First Sandstorm experience in Casablanca Morocco felt like being in an end of the world movie. Currently having a global pandemic and the skies suddenly turned heavy dark orange.
Sands from Sahara desert has reached as far as Casablanca and even further north of Morocco.
October 20, 2020 . Around 3:00 PM in the afternoon at Casablanca I noticed the sky has turned dark with a very orange hue. Thinking that it is only rain clouds coming. However, the temperature was unusually warm even with strong winds. Normally in Casablanca when the sky is gray with strong wind the temperature drops, but not this time. The previous day was colder but today was notably warmer. Towards 4:00 PM the sky looked heavier and more orange, winds started to be stronger and noticed sand-like dusts blowing by the street. The mouth starts to feel dry, throat chalky and eyes itchy. So, this is what a sandstorm feels like. Closed all the windows and doors and looked down at the floor seeing covered in dust.
October 21, 2020. The next day all surface in the apartment feels dusty, my skin feels dusty, my throat feels dusty. My infant’s nose is full of black dirt. My nose is filled with the dame black dirt. I feel the same in my throat – dry and dusty.
The winds in the Sahara desert is blowing strong and the sandstorm has reached as far as Casablanca located at the west coast of the Morocco. Most of Morocco has experienced the sandstorm including Marrakech, Essaouira, Rabat, Ouarzazarte and other cities are all covered in sand from the Sahara desert.
This sandstorm is happening while being locked down in the city with a curfew during a world pandemic. WTF 2020
Morocco has several spiders, bugs and insects that could be found in the city. Common house spiders in Morocco could bite. House spiders in Morocco are not all harmless. The spider could crawl into your clothing or bedding and can bite. House spider are not deadly but if bitten and not treated it could spread infection. If spider bite infection is left untreated it could be eventually be threatening.
Spiders are common in Morocco, and they tend to go inside the house when the weather outside is too hot.
I had a bad experience of spider bite in Morocco. The spider bite was not life threatening but definitely painful.
I do not usually want to post unflattering photos of (parts of) me. However, I am sharing this as it could be useful for someone else.
Spiders in Morocco
I am not sure of exactly what kind of spider bit me. The spider was small and brown that I often see in the garden and some enter the apartment. When I realized it was a spider bite I started to do research on spiders in Morocco and these are what I found. The following are the spiders that I have seen at gardens, apartment, offices, riads, shops, and around. I am not an expert of spiders and only sharing what I see and know.
Common spiders in cities in Morocco.
1.Brown recluse spider
Brown with longer legs compared to wolf spider.
Image from Wikemedia
2. Wolf Spider
Brown, small like a button with short legs and distinct dark marking at the back.
Image from Wikepedia
3. Jumping Spider
Brown – grayish, small. And it jumps!
Image from www.entomology.ca.uky.edu
Brown recluse spider and wolf spider are my top suspects for my spider bite.
Brown recluse spider, wolf spiders and jumping spider are the spiders commonly seen outside and inside homes and buildings in Morocco.
4. Black House Spider
Black, small and with long feet at front. I have seen this type of spider mostly at the garden or outside.
Image from https://bugguide.net/
5. Common House Spider
Brown with long legs. Distinct large bulge body compared to the head. This spider goes inside the house and buildings.
This is an actual photo of a similar spider that I think bit me. The photo is not clear. It is small, dark brown to black with a white stripe at the back.
Small and terrible.
Morocco Spider Bite Experience & Healing
At first I thought it was a hive, a small red bump on the skin that I ignored. When it did not went away within the day then I thought it was a regular bug bite. I was thinking it will still easily heal but it did not. The spider bite got bigger and more painful each day. I started to feel body pain and sensitivity around the bite. Lesion started to appear with a deep red center. The spider bite looked like a hole – think of a volcano crater and you can see red flesh inside. Not knowing it was a spider bite I was only applying skin antiseptic. The spider bite wound got bigger each day. More painful. I was experiencing flu like symptoms with body pain and weakness.
I was only able to take photos of the spider bite when it started to be disturbingly painful.
Spider bite wound progress
Stage 1 – Red bulge like hive. No pain. No itch. First day
Stage 2– Red bulge start to be painful but no discomfort. Second day.
Stage 3 – Red bulge start to be hard and erupt. Between second and third day.
Stage 4 – Crater like wound. After the third day the pain start to be disturbing.
Second week of spider bite. Wound looks like a growing crater.
Necrosis or crater like wound developed. I was applying skin antiseptic at this point. The spider bite looked like this for the next 1-2 weeks. The red flesh was hard and deep. The infection was getting bigger and deeper. At this point I was having flu like symptoms of body pain, feverish, weakness and feeling cold.
Stage 5 – Puss start to go out.
After 2-3 days of applying antibiotic cream from which the pharmacist recommended. Puss started to go out the spider bite.
It was still painful.
Stage 6 – Crater like hole starts to be more small and shallow.
Within 1 week of applying antibiotic. Spider bite wound still looks like a crater. The puss lessened. The spider bite wound started to be smaller.
Stage 7 – It does not look like a crater anymore.
