Morocco: Ouazzane

Ouazzane Morocco

Travel to Ouazzane, Morocco if you are going to Chefcheouen and you like dried figs, dates and have an authentic Moroccan robe souvenir. Stop by Ouazzane to have a quiet and peaceful time away from the tourist.

Ouazzane is a province north of Morocco. It is near the more popular city of Morocco – Chefcheouen. Ouazzane is a small agricultural and artisan area. The artisans in Ouazzane weave and sew traditional Moroccan clothes that are long dresses with long sleeves. Best souvenir to buy in Ouazzane are dried fruits such as dates and fig which are done in the area and are very cheap. Other places in Morocco buy the cheap dried fruits and traditional clothes in Ouazzane and resell it at a higher price.

The province of Ouazzane is very religious and no alcoholic drinks are allowed. It is a very laid back province. Small streets at the Medina of Ouazzane are colored green giving its own unique charm.

Ouazzane, Morocco-2

What to buy in Ouazzane

Dried Fruits

Figs and dates are very cheap to buy in Ouazzane. These delicacies which are expensive in other areas. Ouazzane is the best place to go if you like sweet dried figs and dates.

  • Dried prunes
  • Dates
  • Dried Figs

Traditional Moroccan Clothes

Ouazzane is an artisan place of handwoven fabrics which are handsewn and embroidered into robes and dresses. the dresses and robes are long with long sleeves which can be worn during summer and winter. If you are looking for a souvenir of authentic handwoven and handmade traditional Moroccan clothes, Ouazzane is a good area to visit.

How to go to Ouazzane

Train-Bus

  • Take the ONCF train and go down at Souk Al Abraa station. If you are booking online select the station to Chefchaouen.
  • There is a connecting (Supratour) bus from the train. You can pay the connecting bus directly from train booking.
  • Take the bus going to Chefcheouen and go down at Ouazzane.

Bus

Another option to go to Ouazzane is by bus. There is the main bus station in Ouazzane that goes to Casablanca and vice-versa. Buses also go to Tangier.

Check previous post on Morocco: Public Transportation

Where to stay in Ouazzane

Ouazzane is not a tourist area. There are not many hotel options. Near the plaza area, there are some hotels. The hotels are small and basic, only offering a bedroom and toilet to stay for the night. There provide service, no restaurant, and no amenities in the hotel

Travel Tips

Good Points

  • There are no annoying freelance tourist guides offering their service
  • Taxi drivers are honest and fair – not giving a foreign rate
  • Experience a quiet authentic Moroccan town with no touristy frills

Not-So-Good-Points

  • Not many choices for hotels. There are only basic low standard hotels that do not serve breakfast, no room service, no wi-fi, no amenities. Think of basic rooms with bed and toilet for rent per night.
  • Not much choice for restaurants. There are only local spots to eat Moroccan dishes such as tajine and kebab.

Ouazzane Morocco

Game of Thrones film location at Morocco

Essos of Game of Thrones film location at Morocco

Essos of Game of Thrones film location at Morocco

Travelling Asian goes to Game of Thrones film location in Morocco.

Game of Thrones is a medieval fictional series of families from different continents battling for the throne to rule the Seven Kingdoms. One of the Seven Kingdoms is Essos, an area depicted in the series as desert-like, where Daenerys (Dragon Queen) built her army.

Game of Thrones season is ending May, 2019. Fans of the show can still relive their favorite moments at film locations of Game of Thrones. Fans of Game of Thrones have their favorite families or households. Those who are rooting for Daenerys or #TeamTargaryen would be happy to relive their favorite scenes at Essos.

There are several film location for Essos of Game of Thrones. Two of the film locations are in Morocco which are in Ait Ben Haddou and Essouira.

 

Photo from https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/

The Game of Thrones film location at Ait Ben Haddou is portrayed as Slaver’s Bay (Bay of Dragon) in the series. This location was used in the episode where Daenerys freed the Unsullied (slave) army.

What to See at Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco

Ait Ben Haddou became a popular tourist destination for fans of Game of Thrones. Other popular films shot at Ait Ben Haddou are Gladiator, Prince of Persia and The Mummy.

Another good reason to visit Ait Ben Haddou is that it is a UNESCO world heritage site representing the traditional earthen habitat of Morocco, built from the 17th century.

The Ksar (fortified village) of Ait Ben Haddou is made of mud and straw. Surrounded by towers and walls at the outer part to protect the homes inside. It used to be a caravan route of nomads travelling from Sahara desert, east Africa. The caravan used to stop at Ait Ben Haddou for rest and trade. At the moment, there are still few families living inside Ait Ben Haddou.

