Moroccan Road Trip: 24 - 31 Jan 2018
Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Perfect country for a road trip: strange enough to be an adventure, but still on the edge of civilization. Marrakech to Fes in seven days.
Marrakech (24 Jan)
After spending two weeks in Marrakech, my wife and I decided to embark on what may turn out to be the most adventurous road trip of our lives. Used Expedia to rent a "Mini 2 or 3-Door Car" from Hertz for $257.89 (24-31 Jan 2018) or $37/day. We bid adieu to our digs at the Riad Adriana (highly recommended) and our temporarily adopted cat (Catsheba) and struck out on our adventure, with the first harrowing step being to hail a taxi. Actually the first step was to walk from our riad to the taxi stand. It wasn't far and it gave us a chance to say our final goodbye to Marrakech. Goodbye: 100 vendors packed into a small alleyway, all of whom are urging you to buy their fruits, nuts, sandals, leather goods, and rugs, all while we walk next to another 100 people, donkeys, dogs, monkeys, and scooters! We had walked it 30 times over the last week and knew it by heart (had to as there are no street signs): make a left out the door, a right under the arch, continue on, then right at the corrugated metal wall, then run to daylight/taxi stand.
Taxis in Marrakech all have broken meters (excusez-moi "compteurs") and the one I hailed was no different. I had asked the manager at our riad what the cost should be to take a taxi to Hertz, negotiated with the driver accordingly (my friend Paul would have been proud) and we were finally off on our Moroccan road trip adventure: Visions of desert oases, camel treks across the Sahara and harems danced in my mind, when suddenly we drive right past the street where Hertz was located - which a few days earlier I had reconnoitered on foot. I said to the driver, in my best French accent, "Hertz!" and pointed down the street in question. He looked at me as if he had no idea what I just said and no idea where he should be taking me. After repeatedly saying "Hertz!" and pointing in the general direction of where (I now thought) Hertz was (my wife also helped by pointing and saying "Hertz!"), the driver finally "understood", turned and eventually (and stressfully) arrived at an incredibly small worn storefront with a large sign that said "Hertz".
The Hertz guy was nice enough and spoke enough English to inform me that . . . there was an additional driver fee. After showing me the amount of dirham on his calculator and making a quick mental exchange rate calculation I agreed. We signed some forms and accompanied him across the very narrow street to a gated lot where our Fiat 500 sat alone, like it had gotten in trouble and now was punished by sitting in a corner all by itself. We piled our stuff in and we were finally off (but not before taking numerous photos and videos detailing the "newness" of our "new" car).
Thankfully, unlike Puerto Rico most of the traffic signs in Morocco are also in English, so it was smooth sailing east over the Atlas Mountains, though we ran into some bumper to bumper traffic and bumper to bumper goats. The highway was in good repair and if it wasn't for seeing trucks stuffed with sheep and overstuffed with hay, we could have been in the US. We stopped off for lunch at a roadside café. I don't recall any specifics, although I'm sure couscous was involved.
Aït Benhaddou (24 Jan)
It was starting to get late and I was concerned about arriving after sundown. While GPS works in Morocco, I knew getting to a specific address after dark could be problematic. Thankfully we didn't, pulling up to the Maison d'Hôtes Kasbah Tifaoute just in the nick of time (whew!!!). This was to be a reoccurring problem during the road trip, each day we would leave earlier to give ourselves more time to arrive before sundown, but would always slide into home with minutes to spare (I felt like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man).
