Author Topic: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco  (Read 2334 times)

Offline Jo 08701

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My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« on: July 05, 2021, 03:50:48 PM »
I am still under the impression of my 3 day trip to Morocco.

I had plans already to go to Morocco before covid, for May 2020, but covid pushed off my plans.

Since I got an opportunity to go now, I grabbed it. Morocco recently opened for tourist, with very light requirements, a Vaccine or a PCR is good, no fake permits or quarantine is necessary, therefore many US citizens take the opportunity to travel there instead to Europe.

We flew out NY to Casablanca, landed Monday. Our trip was a last minute thing, we decided to go on Moitzai Shabbos, tickets was very cheap, RT for about 730 nonstop, booked less than 24 hours from departure.

Now an important tip for renting a car, since our trip was a last minute thing, I didn't had a chance to take care of the other arrangements before, we figured we will be able to book a car online when we arrive. But nothing was available for that day online when we checked at the airport, but at the counter desks they had more than enough cars available, actually everyone was fighting for our business,  but here is our mistake which thanks God didn't cost us anything. Budget was offering a nice car for 400 USD, but when it came to signing contract nothing was mentioned on the contract from Budget, it was a third party rental, somehow I didn't realized it till after getting into the car after waiting for a half hour for someone to bring over the car and when he insisted on getting paid in cash, than I got suspicious and everything started to make sense, the agent was just making a backdoor deal with a third party rental. We told him we don't pay cash only with a credit card, he obviously had no choice and had to accept it.

Now the reason why this was not good for us, first if God forbid anything would happen with us, we weren't having any contract with budget, and more than that, we got offers right after leaving customs from vendors walking around offering us cars for 150, the only reason we went to the car rental section was that I felt more safe to rent from official brands.
So be careful.

We went to Casablanca, Chabad offered us the mikva/shower, after davening we went for breakfast to the bagel store, no official Hechsher, so do according to your LOR, we figured for Vegetables it should be ok.

Then we went driving to visit the old medina, (Medina in Arabic stands for Old City, Mellah is the Jewish Quarter), than the new town center, Mincha we did in the Beth El shul.

We drove to Rabat, checked in an hotel, now one point to consider if you go for Shabbos to Morocco, we experienced only 2 hotels in Morocco, but both of them were very Modern even it was not expensive, so it would be a problem with the lights going on/off by sensor, I would say that hotels there are more modern than Eastern Europe hotels.

From Rabat we went to FEZ, on the way we saw many cops standing with cameras, plus permanent speeding cameras, I would say it has more cameras than Israel, so be careful and drive per the rules.

In Fez, when we were driving around the new city, all of a sudden a motorcycle passed us and I guess he saw right away that we are Jews, he gestured toward us, and insisted that he will show us around to all the places, in the beginning I hesitated, since I had all info on my phone and I was sure he is just here to take advantage of a tourist. But I must say it was really good that we encountered him, he knew everything and showed us around to places where normally tourist wouldn't go there. So it was worth everything, especially when he didn't charged officially, we were just so happy at the end that we payed and tipped him nicely.

He knew every detail from the Mellah (Jewish quarter), Medina, jewish cemetery, also we went to a ceramic place, it was quite interesting to see how they do it. There is also a leather fabric in the Medina, which they claim to be from the 11th Century, it gave me the understanding of what the גמרא says about בורסקי. It was a real experience.

At about 5pm we left FEZ to Essaouira an 8 hour drive, we were not sure how to proceed from Fez. We had 2 options or go through the Atlas Mountains which is nice, and stop in some villages which has a Jewish cemetery, for example Ouarzazate, or drive through Rabat/Casablanca/Marrakesh.

We decided since we wonna sleep in a decent hotel, and we also wonna do Agadir & Essaouira, plus spend Wednesday a half day in Marrakesh, it would be impossible for us to do the Atlas Mountains way.

We slept in Essaouira, by the water, we got a very good deal for the hotel half price than pre covid times.
In Essaouira there is the Kever of Reb Chaim Pinto, among other Tzadikim.

There is also a decent size Medina, not like Fez or Marrakesh, but you can see the Synagogue from Reb Chaim Pinto, which they say it's still used.

After that we decided to drop our Agadir plans, and rather visit a Berber village or Market. By the beach in Essaouira we took a camel ride for about half hour, nice experience.

From there we drove to Marrakesh, on the way we made a stop at a Berber market, which we were lucky that it was on that day, it's only once a week, another understanding about the concept of יום השוק. I don't have the exact name, but a local gave us the details how to go. This site is usually not visited by tourists, so I wouldn't advise to go to such a place without a local who you trust and is ready to go with you. We were lucky that we got hooked up with a friend of our new friends from Fez, and I assume now that basically he was a tour guide before covid, and he is without a job now for more than 15 months, so he was ready to come along with us from Fez to Marrakesh, even we told him that we will stop on the way. He said that he is looking for a hitch to Marrakesh, and I guess he was happy to get a free ride plus we treated him with food and hotel for the night, but it was worth every penny. On a side note: He had a good job in the travel industry before, and I really have Rachmunes now on those people who unlike us Americans are not able to work and don't get any major benefits, so it made me look with a different perspective on how the world is really suffering from Covid, and to thank Hashem for blessing us with this country the USA. (Written on July 4, 2021).

There's many checkpoints now in Morocco, because of the 11pm curfew. Our friend had the language with police. We didn't had to pay bribes by any checkpoint, I asked before I left people who go often to Morocco, and all of them were telling me not drive by yourself, because the checkpoints and the bribes, I must say that we had a different experience.

