This post continues from Part 1 of Europe in a Campervan
To get to Morocco, we boarded a ferry at Algeciras, Spain, which would take us to Ceuta. Ceuta is a typical southern Spanish city, with it’s orange trees and it’s Moorish architecture; it just happens to be found on the African continent, bordering the north-western tip of Morocco.
Mike and I had read that the border crossing into Morocco, from Ceuta, was considerably less hectic than the Tangiers border crossing, and this appealed to us. Along with some number of French and German campers (an eclectic collection of top-of-the-range RV’s and converted jeep African adventure vehicles), we purchased our tickets from a man named Carlos, who was based next to the Lidl in Algeciras, and whom is, apparently, the man to see if you want to get into Morocco. The open-return ticket was 200 euros, and the following morning, we boarded the ferry. The journey across the small stretch of water took us approximately an hour and a half.
Like I said, Ceuta is, for the most part, like any other Spanish city. However, if you drive a few minutes from the town centre, following the highly visible road signs to Morocco, you’ll find yourself at the heavily guarded, barb-wire fenced, Moroccan border. The border crossing itself is a little confusing, but there are a number of guides stationed at the border, who are eager to help you through the process (of course, for a few euros payment).
Firstly, you fill out a car import form, which you will receive two stamped copies of. You can’t lose the stamped copies; without them, you will not be let out of Morocco. Then, after receiving the two copies, one of you (in our case, I had to) will get out of the car, carrying all of the passports of any passengers in your vehicle, and you’ll take them to get stamped. Once all of the forms are in order, you can proceed into Morocco. The border experience was actually a little manic, with crowds of people rushing from one side to the other, throwing things over fences, people bustling around trying to exchange Euros to Dirhams, and cars seemingly abandoned in the queue for passport control.
The culture shock coming from Ceuta, into Morocco, is quite dramatic. The changes are instantaneous; suddenly, you’ll see donkeys on the road, overladen with goods, you’ll see people trying to get illegally into Ceuta, the road signs turn to Arabic (though there are usually always French translations), the atmosphere is chaotic as people on the sides of the roads try to sell, barter, and beg. It’s colourful, and crazy.
From the Moroccan border, we drove south. Our first destination was Chefchaouen, then across the snowy mountains, and into the Sahara, where we found a little village called Merzouga, perched on the edge of a series of wave-like, towering, sand-dunes.
We drove across the atlas mountains via dirt-track mountain roads, we visited Cascades D’Ouzoud, and the bustling souqs of Marrakech. We then journeyed west, towards the coast, and completed our loop of the country with a winding drive along the jagged, under-developed, coast, the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Places of Interest: Merzouga, Chefchaouen, Legzira, Cascades D’Ouzoud
Prices: One of the big plus points for Morocco, and I think a large part of the reason so many thousands of RV’ers choose to spend out the winter in the country, is the affordability. Morocco is a considerably cheaper country in which to exist than anywhere in Europe. The currency in Morocco is Dirhams, with 10 moroccan dirhams to the Dollar, approximately. A large loaf of bread will cost somewhere about 3 dirham, and the bartering culture is still very much alive in the country, though, of course, not at the supermarkets etc. Most people buy the majority of their food from the markets, and fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant and extremely affordable. The price of diesel in Morocco is $0.94 per litre, which is considerably less than anywhere in Europe. There are a number of well-maintained, quiet, toll roads in Morocco.
Food: The food in Morocco is amazing! Almonds, dates, figs, oranges, bananas, giant avocados, all are grown here and are readily available, found often on the side of roads being sold directly by farmers. We bought our food from Auchan, the largest supermarket chain in Morocco, mostly, though we bought our bread from little stores that would sell loaves for 30 cents, as well as fruit and vegetables at little market stalls. We tried to avoid eating raw food, and salads, whilst in Morocco, as we were being careful about food poisoning, and we didn’t drink the tap water. We ate at Earth Cafe, a vegan restaurant hidden away in the souqs of Marrakech, which we highly recommend, and we particularly enjoyed rich vegetable tagines, Amlou, the pastries and almond biscuits sold on the street, and a fried Aubergine dish we ate regularly.
General Experience: Morocco was an unforgettable experience: the culture of Morocco is varied, vivid, sometimes overwhelming, wildly colourful and extremely exciting. Every day was different during our journey around the country. Though the driving, particularly in the cities, can be a little perilous, and some of the roads are in less than perfect condition (read: crumbling away), the country is a perfect place to spend a few winter months in a camper van, enjoying the mild climate, together with the cheap living costs.
The landscape is hugely varied, rolling meadows and farming land, deep canyons and waterfalls, high, snow-capped mountains, ancient cities, each of which is an onslaught of sounds, smells, and sights, and then, after the cities, comes the endless desert. The vast majority of people we encountered were hugely hospitable, very friendly, and with strong senses of humour. Morocco does take a little adjustment to get used to, as a girl there are a few cultural specifics you ought to take in mind, and there is a little more visible poverty than in the majority of western Europe – but if you’re after a very different culture, and a memorable, adventurous, eye-opening experience, I’d recommend Morocco as a perfect destination.
Here’s a prior Morocco blog about the famous Route 307