While the Maison d'Hôtes Kasbah Tifaoute received great reviews (8.4 on Booking.com), I knew that at $25/night, it wasn't going to be the Ritz (and it wasn't). We were greeted by what seemed like every female member of the family, ages 8 months to 80 years, none of whom spoke a lick of English. In almost every country that I have visited, English is a second language for everyone. In Morocco it is French, which sounds romantic, but definitely complicates most international transactions. At first it appeared they didn't have our reservation (or care), but after repeating the word "la réservation" (and showing them my la email confirmation), they eventually "checked us in". The place was sparsely furnished (which wasn't a concern), except when it came to blankets (which was) - we were to discover that night, that apparently the Maison d'Hôtes Kasbah Tifaoute was an eco-friendly lodging (at least when it came to heat). Another thing I quickly noticed was the lack of hot water. We were leaving shortly for dinner and I wanted to make sure this was quickly resolved, so I approached one of my hostesses and said with my best French accent "aqua chaude?". She looked puzzled so I repeated myself (a few times) until she nodded her head and quickly departed. Now I was feeling pretty good about my language skills, I had been traveling for a few months and thought I was getting the hang of this international relations thing (bon jour, l'addition s'il vous plait, egészségére, As-salāmu ʿalaykum, etcetera), it's really not that difficult I thought and told my wife so, only to be informed that water in French is "l'eau". "Oh", I think I replied (well, I thought, the most important thing is to try).
I briefly spoke with a Dutch couple (who spoke very good English) about our austere accommodations, it's eco-friendly ways and surfeit of blankets, only to be greeted with a stone-face (deux), as they thought this place was actually quite nice (although they wouldn't have minded if it was a little cheaper). They seemed to know the area pretty well and made an economical restaurant recommendation. We left immediately - we were hungry, but it was dark and we couldn't find the place. My wife took charge at this point (she was really hungry) and drove us down a dark alley. I asked her if she knew where she was going and she said no (she is very honest), but in no time found this complex with search lights shooting to the heavens, illuminating immense palm trees behind ornate walls and towers (she must be a cat I thought!). Pulled in through the arched gate and parked amongst water features, exquisite flora and innumerable staff. Hello God, am I in Paradise? Five minutes later we were ensconced in a stunning dinning room, surrounded by servers, managers, porters, bartenders, etc., while we drank two icy cold beers and feasted on figs, cheese and other assorted Moroccan delicacies (possibly couscous, but my head was still swimming). She had stumbled onto the finest hotel east of the Atlas Mountains. Immediately she asked one of the many managers if there was any vacancy and at the receipt of the affirmative turned to me and exclaimed "Why couldn't we have stayed here?!!". I'm not sure of my exact reply, but I think I mumbled something about staying with locals would result in a more authentic travel experience.
After a restful, albeit chilly slumber, a (hot) morning shower sans shower curtain and a feast of a breakfast (to include couscous), we were off to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Aït Benhaddou (Berber: ⴰⵢⵜ ⴱⴻⵏⵃⴰⴷⴷ) which was a short 10 minute drive away. After parking our car we were approached by our unbeknownst to us guide, Mohammad. He chatted with us at first about the wonder of Aït Benhaddou, first founded over 1000 years ago along the Sahara to Marrakech trade route, with many of the mud brick buildings dating to the 17th century, used as the back drop in numerous films including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Man Who Would be King and most importantly (at least for my nephews and niece) Game of Thrones. After crossing the river bed with him to get to the ksar, I soon realized we had literally crossed the guide Rubicon and he was now our commonlaw guide. He didn't do a bad job as he took us through the winding alleys, pointing out additions specifically made for the movies, engaging us in small talk and taking us to a few of his "favorite" vendors. I wound up being intrigued by a wood sculpture created by a local artisan and inquired about the price, which was $10. The price seemed more than fair, but since this was Morocco I felt that in order to preserve my manhood I needed to counter with $5 (my friend Paul would be proud), which was quickly accepted. The look on the artisan's face still haunts me as he looked dejected, a beaten man. I think I screwed him over, as I'm sure he had to give Mohammad a commission. If I could do it over again, I would not have bargained (my friend Paul would not be proud).
