Morocco by Bike
Morocco February 98
Photo essay of the Moroccon experience: Click right arrow.
If you are into cycling in strange but wonderful places then include Morocco, You will get to love the people and they will love you and your money! Morocco is a Kingdom and seems to only have the very rich and the very poor, so expect the worst and you will be pleasantly surprised. Remember that seeing the police and army everywhere is for the benefit of travelers not the locals. With prices so low and a country left in a bad state of repair, thanks no doubt to the French or perhaps the greedy yuppy rich, who knows, but the people are lovely and they love their country even if they do ask you how they can get out.
Moroc Map

We left Ireland after four months of winter having completed the exciting cycling trip around the countrys coast. We had always planned to go to Malaga at a time when by cycling from there we would achieve summer temperatures all around Europe especially important considering we are cycling Scandinavia and we need that to be in the middle of the European summer. But staying any longer in Ireland waiting for Malaga and the south coast of Spain to heat up was wasting time so Rob went to the travel agents and saw a brochure on Morocco, it was one of those glossy jobs that showed everything cozy and sunny with people lounging around the swimming pool, so yes! why not. For 299 Irish punts (no charge for the bikes) we were on our way. I emailed Tom & Barbara ( our supporters and backup on this mission of the world) and they said great, let’s meet up in Morocco rather than Ireland.
After taking an early train the night before the flight to Morocco we thought we wouldn’t chance being late for the once a week flight to Morocco from Dublin but as it turned out the plane had troubles so it was six hours behind in leaving Dublin.

We arrived with bikes packed in cardboard boxes and one suitcase carrying the panniers etc. at Agadir airport on January the 23rd near midnight. One box had split open but all was well. The Moroccan customs officers did not look through anything but shagged around stamping the passports and writing in them about the fact that we had two Cannondale bikes with us, presumably so we could get them out of the country OK.

The first taste of hassle came as we left the airport terminal when all the passengers were hassled by guys in pink jalabars (cloaks) and pushed their way between us and the trolley of luggage, well that was OK but once at the bus they, of course wanted money and we didn’t have any Dirhams on us so gave them a UK one pound coin, well he was offended and carried on a bit, but as it turned out that was quite a lot considering the cash we were harassed to give to people later on in the journey.

Arriving in Morocco was a culture shock for us, as we never experienced anything like it before, everything was different,the clothes, the language,the currency, the food,housing.Having the time in Agadir a mainly tourist resort was very helpful for us.We were very scared at the thought of cycling Morocco,only to find a royal welcome from everybody,cheering,clapping,handshakes,lots of support.We were always the center of attention everywhere,children surrounded us where ever we stopped, they came down from the mountainside,shouting Bon Bon (sweets). We met alot of people on the roads looking after their goats and sheep, there is no fencing,so people stay with their stock all day. We met alot of people on donkeys, which they use for transport into their mountain homes, taking their produce to the markets and tilling their fields.

We camped out a number of times,campsites are hard to find as most of the land is tilled.alot of wheat is grown here. There are no hostels and only a few campsites, mainly close to the bigger cities, however Moroccan Hotels are cheap ranging from $US4.00 to $US70.00. Food is very cheap especially bread, shops on route not well stocked but much better as we headed further North. We bought bottled water all through,cheap at five dirhams. Next to no bugs of any sort., some not so friendly dogs followed our bikes but not a big worry. The roads were very good all the way and traffic was not so bad.

It was daunting at times coming through some small market towns as we were the only whites (so to speak). It is essential to learn some basic words,greetings,food,etc. People speak mainly Arabic,Berber,French some Spanish and German but very little English.Cycling was good in the way we were always in contact with the people,truck drivers and Taxis were great they waved and tooted and were always considerate. Transport is very good in Morocco.

We were very lucky to meet some Moroccan people who spoke English and we spent a few days with a family that lived in the mountains a 6km donkey ride from the village,a few hours from Essaouira. They had none of the modern facilities that we enjoy, yet welcomed us with hearts of gold This experience we will never forget. Their main food is Tagene and Couscous.Tagene is meat/chicken/fish with lots of vegetables and spices, cooked in one dish and everyone shares and eats with bread,great no dishes. We also stayed in a family house in Essaouira all the houses have an open area on top where you can sit,hang out your washing and relax.

Morocco grows a huge variety of produce food and spices and the Markets (souks) are full of lovely produce. Most cities have Medinas, the old villages surrounded by walls,once again a bit daunting but you get used to it. Police were very welcoming there is a big police presence,which is great as you feel safe.

We cycled from Agadir to Sebta, by the coast most of the way, a very good run cycling wise all the way, its a bit of a climb to Chechaquen, but definitely worth it,its a beautiful place, mountains all around you. We encountered a little bit of hostility further North, people were not as friendly. We stayed with a lovely family in Quezane, they welcomed us into their home, showed us all around and gave us food to take on our travels.

Sanitary conditions were not so good, nothing like we were used to and there's alot of rubbish strewn everywhere, which is a shame. Casablanca and Rabat are a bit more Europenised, some nice hotels with all the trimmings.

Very few bars anywhere,women not allowed in most,however you can have a drink outside. Most locals drink tea, spiced or mint tea, lovely.

We met alot of poor people and saw a lot of poverty,children and people begging and then on the other hand saw some nice Mercedes and lovely big houses. We have so much in comparison, materialistic wise, yet I think they have more inward peace and happiness.

If you got to Morocco, go with an open mind and open heart, you may have to give a little but you will get alot back. We have nicknamed Morocco the land of a million smiles, if we could put all the smiles and heartfelt good wishes into a box we would have enough to last a lifetime.

A few places we recommend are as follows:

Tamanar: Hotel Etoile de Sud. Kerab will look after you there and speaks some English.

Essaouira: Lots to choose from.

Safi: Hotel Majestic $US8.00 per night.

Rabat: Hotel De Paris. Hammed and Ahmed,speak perfect English,an are excellent hosts.

Chechaouen: Hotel Sahara. cheap at $US4.00 per night.