When I got on that 5a.m Monday morning flight, it was my first time flying Royal Air Maroc, and also my first time going to North Africa. So, in spite of waking up very early to get to the Kotoka International Airport, there was a lot to look forward to.
It was a smooth 4-hour journey from Accra to Casablanca with no incident, which later had me wondering why there are some bad reviews of the airline online. When I posted a video of my flight on Instagram, my Nigerian buddy in the UK asked me for my feedback on Royal Air Maroc, because she wanted to use it but was hesitant due to some stories she had heard.
When I posted my flight on Facebook, another Nigerian buddy, this time around, based in the US also asked me for feedback. She wanted to use the airline as well. I gave both friends my honest opinion of the plane, saying that it was a smooth flight from Accra to Casablanca; and the airbus served the purpose of the route. I however told the latter that I would have a better feedback for her since I had a pending flight from Casablanca to New York in some few days.
Anyway, from the moment I touched down in Casablanca I fell in love with Morocco. The airport was nice and beautiful, and felt like a beach resort outside. I didn’t know my full itinerary for the trip yet, but I was ready for any and everything.
A city with great stories to tell, hello Casablanca !
We jumped on our tour bus and made our way out of the airport. As we headed to our hotel, our tour guide from Access Holidays gave us an overview of what to expect during our 6-day stay in Morocco. He also didn’t waste any time giving us a bit of history on Morocco and the city of Casablanca throughout the ride.
Morocco is composed mainly of Arabs and Berbers or a mixture of the two. A sizeable number of Berbers live mainly in the mountainous regions, where they have preserved their language and culture. Some segments of the population are (Moorish) descendants of refugees from Spain and Portugal who fled from Christian re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
The major resources of the Moroccan economy are agriculture, phosphates, tourism and textiles.
Politics of Morocco take place in a framework of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister of Morocco is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. The Moroccan Constitution provides for a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary.
The King of Morocco appoints the Prime Minister/President, along with other ministers and members of the government that the new President recommends. The Parliament of Morocco then approves the programs of the new government, before the new government formally takes office. There are no constitutional limits on a President’s term, and several of them served multiple non-consecutive terms.
We eventually made our way to the Farrah Safir hotel, most of us thought we were going to have some rest after the early morning flight but phew, we were so wrong!!! We checked in to our rooms, went to the restaurant to have lunch and then hit the road for a city tour of Casablanca.
Casablanca is the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of Morocco and its largest city. It is a city where history and modernity meets with fabulous architecture from different eras.
Highlights of the city tour included a visit to the United Nations Square (Place des Nations Unies – a large square at the heart of the city, surrounded by shops and restaurants); and the Mohammed V Square, which shows a panoramic view of the ‘Administrative Center’ of Casablanca. Most of the major surrounding buildings were built in the first half of the 20th century.
Some of the iconic old buildings in the areas include The Court House (1923), Bank Al Maghreb (1937), The Grand Post Office (1918), The Wilaya (1937) and the French Consulate (1922).
We also visited Casablanca’s Habous Quarter, otherwise known as New Medina. It is an area of the city built in 1930s by the French; it features a wonderful mix of French and Moroccan inspired architecture. Here, we saw the exteriors of one the King’s many palaces, and visited the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church built in the 1950s. The church is one of the city’s most beautiful churches, adored for its intricate stained glass window – a creation of the famous French artist Gabriel Loire.
We completed the city tour of Casablanca with a visit to The Hassan II Mosque, the 13th largest mosque in the world (Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters/ 689ft), before using the Ain Diab circuit famous for its spectacular beaches and hotels on our way to the Mall of Morocco.
We closed the day with a rather sexy dinner at the Le Boudoir restaurant, as the name suggests.
Horse and camel rides, fantasia shows and monuments, hello Marrakech!!!
On day 2 we checked out of the hotel in Casablanca and headed to Marrakech by road. As we made the journey we explored more of the beauty and history Casablanca had to offer. After some 3 hours on the road we arrived in Marrakech, which is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco.
Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca and Fez, and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. It also lies few hours from the foot of the Sahara Desert. The city is divided into two distinct parts: the Medina, the historical city, and the new European modern district called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle.
After checking in at the spectacular Hôtel Les Jardins de l’Agdal, we freshened up and hit the streets in a horse and carriage ride, yes my first and I enjoyed it thoroughly! We rode through the city, enjoying the sights and sounds of Marrakech all the way to Jamaa el Fna, a square and market place in Marrakesh’s medina quarter (old city).
After our fun cruise in the city, we made our way to the famous Chez Ali for dinner (authentic Moroccan cuisine) and the spectacular ‘Fantasia Chez Ali’ show. The evening program included the show in Berber tents decorated in Bedouin style with a charming atmosphere with belly dancers, acrobats, riders and Gnaoui music and folk music.
The second day in Marrakech started early with a city tour from Koutoubia in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakesh. We visited the Koutoubia Mosque and Koutoubia Gardens, known for its topiary and many roses.
We also visited the Saadian tombs, which date to time of the Saadian dynasty sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). The tombs were discovered in 1917 and were renovated. The mausoleum comprises the interments of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty. Among the graves are those of Ahmad al-Mansur and his family. The building is composed of three rooms. The most famous is the room with the twelve columns. This room contains the grave of the son of the sultan’s son, Ahmad al-Mansur.