It was getting late and we had to make our way to our next lodgings (before sunset), so we bid Mohammad adieu, slipped him a Jackson and got into our car, only to be approached by our "parking attendant", a man most likely named Mohammad. You will soon realize that every public parking space in Morocco comes with a parking attendant whose job it is (whether you like it or not) to watch your car while you are gone and then be remunerated with one dirham (@$0.25) when you return. When you park your car you will generally not see this man, as he is a phantasm. After you park your car the street may appear completely deserted in every direction, but when you return he will immediately materialize next to you with hand out (like something out of Star Trek).
Tinghir/Todra Gorge (25 Jan)
After some long, hard (and fast) driving we arrived in Tinghir at, you guessed it, sundown. It was again a race against time and through the faint, flickering red sunset we picked our way though a series of alleys. Using the stars as a guide (I used to be in the Navy), my wife's acute olfactory sense, our knowledge of animal tracks & scat (and a modest sign that said "Riad Dar Bab Todra ----> ) we finally arrived at Riad Dar Bab Todra. To this day I am amazed we found our way (Tonto would have been proud). We were met by a 20 year old man named . . . Mohammed, who greeted us with a huge smile, like we were long lost friends. He was justly proud of his family's beautiful and immense riad. After briefly settling in, he offered to take us into Tinghir for a brief tour of this quintessential Moroccan village. Kids and animals running around as we walked through the center of town, it appeared we were the only westerners to be found. After proceeding via a circuitous route (there is not a straight street in all of Morocco) we ended up at a store that sold beer - did he read our minds?! Although Mohammad did not drink, he told us to buy some and take it back for dinner. Who were we to say no? Back at the riad we had a sumptuous dinner, drank our beer and partook in some hookah and small talk. Mohammed introduced us to his younger brothers. My wife later asked me where all the adults were and these lodgings subsequently became known as "The Kids' Place".
Up and out early the next morning, we bid adieu to Mohammed and headed to Todra Gorge, which is a series of river canyons (wadi) some of which are 1,300 feet high. Carved out of red limestone, adorned with a smattering of rock climbers and numerous goats. The gorge is quite spectacular, sort of like a Moroccan Grand Canyon, though it is viewed from the bottom instead of the top. The sun peaks through natural cuts in the side of the gorge which can make for some dramatic shadows and sunbursts. We then continued on to Merzouga where we would commence our Berber Saharan camel trek adventure.
Merzouga (26 Jan)
Merzouga is a very modest village situated on the very western edge of the Saharan Desert and is therefore a jumping off point for desert explorers/adventurers like myself.
We arrived at a quite unfamiliar two hours prior to sunset and met up with our host, Mohammad. He was gracious kind and greeted us with a huge smile (it must be a Mohammad requirement). I had mistakenly only booked a reservation for one, but Mohammed put in a call to camel dispatch, and wrangled us another dromedary. We parked the car in his garage, gathered our essentials and walked to the camel rally point. There we met eight other explorer/adventurers and boarded our camels, my wife on Bob Marley and me on a camel whose name has been lost to time and sand . . . let's just call him Joe. Things got off to a bad start with my wife giving Bob Marley a swift kick in the head while boarding. Bob didn't seem to mind though, as we were off on our adventure! Images of Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole, of course), The Wind and the Lion (Sean Connery, of course) and The Rat Patrol (Christopher George, of course) filled my imagination. A "grueling" half and hour later our caravan arrived at our authentic Berber camp deep inside the Sahara Desert for our authentic Berber feast: chicken aubergin, rice and unlimited drumming (though I could have went for some couscous). We went to sleep tired, but it was a good tired, knowing we had conquered the Sahara, smelled a camel and lived to laugh about it (we also went to sleep in our clothes as the Sahara can get quite cold at night). We awoke early the next morning to the most glorious sunrise I can remember. A grueling half an hour trek back to civilization, a warm trickle of a shower, some couscous (thankfully) and an adieu to Mohammed.