First impression upon seeing Ait Ben Haddou is that it looks like a giant sand castle. Moving closer and inside you would see the intricate designs of the towers and walls.

The structure is huge to fit in a village. The dwellings are small spaces, next to each other.

 

How to Go to Ait Ben Haddou from Marrakesh

Ait Ben Haddou is located at the province of Ouarzazate. There are a lot of buses going to Ouarzazate from Marrakesh. The most common bus is CTM with more available schedule. I prefer to use Supratour as it has more space and more comfortable. Cost of Supratour bus fare from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 80 Moroccan Dirhan (approximately 8 US Dollars). CTM bus fare is usually cheaper.

Approximate travel time from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 4 hours. Bus schedules are only during the morning until before noon. The route will traverse the Atlas mountains with an amazing view.

Where to Stay

There are a lot of hotel options at the town center of Ourazazate. I heard there are also some small hotels and riads around Ait Ben Haddou.

I recommend to stay at the town center of Ouarzazate as there are other things to visit such as the Kasbah, film museum and Atlas studio.

Travel Tips

  • Rent a Taxi. If you are staying for a few days at Ourzazate and want to visit interesting places around. You do not need to book a tour. Price of a tour will be double or more. There are several taxis parked near the CTM bus station. Price to rent a taxi for a day to Ait Ben Haddou and Atlas Studio is 300 Moroccan Dirham or approximately 30 US Dollars.
  • Tour guide is not necessary unless you are keen to know the history of Ait Ben Haddou. One and a half hour is enough to enjoy the place.
  • Home visit fee. There are still some families living in Ait Ben Haddou. Some will offer to show their home for a fee. If you accidentally go inside and start “exploring” their home, some home visit fee will be expected.

Morocco: Public Transportation

Tips on Morocco public transportation.

If it is your first time to arrive in Morocco as a backpacker, tourist, or expat. You are most likely to take a public transportation. Unless you have an organized tour or someone to pick you up at the airport.

This is a helpful list of tips and advice on public transportation in Morocco.

Answers to common questions for first time travelers such as:

  • How to take taxi in Morocco
  • Is there tramway in Morocco
  • How to take the train in Morocco
  • Is it safe for solo female traveller in Morocco

Top tips on taking public transportation in Morocco

  • Plan your travel in advance
  • Haggle. Take note that Morocco is a country of constant haggling, even with public taxi service you need to negotiate the price. Buses and trains have fixed fare price.
  • Female travelling solo be careful sitting next to men.

What language does the public speak in Morocco?

Moroccan local language commonly used is called Darija, it is like the Moroccan Arabic with similarities to the Arabic language.

Foreign Languages mostly spoken in Morocco are Arab and French.  At the northern part of Morocco such as Tangier, Spanish is spoken. At the most popular tourist areas such as Marrakech some English is spoken.

 

Taxi

Taxis are shared in Morocco. Do not be surprised if the driver stops and let another passenger inside. Since the taxi ride is shared routes taken could be longer making your travel time longer as well. If you are in a rush and want to have the taxi to yourself immediately tell the driver and you will be asked to pay a higher price similar to hiring a private car.

Is there taxi at Morocco Airport

It is easy to  get a taxi at airports in Morocco. There are several taxi lined up outside the airports.

Grand Taxi

The first public transportation you will experience in Morocco is the grand taxi or airport taxi or white taxi – it is all the same called in different names.

It is called grand taxi because it is bigger than the city taxis. White taxi because of the obvious that it is colored white. Airport taxi because it is mostly the only type of taxi that can go across cities and can travel to and from the airport.

The airport taxis in Morocco can be easily seen when you step out of the airport. There will be men (drivers) who will approach you offering their taxi.  Before agreeing to take a taxi ask first for the price because airport taxis in Morocco do not use meter. Remember to negotiate the price because taxi drivers are known to give high price to foreigners.

Outside Morocco airports there will be some porters or luggage carriers who will try to get and carry your luggage for you. If you do not necessary need help politely tell them no. They can be very persistent and you should be firm to decline if you do not need help to carry luggage.  Be careful as the unwanted service can have a high price for what it is. The porters will demand a price for the “help”.

For an idea of airport taxi price. Coming from Mohammed V (Casablanca) international airport to city center of Casablanca is around 30 kilometers, will cost 250-300 Moroccan Dirham (MAD) or approximately 23-30 US Dollars (USD).

