Backpacker scene in Morocco in August
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Jun 20, 2012 7:36 AM Last Post By: kate88
Jun 19, 2012 1:26 AM
Backpacker scene in Morocco in AugustHello!
Various circumstances have led to me planning my two-week summer holiday alone this year. I'm saving up for a bigger trip that will start in a year or two, so I don't want to spend too much money on flights and other expenses.
I have about two weeks at the beginning of August, and I realize it will be really hot in most parts of Morocco...but generally I don't mind the heat. Is the backpacker scene alive and fun in Morocco around this time? Is it easy to meet people on the road there? I have traveled solo through Southeast Asia, where I was never really alone for more than a day...in South America it seems really easy too, and of course Australia and New Zealand have a great hostel scene for meeting fellow travelers. Don't get me wrong - I try to meet locals and indulge in all their customs as much as possible too when I'm traveling!
Would you recommend Morocco for some solo traveling? Or do you have other suggestions for places that are relatively cheap to reach from Europe, have good weather (no monsoon season countries please) in August?
Jun 19, 2012 1:53 AM
1It is hot already, but maybe in August will be more, or also not more :) Anyway you have read the post about those Portuguese guys now, or? So drink much water and stay near the coast. Maybe you would buy one guidebook and map, especially when you have plan to go to Morocco again.
I recommend Morocco for some solo traveling, no problem at all! In August it will be Ramadan, so keep you to more touristic places and respect that, not eat or drink at day if you are near the locals. Do it at coffee or restaurant or when nobody see you.
Edited by: khamlia
Jun 19, 2012 5:10 AM
2The backpacker scene isn’t what it used to be in Morocco (mostly due to teenagers and young adults not finding the low cost simple life appealing any more and prefer Twitter, TOWIE and fake tans), but it still attracts plenty of independent travellers who are looking for the old days of the hippy trail. Though the days of free love and open weed smoking are over, it’s easy to find a cheap bed, cheap food and tourist free locations.
In Marrakesh the Hotel Ali is one of the old timers, and is a great place for meeting folk up on the fantastic terrace, which also doubles as a spot to sleep under the stars for a few dh if a room is too confining in the August heat. I find the Ali’s terrace the best place in Marrakesh to sleep (especially in the heat) as it’s up in the breeze, cool on a night, and you wake up feeling fine and dandy after a nights sleep under the stars in cool fresh air. There evening buffet is also the best value on the square with the best view. Don’t expect fine dinning, but do expect home cooking by burly Moroccan ladies who just keep it coming.
Hotel Afrique is another great spot in Marrakesh. Loads of travellers, cheap rooms, amazing terraces and the craziest tiling in town. This place seems to be the new favourite place for backpackers as the Ali is now very busy.
Both these places will be great if your travelling solo…..impossible not to meet folk at the Ali and Afrique.
In Fes, it’s got to be the Hotel Cascade. This is the grand daddy of all Moroccan backpackers and hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. They too have the terrace where everyone hangs out….even those from other hotels. It is a great place to hang out, chat, make friends and sip a cool drink while watching the action below. ….a must if backpacking in Morocco.
The other classic place for BP’ers is Chefchaouen up in the Rif. This used to be the hippy place of choice back in the day (due to it’s fine local smoking products….still a big draw today!). The place is full of small hotels with terraces where folk hang out, smoke pot and chat till the sun goes down. I can highly recommend Hotel Castellana just off the main square. It’s being putting up hippies, stoners, travellers, artists and hobos for decades and is a real simple, clean, pretty and nice place to chill. Then, just up the road is the deserted Med coast at Oued Lao, where the ravages of nasty western developments haven’t got that far and you can still see the untouched Moroccan Med coast like it should be.
IMHO Morocco is the best, cheapest and most exciting place you can get to from Europe in an hour.
Jun 19, 2012 5:19 AM
3Thanks a lot for the quick replies!
I actually thought Ramadan was later, and I didn't realize it would coincide with my travel times! I wouldn't want to be the "irritating tourist" that eats and drinks and thereby disrespects the culture...do you think this would be a problem? Or is it still possible to find traditional Moroccan food during the day and not have too much trouble traveling around? Thanks again!
Jun 19, 2012 7:26 AM
Jun 19, 2012 2:30 PM
5..... unless you'er going for the Ramadan experience, its best avoided, During the day, particularly in the late afternoon and evening, the strain of fasting takes its toll and most become grumpy. Not a good time to interacting with locals, they have other stuff on their minds, making small talk with tourists doesn't figure.