Midelt (27 Jan)
Since we had "roughed" it for three straight nights, my wife decided we needed to stay someplace "nice" (words that strike fear into the heart of every husband). But since I've been a married man for over 30 years (well it feels that long ;), I knew better and heartily agreed. This time though I had an epiphany, instead of booking a place and then racing to get there before sunset, we decide to drive at a leisurely pace and then book something when we arrived in the daylight at a suitable location (ever hear of the infinite monkey theorem?). At about 1530 we arrived in Midelt which is a town in the central Morocco high plains between the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges. Population 55,304. We parked the car, sat in a café, ordered two cokes and got on the wee-fee (that's how wi-fi is pronounced everywhere in the world except in the US). I brought up Midelt on booking.com and passed my phone to my wife and said "Pick a winner, Gorgeous". She did, and we were off to the Hotel Kasbah Izoran. We paid for our cokes (no time for couscous), paid Mohammad his one dirham and hit the road. We decided to proceed directly to the Hotel Kasbah Izoran, book directly with the proprietor and cut out the middleman (booking.com is like investment bankers, by that I mean blood sucking vampires). I was excited about this negotiating game plan and departed with a sense of relief, no longer would the quality of the lodgings be my responsibility. But this excitement/relief quickly dissipated as we drove out of town and out of asphalt until we were on a dirt road. GPS still functioned, but the location of our ersatz Ritz-Carlton made no sense. So we stopped and a very kind gent on a motorcycle guided us the final mile. It was a powerful reminder of how most people no mater where they are from: Morocco, Palestine, or New York want to be helpful. In my travels I have many fond memories of locals who were only kind, helpful and generous.
With our motorcycle escort we pulled into the parking lot at the Hotel Kasbah Izoran only to realize that the sign out front said "Hostel Kasbah Izoran". We had come all this way for a glorified hostel! I was irritated at the length of our commute, but thankful it wasn't my idea. We greeted the owner and asked "May we stay with you?". "I don't see why not!" said our host . . . Mustafa (didn't see that coming). I "heavily" negotiated a €50 rate that included a sumptuous dinner and breakfast (my friend Paul would be proud). He named all of the rooms after famous people of Peace. He initially put us up in the Martin Luther King, Jr room, only to realize it smelled. My wife said not to worry and pulled her mock turtleneck over her mouth and nose à la Mort from Bazooka Joe. Well I didn't come all this way to pay €50 and smell sewer gas (though for €25 . . . ), so I asked Mustafa if he could move us to another room that didn't smell. He was embarrassed as there was a plumbing issue that caused the smell, so he moved us good Catholics to the Mother Theresa Room.
From the outside, the Hostel Kasbah Izoran was impressively large, with thick sand colored walls, a tower at each corner, standing proud of the barren landscape, like something out of Beau Geste (or a just completed McMansion in an Arizona subdivision). The inside was quite spacious with a very large living room that adjoined the very "peaceful" guestrooms and the dining room. The living room was well appointed with comfortable chairs and numerous books about the local area, general knowledge and religion (Mustafa was fascinated by all kinds of religious belief). I sat down and looked forward to taking a break and catching up on my reading, but soon realized that the room was unheated. I can put up with a certain amount of discomfort (as I've told my long suffering wife, "the hard way is the easy way"), but I draw the line at reading for pleasure, while seeing my breath. So I retreated to the dining room, as it was nearing dinner time (and was the only heated room in the kasbah).
We enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken and you guessed it. We talked with Mustafa about his fascinating life (he had worked commercial construction throughout the Mediterranean until he realized he needed to be a father to his children, so he returned home and built the Hostel Kasbah Izoran with his own hands) and then played with his two sons. Bedtime arrived quickly and we withdrew to our rooms ready for a good nights sleep. The room was heated by a propane heater which needed to be shut off prior to sleep (safety first). As I went to turn it off, I noticed it was snowing outside and the windows weren't exactly Energy-Star compliant, I thought about leaving the heater on, what's the chance something could go wrong? It reminded me of the old Jack Benny routine where a mugger says to him "Your money or your life?" and when Jack doesn't answer quickly enough, the mugger says "Well!?", to which Jack replies "I'm thinkin' it over!?" I quickly turned off the heater and burrowed under the foot thick blankets.
