy, especially now that the rain had stopped. The merchants, restaurateurs, and street performers had just started the evening festivities. Our plan was to walk around and do some shopping first, then go back to the square and people watch. We had arranged our final Marrakesh dinner at 830PM at an upscale Riad near our hotel called The Red House. Since we basically were lame the two previous nights, staying in our room, it was mandatory for to experience Marrakesh by night at least once. The square was a lot better than the previous day and people weren’t nearly as aggressive (possibly because there were just a lot more people and tourists to choose from). I didn’t get henna attacked and we hardly got hassled. It….
From the road to Ourzazate, we reached Marrakesh by day around 5PM and made a quick tour of the city by bus before reaching our hotel, Le Meredien N’Fis. This 5 star resort made up for our lackluster hotel in Ourzazate, and we were rewarded with a pleasant 3 night stay in the red city of Marrakesh. We finally had the time to relax, recover, and be in one place for a while. This blog is about Marrakesh by day, and the next one will be Marrakesh by night. We quickly drove by the main square (Jmaa al Fna) and the Koutoubia Tower, which would be a landmark for our wanderings throughout Marrakesh over the next few days. When we arrived at the Le Meridien, we were ready to relax – and that’s exactly what we did in Marrakesh by day. I messaged Aunt Leslie to see what she recommended we do and whether she had a guide she recommended (after the fabulous recommendation of Khlafa in Fez), and she voiced the wise warning of Marrakesh being a tourist trap. We took that to hard and didn’t try to do too much, focusing on rest and exploring at our own….
The highlight of the morning our of Ourzazate and into Marrakesh was the fortified ksar on the hill Ait Ben Haddou, also a UNESCO world heritage site. But first, we made two stops – one at the Kasbah of Taourirt and another quick stop at Atlas Studios, where many movies have been filmed. Here is the Taourirt Kasbah. It was in remarkably good condition and we took a 30 minute guided tour with a local guide, exploring all of its nooks and crannies. It was built in the 19th century and with the help of UNESCO was restored. Many of the mosaic work and original decoration was still in tact. At the end of the tour, we bought a few small pieces of watercolor paintings from an artist renting space in the kasbah gift shop. They were desert pieces of the Sahara and the Kasbah. After the kasbah, we continued on to Ait Ben Haddou. We had a quick stop at Atlas Studios, the movie studio used for sets in many of the famous Hollywood movies. Fernando, part of the Mexican family we were traveling with, was a film-maker living in Los Angeles and had arranged a private tour for his….
After our adventure in the Sahara, we had a long day of travel ahead through valleys and canyons of the Atlas mountains and in to the city of Ourzazate. We took the Tinjdad Road (the north route) towards Tinghir and had a few stops along the way. We stopped for a bathroom break, tea, and a Panoramic view in Tinghir (Oualkim). It was a beautiful valley oasis nestled within the Atlas Mountains. However, we did not spend any significant time there and quickly continued on our way to Ourzazate. We got to drive through the Todgha canyons, which rise up 800 feet as sheer cliffs, just outside of Tinghir. We stopped for lunch briefly at a tourists restaurant which had probably the worst food we had tasted yet – only Moroccon food, extremely bland, and out of most items. We asked for Coke Zero and they were out. Then, the waiter walked away fro our table and didn’t take half of our orders (we were sitting with the Mexican family today). We had to get up and ask M’hamed to have him come back – only to get our food way too late to even eat it properly. I had….