TRIP REPORT MOROCCO - Fes, Marrakech, Atlas Mountains
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Oct 3, 2012 3:03 PM Last Post By: cluck33
Oct 2, 2012 2:19 AM
Fez vs Marrakech
I'd read in a few places that there is some duplication between seeing these two imperial cities. For me the similarities were very general (they both have souks and a ville nouvelle) and I thought they were very different. During the day, I much preferred Fes. Fes-el-Bali (the old souk area) is pedestrian only (except mules and kids on bikes without brakes careering down the steep streets!) so it is much more pleasant to explore than Marrakech's souk which is full of racing motorbikes and the resultant pollution. I also thought there was more character to Fes, possibly because there were fewer tourists and coach parties. Also there is far less hassle and hustle in Fes, the interaction with the locals is more friendly and less about relieving you of your money. However, Marrakech in the evening, particularly the Djemaa el Fna is a must-see - the food stalls and local music make a great atmosphere so this is highly recommended. So in summary, I don't think it is a choice of one or the other, if you have time it is well worth seeing both.
Compared to other countries I've been to, accommodation in Morocco is pretty good in the cities - in all cases I found that the staff were extremely welcoming and hospitable and were always willing to provide information or advice. I booked accommodation a day or two in advance - the downside of this is that it can be difficult to find the place you have booked and, in Marrakech especially, no-one will give you directions (or help you in any way) unless you are paying them. However on balance I think this worked better than trying to find a hostel or riad on arrival. I stayed in Dar el Yasmine http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g293733-d1763033-Reviews-Dar_el_Yasmine-Fes_Fes_Boulemane_Region.html hostel in Fes, this is located about 5 minutes walk into Fes el Bali. It was clean, the room was large, the shower was hot etc. In the evening we smoked shisha and drank mint tea on the roof terrace with the entertaining owner, Aziz. I would recommend this place. Passing through Marrakech the first time, I stayed in Hotel Ali http://www.hotel-ali.com/en/ , which is a kind of Moroccan Fawlty Towers. There is not space here to go into the details but it was an amusing comedy of errors to stay here, but I would go back - for the price, the location and comfy beds are good value. Returning to Marrakech after roughing it in the mountains I spent a bit more money on Riad La Mimounia http://www.hotels.com/ho109312/la-mamounia-marrakech-morocco/ . This is virtually impossible to find, not helped by their own online map which shows the wrong location. However it was worth the difficulty in finding it - it is such a calm and relaxing place that it proved to be the perfect balance to the hectic city outside. Definitely recommended.
High Atlas Mountains
I headed up to Imlil, thinking about a possible go at Toubkal, but the weather was poor (low cloud and rain) so I decided against it. Instead I spent one day doing a circular trek from Imlil, starting west over Tizi n Mzik and returning over Tizi Oudite to Imlil. The next 3 days I did the Imlil to Setti Fatma trek via Tacheddirt. This was without doubt the highlight of my trip, the scenery when the weather cleared up after day one was just incredible; I expect it would be better still in the spring with more water in the streams, spring blossom etc., and I am hoping to return in April next year. Practicalities - it is certainly possible to do these treks without a guide / mule etc. IF you have a decent map (1:50,000 ideally), some experience and a bit of common sense. The routes are not marked with National Park style signposts (!) and there are other paths which are not marked on most maps but it should be fairly easy to find your way. Accommodation - there are guest houses in most of the Berber villages in the mountains - these are very simple affairs (mattress on a concrete floor, sharing a small room with others, squat toilet) so you can either rough it or, for more comfort, camp. The guesthouses provided blankets so I did not need a sleeping bag, though a sheet liner is a good idea. Food - as much as possible I would recommend taking your own food and being self-sufficient for meals while trekking. The Berber villages and guesthouses are filthy - animal dung is absolutely everywhere and there is no concept of hygiene or sanitation at all. I got extremely sick on the 2nd night of my trek which made for an unpleasant stagger out of the mountains the next day. Almost everyone I spoke to had someone in their group who had got ill while trekking. Take plenty of Immodium, antibacterial handsoap etc. Water can be bought in most villages but I was glad I took purification tablets which I did use once. To end on a more positive note - take spare batteries for your camera, almost every corner you turn or pass you cross will present you with a breathtaking view and I took hundreds of photos over the four days.
Public transport, where it exists, is pretty cheap and very good. On the trains, 1st class is not too expensive - £24 for one-way from Fez to Marrakech, a journey of 7 hours. (How much would a 7 hour 1st class journey be in the UK?!). It was extremely comfortable - large seats and plenty of a legroom in an air-conditioned 6-seat compartment. 2nd class is not bad either, again way better than standard UK train travel, but you get much less legroom than 1st class. It is worth spending the extra cash on 1st class for a journey of more than a couple of hours. Grands taxis - these are cheap and seem to go everywhere, I usually had no problem in negotiating a price then paying double that to have the front seat to myself and even paying this double rate they were cheap. E.g. Setti Fatma to Marrakech (about one hour) cost just £4.
How much money do I need?
This question is asked often on here. So how long is a piece of string? Well my piece of string was about £45 per day. I travelled solo so this would be more than 2 sharing. Costs varied significantly, from as low as £15 for one of the mountain days to around £80 on the most expensive day. You can get comfortable budget accommodation for £20 per night and feed yourself cheaply on £10 a day. Leave room in your budget for lots of small expenses that soon add up - petit taxi rides, tips, etc. As far as I could tell there is a restriction of brining either only 1,000 or 2,000 dirhams in or out of Morocco. There is a money exchange place at Fes airport where I changed £ to Dirham (at a better rate than in the UK) and then had no problem finding ATMs in the cities only.
Best things about Morocco - the scenery, the hospitality and the entertainment factor - just head around the next corner and something strange, funny or unusual is likely to be happening
If you have any other questions about where I went / stayed etc. please ask them in the comments and I will answer them as best I can. I hope this will help you plan your trip.
Edited by: fergus_2609
Edited by: fergus_2609
Oct 2, 2012 5:30 AM
Oct 2, 2012 6:59 AM
Oct 2, 2012 7:33 AM
Oct 2, 2012 7:47 AM
Oct 2, 2012 8:49 AM
5Nice report. We actually preferred Fez over Marakech as it was less commercial and westernized.
Here is my trip report from Jan 2010. If it helps anyone.
Oct 3, 2012 1:34 AM
6......a good read and an interesting range of accommodation. From a low village squat toilet on the side of the Atlas to the luxurious La Mamoumia with its throne like facility in pristine bathrooms. Did you by any chance use the bedroom Hillary C. slept in, described as a Workplace on this link.. http://www.business2community.com/travel-leisure/la-mamounia-as-a-workplace-0273408
Thanks for your post and look forward to more.
Oct 3, 2012 5:29 AM
7well i wish i could have stayed there!! Slight mistake on my part - it was the far less exclusive, but similarly named Riad Dar Mimouna http://www.hotels.com/hotel/details.html?tab=description&destinationId=818964&destination=Marrakech%2C+Morocco&hotelId=226224&arrivalDate=27-09-2012&departureDate=28-09-2012&rooms%5B0%5D.numberOfAdults=1&roomno=1&validate=false&previousDateful=false&reviewOrder=date_newest_first . Maybe one day I'll stay in the 5* place!
Oct 3, 2012 8:08 AM
Oct 3, 2012 3:03 PM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$78.60 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$72.10 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$397.72 per night