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Biking Morocco

Exchange rate: Rand 1 (R1) = Dirham 0.57 (DH0.57)

3 March 2023, Casablanca
Mehdi’s House R389.36 [DH200 room, DH20 bikes]

It was a long and expensive trip twixt Johannesburg, South Africa, and Casablanca, Morocco.
Our friend, Jan Terblanche, drove us and our bikes to OR Tambo International Airport and dropped us there four hours prior to departure. He had places to be and we wanted to plastic wrap our panniers and check our bikes in early.
We had chosen to fly Qatar to Casablanca, via Doha, because the flight price at face value was the cheapest. By the time we had paid the additional fees associated with pre-booking our preferred seats, we were hovering around the same price as other airlines, but we persevered, believing that provided we were underweight, our bikes would fly free. Turns out we had mis-read the weight and dimension options, which cost us over R4,000. Perhaps we should have flown Air France after all, a considerably shorter flight via Paris!
We were thrilled to have three seats to ourselves on the Doha leg, and marvelled at the super-quick processing between arrival and re-boarding the considerably more crowded Royal Air Maroc leg.
Our Casablanca host had proposed we take the train from the airport to central Casablanca, then Google-walk ourselves to his youth hostel. We had come prepared to unpack and assemble our bikes at the airport so that they could be wheeled onto the train. This process took around two hours, but at the station doors we were told “it is forbidden”. Luckily we managed to squeeze the bikes, bags and ourselves into a taxi, but at ten times the price of a single train ticket, we left the airport somewhat disgruntled!
Our taxi driver dropped us outside one of the several gates that lead through the old city walls into the medina and there it became immediately obvious why being proficient in Google maps is essential. The narrow streets and narrower alleyways follow no rational plan, and getting lost is inevitable. A local tradesman took pity on us and walked us to Mehdi House, for a small fee negotiated down from his initially much higher proposal.
Mehdi carried our bikes up a very narrow flight of stairs and installed them in his living room, then directed us up another flight to our room off the communal kitchen / lounge.
We showered in the shared bathroom, Charl getting hot water, me getting cool, then napped before venturing out again in search of a bank. (Though we had exchanged money at the airport, we had spent it all on our taxi!) Being tired makes you stupid. We found a bank, after walking in increasingly irritable circles, outside the medina walls, but once back inside the walls, we could not make head or tails of Google Maps and could not find our admittedly discreet and well-hidden hostel entrance. We must have walked past our alley many, many times, so when we finally recognised our doorway, we ate an omelette for dinner, accompanied by fresh pineapple juice, close to home, too afraid to venture any further…
The last time we were at Casablanca airport, we were being repatriated by CemAir following two months in lockdown in Agadir. We cycled the 2km from our Casa Airbnb to the airport, joining 32 other South Africans, including two drug mules recently released from prison, eager to get home...
Departing Casablanca May 2020
Departing Casablanca May 2020
Departing Casablanca May 2020
Departing Casablanca May 2020
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