If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging about previous adventures across the USA, specifically 2012. Ill also write further about other experiences in the USA and other countries I have been to After leaving Lagos Portugal I spent three weeks on the road I have headed back to the United Kingdom and am now blogging about my experience moving from Lagos to Cadiz Spain and over the Straights of Gibraltar to Morocco.
To reach the ferry to the Straights of Gibraltar from Lagos Portugal essentially takes two-days though in my case it ended up five. The first step was a five-hour bus ride to Seville in Spain, I didn’t have time to spend in Seville however this is a city I have visited previously (which Ill write about another time) so I lumped my 30kg backpack across the city to the train station, probably not sensible considering I was feeling a little ill but I often find walking with my backpack is a good way to retain some form of fitness. After waiting an hour I was on a three-hour train ride watching the Spanish countryside on my way to Cadiz for the evening. My intention was to spend one night in Cadiz as I was in a rush to get to Morocco.
Sometimes when on the road the unexpected happens and in this case it was a bad bout of influenza, mind you a few friends remarked on Facebook that maybe it was spending two months in Lagos going to the beach and drinking beer catching up with me. Needless to say, this wasn’t a pleasant experience and the hotel I was cheap so I extended my stay a few more nights so I could recover. The city of Cadiz Id not heard of the day before and was not expecting anything from, to me it was a bed for a night. I can honestly say if you find yourself traveling solo with the flu and without a clue, then if you find yourself in Cadiz you could not pick a better location to go through this experience, its such a beautiful city.
Cadiz is considered to be oldest ancient city in Western Europe, its approximately 3000 years old was founded by the Phoenicians in 1104 BC. The port city is on a peninsula and I spent my sick days walking around the old town which is boxed in by the port to the north of the city, a beach to the west and rocky shoreline to the south surrounded by the Atlantic ocean. The city is a maze of of tall five to six story stone buildings, cobbled streets and plazas scattered about the place, it’s a beautifulmaze. Fortunately the old town is not large so getting lost was very pleasant with a lot of beautiful architecture to admire. I found asking directions does not help as Cadiz is predominately a Spanish tourist city and there aren’t many English speakers about including in the restaurants I went to. I do however have a little bit of Spanglish as the result of spending time in Central America and Terminator movies so I managed to get by.
I spent most of my time wandering the streets, going to the markets for fresh fruit and eating healthy, I also spent some time at the beach. At the beach there is the interesting Castle of San Sebastian built in 1706. Unfortunately, I could not enter the castle as it was closed however there is a man-made walkway that extends almost half a kilometre across the ocean to this little island where the castle stands which is quite scenic. When the tide was out, I could also walk on the rocks surrounding the castle, I then walked along these rocks back onto the main beach. Another highlight is the Cadiz Cathedral which is located in the old town and overlooks a plaza with plenty of café’s dotted around the place. Construction till completion took 116 years and inside is a grand organ, plenty of statues and a creepy downstairs crypt.
After a few days recovering in Cadiz eating paella tapas and fruit, like I say a perfect place to recover from illness, I was on another bus to the port city of Tarifa then I was on my way to Morocco. The ferry ride took about 40 minutes, the highlight seeing both the continents of Europe and Africa at the same time with watching a few cargo ships passing by. I landed in the Moroccan city of Tangier and had decided head to Marrakesh immediately so I went to the train station. I booked an unexpected high-speed train that traveled at around 300km per hour down to Casablanca. I then transferred to another much slower train to Marrakesh All in all, my bus, ferry and train ride to Marrakesh had taken about 10 hours, not necessarily the best way to spend recovering from my flu but it was certainly a distracting journey and I was happy to have arrived.
Marrakesh is the fourth largest city in Morocco and is the capital city of the southern region, founded in 1062 AD. It’s a fortified city like a lot of Moroccan towns and is packed with vendors and stalls called a Medina. The city contains many souks (markets), the biggest being Jemaa el-Fnaa which I walked through on the way to my accommodation. This is the main market square and is the most famous attraction in the city, its one of the largest market places in Africa. It’s full of food, art and craft stalls and there are large groups of people watching entertainment including snake charmers, live music, performing monkeys and other forms of entertainment. There was a lot of smoke in the air from the open fires, locals burning incense and flame performers, the entire area is teaming with locals and tourists especially at night when the city comes alive and was quite chaotic with the hustle and bustle. I made my way through into the medina lugging my backpack, checked into my hostel or Riad for the evening and got myself some well-earned rest.
