Mikey and I have been in Essaouira for 3 days now. We said our goodbyes to the Rif family and the mountains on Saturday dec 1st and Rachid drove us to the Tangier train station.
It would have only been 60 dirham each to take a bus to Tangier, but we weren’t organized enough and missed all of the buses heading that way. It was about a 2 hour ride to the station and cost us 500dh. We thought it would only be 400 since the 4 hours to Chouen was 800dh (just doing the math), but whatever, it’s hard to argue with a man when we don’t have any languages in common.
Also, common sense is not universal, Moroccans common sense is often times much different to what we are used to in the US, UK and Australia, so it is hard to tell when we are being screwed over or if we are just misunderstanding the culture.
Once in Tangier we took the 9pm overnight train to Marrakesh. It was a 12 hour ride, but we slept for most of it so it wasn’t too painful. We chose the cheaper seats, 2nd class, instead of the sleeper cart with beds. Since we had the whole cart to ourselves it worked out fine and we both sprawled out on the couches. Since this isn’t the season for tourists we haven’t had to book tickets ahead of time or worry about sharing our carts on the train, but I imagine that during the high season it would be a good idea to book tickets before hand and maybe choose the beds (320dh) over 2nd class seats (90dh).
We arrived in Marrakech around 9am with plans to head straight to Essaouira (we only have until dec 6th before we fly to Prague so we decided to see the beach rather than the hectic city life). We found that the Supratours buses ran right from the train station.
This is one of the two main bus companies in Morocco and the other one is CTM. We had planned to take the 11:15 CTM bus, because I had read that Supratours is more expensive, but it was easier to buy a bus ticket right away rather than search the city for the other company. Our tickets were 65dh each and it cost us 5 dh for each bag stored under the bus. The bus didn’t leave until 10:45 so we took a taxi to the centre (a few drivers offered us rides for 50dh, but we found one for 30. On the way back it was only 20dh, so it is possible to get a cheaper one if you shop around for a second).
Ten minutes later we were in the famous Marrakech square. The shops and stalls were all setting up and the narrow roads were packed with donkeys, bicycles, and crazy scooters whizzing by – we were almost run over a few times. There aren’t any road rules in morocco we’ve come to learn, you just have to be quick. We had some famous, fresh squeezed, 3dh orange juice (better to have them pour it into your own water bottle since they reuse the cups and don’t always wash them well) and Mikey ordered some Moroccan pancakes, his favorite treat so far. We were sick of carrying our backpacks around the square and caught a ride back to the station (about a 10 min drive).
Almost 3 hours later we arrived in Essaouira and were attacked by vulture hotel workers trying to take us to their hotel. We could hardly get off the bus, there were so many guys crowding the doors. We had to say “no its okay we have a place, thanks” about a hundred times, often to the same guy we had just said “no” to 5 seconds before. They don’t give up and they don’t care how much they annoy you, they want to make commission by bringing in business so they don’t stop at anything. It was certainly an experience, but we were pretty used to this Moroccan mentality at this point so we humored them and were polite but eventually got away.
We decided to hop in a 20dh taxi to Riad Dar Afram, our hotel. The driver didn’t speak English but was nodding that he knew Dar Afram and would take us there. He drove us to an old abandoned building and dropped us off. Asshole. We didn’t know the area and believed him that we were at the right place, but after a minute realized he’d taken our money and peeled off so we walked to a phone and called the riadto get directions. It turns out it was about a 3 minute walk from the bus stop and since its inside the medina we couldn’t take a cab, but had to walk. We decided to walk the whole way instead of cab it back – its a small town.
Tim, a nice Aussie guy working at the riad, met us at a café and brought us back to the hotel. Dar Afram is owned by a Australian/Moroccan guy, Abdul. His place is a beautifully decorated 3-story house with a roof terrace that over looks the ocean and rest of the media. We were instantly comfortable in our gigantic room and after a short walk around the beach and a horrendous dinner at a tourist trap cafe, and finally took a nap that turned into an early night sleep.