Photo Essay: Two Weeks around Northern Morocco

Winter sun is always great, especially when you’re escaping the grey winter days of London. I had found a reasonably cheap return flight to Fes and decided to book myself a 2 week trip to Northern Morocco over New Years.

The previous year Emily and I had done a 10 day trip to Morocco in which we’d covered Marrakech, Essaouria and a 3 day trip out to the Sahara desert. This had started my love of the country and I’d been itching to get back to see some more.

As Emily was going to Australia for a month to visit her sister this time I was going solo. Having survived driving an auto-rickshaw 2000 miles across India a year earlier I was excited to see if my travel mentality for the crazy hustle and bustle of the country had changed since the first trip.

After some planning I settled on a rough loop around Northern Morocco but as with any trip things change and after not particularly enjoying the feel of Tangier I left a day early and popped down to Asilah for a night. So my final route ended up being:

Fes –> Chefchaouen –> Tangier –> Asilah –> Rabat –> Meknes –> Moulay Idriss –> Fes

Below is a selection of my favourite shots from the two week trip. I’ve tried to add helpful captions to the images but as always let me know if you want any more info on any of them.

 

Fes

After visiting Marrakech the previous year, Fes felt like a much more authentic and genuine Moroccan city. I had a fantastic few days in the city, getting horribly lost in the medina only to pop out somewhere I knew or recognised. I feel the only way to really explore Fes is to just wander and get lost. As usual I had offline maps downloaded onto my phone so if I got really lost I’d at least be able to pinpoint where I was, it didn’t help at all with actually getting around the maze as the GPS signal jumped around so much that it was almost useless.

Bad Jdid Gate

Bad Jdid Gate, one of the gates which allows entrance into the medina of Fes

A stall in the medina

One of the many stalls hidden away in the labyrinth of the medina, you could spend days wandering around this maze and still not see everything

Looking down at a tannery scene

Looking down into one of the tanneries located in the Fes medina.

Men working inside the tannery

Three men working in the tannery; moving the leather from dye pot to dye pot, agitating the leather in the pots and generally working hard.

Great light in the medina

All the dust and sunshine creates some great beams of light throughout the medina.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is an incredible town up in the mountains. Famed for being the hashish capital of Morocco and most known online for it’s highly Instagram worthy pretty blue streets. I spent several days, including New Years Eve, walking up into the surrounding hills and appreciating the chilled out vibe and laid back tourists the town attracted.

Overlooking Chefchaouen at sunset

One of the best places to get a good view of Chefchaouen is by walking up the hill to the Spanish Mosque. At sunset you’ll find a small group of tourists relaxing with food and drink watching the sunset over the hills.

Blue doors and blue streets in Chefchaouen

A typical blue scene in the mountain town of Chefchaouen.

Selling on the streets of Chefchaouen

Due to the abundance of available hashish there is quite a hippy vibe in Chefchaouen so many of the shops sell the appropriate clothes.

The local market of Chefchaouen

The local market in Chefchaouen, I spent 15 minutes sat here taking it all in and watching people going about their daily lives.

A local man disappearing in his home

A local man disappearing into his home

Tangier

I’m afraid to say I didn’t particularly love Tangier, before I’d arrived I’d already heard from several people that it’s a love or hate city so I was interested to go in with an open mind and make my own decision. Sadly as with many industrial port cities it felt a bit too raw and rough around the edges for me. After initially planning to spend two full days exploring the city I ended up cutting my time here short and jumping on the train down to Asilah for a night instead.

A local man fishing in the port city of Tangier

A local man fishing in the port city of Tangier

Fishing boats in Tangiers port

Hundreds of small fishing boats line the dock area of Tangier.

Asilah

Asilah was a breath of fresh air and backed up my earlier decision to leave Tangier. It’s a beautiful small coastal town, known for it’s bohemian vibe and pretty white washed houses in the medina. Due to the large community of artists living in Asilash you find murals adorn many of the walls. I spent my time meandering around admiring these pieces, which ranged from tiny little doodles up to full walls.

White houses in Asilah

Quiet lanes and pretty white houses in Asilah

A large mural on the outside of an art gallery in Asilah

A large mural on the outside of an art gallery in Asilah

A cool hand mural adorning a wall within Asilah's medina.

A cool hand mural adorning a wall within Asilah’s medina.

Rabat

The capital city of Morocco, Rabat, is surprisingly only it’s 7th largest city. This actually works well for it giving the city a more relaxed vibe to it’s bigger brothers such as Fes and Marrakech. There is plenty to see here if you aren’t content with just wandering including a fantastic Kasbah, a ruined roman town and of course the open expanse of the ocean.

Walls protecting the Kasbah of the Udayas

The large exterior walls protecting the Kasbah of the Udayas

A cafe overlooking the sea

A doorway through to a lovely little cafe overlooking the sea.

Sunset by the sea in Rabat

Sunset by the sea in Rabat

Boats lined up with the Kasbah in the background

Small boats lined up with the Kasbah in the background

A 13th century minaret in the ruins of Chellah sanctuary. A medieval fortified Muslim necropolis located just outside the main centre of Rabat

A 13th century minaret in the ruins of Chellah sanctuary. A medieval fortified Muslim necropolis located just outside the main centre of Rabat

A man surfing

Rabat is a popular surfing destination, with many places offering lessons and board hire.

Moulay Idriss and Volubilis

From my research it seems that most people swing through Moulay Idriss on a day trip combining the town and Volubilis. I decided I wanted to give the town a bit more of a chance and I was glad I did. Although there isn’t a huge amount going on I really enjoyed just drinking tea and watching local people go about their daily business.

Another reason for staying the night was so that I could get up nice and early and make my way over to the sprawling ruined roman city of Volubilis before the tour groups from Fes and Meknes arrived.

A few stalls in Moulay Idriss

A few stalls set up in the main square of Moulay Idriss.

Sunset over Moulay Idriss

One of my favourite viewpoints of the entire two weeks. A little tricky to locate at first so may be worth tipping a local boy to show you the way. I think I climbed up to this spot at least five times during my short stay.

A busy market in Moulay Idriss

A very busy local market I was lucky to catch on my last day in Moulay Idriss

Roman ruins of Volubilis

The ancient roman city of Volubilis, located just outside of the town. I got up early and walked over from Moulay Idriss and had an entire roman city to myself for around 30 mins before a handful of other tourists started arriving.

Looking through a roman archway back towards Moulay Idriss

Looking back through a roman archway towards Moulay Idriss in the distance.

Meknes

Meknes was my last stop on my whistle stop tour of Northern Morocco. Meknes had a strange feel to it, it seemed to fit somewhere between the hustle of Fes and the relaxed feel of Chefchaouen or Asilah. I spent a few days wandering around checking out the main tourist sites and coming to the realisation that I’d soon be back at my office desk in London.

Bab Mansour Gate

The grand Bab Mansour Gate in Meknes at sunset

A walled road in Meknes

A walled road in Meknes

The royal stables and granary

The Royal Stables and Granary of Meknes. Built to accomodate no less than twelve thousand of the royal horse. This construction was enormous and would have been an incredible sight to have seen in action.

 

And that wraps up the two week loop. Going back this time I felt I was in a much better mindset to deal with the occasional hassle. I also really enjoyed getting out my comfort zone a bit, partly by travelling solo and also by exploring parts of cities we probably would have avoided on our first trip.

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