The following morning after a traditional Moroccan breakfast of mint tea, some sort of pancake, honey and banana I headed back into the medina for the Bahia Palace. Completed in 1867 it considered one of the masterpieces of Moroccan architecture and the name of the palace in the Berber language means Brilliance. It’s a 2-acre complex, made up of many rooms and large areas opening onto courtyards with fountains and or trees. It contains many different art mostly patterned tiles and is an excellent way to appreciate Moroccan design. After that I weaved my way back through the medina to another beautiful complex Le Jardin de Secret which has only recently been opened to the public. Made up for two squares, the first being a garden with a fountain and the second a much larger area with walkways sitting areas. I headed up to the second level, got myself a mint tea (which I’m now addicted too) and looked at the amazing complex below, it was quite a nice spot for a cup of tea.
After exiting I got lost in the medina and the peace I had found was quickly ruined. The medina is a maze of shops and people moving about the area with a lot of shouting, there is a constant chatter to try and get wandering tourists attention which can make you lose concentration as to where you are. A no-no is to stand around looking at your phone attempting to find your way out as someone will almost immediately approach you offering assistance. This assistance I found out comes at a cost, initially I was approached and offered a tannery tour, Morocco is famous for leather, particularly Berber leather so I was told this was a must do. I was taken to a tannery, given a tour and talk about the process of making leather, then I was charged for the experience. Now I did not begrudge this as it was interesting (particularly learning about pigeon shit dye) though my interest didn’t extend to purchasing a leather jacket or anything else on offer from a store I was dropped off at.
What I did begrudge is when exiting I was immediately offered a guide to the main square, this involved 5 minutes of walking and then being asked for money. I was not actually guided to the square and then subsequently found out that the directions were also incorrect and I became further lost further in the medina maze. Then I was shouted at not to walk in certain directions due to prayers (which I found out later is not true, all the medina is accessible) and offered more assistance. I ignored these requests for “help” but people walked with me anyway and then asked for money because I was talking with them. After refusing to pay a third time and I kept on walking someone grabbed my arm and attempted to stop me to which I turned and shouted expletives, startling the person and kept going, I was totally angry by now and ignored anyone approaching me or saying hello. Tip if lost in the medina keep walking, ignore everyone and don’t turn back or look at your Google maps, the medina is surrounded by large fortified walls so when you see a wall head towards it and then exit. Either do that or if you see the police ask for assistance, what you don’t do is ask someone directions unless your happy to buy something or pay a “guide” again and again, and again……
Regarding nightlife Morocco has a few bars and licensed restaurants and they are relatively expensive so its not a country you should travel to if you like wine or rowdy bars. There is alcohol available in supermarkets however my evenings involved heading to the supermarket for some beers, going back to my riad to refrigerate my beer. I would then head down to the main square to take in some atmosphere and food and take in what was going on (and there is a lot going on), get harassed to purchase something and then head back, sit on the riad roof overlooking the city and down a few beers. Every few hours or so there would be loud music coming from several mosques that surround the city singing “Call to Prayer” . Sitting on a roof with the smells, excellent food, prayers (music) and a few beers make for quite an surreal experience, I’ve never been to a place like Morocco.
From being sick in beautiful city of Cadiz to the frantic hustle that is Marrakesh with the journey in between has made for a very active and intense experience on my Roam in 2019. I have now booked on a trip to the Sahara and am not sure what to expect, I figure seeing the Sahara was a must do as Id come this far and after experiencing the intensity that is Marrakesh I want to see what its like outside this touristic and intense city. In my experience large or capital cities aren’t necessarily a representation of a country and I figure doing some travel would give me more perspective on this beautiful, strange and exotic place. Anyway onto the desert for a camel ride…..