Even after we dropped of the so called tour guide/our friend and we drove in middle of the night from Marrakesh to Casablanca, we passed checkpoints and we never had to pay any bribe, we just say "English please", and "WE GO TO THE AIRPORT" and they let us through.

In Marrakesh we went to the Medina, Jewish Cemetery, Mellah, we davened Mincha in the old Jewish synagogue, which they claim there is a minyan Shachris every day for the last 500 years.

We made a stop at the Kosher restaurant, again no official Hechsher, so just speak to the Mashgiach and decide for yourself what you feel comfortable to eat there. They have a fish menu, plus its listed on the Kehillas website. So I believe the reasons why the restaurants there have no Hechsherim yet, because the local dont use it, or they anyway trust the owner, and there is no official kashrus organization there yet, but I believe it will change especially now that they expect a huge influx from Israeli travelers.

After dinner we went around again in Marrakesh Medina, by ourselves. We felt the vibe again and it reminded me from the Shar Shechem experience at night, its very similar to it.

Than we finished our trip by heading to Casablanca airport. Burech Hashem the car rental joke worked out and we didn't had a problem, but I wouldn't do it again renting from a third party rental.  I would advise you should book with an Online Agency like Expedia, and if they screw you at the airport with a third party rental, at least you have some proof that you booked with Expedia. Just in case.

Now, some helpful tidbits:
Internet service: We got our Sim card at the Orange desk at Casablanca Airport, its right after Immigration, before baggage claim. Service was great all over Morocco wherever we went. I didn't have any experience of spotty service. They don't accept credit cards, but there is a Currency exchange across their kiosk. They are charging more in USD than MAD, so its worth to do first the exchange, the sales people there were honest with me and advised to exchange first.

My overall experience with Morocco is, that they are very honest people, and not looking to cheat you. Unlike other countries where its common to try to rip off Tourists. The driving experience is similar to Isreal, but you definitely will need Waze, unless you understand France or Arabic.

My experience with parking: In Casablanca, there are meters, and I saw them checking for the parking receipt and giving out tickets. However in Fez & Marrakech, there are people who control the street, and they take care of your car while you go to the tourist places, to watch it from the ticket enforcers. Our friend asked us by every stop to tip the guy, and we wont have to worry. I guess this is instead of feeding the meter. When we went back without our friend at night to the Medina and we parked, when we were ready to leave the spot, someone came to us asking for his so called parking fee, we just ignored him, since we didn't noticed him before, when we pulled in to the parking spot. He tried to harass us, but we told him he can call the police on us, and he left us alone. Had we felt that he took care of our car, saving us from a ticket, we would have given him his dollar, but we felt he just tried his luck.

Offline tavster

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2021, 06:23:23 PM »
Really nice TR, thanks for sharing.
Any pictures??  :)

Offline Jo 08701

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2021, 10:06:48 PM »
I mostly did videos or photos with personal effects.
The only non personal pictures is from קברים

Offline Jo 08701

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2021, 10:13:31 PM »
Speaking of the קברים, I noticed an interesting thing,  many מציבות it says that נתגלגלו עצמותיו which means that their bones were discovered years later.
First of all, how did they know that's it's from that specific grave?
Also I found some discrepancies, maybe there is someone on DDF with a better background knowledge of Morocco history to explain it.
For example this Kever, the Hebrew date is probably a mistake.



Offline Jo 08701

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2021, 10:20:13 PM »







Offline ual902

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2021, 01:04:05 AM »
Beautiful report thanks for sharing

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2021, 02:33:15 PM »
Thank you very much.
Moroccans are probably the most decent of the Arab nations if I may generalize.

As you sound frummy, I have a kasheh to ask. 

In the rayshe it says you flew motse.

In the sayfe it says booked less than 24h in advance.

Potential answer: hocheh bemay askinon? You booked motse.

Offline m65

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2021, 05:17:35 PM »
Thank you very much.
Moroccans are probably the most decent of the Arab nations if I may generalize.

As you sound frummy, I have a kasheh to ask. 

In the rayshe it says you flew motse.

In the sayfe it says booked less than 24h in advance.

Potential answer: hocheh bemay askinon? You booked motse.
maybe he is so frummy that he doesnt feel the hours of shabbos passing, so he didnt count it in the 24 hours

Offline Jo 08701

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2021, 01:56:33 PM »
Thank you very much.
Moroccans are probably the most decent of the Arab nations if I may generalize.

As you sound frummy, I have a kasheh to ask. 

In the rayshe it says you flew motse.

In the sayfe it says booked less than 24h in advance.

Potential answer: hocheh bemay askinon? You booked motse.

It says we decided to go Moitzai, it means our whole trip idea was born on Moitzai Shabbos. It was actually booked, early Sunday morning before davening Vasikin, that you can take the other פשטל that we still consider it Moitzai Shabbos. Since i didnt go to bed. :)

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2021, 02:07:34 PM »
It says we decided to go Moitzai, it means our whole trip idea was born on Moitzai Shabbos. It was actually booked, early Sunday morning before davening Vasikin, that you can take the other פשטל that we still consider it Moitzai Shabbos. Since i didnt go to bed. :)
נו נו

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: My First Post Covid International Trip: Morocco
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2021, 08:22:53 AM »
Not sure what I was wanted to type.
But I apologize for interrupting the thread.

Not going to sleep doesn't stop the days from moving on...  ...if before Alos, I might be able to look away, as a one time gesture of goodwill.