The spider bite now looks like large infected pimple. Definitely more shallow and the red hard flesh inside is not visible anymore.
Total healing period until the wound closed was 1 – 2 months. The scar looks like a brown spot.
Luckily my spider bite did not get much bigger. I was able to apply proper medicine on time. If you search spider bite photos online, there are some that looks like rotten flesh. You can easily imagine that a flesh eating monster caused it and not a small spider.
Morocco Spider Bite Medicine
I showed to the pharmacist the photo of stage 4 spider bite. The pharmacist asked if I have fever, which I did not, and gave me an antibiotic cream.
Fucidine 2% ointment worked within a week results showed. After 2 weeks I was not feeling any pain.
Morocco Spider Bite Precautions
Shake off clothes and shoes before wearing. Specially if it has been stored for a long period.
Fluff and shake off bedding and pillow before going to bed
Commercial pesticides and organic DIY pesticides do not help. I tried most of it.
If you know an effective anti-spider that does not require overhauling the house please tell me!
Morocco Emergency Contacts
Poison Control Center : 05337-777-185
Ambulance Inter secours assistance : 0522-27-27-27
Ambulance SAMU / SOS Medicins Maroc : 0522-25-25-25
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.
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.
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 portersor 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
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
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
If your area of destination is far from tramway station. Consider taking a taxi instead.
Avoid rush hour
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
Casablanca – Nador
Fes – Casablanca
Tanger – Port Tanger
Casablanca – Oujda
Other train station stops in between the lines and respective schedulescan 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
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.
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.
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 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.
At Casablanca there is an area comparable to China town. There is no real China town in Morocco as the Asian community is small in the country. However, there is an area that sells low cost made in China items in shops and by the street at a small neighborhood. The vendors and shop owners are mostly Moroccans not like the real China town wherein most of the shop owners are Chinese
Alpha 55 mall is like a mini department store for home, personal, school and office supplies. I personally like the decorations and stationery area. There are imported items with average prices.
Best to shop for:
Home supplies such as kitchenware, dining ware, bath and garden supplies
Decorations such as candles, table top and wall decorations
Small furniture such as coffee tables, chairs, portable closet
Cheap accessories such as necklace, bracelet, earring
Personal hygiene products such as facial and body creams, soaps, shampoos, hair dye, even nail products
School and office supplies, such as papers, pens folders, books, stationary.
Pricing: Low to Mid-range
Alpha 55 Mall address: *Near the French consulate
Morocco mall is the largest shopping mall in Casablanca with wide range to choose from. Shops range from cheap to luxury brands. The top floor is mainly for the the luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi, and others. At the ground floor there is a shop called Marjane which is a grocery-department store that offers lower priced items. Mid-priced brands include H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear, Marwa, LC Waikiki and others.
Main attraction at Morroco mall is the large cylindrical indoor aquarium at the center of the ground floor. Different sea animals can be seen such as shark, manta ray, eels, and various fishes.
Restaurants are lined outside the Morocco mall facing the sea. The outside area can be windy and chilly especially at night.
At one end of the top floor, opposite the luxury shops is a fast food area, with popular franchises such as McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. There are shops for ice cream, asian food, sandwich, tacos, pizza, and moroccan food.
In front of Morocco mall, at the right side, before the entrance you can find the only IMAX cinema in Casablanca. English movies (with original English audio) are shown every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Imax Casablanca Schedule
FNAC is a good shop for branded electronics such as phones, laptops, speakers, headsets. Most of electronic accessories can be found here. Second floor of FNAC is for books (mostly French and Arabic), there is a small section for classic English books. Stationery, notebooks, and writing supplies are also at the second floor of FNAC.
Yan&One is like a Sephora of Morocco, though I have only seen one shop in Casablanca. It is at the center of the ground floor of Morocco mall. Yan&One offers large selection of cosmetics and bath products. It has Yan&One products and imported brands from France, US, Korea, and UK.
There is a Marjane grocery.department store at Morocco mall. Marjane is a one stop shop for:
Anfaplace mall is smaller than Morocco mall, with mid-range priced shops.
The advantage of Anfa mall is that it has a better sea view with direct access to the beach. It is 5 minutes walking distance to the corniche which is a long walkway by the sea with several restaurants with sea view.
There is a fastfood area at the top floor of Anfaplacce mall with a sea view.
Anfaplace is best to shop for:
Virgin – It has more choices of electronics brands than FNAC (Morocco mall)
Near twin center along boulevard Al Massira is a row of branded mid-high priced shops such as LC Waikiki, Addidas, Zara, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Aldo, and Parfois. There is Massimo Dutti which is more pricey. More shops can be found at the small streets adjacent to boulevard Al Massira.
Boulevard Al Massira Khadra – Branded shops location:
If you take the Maarif exit from inside the Twin Center there is an area of more local shops with low-priced (non–branded) items. Walking around the area you can find shops for shoes, clothes, accessories and jewelry.
Maarif local shopping location:
Bookstore – Maarif
At the back of Mcdonalds, Maarif there is a bookstore with large selection. Mostly in French and Arabic and few English books.