Jun 19, 2012 3:22 PM
6I can't think of a cheaper destination than Morocco. Maybe forget the backpacker idea, find a low-cost, friendly, and relatively cool place on the coast and just stay there. You can buy food during the day, and eat it in your room, just not in public. You can swim and exercise at the beach in the mornings. Maybe take a good book. You can make your contacts with the locals in the evenings when everything comes to life, sometimes well into the night.
Jun 20, 2012 2:52 AM
7I find Ramadan a great time to be in Morocco. Allot of tourist avoid Morocco during this time, which for me is perfect. Also, there's a different vibe about everything, with frantic feasting at sundown and a real sense of celebration (especially in the Jam-el-Fna in Marrakesh). You invariably get invited to take Iftar (the first meal after sundown) which is always an honour. Yes, folk get cranky, but that's all part of the experience and I find that Moroccans like to talk about their fast and often ask if we fast too. In response I often say that I’ve already fasted for lent, which makes many Moroccans very happy. They are fully aware that lent fasting is no where near the same, but they appreciate the sentiment and thought behind it and hold much respect for believers of any denomination. On the other hand, some Moroccans would be surprised we paid so much attention to Ramadan as, in their words….. “Why would you need to fast?….you’re not Muslim!”
I found Moroccans to be very accommodating during Ramadan, and were more willing than usual to talk about Islam, religion and what it means to them, and I found it an honour to be included in their celebrations.
Last time I was in Chefchaouen it was Ramadan and it was great. Very few tourists, a laid back vibe and the best bit was the call from the mosques to break fast. This was really special in Chaouen as it’s accompanied by the local Marabout (religious scholar) who sings the most amazing song/poem from his zaouia in the medina (without a microphone). You can hear it half way around town and it sounds unbelievable. I want to use the term mesmerising….but that doesn’t do it justice.
Food wise, Chaouen was great for private eating during the day as the local produce is some of the best in Morocco, so a nice lunch of local cheese, bread, veg and honey up on a terrace or in a quiet spot outside is better than eating in the tourist restaurants anyway, is a 10th of the price and tastes far better. Of course it’s not an issue to eat and drink during the day as long as it’s discrete. Smoking on the other hand was the one thing that really wound folk up, and my fella was scolded and scowled at a few times before he realised what he was doing by smoking in public when others couldn’t. Food and drink is one thing, but take a Moroccan’s cigs from him and he’s an angry man!
I also found that if I did want to eat in a restaurant in the day it was fine if it was open. Some tourists were less respectful and sat outside in plane view, but we chose to sit inside away from sight which was much more comfortable for us and those fasting. We checked with our friend Mohammed a restaurant owner about how folk feel about tourists eating in restaurants in the day and he insisted it was ok as he understood we were not Muslims and the tourist industry is the like blood of many places, so he described it as un-Islamic to not provide for your family just because he was fasting. A classic Moroccan answere.
Jun 20, 2012 4:35 AM
8Me too I have only good experience from to travel while Ramadan. We had with a lot of water, some biscuits, fruits so we managed not be hungry during the day. When we saw open some coffee or restaurant so we took the chance and took some to drink and eat. We found the place there we were not so much visible. We found every time some accommodation to stay. And the staff both at restaurants or accommodations, they were happy to earn a little money :) At day when we made stop somewhere, we looked at people, souks were anyway in full swing, even this with animals.
Jun 20, 2012 7:21 AM
9Oh, Kate, one of the interesting things about Ramadan here in Taroudant is the call for Suhoor. Suhoor is the meal that Muslims wake up at 4:30am or so to eat before sunrise. I don't know if he does the whole town, but there is a guy who comes around all the streets in my neighbourhood to wake us all up with his Horn! I like it, but I'd sometimes like to strangle him! I find the interrupted sleep to be the most difficult part of Ramadan.
July 19 or 20 will be the start of my 4th Ramadan in Morocco!
Of course it's not the same for me as for my neighbours, but I like the structure of the days and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing the fast successfully. Surprisingly, I don't feel ravenous when it comes time to eat Iftar, and I know I'm very damned lucky to be able to eat it with Moroccan friends in my neighbourhood cafe.
Jun 20, 2012 7:36 AM
10Chaouen is the same! The young lads of the town parade around the streets with long brass horns and drums making an almighty din. They stop at street corners for a few minutes and then move on to the next street, hooting and banging all the way. In a place like Chaouen, where the medina is like a bowl, the sound travels to every corner of the town and in to every ear! Loud but exciting and different from the usual revving cars and screaming chavs that I have in my streets at home!
Avoiding Morocco during Ramadan is a real shame. It’s when you can really see what Morocco’s all about, when the locals are concentrating on religion and not commerce and when I have seen and heard some of the most interesting things.
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