Blue Fern Adventures


In February 2023, we decided to do a 3-week self-drive trip around Morocco – inspired by recommendations from our friends Debbie and Nishant who we met at the Luxor Hub in Egypt.

A night in Rabat and the blue city of Chefchaouen

We started by renting a car in Casablanca and driving to Rabat. In Rabat, we enjoyed staying in a riad (traditional Moroccan house with an indoor garden/courtyard), strolling around the market, and trying our first Moroccan meal – a couscous with tfaya (a raisin and onion topping) and a chicken tagine – couscous and tagine aren’t typically served together but we ordered separate dishes in a restaurant). We found Rabat to be relatively relaxing; it is not focused on tourism so we did not encounter any pushy sales or attempted scams.


Next, we drove to Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famous blue city. We did encounter a bit more touting here but it felt very safe. There was some over-the-top Instagramming (for example, during an early-morning walk, we watched an orange juice vendor hang up a fake grape vine in the street, and then festoon it with fake oranges. Sure enough, when we walked back a few hours later Instagrammers were lining up to photograph themselves and his juice in front of it). But, we loved exploring the beautiful quiet backstreets and hiking up above the town. We also enjoyed the relatively warm weather and the lovely roof-top deck of our hotel. Unfortunately, though, we came down with colds while we were in Chefchaouen, which lingered for most of the rest of our trip.

Exploring Fes

Next, we stopped at the interesting Roman ruins of Volubilis, and then drove to Fes, where we stayed in another riad. We found Fes to have more hassle and scams – such as people trying to give us un-wanted directions and telling us that our riad was closed, which of course it wasn’t. Each morning at our riad, we enjoyed an incredible breakfast of coffee, tea, orange juice, olives, dates and figs, oranges sprinkled with cinnamon, bread, butter, honey, and jams, yogurt, and omelets and we explored the markets with a guide the riad arranged. He took us to shops selling beautiful high-quality products and explained that as cheap import products become more prevalent, it is becoming more difficult to sell handmade goods at prices which can pay for the time which is put into producing them.

The quality of some of the items was stunning but it seemed difficult to determine the value because sales were high pressure – a form of attempted mind control (for example, vendors would start to wrap up products before you had agreed to buy them – or quickly substitute a different price from the one you had said, making it hard to resist the social pressure of just going along with things). This was more intense than Egypt except in the most difficult sales environments such as Khan el Khalili.

We also found the medina difficult because there were camel heads hanging from hooks (seemingly alive enough to blink their gorgeous eye-lashes) and live animals like chickens waiting to be slaughtered in the street. While Gary and Amelia took a break relaxing in our riad, Janice visited a traditional Moroccan hammam spa. She loved the heat and the scrub with a kessa glove – we bought one and have taken this practice with us!

Todra River and the Atlas Gorge

Next, we headed for the mountains where we enjoyed views of the Todra River and the Atlas Gorge. During this phase of our trip, we stayed in incredibly charming family run guest houses – but they were unheated or barely heated which didn’t help our colds! Since we were a bit sick, we didn’t go hiking or do any cultural experiences so we felt like we were skimming the surface in Morocco – unlike the deep immersion we were lucky enough to have in Egypt. And our delight in the typical Moroccan food began to fade as we were served what seemed like an endless progression of bread, marmalade, and greasy omelets for breakfast and watery chicken tagine for dinner.

The Sahara

Our next stop was the Sahara desert, starting in Mhamid at Dar Sahara Guest House – which had been recommended by Debbie and Nishant. Chicken tagine was on the menu again – but we were thrilled by how delicious it was; it was a totally different dish from the soggy vegetables and chicken which we had eaten so many times; instead, the chicken and vegetables were roasted with rich oil and spices. We asked the owner and chef Mbarek why his tagine was so much better than the others we had tried and he said that he did not add any water to the tagine pot and never lifted the lid until the tagine was cooked. Many other chefs lift the lid and periodically add water – which results in a dish that is steamed rather than roasted. His recipe has been filmed and is online on his YouTube Channel, Dar Sahara Tour – Culinary (Making Tajin).


