In Praise of the Moroccan Small Towns

Lest we have given you the impression that all of Morocco is a gleaming paradise, we will dissuade you of it here and now. The big cities are like any big cities anywhere in the world – loud, dirty, and astounding. We’ve shared our astounding pictures in previous posts, but if I may take a moment to elaborate on the loud and dirty parts I think it will help round out the picture.

It’s loud and dirty, you guys. It’s difficult to enjoy anything happening outside because of the filthy streets and the yelling merchants and the honking horns. It’s overstimulation nation every time you step outside your hotel.

One must get away from it every now and again.

We took our rest in many of the small villages and towns that the country has to offer. Upsides: The food is better, the streets are cleaner, it’s quieter, and you can’t taste the air. Downside: There is almost nothing at all to do but sit in a cafe drinking tea and engaging in staring contests with the resident stray cats. I’m exaggerating only a little.

I’m pretty sure the unofficial national animal of Morocco is the stray cat. Apparently the Prophet Mohammed said that if a dog enters the house the angels leave, but he said nothing about cats. It’s rare to see a dog. The cats, they are everywhere. This kitten was my breakfast companion every morning in Chefchaouen. Photo by Tricia.

These are the joys and boredoms of the small towns in Morocco. If you’re looking for some time to veg, these are worthy respites. A few of our favorites:

Sidi Ifni
A sweet little beach town that was once a Spanish protectorate and still keeps to the Spanish street names. We spent a bit more time here than we had planned since I lost the key to our rental car on the beach and we had to wait for a new one to be delivered to us. (Many thanks to Avis for being super chill about it all).

It was rainy and overcast the whole time we were here, so the pictures are pilfered.

The view from our hotel (Suerte Loca). If you’re a surfer, this is a great stop. There’s also a massive RV park right on the beach. Photo via.
A hike along the beach brought us to the beautiful stone arches that Sidi Ifni is known for. Ask a local for advice about the hike – it’s not a marked trail. Photo via.

We ate some of our best meals here, and all of them from street vendors. One guy just had a big pot of harira soup cooking, another guy was making rotisserie chicken. If you go into the main market you can buy a fish and then take it to one of the local eateries and they’ll cook it for you.

It’s in the heartland of Berber territory and just so peaceful. We wandered around in the oases and drove through some of the most gorgeous territory we’ve ever seen.

An oasis just outside of Tafraoute. Photo by Tricia.

The ultimate “blue town” in Morocco. Inside the city walls all the buildings are painted various shades of blue. It’s quite captivating, and a solid decision on the part of the residents. The picturesque nature of the place draws tourist like flies. It also happens to be where they grow all the pot (they call it kif here). Ryan counted: He was offered kif thirteen times in three days.

Probably the most photographed alley in Morocco. Photo by Tricia.

Moulay Bousselam
This town will be PACKED in the high summer with Moroccan tourists, but when we were there it was a ghost town. Lots of sealed up vacation homes and empty shops. But what this place does have is birds. We hired a fisherman – Hassan – to take us out on his boat to show us some of the birds that were migrating through. He’s quite the expert and can spot different species from far off. He also speaks very good English, French, and German. We stayed at Villanora, an English Bed & Breakfast. The manager, Mohammed, will help connect you to Hassan. He and his wife also cook up a mean barbecued fish and steamed artichoke dinner. It’s worth the extra money you’ll spend for the home cooked meal.

A flock of flamingos hunting for food in the shallow waters. Photo by Ryan.

I will say that the small towns don’t completely eliminate the noise and the dirt, but they are far less than the big cities. On several occasions we found a comfortable hotel room and just locked ourselves away for a day. Traveling non-stop like this requires some cocooning time every so often.

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