Our next destination was Rabat, about 90km north of Casablanca. We rented a car but as soon as I got into the car, I immediately regretted my decision to drive in Morocco. The traffic was devilishly chaotic. It seemed that no one was following traffic rules in this country. Only those with the heart of steel would be able to attempt to drive on the Moroccan roads.
Originally, while planning our itinerary, we were a little bit too ambitious. We wanted an all-out road trip, driving around the country from the very first day to the very last. But as we did our research, we discovered that it might be a tad too challenging organising all the logistics involved, including accommodations in such a foreign country like Morocco. It can definitely be done. But we had to balance what was adventurous and fun for us against the potential tediousness of the planning involved as well as the mental and physical toll driving would impose on us. So we decided to do a half road trip, half guided tour.
For the guided tour, we hired a private guide with transport to take us to the interior locations of Morocco. These places are more rural, closer to the desert and road conditions pretty much unknown to us. To save us the trouble of organising our own accommodation, the local tour guide set up an itinerary for us, complete with food and lodging arrangements. That made the entire planning process much easier. I believe the guided tour was a 5-day package, including a night’s stay in the desert. But the guided tour would not begin until we reached the city of Fez. Until then, we relied on the car that we rented in Casablanca to take us to Rabat, Tangier, Chaoueun, and finally Fez. The guided tour would be then in Marrakech.
The car we rented was a Dacia Duster, a manual SUV. I have never driven a manual civilian car in my entire life. The only times I had driven a manual vehicle was during my national service days as a transport supervisor. But on civilian roads, I had zero experience driving such a car. Coupled with the fact that the Moroccan roads are complete opposite to Singapore, it was a recipe for disaster. It took me a while to get used to the manual driving and the only time I could get used to it was on the chaotic roads itself. I was literally putting my life on the line and learning as I go. I essence, I could not afford any mistakes. I almost knocked down an elderly man on a bicycle while trying to make a right turn at a junction. I think, of all the things I experienced in Morocco, driving was something that I definitely do not want to experience again. On the flip side, I gained a lot of experience driving on such roads, and not many people could safely say that we survived such an ordeal and came back unscathed.
Fortunately, throughout the trip, nothing unfortunate happened. We did not get into any accidents at all. My driving was quite rough sometimes, but I improved over the time. Still, it was extremely stressful whenever I had to drive to our next destination, especially when we arrive in the city, where traffic density increases dramatically. But out on the countryside and on major highways, the drive was surprisingly relaxing and fun.
The drive to Rabat was about an hour, but we stopped at a number of places along the way. Mohammedia was one such town. Situated on the outskirts of Casablanca, we had to go through some traffic jam before finally exiting the city. By the time we arrived at Mohammedia, it was already lunch time. So we used this opportunity to explore this large town and have lunch there as well. It’s a coastal town, so naturally we walked along the coast. We soon realised that it this town is a fast growing town as it contains an important oil refinery facility nearby. The beach wasn’t fantastic to marvel at but the buildings located along the coasts were filled with restaurants and cafes which made for a nice little walk.
We had coffee and mint tea, as usual (which was rapidly becoming a habit and lifestyle that we could quickly get used to) and just enjoyed the beachfront view. We encountered pony rides just for kids on the beach and a pony started coming toward us without anyone to guide or corral back to the beach. It was a cute pony.
Once we had lunch, we explored the town center, in which we discovered a beautiful garden square meticulously maintained and free or litter. I truly enjoyed the walk and was fascinated that for such a small and unimposing town, the community still managed to keep it clean and immaculate.
Once we had lunch, we continued our drive and to our next accommodation. We were looking forward to this because we booked our accommodation in a traditional riad.