Rock the Casbah – Morocco

There’s something about the Moroccan flag I find fascinating. It’s so simple yet revolutionary!

I have to admit I have the pentagram tattooed on my left arm, so it’s a symbol I obviously appreciate. When I arrived in Tangier Med on the ferry from Algeciras, Spain, the flag was everywhere. It was a national holiday and I found myself wondering how I would be able to find my way to Tangier, Morocco (Tangier Med is the port city about a 40 minute drive from the actual city of Tangier).

Luckily, I stumbled upon an Aussie backpacker and two Japanese travelers (hardly backpackers with their huge luggage cases). All four of us negotiated a taxi into town which dropped us off in the medina (old city). The three had reservations at the same swanky hotel and I just tagged along, having no reservation anywhere (my motto when traveling is ‘play it as it lays!’).

Next door to their hotel I found a cheaper alternative and saved myself 20 euros. The next morning I explored Tangier’s medina and Casbah before making my way to Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains. This tiny city offers a lot for little. To tell the truth it’s a haunt for stoners looking to smoke Moroccan hashish and trip out on the natural scenery. I admit it’s a stunning mountain town, but I don’t smoke hash so I guess it didn’t really appeal to me as much as others.

Fes, Morocco was where I found myself lost in the labyrinth-like atmosphere of the world’s largest medina. I met some great people while staying at a backpacker hostel in the medina called Funky Fes. It’s friendly, family-like atmosphere made me feel at home, even though I didn’t stay long. I ended up leaving with a few other travelers (two German girls and one Japanese guy).

All four of us bought second-class tickets on the night train from Fes to Marrakesh. While we slept, on of the German girls had her luggage stolen. I was sleeping in the cabin next to them when I hear my cabin door fly open and my name called out. The girls recounted the story, mainly that they heard or saw nothing, and the train security conducted a “thorough” search of each cabin (obviously the thief jumped out at the next stop).

Marrakesh was a fascinating city with a medina and souk which were easily navigable. The one thing that really stood out about ‘kech, as Moroccans call it, is the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. It’s a public place where action never stops, but throughout the day it changes quite a bit. In the early afternoon it’s a bustling space for snake charmers and salespeople. But at night it becomes a series of open-air restaurants all serving Morocco’s delightful dishes (tagine and couscous).

Casablanca was the last stop on my whirlwind tour of Morocco. I have to admit, everything about Casa is a let down. The medina is practically an open sewer and there are very few sights of interest, other than the airport, where I caught my flight to Dakar, Senegal. The funny part is I had to fly back into Spain to connect to Senegal. The plane flew directly over the Straits of Gibraltar and I got a dazzling view of the Rock of Gibraltar, which actually belongs to the U.K. and not Spain as one would think.

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About

Adam Bemma is a journalist and media development advisor working in East Africa and Southeast Asia.

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