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Where We Are: Morocco

When we started planning for this trip, I made a list of countries I was most excited to visit. I feel utterly spoiled as we continue to check countries off the top of that bucket list: Australia, Egypt and now Morocco. We’re two cities into our five-city itinerary, and I think I can safely say that I’m a fan.

So much of how I feel about a place has to do with timing. I tend to favor our first city in a region, especially after spending a lot of time somewhere different. Beijing was just the challenge we needed after an easy jaunt through Southeast Asia. We were obsessed with the electric energy in Seoul after spending a relaxing month in Europe. I think Morocco is great, but I think it’s extra great coming off a month in the Middle East.

The Blue City of Chefchaouen

Morocco is a great transition from the Middle East. While not technically the Middle East, Morocco is still a predominantly Muslim, Arab-speaking country. It’s far enough west, though, that it has a different climate and is much cooler. It’s also much less busy (so far), which gives us time time to decompress before rushing off to our next stop: Walt Disney World. There’s still no alcohol though, which means our Drinking Around the World day at EPCOT is going to be a real doozy.

We met so many sweet street cats and kittens wandering through the Blue City

First Impressions on Morocco:

    • It’s so green! I know I’m bad at geography, but I expected Morocco to be entirely desert. I was pleasantly surprised when we got off the train in Casablanca at 3 PM to a perfect 75°F day. Then we took the most beautiful bus ride through the Moroccan countryside on our way to Chefchaouen. Gorgeous wildflowers lined the road the whole way. We drove through luscious green farms, rolling mountains, and tons of shepherds and their sheep. It was enough to take anyone’s breath away.

      Our first view of Chefchaouen

    • English is not the second language. Since we left South America, we’ve been spoiled by the prevalence of English. With the exception of maybe China, pretty much everywhere we’ve been has had a healthy amount of English. In Morocco, just about everything appears in Arabic and French (or Arabic and Spanish in Chefchaouen), but often no English. It’s the first Starbucks we’ve been to that didn’t have any English on the entire menu board. Fortunately for us, “vegetarian” and “coffee” is pretty straight forward in Spanish and French, so we’ve been getting by just fine.
    • It’s so relaxing. After 13 days in Egypt, which is completely sensory overload, we were ready for a break. So far, Morocco is just what the doctor ordered. We spent a relaxed morning at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca before making our way to the gorgeous blue city of Chefchaouen. Our “schedule” in Morocco is filled with things like “wander here,” “explore there” and “get coffee”. It’s going to be delightful. Granted, we haven’t been to Marrakech yet, which I’ve heard can be a wild ride.

Sunset from the rooftop of our riad. A riad is a a typical Moroccan guesthouse that’s kind of a cross between a hostel and a B&B.

What you need to know — Morocco:

  • Population: Casablanca: 3.3 million / Chefchaouen: 42,000 / Fes: 1 million / Essaouira: 78,000 / Marrakech: 929,000
  • Altitude: Casablanca: 0 meters / Chefchaouen: 600 meters / Fes: 400 meters / Essaouira: 78,000 / Marrakech: 0 meters
  • Temperature: The average for this time of year in Morocco is 75°F
  • Exchange Rate: 9.42 Moroccan Dirham to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Arabic and French (Arabic and Spanish in Chefchaouen)
  • Walking Tour: None that we have planned.
  • Time Zone: Western European Time, UTC +/- 0 (5 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes
  • Uber: Only in Casablanca
  • Public Transit: Casablanca has a tram system, but other than that, just buses.
  • Emergency Number: 190 for police, 150 for ambulance or fire
  • Running: We will not be running in Morocco, sadly. I haven’t seen any places that looked great for running, but I will let you know if I do!
  • American Football: No longer in season.
  • Starbucks: Casablanca: yes / Chefchaouen: no / Fes: yes / Essaouira: no / Marrakech: yes
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: No.
  • McDonald’s Veggie Burger: No.
  • Coffee Price: 7 Moroccan Dirham  (~$0.75 USD) for a regular American coffee
  • Beer Price: We haven’t seen any beer yet at restaurants we’ve been to in Morocco.

Seriously though. Cutest city ever.