Editor’s Note: Hey People, welcome to another series on AjalaTalesBlog and this one we are excited about because it is our first one out of Nigeria. Its the chronicles of one of our (hopefully going to be a regular) travelers. The next couple of posts, we will be telling about Morocco, especially Marrakech. Hopefully we are able to convince you to plan a trip soon. Dont forget to leave a comment and share. If you have had an experience, why don’t you get at us via AjalaTales1@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.
The following was written by Joyce Akanbi. @JoyceAkans on twitter
I must admit that I was putting writing this particular travel journal off, mostly because I knew this journal had to be approached with care, it was important for me to document this with an open and transparent mind, whilst making sure that I did not put my readers off visiting the city Marrakech. On one hand it was a dreadful experience, one that should honestly have put me off the country infinitely, however, on the other hand, I find myself on travel websites tracking cheap and affordable flights to Marrakech daily.
I’m certain everyone has read about how cultured Morocco is, but believe me when I tell you that no literal article, or word of mouth would prepare you for how culturally enriching Morocco is. It is evident that native Moroccans are very prideful in their culture as everything from their mannerisms, down to their interior designs is laced with a heavy element of Morocco.That itself is a very difficult concept to explain, and it’s best to be experienced first hand. Before booking the holiday, my friend and I had agreed that we were going to experience morocco from a traditional perspective and therefore planned our trip around that.
We decided to skip on a modern hotel and went for a traditional Moroccan Riad (A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard.). We booked one in the Medina (Old Town) this allowed us to live in the heart of Marrakech, in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle. Price wise, there’s not much difference between hotels and Riads, we booked a night in a modern hotel in New city, and it worked out cheaper than our Riad. But we valued the Riad experience more.
Tickets, Passport and Visa.
Booking our flights and hotel was a very linear process. I had researched and learnt that British citizens do not need a visa to visit the country for 90 days. Nigerian citizens, however, do need a visa to visit Morocco; not sure how straightforward this process is but based on the information online a visa is needed along side a valid passport. (I’m adding this because there was a Nigerian man trying to travel to china with an expired passport last time I was in MMA). EU, North America and South Africa valid passport holders are allowed 3 months entry into the country without a visa. I travelled with my British passport, upon arrival we were required to fill a slip providing details of the nature of our visit and where we’ll be lodging during your stay (it is important you know the details of your hotel or airbnb, a group of people travelling next to us were delayed for this reason), you hand the slip to the passport control officer, who inspects and if satisfied your passport will be stamped. This is also very important as the hotel requested for the stamped page.
My friend and I tried to be swift with the bookings; we used a couple of sites, mostly to compare prices and reviews on the hotels and ended up using Expedia. I’ll definitely say we were lucky with our package. Our hotel, flights and airport transfers, including tax came up to £600 for 2 adults, with flights contributing the biggest chunk. On top of the £600, we paid an additional €20 city tax, that was paid at hotel check out. Morocco has a €2/night city tax policy that tourists are pay at the end of their stay.
We went mid-July, we were expecting hot summer days, but nothing prepared us for the hottest week of the year, when temperature soared to 50 degrees on very hot days. Again with our riad being in a central location, it was easy to dip out in the early hours of the day and the dip back in when the weather became unbearable which was most times. On the day we arrived, we arrived quite early but being an early flight we napped through the afternoon and woke up to scorching heat, we were determined to explore our environs and find local eating spots, after about an hour or so of being in 45 degrees we both decided we had had enough and rushed back inside.
The Riad we stayed was honestly the highlight of my trip. It’s a newly refurbished Riad, so it still had that brand new feel to it, the staff were incredibly helpful, attending to all our needs, regardless of how ridiculous they were and trust me we had some silly requests, like a sandwich at 11pm. On arrival the Riad’s manager provided us with a map, along side a detailed briefing of the different routes to interesting places to visit, like the museums, the souks etc. if you find yourself in Marrakech, I’d highly recommend staying in a riad, especially Riad Karmela Princesse. You’ll need a map to navigate your way around the old town as it’s not massively accessible by vehicle so speak to your hotel hosts on shortcuts etc.
Morocco’s official currency is the Moroccan Dirhams (MAD). Interestingly though, the MAD is a locked currency, which means by law you’re not allowed to import or export, as a result most likely wouldn’t find a place to change your home country’s currency to dirhams, but fret not the airport is equipped with several kiosks open to cater to your currency needs.
Although I would advise not changing your money till you’re in town, as the exchange rates offered at the airport is significantly lower to anything else available in town. I wasn’t too worried about changing my pounds as I had my Monzo card, I feel like Monzo deserves an entire blog post dedicated to it. Monzo is the first mobile only bank, all your transactions are carried out via their app, it’s the most efficient and instant banking experience I’ve ever had. Your get a notification as soon as a transaction is completed, and also a notification of how much is left after your spending, it’s helped me control my spending both at home and on holiday. I wasn’t too worried about exchanging money as one of the perks of Monzo is the MasterCard interest free exchange rate, and if you’re a frequent traveller you know MasterCard gives you the best exchange rate however most people are hit with an interest fee from their bank. With Monzo there is no such thing.
First of all, my experience as a black-skinned African woman compared to that of my light-skinned friend were not the same. Moroccans are generally lovely and welcoming people, with some of their men being overly friendly and vulgar in their language. The main reason my experience was dreadful was because of the several colorful words I had hurled at me whilst walking down the streets, the worst part of this was the fact that it was unavoidable as the hundreds of men who littered the streets had their opinion to voice out on my looks, my hair, my skin color, my outfits, even though i had very conserved outfits. My friend who could pass as a Moroccan did not get this as much. This should not put you off as the people we met and spoke with were honestly one of the most accommodating people, people were willing to educate us on the history of Morocco, direct us to interesting places, but I must warn you of the crooks who try to direct people the opposite direction to their destination and charge them in the process. As helpful as Moroccans are, some are also very scandalous in their ways, hiking up the prices than necessary, getting aggressive during a negotiation, with all said, I never felt threatened or feared for my safety at any point during my stay.
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