We also went into the township to buy some crafts and souvenirs, and I got the chance to charm and touch a snake for the first time. It was cold, and I won’t be trying it again anytime soon. Goodness know how much my heart sank in, when I saw the cobra raise its head, ready to attack. (Insert emoji for running here)
Our city tour of Marrakech continued to the Bahia Palace, built in the late 19th century, and intended to be the greatest palace of its time. It was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. It has a 2-acre garden with rooms opening onto courtyards.
Our tour for the day ended at the Majorelle Garden, a two and half acre botanical and artistic landscape garden created by French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle over almost forty years, starting in 1923. It features a Cubist villa designed by French architect, Paul Sinoir in the 1930s. The property was the residence of the artist and his wife. In the 1980s, fashion designers, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé who worked to restore it, purchased the property.
Lunch came in the form of tasty couscous and tagines at the stunning Al Fassia Resturant.
After a scrumptious lunch it was time to burn some calories; we departed for the Kasba of The Mirage for camel riding and quad biking activities. It was my first time riding on a camel, so I took my trophy at the finish line with pride.
We had dinner at the Lotus Club Marrakech, an elegant and contemporary place with varied and refined cuisine, cleverly concocted by its star chef. In addition to the fabulous food, there was live show with a fusion of live music and dancing.
Crocs, boat and little train rides, it’s time for Agadir!!!
The following morning we had breakfast and departed for Agadir by bus. As we embarked on the 4-hour or so journey, our tour guide gave us more information about Marrakech and eventually our new destination, Agadir.
Agadir is a major modern city in the southern part of Morocco, surrounded by the Anti Atlas, the Sahara Desert on the Atlantic coast with many national parks, and secluded beaches which are all easily accessible.
In 1960 the city was hit by an earthquake, which destroyed the city including the ancient Kasbah. An estimated 15,000 were killed, 12,000 injured and some 35,000 people left homeless. In 1961 the city began reconstruction two miles south of the epicenter. The city centre was based on a grid system, similar with New York, making it simple to get your bearings and move around.
Whilst tourism plays a vital role in the city’s economy it remains a major port with a thriving fishing industry, exporting produce and natural resources.
We made our first touring stop at Crocoparc Agadir, located just on the outskirts of Agadir. The park features a fascinating world of reptiles with ten species of crocodiles. The Crocodile Farm has over 300 animals as well as botanical, tropical and aquatic gardens, small waterfalls, and roaring cascades accompanied by singing birds.
From the park we made our way to check in to the stunning Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort, inspired by Arab-Berber art and nestling in a bay of palm trees which plunge into the ocean. We immediately had lunch; nothing could say welcome to Agadir more than a taste of fresh seafood salad and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, all from the food basket of the city.
We freshened up and headed off for a city tour. We visited the Casbah (Agadir Oufella), an authentic fortress built in 1572. Of this fortress there remains (after the earthquake of 1960) a restored long high wall that surrounds land that is not buildable.
The view over the bay of Agadir and the ports was simply stunning from the top. The hill bears the inscription in Arabic: “God, Country, King” which, like the walls, is illuminated at night.
We explored the waterfront, Old Talborjt, beach and marina as we made our way to experience the Petit train d’Agadir. The little train is a road train that traverses some of the tourist spots in Agadir.
We closed the night with a taste of Moroccan cuisine at Le Jardin D’eau restaurant.
In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel before heading out on a fun boat cruise. It was a relaxing experience as we cruised on the calm waters with fun music. We also tried fishing but had no success with catching any. We also had lunch on a boat – sardine rice with tasty fish, cooked fresh from the waters.
After the cruise we went back to the hotel to relax. In the evening, we headed to Folie Berbere restaurant, a peaceful and friendly setting with the gastronomy of an inventive cuisine, combining seasonal specialties and local products. We also witnessed a small Fantasia show for our entertainment.
The end to a fun and educative adventure!!!
The following day, it was time to bring the exciting adventure to an end. After lunch, we lounged at the hotel a bit before heading to the Airport to catch a flight to Casablanca. When we arrived in Casablanca I said my farewell to the team as they headed back to Accra later that night.
I was continuing my journey to US the following day, so I checked into the Atlas Sky Airport Hotel for the night. When it was time for my New York flight, I went to airport and headed straight to the boarding gate, since I had checked in my luggage from the Agadir Airport. Yes, that means I wore the same clothes from the previous day, and no it didn’t smell. I had my shower at the hotel. Laugh out loud!
Anyway I boarded the flight and made my way to New York, and now I had an answer to my friend who had enquired about using Royal Air Maroc from the US to Nigeria.
My flight to New York was a smooth journey with almost no eventualities. Apart from being delayed because just when we were ready for take off, a passenger wanted to disembark. The staffs of the airline were so patient with the passenger that it even angered other passengers, but eventually the passenger’s luggage was offloaded from the plane and he disembarked.
Apparently he had found out last minute (after speaking on the phone) that his wife/girlfriend who was supposed to travel to the US couldn’t get an American visa. So in the name of love, he made the tough decision to not leave Morocco without his lover. He disembarked together with his mother (who seemed rather unhappy and embarrassed). Phew!
Anyway I went to the US safe and smoothly, and returned to Ghana on Royal Air Maroc, without seeing a reason to advise anyone not to travel with the airline.