Casablanca to Tangier, our magical days in Morocco

Our 10 days driving from Casablanca to Tangier were a truly magical experience.

When we decided to add Morocco to our world tour we didn’t imagine that this country was going to surprise us so much. It is rich in a great variety of landscapes. You can find beach towns, mountains, beautiful lush valleys, rocky or golden deserts. There is something for everyone!

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If you love shopping then you will find medina’s in every town with plenty of shopping opportunities! You can easily get lost in them for hours and walk out with tons of products, from clothing to spices and so on.

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Morocco is a country that has so much to offer. It is impressive to see how hard they are working to make it easier to travel. I had read negative reviews about it being dirty and not well kept, but I don’t think they were up to date with the recent improvements! It is clean and ready to welcome tourism!

This is one of the reasons why we were so sad for not planning a longer stay here. There is so much worth seeing and I guess we underestimated it until we found ourselves here! Anyway our adventures, although short were without any doubt unforgettable!

Driving or Bus?

Personally, we recommend renting a car, especially if traveling with a family. It was much easier to just move around without having to carry our luggage back and forth. However, if you are traveling alone the bus could be a good option too.

Anyway, the roads were great. The only issue we had was on our way to Ouarzazate. There was a lot of construction going on, in order to expand and improve the road. So it was for the best, just not great timing for us.

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We booked our car with Aircar Car Rental in Casablanca. It was very easy and quick to get our car.  In these 10 days, we drove more than 1400 km. We went through deserts, canyons, mountains, and lush green valleys! The independence of having a car gave us the opportunity to explore a few extra places without having to follow a set tour.

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Drive time and distance:

  • Casablanca to Marrakesh: 3 hours – about 242 km
  • Marrakesh to Ouarzazate: 4 hours – about 195 km
  • Ouarzazate to Merzouga: 5 hours – about 366 km
  • Merzouga to Fez: 7 hours – about 466 km
  • Fez to Chefchaouen: 3:30 hours – about 212 km
  • Chefchaouen to Tangier: 2 hours – about 129 km

Here is our itinerary that took us around part of Morocco!

Casablanca

First stop in Morocco was Casablanca, we flew in from Egypt. After picking up our car we drove into downtown.

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What did we see?

  • We visited the Grande Mosquée Hassan, which is the largest mosque in Africa, and the 5th largest in the world. Its minaret is the world’s tallest minaret with its 210 meters!
  • I read about El Hank Lighthouse, also known as Pointe d’el-Hank Light. This lighthouse was built in 1919 to help sailors steer their vessels away from the shore, in fact, many up to then got stuck in the sandy banks of Casablanca’s shores. Apparently, once you could go up to the top and enjoy an amazing view of Casablanca. Unfortunately, once we reached it we found out that it was now closed, due to disturbances done by people visiting it. I just wonder why people cannot be respectful of the places they visit? Wouldn’t you want people to respect your home? So why not do the same when you go to visit?
  • We love to visit historical sites but we also made a stop at Morocco Mall, which is the second-largest shopping center in Africa. It has an aquarium, just like we found in the Dubai Mall, a bit smaller of course. The mall sits right in front of the ocean, so you can enjoy lunch with a view!
  • We drove inside part of the Old Medina, we weren’t in the mood to start shopping in Casablanca and decided to head out to our next destination.
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Where did was stay? Hôtel Les Saisons. We had 2 spacious rooms, free parking, breakfast included, and a delicious restaurant next door for our dinners. The staff was friendly and the prices were reasonable!

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Marrakech

Honestly, I had read bad reviews about Marrakech and wasn’t sure till the last minute if we should head in that direction. Lesson learned: everyone’s opinion is subjective! What others may not like you might love! For us Marrakech was lovely! It embraced what I was expecting to see in Morocco. Casablanca felt so much more European, instead, Marrakech had more of an African/Arabic feel to it, which I adored!

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What did we see?

We didn’t have a set itinerary. Our plan was to simply park the car and explore the downtown area. So our day was spent walking all over the medina. Although we were absolutely exhausted by the end of the day, it was worth every step.

You can easily get lost in all the little streets and the many souks. I personally loved the colors and the scents of all the spice shops, but also the fresh fruits were a pleasure to see and taste. Marrakesh is just a fascinating place to see, a true joy for the senses! For lunch and dinner I recommend picking one of the many restaurants with a terrace on the roof. It is tough to get up there with a stroller, but the view is just perfect!

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Where did we stay? Riad Nejma Oriental felt like a great choice. All over Morocco, you can sleep in Riads but it sounded just perfect for Marrakech!

A Riad is a type of traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. We had to park our car and walk for a bit to get to it. You can’t exactly drive in the very tight roads we went through to get there. It was lovely, but with only one flaw: you can hear everything that is going on outside!!! However the courtyard was delightful and the morning breakfast was a bit more special there.

Ouarzazate

We left Marrakech direction Merzouga to spend a night in the desert. Usually the town of Ouarzazate is the recommended stop in order to break the long drive. Specially since up to now the drive towards Ouarzazate is pretty challenging. There is a winding road with a lot of construction going on, in order to improve it. Plus the weather was pretty bad initially. However, as we passed the fog and the construction, we were surprised with little villages and amazing views of mountains and valleys.

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What did we see?