We had rain during our first night on the edge of the Sahara, but the next day we were able to set out on our trip. We had two gorgeous camels – one which carried our gear and one which we could take turns riding. The camel stride is extremely long so Amelia spent most of the time on the camel and Gary and I almost had to run to keep up. The desert was cold and windy and we were happy that our guides had suggested bringing scarves which could be wrapped around our heads and faces. That night we camped in an open tent in the desert and enjoyed a tagine cooked on the fire and traditional bread baked under the sand. We woke up with our eyes crusted shut from sand and were extremely grateful for the frequent cups of hot tea our guides made on the fire whenever we stopped.  We also liked sharing snacks with the camels (they were obsessed with oranges). The next day, we stayed in a permanent camp with small buildings instead of canvas tents. Not quite as romantic but we were relieved to sleep in a slightly warmer environment, out of the wind. And in the evening, we climbed a high dune for the sunset.

Then we returned to Dar Sahara for another delicious meal, collected our car, and headed back into the Atlas Mountains which continued to be beautiful but extremely cold – we even crossed through snow! We recommend making this trip at another time of year – or staying in slightly more expensive places with good central heat – though we loved the charm of the family guest houses and the music, games, and riddles which we were taught by our hosts.

(Mostly) relaxing in Casablanca

After Morocco, we were heading to Namibia for three weeks of overlanding, so we knew that we needed to get healthy and catch up on online tasks. We looked at apartments in Casablanca but they were relatively expensive if they had 2 bedrooms, a good kitchen, and a lot of natural light. Because we planned to stay home as much as possible we instead booked a spacious apartment in a nearby beach town – deserted because it was February. We had only one adventure during our stay: on our first morning, we went out on the glassed-in balcony for breakfast in our pajamas – leaving cell phones inside the apartment and shutting the sliding glass door behind us. Unfortunately, the sliding door locked shut! There was no way to climb down from our high balcony so we started shouting at passers-by on the road for help! Once we got someone’s attention, we asked if he spoke English. He said no, so we asked about Spanish (some people in the north of Morocco do speak Spanish). Since we can’t speak Arabic, we asked if he spoke French, and like most people in Morocco he did. Quickly we thought back to our French lessons during lockdown in France – luckily, we’d had one on our parts of the house. We remembered door – porte! We didn’t remember how to say “locked” – but we did remember how to say “closed” (because everything in France is always closed – at lunch times, for holidays, and for reasons we didn’t understand). So, we yelled “notre porte est fermee!” and luckily the man said he would get help. He notified the gate keeper for the community where we were staying and we repeated our plea for help in French! The gate keeper laughed and came back with the gardeners and an extremely long ladder which they set up near an open part of the balcony. They gestured for us to all climb down but to reach the ladder we had to climb over a section of roof with Spanish tiles. We were worried that the tiles wouldn’t hold Gary and that the height was too dangerous for Amelia so Janice climbed down, barefoot and in pajamas. Our front door was locked and deadbolted from the inside so we explained, in broken French and sign language, that we needed to have the ladder set up on the other side of the house – where we had noticed that a door to the other balcony didn’t latch properly. After a climb back up the ladder and scramble over more Spanish tiles she was inside – and Gary and Amelia were released. We relaxed for our last couple of days and then left Morocco for Namibia.

Final thoughts on Morocco (and travel in general)

In talking to other travelers, we have realized that so much about travel is dependent on changeable individual factors such as weather, where we were coming from and going to, and being sick. If we returned, we would travel at a warmer time of year to enjoy the small guest houses in better weather, look for opportunities to immerse deeper in the culture, and visit peaceful towns off the tourist track. 


Will we come back? We’re not sure. But we’re grateful for the incredible experiences we had in Morocco.