Tips for taking taxi at Morocco Airport:

  • Haggle or negotiate price before entering airport taxi
  • Politely and firmly say no to porters or luggage carriers if you do not need them

How to take taxi around Morocco

Petite Taxi

City taxi or petite taxi is used to travel around within the city or town limits. The color depends on which city you are in. Petite taxi translates to small taxi, are used for short distance travel only.

Petite taxi colors

  • Red – Casablanca, Fez, Oujda, Nador, Azilal
  • Yellow – Midelt , salé
  • Light yellow – Tétouan
  • Beige/ cream – Marrakesh
  • Blue – Chefchaouen, Errachidia, Saïdia
  • Light Blue – Tanger (with yellow stripe), Meknes
  • Orange – Agadir, Berkane,
  • White – Ouarzazate, Taroudannt, El Jadida
  • Green – Azrou, Aklim, Ifrane
  • Light Green – Mohammedia

Difference of big taxi and small taxi in Morocco

If you want to go outside the city limit you should take the grand taxi (the same white taxi you get from the airport). Grand taxis can be usually found near tramway, bus and train stations, and busy areas such as tourist areas, medinas, and large shopping malls.

Taking taxi for solo female traveler

My first time riding a taxi in Morocco alone was a mixed of emotions. It was the most challenging, surprising, annoying, and scary  experience. Yet it is supposed to be a convenient mode of public transportation around the city for foreigners.

Challenging. Taxi drivers choose who they take in for the ride. You will most likely be denied of a ride if you are standing at the wrong side of the street opposite of the direction you want to go. During rush hour waiting time for a taxi could be around 30 minutes.

Surprising. Moroccan taxis are usually small old cars. Do not be surprised if the driver stops to get other passenger to share the ride with you. Moroccan taxis are basically shared taxis and you have no choice to cramp inside the small car with no air conditioning with several strangers. This is not  comfortable and not convenient if you are in a rush and the driver decides to drop you off last.

Annoying. Despite that taxis should use meters, drivers will still ask for more. This happens especially at crowded places where the taxis wait in line by the street such as bus and train stations, shopping malls, tourist areas and medinas. If you take a taxi parked by the street be sure to tell the driver to use the meter or negotiate the price before entering the car. Always ask for the meter price and negotiate before entering a parked taxi.

Taxis that you stop by the street will usually use the meter price. Check the price and pay the exact amount, if you ask the price some drivers will tend to demand a higher amount.

Scary. Taxis in Morocco are shared and during rush hour it will be often full. There are not much Asians in Morocco, and as an Asian female I get unwanted attention. There were times that I have been harassed sitting next to the driver such as squeezing my thigh (despite of wearing loose jeans) and inappropriately touching my face.

Tips for taking taxi in Morocco:

  • Women traveling solo in Morocco – avoid sitting next to the driver and avoid taking a taxi full of men.
  • Taxis stopped by the street mostly follow the meter for price
  • Negotiate prices when taking taxis parked by the street near crowded places

Tramway

How to take tramway / city train in Morocco

Currently the only tramway or city train in Morocco is found in Casablanca.

Casablanca tramway or Casa tramway has only 2 lines that pass through the large business districts. The Casablanca tramway rails do not branch out to the suburbs. It is not walking distance to go around Casablanca using the tramway.

Casablanca Tramway Rail Line 

  • Yellow line (T2) runs through Ain Diab – Bernoussi
  • Orange line (T1) runs through Lissasfa – Sidi Moumen

See Casablanca tramway station map here

How to buy tickets for Casablanca Tramway

A card pass is used as a ticket to ride the Casablanca tramway. It can be bought at machines at each station.

Multiple pass cards can be recharged at tramway stations, and ATMs.

Casablanca Tramway Schedule

Operations

  • Time open: 5:30 AM
  • Time close: 11:30 PM

See Casablanca tramway schedule Casa Tramway website. *Note that there is usually delay

Tips for taking Tramway in Casablanca:

  • Consider time allowance for delay
  • If your area of destination is far from tramway station. Consider taking a taxi instead.
  • Avoid rush hour

Train

How to take Train in Morocco (ONCF) 

Morocco train is operated by ONCF. Travelling by train is faster compared to travelling by bus. It is convenient to travel with the train at Morocco if you book it first class (or premiere). Although do not expect too much from first class, there is no special seats or service. The only difference with first class cabin is that it has guaranteed seats. The train can be overcrowded with no guaranteed seats when you book regular tickets. There is a high possibility that you will be standing for a long time at the hallway with all the luggages and other passengers especially if you ride from a busy station.