Meknes (28 Jan)
After a sumptuous breakfast we bid adieu to Mustafa and hit the road bound for Chefchaouen. The plan was to drive straight through with minimal stops and bunk down for the night in Meknes, but after a few hours traffic started to slow with cars parked on the shoulder and in an adjoining open field. Uh ohh, there's gendarmes everywhere!!! So I slowed down out of a sense of curiosity (and safety). The gendarmes waved us on, motioning to speed up, but I wanted to see what was going down, so I continued slow rolling. "Look" my wife yelled and pointed to a Barbary Macaque sitting in a tree. So after getting out of sight of the Man, I pulled over and we spent some time checking out the only member of the macaque species outside of Asia (it's pronounced: məˈkak ). Guess what, it was getting late and . . . .
Meknes is the sixth largest city in the kingdom. Population: 632,079. As I read about it now, Meknes has a lot offer: the Bab Mansour, the Meknes Royal Golf Course and Place Hedim, but we had driven far, the weather was crap and we just wanted a hot shower (Mustafa's had left something to be desired), so we bedded down for the night at the Riad Golf Stinia. We had located it on booking.com but decided to negotiate in person and cut out the blood sucking vampire. Unfortunately, the manager was having none of it, wouldn't give me a break and just plain wore me down - he must have realized that we were in no mood to look for alternate lodgings (my friend Paul would not be proud). I think I paid ~$30 bucks which was actually more than booking.com. The room was nice enough, but the food was terrible, so bad that I'm not sure about the couscous. The weather became increasingly windy and caused the plastic shroud on the riad courtyard to rumble like thunder the whole night. I complained to the manager who replied "you can't blame me for the weather" (he was obviously not a Mohammad). Hands down the worse place we stayed in Morocco.
Chefchouen (29 - 30 Jan)
We left early the next morning, destination Chefchaouen, but first I wanted to stop at Volubilis. The prior month in Jordan we had visited Jerash, home to one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world (the "Pompeii of the East") and was fascinated by the architecture and urban planning. Our guide Mohammed (I'm not making this up) had done such a superb job in Jerash, that my interest was piqued about what western civilization may have looked like on the edge of the Roman Empire during the time of Christ. I parked the car and was immediately approached by Mohammed asking for his one dirham upfront (where's the trust, man?). Then we proceeded to the front gate where we paid our 10 dirham ($2.50) entrance fee and were immediately approached by our prospective guide . . . Abdulla. I quizzed him about Jerash and he failed miserably, but I'm a soft touch so I agreed to let him take us around. He did a fine job pointing out some of the incredible mosaics and other architectural details. During the time of French Morocco (1912-56), the French put in a significant amount of time and effort in excavating Volubilis "to make a connection between the ancient Roman past and the new 'Latin' societies that the French were building in North Africa". After all, history is written (and rewritten) by the vainqueurs.
It was getting late (again), but with my wife at the wheel I felt we had a good shot for a twilight arrival. When we need to get someplace fast, the wife does the driving, I have joked with her on numerous occasions, that if we were in a criminal gang she would be the getaway driver (I would obviously be the Muscle). She had my every confidence which seemed to embolden her nerve and leaden her foot. Suddenly, just over a rise there was a very young man in a very sharp uniform signaling for my wife to pull it over. It was a speed trap and we were trapped. My wife pulled it over and provided various documents to a gendarme, who has yet to commence shaving or issue just a warning. This was confirmed by the receipt of a very official looking ticket that required an 80 dirham fine, payable on the spot. You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you pay cash directly to the Man. I wondered what would happen if we claimed we didn’t have 80 dirham, but my wife for some reason was eager to pay (I guess you would call her a law and order type). A little lighter, but more knowledgeable (and safer) we continued on, arriving in Chefchaouen at or around our typical arrival time. Please note that the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie takes speeding very seriously, but does not take American Express, so secreting some emergency dirham could turn out to be quite useful.