As I was searching more information about this little town. I discovered that it is well known for the Atlas Studios. Measured by acreage, this is the world’s largest film studio. The property lies in the nearby desert and mountains. Many sets from the filming of various movies remain in place still today. Some of the movies they filmed here are: The Jewel of the Nile, The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Babel, Game of Thrones, Prison Break and more…..

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Where did we stay? Oscar Hotel by Atlas Studios is next to the Atlas Studios and you get a complimentary entry ticket. For the kids, it was a fun way to end the day, especially since they had a chance to run around the different sets! The hotel is right next door, our view was on the studios on one side! The staff was friendly and the meals were delicious. Great stop!

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Merzouga

After driving for almost 5 hours. Admiring a continuous change of scenery as we went, we finally found the Sahara dunes.

Our adventure in the Sahara desert wasn’t exactly what we had imagined. In fact we experienced a very windy Sahara desert!

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Of course the wind didn’t stop us from enjoying the dunes! At one point though it became pretty tough to continue, Luca ate way too much sand!

The camp offered the option to arrive there by camel ride. Unfortunately we had to decline due to the strong wind. You had also the chance to sled down the dunes, which our kids of course did not miss the opportunity, also if it meant eating lots of sand!

Usually you would enjoy a lovely dinner in front of you tent admiring the desert and then do an evening drumming session around the fire. However at that point the weather had got worse so we enjoyed our meal and drumming in the main tent. It was still a memorable experience for our kids!

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Where did we stay? Sirocco Luxury Camp. There are many options, but we were very happy with our choice. Our tents were beautiful, with big comfy beds and also a shower. This was my first time on such a luxurious campsite! Due to the wind, we had to spend more time inside so it was a great place to do it!

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Fez

From Merzouga to Fez was our longest drive. It wasn’t as bad as the days before because we left behind the strong winds. Plus the roads were great and we went through many more amazing landscapes.

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What did we see?

  • Just like in Marrakech, we parked our car and started wondering through the tiny roads of the medina. We found many shops of all kinds of things. If you take side roads you might also find an artisan at work!  In fact, Emma noticed a shoemaker as we headed down a road with not many people. She just wanted to show me what he was doing. However, we actually went and asked him if he could repair her boot that had a hole in it. In 5 minutes it was patched! Lesson for our kids: things can be fixed!
  • The Leather tannery: what an experience! First of all the smell…..you are handed a piece of mint to put at your nose to cover the terrible smell and it does work for a bit. However, you cannot cover it all! How does the process work? The skins of the animals are first put in white vases which contain a mixture of water, limestone, and pigeon droppings (pigeon poo contains ammonia). This softens the hides whilst the limestone helps to remove the hair. After a few days, the skins are washed and transferred to the brown dyeing vats. There they will be coloured using natural products: cedar wood (brown), poppy flower (red), indigo (blue), henna (orange), mint (green), and saffron (yellow). Saffron is costly, so this dye is applied sparingly to individual skins which are then laid out to dry in the sun. 
  • We were lucky because we had the chance to walk around the different dyes. However, I’ll be honest, the smell was so strong that it made me dizzy. I thought I was going to faint and fall in one of the dyes!
  • The Moroccan carpets are famous all around the world, so we could not miss out on a little weaving lesson in one of the shops on the way.
  • Just walking around the market is a whole new experience in itself! If you actually decide to purchase something than the real fun begins in trying to get the price down!
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Where did we stay? Aparthotel Les Oliviers Suites & Spa. What a lovely apartment! We had so much space, it was a big change from our tent in the desert! Breakfast was included and it was delicious!

Chefchaouen

If you want to spend some time in an enchanting place, you cannot miss out on visiting Chefchaouen! This was my dream since I saw the first photos years ago. This year we managed to see 2 Blue cities, one in India and now this in Morocco.

Why the color blu? There are several theories as to why the walls were painted blue. One popular theory is that the blue keeps mosquitos away, another is that Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930s. The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven. It is a reminder to lead a spiritual life.

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Our experience in the Chefchaouen was to simply get lost in its little roads. Take millions of pictures of all the different roads, tonalities of blues and particular decor. Just like in Fez, I defiantly recommend looking for restaurants on high floors so you can admire the colorful view of this little city in the Northern Morocco.

Where did we stay? Balcon Bleu. This was a great location, at just a few minutes walk from the center. We had breakfast and parking included at a great price!

Tangier

Our final drive in Morocco was to get to Tangier. We left behind mountains and got back to the coast. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that there are 2 ports in Tangier. One is closer to the center and one is an hour away. Since we were leaving for Spain the next day and our boat was from the farther away one, we didn’t have a chance to visit this town.

However we were very excited for once to finally travel to another country using another transportation: the boat! Maybe getting on a boat with all our bags and no car wasn’t exactly the most practical way to do it. Luckily there are a lot of kind people willing to give a helping hand!

Where did we stay? Hôtel Tanger Med. It was a convenient location considering that it was one of the closest hotels to the Port.

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As you can tell our trip to Morocco was memorable. We enjoyed just being here, exploring the heart of the cities and although we had a few hiccups along the way (weather and road construction), it never stopped us from being happy of being here. If you want to see more of the beautiful scenery that we witnessed during our long drive check out our gallery!

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