Train schedule is known for constant delays, although not always. Give an allowance of one (1) hour for possible delay.  Do not expect it to be always on time.

The advantage of taking the train is escaping the traffic and regular stops from taking a bus. There is sufficient leg room, toilet (not very clean but working), snacks and drinks for sale.

The first line of fast train was opened late 2018 and goes through only Casablanca and Rabat at the moment. Further expansion of the fast train is still under construction.

Morocco Train lines and Schedule

Regular train rails goes through:

  • Casablanca – Tanger
  • Casablanca –  Khouribga-Oued Zem
  • Benguérir-Safi
  • Casablanca – Nador
  • Fes – Casablanca
  • Tanger – Port Tanger
  • Casablanca – Oujda

Other train station stops in between the lines and respective schedules can be seen at ONCF website.

How to buy train tickets at Morocco

It is advised that you go in advance at the train station to buy the ticket. At the moment the ONCF train website only accepts online payment with Moroccan banks. There are ticket machines at the train station and also only accepts Moroccan bank cards. Some ticket machines accepts Moroccan Dirhams (MAD).

Connecting rides with Morocco train

ONCF train has connecting bus trips with Supratour. This is a good option as when you book the connecting trips, the bus will wait by the train station for you. It is convenient to avoid travel from train station to bus station and no time to waste waiting for the difference of train and bus schedules.

Tips for taking train at Morocco: 

  • Consider allowance time for delay. Approximately 30-40 minutes
  • Arrive early to buy tickets
  • Take first class

Bus

Buses in Morocco

Buses depart more on time compared to the train. Still, travelling by bus is longer compared to travelling by train due to longer roads, regular stops and traffic inside towns. Regular buses are cramped with small space.

Buses do not regularly travel to small non-touristy towns. There could be bus routes that are not available daily. Better to check bus schedule in advance.

Most bus company in Morocco will indicate that they have air conditioning but almost all are not working. There is only a small vent open at the middle of the bus. Windows do not open which can be very suffocating and uncomfortable in long travel. During summer think of the smell of donkey, dirty gym socks and armpit sweat without deodorant inside a crowded bus without ventilation. It is not fun.

There are several bus companies in Morocco. The top 2 best bus companies according to my personal preference are Suparatour and CTM.

1. Supratour

Supratour  bus works with ONCF train making it convenient for long distance travel where the train does not pass. You can buy the ticket connecting ONCF train – Supratour bus from ONCF train stations.  If you do not need a connecting train-bus ride buying tickets directly at Supratour bus station is possible. Supratour bus is a bit more expensive than other bus companies so there are less people taking it and therefore less crowded. It is the only bus that I have taken that has working air conditioning which is very convenient during long travel in Morocco. There were times that the bus driver did not turn on the air conditioning because there were only few passengers. Be persistent in nagging the driver to turn it on and talk with the other passengers to help nag the driver for air conditioning. Group effort helps. The drivers can be stubborn trying to save fuel price used for air conditioning for their pocket money.

2. CTM

The next best option to Supratour bus is CTM. They have first class (premiere) buses on some routes but have few available schedules. CTM bus travel more routes than Supratour bus. The downside is that there is no air conditioning and windows do not open. See description of bus smell above.

Tips for taking bus in Morocco:

  • Arrive early. Buses are usually on time for scheduled departure
  • Check for bus schedule
  • Buy bus tickets in advance
  • Take Supratour for comfort with proper air conditioning
  • Take CTM first class
    • Otherwise enjoy the summer smell 🙂

Ride Hailing Application

Ride hailing applications are new and operate discreetly in Morocco as it is considered as a threat competition by taxi drivers. Similar to some countries Uber was not well accepted by taxi drivers who protested against it. There was Uber in Morocco a few years ago which lasted only for a short period. Taxi drivers were throwing rocks and harassing the the Uber drivers.

Careem

Careem is similar to Uber, still new and operations is discreet. There is not much Careem drivers available but it is growing. Careem drivers would avoid picking-up and dropping off passengers at busy places where there are taxis parked. Passengers are requested to meet away from the visibility of taxi drivers. When riding Careem the passengers are asked to sit next to the driver to appear like a family car and avoid attention from the taxi drivers.

Caution for solo women traveling as it is required to sit next to the drivers. To avoid harassment it can be useful to carry a large bag and put it in between you and the driver.

I have not tried taking a Careem alone, as I have been avoiding riding next to drivers since being harassed by taxi drivers. I am not sure if they are more respectful of foreign women travelling solo than taxi drivers.

Other ride hailing applications in Morocco

  • Heetch
  • Yalla