After we arrived in Chefchaouen (the Blue City, as the exterior of all the buildings in the city are colored in a very pleasing hue of light blue) we were warmly greeted by our host Hichim who helped us find parking and check into our digs at the at Riad Zaitouna Chaouen. We were excited to start exploring the alleys, stairs and souks of this beautiful city, but as it was getting late, we instead joined Hichim for dinner at his favorite restaurant where we regaled him with stories of our Saharan adventure, over tagine and beer (Flag Spéciale):
- Tagine: Isn't so much a Maghrebi dish, but a Moroccan way of life. If you spend any amount of time in Morocco you will come face to face with it. It is named for a conical earthenware pot that is used to cook a savory stew of meat, fish, vegetables or fruit. The cone-shaped lid traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, therefore requiring a minimal amount of water. Very useful in areas where water supplies are limited. Often served with . . . couscous.
- Beer: 99% of Morocco is Muslim, so I was quite surprised by the availability of the stuff. Casablanca, Stork and Flag Spéciale are all brewed in Morocco, with Casablanca generally considered the good stuff. There is also of course Heineken (which is also brewed locally). Now that's a lot of beer being brewed. Is it all destined for gentile stomachs? Let your knowledge of human nature be the guide when answering.
The restaurant we dined at is highly recommended, a real local place with good food, good prices, and no damn tourists. Unfortunately, the name and location of this establishment has been lost to time and Flag Spéciale.
Over dinner we got to know our host a little better. Hichim talked with me about his training to be teacher and how he had just recently taken some tests that quite simply would determine the course of his entire future. If he passes, he'll be a teacher, if not, he won't. It appeared I really connected with Hichim, which is quite understandable due to my easy going nature, flair with languages and general trustworthy demeanor. So much so that Hichim asked us to accompany him the next day to the wedding of his cousin in his native mountain village - a great honor (it also may have helped that we had a car and Hichim had no other way of getting there).
It took us an hour of winding mountainous roads to get there, but I knew it was going to be worth it. The village was a smattering of houses in various stages of repair all connected by a sinuous dirt road, some goats and numerous Mercedes. We spent some timing visiting with his sister, eating bread and drinking mint tea. Like all the mint tea in Morocco, it’s not so much about the tea itself (though it’s all made with fresh mint leaves - delicious and fragrant) but the presentation: after the tea has steeped in a beautifully ornate silver pot, the pourer pours it from as great a height as possible into a little ornate glass cup, then each little ornate glass cup in turn. It’s quite special. Then we all went to a rather stark bunker like building that served as a candy store for the youngins and a clubhouse for the men, who gambled at a game I am unfamiliar with, in a room clouded with smoke, that my wife apparently was familiar with.
Then we go back up the winding road, where the bride has just exited her home. She is very young, wears entirely too much makeup, a white western wedding dress and sobs incessantly (she must really be in love). She then mounts the freshly groomed wedding donkey and does the best she can to hide under a small tepee which has been mounted on its back. Meanwhile the bride’s family loads a late model Audi until it is completely packed with bedding. Then donkey and bride are guided up the winding road to meet a very young groom dressed in a very tight suit, also sitting on a donkey (strange, he doesn’t appear to be crying at all). All the while being serenaded by the ululation from all the females in attendance. I’ve heard this in the movies before and thought “that’s kind of weird”, but trust me being amongst it all is very different. Weird, but also quite unnerving, especially when the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
I don’t seem to remember a ceremony, as we all then proceeded to the adjacent reception area. Men over here, women over there. I sat with Hichim, his brothers and cousins at a large circular folding table, where we feasted on roasted chickens (right hand only), bread and all the Coca-Cola we could drink. Because we were visitors, my wife was able to stay with me at the cool kids table.
