Sadly, our second night of sleep in Morocco wasn’t as magical as the first. Ignoring the fatigue we dragged ourselves out of bed for our first full day in the city. There’s really no better way to get around a city than by bike so that’s how we started our day. Filled with a delicious breakfast made by Saida, we set out to to find Mohamed L. (there are three in the company so the initial is important, he said) at Argon Sports bike tours.
Bikes are the new buses
While we still love a good hop-on-hop-off bus ride, bike tours have taken their place as our first stop when looking for ways to explore a new city. First, it’s way more fun to ride a bike than sit on a bus. Second, we get to interact with a live guide on a private or small tour, both during the stops and as we ride along. Third, making your way through traffic on a bike is a great way to get a feel for a city.
By far the number one takeaway from the tour was that Moroccans do not see a lot of kid bike trailers. Almost every single person we passed during our 3 hour tour did some combination of smiling, laughing, pointing, waving and/or nudging the person beside them. For me it was like being the driver for a celebrity. Fitting, as Richard Branson has been on tours with this same company.
Despite the heat, the tour was a good one. Our guide, Mohamed L., was knowledgeable and easy to speak with. He was also really good about accommodating the fact that we had Ella along with us.
The tour included a stop at a spice shop where we picked up some mint tea and Ras El Hanout. The latter, if you haven’t heard of it, is a Moroccan spice blend that literally translates to “head of the shop” which, conveniently, is where you’ll find it.
From there we took in a few of the main attractions and palaces. The highlight for Ella was stopping at one of the fruit juice stands in Jemaa el-Fna square for some freshly squeezed orange juice.
After the tour Mohamed L. was kind enough to arrange lunch for us at a restaurant down the street from the bike shop. Though they were just opening up he was able to get lunch ordered for us including, which we didn’t realize at the time, getting pizza from another restaurant delivered for Ella and having the restaurant at which we were eating pay for it so we only had one bill. The food was great and by far the cheapest meal we’ve had on the trip so far – the equivalent of $6 CAD for all three of us.
The tortoise and kitten exhibit
After the bike tour we headed over to see the Saadiens Tombs. It was an interesting site and the main room featured amazingly ornate decoration. For her part, Ella was far more interested in the kittens and tortoises that live on the grounds.
The many sides of Jemaa el-Fna
After spending the late afternoon cooling down in our cool-pool, we headed out to get some dinner. The route to the restaurant took us back through Jemaa el-Fna where we had enjoyed the juice earlier in the day. However, with the sun nearing the horizon, the square was starting to come to life. The juice sellers were joined by monkey handlers, snake charmers and fortune tellers all looking to put on a show, for a price of course.
Actually getting a picture with a monkey or snake is one thing but even looking too much trying to take a sly video is enough to make your wallet a target. Watch the man in blue realize Katy is pointing her phone in his direction… he’s not about to tip his hat as a greeting.
A few hours later the same square was teeming with people. Ella loved it, but it was time to get back to the riad for some much needed rest before we head into High Atlas Mountains for a hike tomorrow.
P.s. One thing I forgot to mention about Morocco is that cellular data is amazingly cheap. I looked into Rogers Roam like home but they don’t offer it in Morocco. I thought this might be a pain, but it’s saved me a fortune. Rather than spend $12/day to use up my regular data allotment, I picked up a local SIM and spent 50 dirham for 5GB of data. That’s 5GB for just under $7 CAD, probably 10% of what it would cost in Canada.
Ella is really embracing the culture! 😀