Cats of the Medinas

Morocco, what can I say? An assault on all senses and sensibilities. From the fragrant spices and medinas to the calls of hawkers, vendors, hustlers, entertainers. Sights that you normally don’t behold in the West can be seen around each maze-like bend in the old cities. Also, yes, there are cats everywhere. A true medina has thousands of felines doing feline things. Sleeping, playing, fighting, begging/scavenging for food. It was definitely a different world I stepped into.

My daily excursions included:

  • April 18th: Got to Tangier and quickly caught the train to Fez. Realized Crazy Taxi is not just a game. Got to Fez and checked into the “hostel” (this word is played fast and loose depending on which place you reserve at). Wandered the Medina as well as the hillside overlooking it (photo above). Found a random sandwich place for dinner. No idea what the meat was.
  • April 19th: Took a tour of Volubilis and briefly Meknes.
  • April 20th: Wandered down to the main tannery before the tour groups got there. Pretended to only know Serbian so the hustlers would leave me alone. Paid an old guy 5 dirham to get to the balcony of his shop to view the tannery. The smell isn’t as bad as folks make it out to be. Headed to Rabat. Checked out Chellah, Hassan Tower, Andalusian Gardens, and the¬†Kasbah des Oudayas.
  • April 21st: Train to Casablanca. Wandered by Rick’s Cafe. Visited Hassan II mosque – one of the largest in the world. Got to Marrakesh pretty late.
  • April 22nd: Yves Saint Laurent Museum/Jardin Majorelle/Berber Museum. Was fastest way to get into garden by getting all 3 as a combine pass at the YL museum. Grabbed a cab down to Palais Bahia and then wandered over to also check out Palais El Badii. Finished off with dinner in Jemaa el-Fna.
  • April 23rd: Took it easy as my right calf was feeling really tight. Strolled through Menara pavilion. Caught the overnight train to Tangier.
  • April 24th: Arrived in Tangier and got a taxi to the ferry port. Time to head back to Spain!

So many tips to take to Morocco for any traveler. The most important ones is use the words “La, shukran” to say no thank you to pretty much anyone because many will approach you with a hustle. First hustle is the taxi drivers. The two types of taxis are the Grand taxis – large sedans that have a set fee of 50+ dirham. Then there are the Petite taxis – the smaller cars that can carry maximum 3 people at a time by law (and they will stop to pick up other passengers if not full). Go with the Petite taxis unless you’re a large group with extensive amount of luggage. For myself with my small amount of gear, I “La, shukran”ed my way through the throngs of cabbies to the street and flagged down a Petite cab. Make sure he starts his meter or quotes you a really low flat fare (nothing more than 20 dirham). The second hustle is random tour guides showing up at entrances to sites. Most places you can check out yourself, so make sure to “la shukran” like a champ. Another hustle is as you are looking for the place you are staying, people will try to get you to stay at their place. Of course, ignore them and go about finding your reserved location.¬†Another tip is to bargain. Restaurants and entrance fees to sites aren’t the places to bargain, but shopping for goods (which I didn’t do), you can talk down the tourist prices to something more reasonable.

I recommend grabbing a sim card when you arrive. They are extremely cheap (70 dirham for sim purchase plus 5gigs of data OR 3 hours talk time domestic OR 15 minutes international talk time) and if you go with Maroc Telecom or Inwi, they work really well for the most part. Just remember to verify the APNs are set correctly. I had gotten an Inwi sim card and it had the APN set to the old one (formerly known as Wana). Once I set it correctly, then I was flying with 4G. Just remember to have an unlocked phone with you and test it out in the store before leaving (test both messaging, email, and web browsing).

So out of the 3 places I stayed in Morocco, the first one was the best overall – comfortable enough bed, bathroom that didn’t make me want to scrub my feet after using, and the breakfast was really good.

In Fez I stayed at Dar Rabha. As you can see by the photos, it was a nice place with a comfortable lounge area. I had gotten the private room with ensuite as it was only a few euros more per night. The bathroom had no partitions between showering area and toilet, but it was large enough that it wasn’t that much of a concern. Also, the bed was large and relatively comfortable. Breakfast was filling and delicious. And finally, they did my laundry for me for a small fee of 5 dirham per shirt/pants/shorts (underwear and socks free with the others). They left it in my room all folded when done! If you want to stay in the medina in Fez, I recommend looking into Dar Rabha and it’s private room/ensuite.

 

The second place I stayed in was in Rabat at the Medina Surfing Association. Yes, you read that correctly. It was a serviceable hostel with a decent breakfast. Bathrooms were ok for a quick shower, but I wouldn’t linger in them. If you’re into surfing, this is definitely the place to stay. It also has a really nice roof top patio to hang out and also a kitchen up there to cook up something if you want to.

Finally, the place I stayed at in Marrakesh, I won’t have photos for. The bed and the service was great, but the bathrooms were pretty much nightmares. Toilets not secured to the floor properly as well as showers occasionally having to stop for a while for water pressure to be pumped up again. Just nope.

My last night in Morocco was taking the overnight train from Marrakesh to Tangier. The bunk is comfortable enough I suppose, but some passengers (not in the same compartment) were smoking which got everywhere (this was not the same issue with the smoking of mind altering drugs that occurred on the train ride from Casablanca to Marrakesh). A British lady was having none of that and started banging on doors. That ended up a being a bit of a kerfuffle.

Overall, the trip through Morocco was an interesting experience, one that I don’t regret doing. I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart or those that rely on creature comforts while traveling. But if you’re adventurous and ready to rough it a bit, then definitely head to Morocco!

And now, the photo cavalcade:

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One thought on “Cats of the Medinas

  • Mike Matejcic

    Following your travels with great interest. I thought I was adventurous! You beat me by an international measure. Like the cat photos! The ancient ruins and architecture are so remarkable. Glad to see you are eating a healthy diet. And it appears you are getting ample exercise, too. Soldier on. Thanks. Mike M.

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