During our feast I began to wonder what everyone in the village did for a living. While it wasn’t Beverly Hills, it was far from squalor (and there were all those Mercedes). I noticed that a few of my tables mates made ongoing efforts to light something in their hands (and one who had discolored hands, obsessively), and all were seemingly quite happy (and relaxed) about the just completed nuptials. Too happy (and relaxed) if you asked me, but hey, to each his own. It was then my wife whispered in my ear “they’re smoking hashish and that’s how they make their money”. Ahhh, now I get it!
Things were winding down when I noticed Hichim squirrel away a few disks of bread. First he stored them on a chair, then the ground and finally the trunk of the car.
After breakfast the next morning (I'll pass on the bread, thank you very much), we were off. We noticed that Hichim was quite glum and he shared the bad news, he didn’t pass his tests and therefore he could not be a teacher. He tried to put on a good face, but we could sense the sadness. We said a bittersweet goodbye, sad about Hichim’s sad news and sad that our road trip was coming to an end.
Fez (31 Jan)
We reached Fez at the customary sundown (wouldn’t have it any other way), topped off our petrol and dropped the car off at the Fès–Saïss Airport (FEZ). The first agent we dealt with spoke no English and gave the car (and us) a perfunctory once over. I thought “hey, this return process is quite seamless, we’re home free baby!”, but then out of nowhere came “Control” who brought less English, more attitude and the claim, made through hand signals and rapid fire Arabic, that the front left headlight and front grill were broken. He obviously does not want our road trip to end on a high note - it felt personal. Well he didn‘t know who he was dealing with and I showed him the photos I had taken back in Marrakech that refuted his claims categorically. He then had the nerve to smile, shake my hand, and give me a look that says, “hey I’m on your side, good for you for sticking it to Hertz”. I gave him the Evil Eye (that I learned from my Father, who gave it to the Arabs when he stood guard duty in Egypt during the Big One), laid a wet one on my wife and walked away triumphant, with a certain song echoing in my mind.
We had scaled the Atlas Mountains, walked in the footsteps of Russell Crowe, bargained an Arab to his knees, rode (and kicked) a camel, hookah’d, smoked hashish (second hand), surveyed ancient Roman ruins, recorded Barbary Macaques in their natural habitat, tangled with the Law, befriended innumerable Mohammeds, beat Control and lived to talk about it!
When I checked my credit card statement a few weeks later, I noticed the charge from Hertz was $77.34 more than expected. I had anticipate it to be slightly more due to the additional driver fee, but $77.34 seemed excessive, so I decided to dispute the charge. I started to calculate what the additional driver fee should be based on my memory of the Hertz agent interaction in Marrakech and some sketchy documentation, but became irate at the whole process. Instead I disputed the entire $77.34 (everything greater than the initial $257.89 quote). A month later the dispute was resolved entirely in my favor (my friend Paul would be proud).
See below for the official Morocco Road Trip Atlas.
1. If I can do this road trip, so can you: What one man can do, another can do!
2. Your rental car will most likely have a standard transmission (and be reasonably inexpensive). If you can drive one back home, you can drive one in Morocco. If not, you will have to pay up for an automatic.
3. GPS works reasonably well in Morocco, though cell phone connectivity can be spotty. Therefore before departing a location that has cell phone connectivity, enter your destination in Maps.
4. Don’t forget about the emergency dirham. 5. Gas stations along the above route are quite plentiful, even in the remote areas. Though it makes sense to follow the most basic road trip petrol rubric: never have less than half a tank.
6. Bring you own papier toilette. Assez dit. 7. Brush up on your Arabic and French. A little goes a long way: -Arabic: as-salāmu ʿalaykum (peace be upon you) and shukran (thank you).
-French: l'addition s'il vous plait (the bill please) and, of course, bon jour.
-Spanish: There was a Spanish Protectorate in the very northern part of Morocco from 1912-1956, therefore in these areas a little Spanish maybe quite useful: hola, gracias, la cuenta por favor. You get the idea.