Now, I am a confident and experienced driver of cars, lorries, vans and motorcycles. Over the years I have driven in most European cities in a variety of vehicles without any real issues or problems. I have driven many sports cars, go karts and even raced on tracks like Brands Hatch and Mallory Park, but nothing I have done has ever prepared me for the experience of driving in Marrakech!
I do a lot of driving in Morocco and after 10 minutes of getting behind a wheel from the airport, I soon relax into the driving technique employed in Morocco. On this trip, I did notice several things which I have not really seen before such as the number of police manning the roads, which seemed to have doubled, and also the amount of speed traps.
Also, everybody seems a bit more on edge, much more horn blowing and erratic manoeuvres seemed to be the normal. Agadir is generally pretty chilled, and for those who have not driven in Morocco before, Agadir is probably a great place to start. OK so it is a bit mental, but no worse that London except a lot more horn use. In England there is no way you could possibly get away with blowing the horn so much – you would probably end up as a road rage victim, but in Morocco, it is used extensively and just becomes a normal driving activity.
New Toll Road To Marrakesh
On this visit, we wanted to drive to Marrakech using the new toll road. Our previous trips to Marrakech have been via the old road, which normally takes up to 6 hours, but by using the new toll road, this is reduced to about 3 hours.
Driving from Agadir, the signposts are pretty clear to follow and taking the N7 towards the airport you will soon pick up the signs. As you approach the toll road, be very careful as the police are always set up ready to catch you.
This time, I got caught. Apparently, I was doing 70 in a 60. Now I genuinely do not speed over in Morocco, so I was a bit surprised by this, believing I was on an 80 stretch, but sometimes it is best not to argue. The only 60 sign is one placed before a roundabout, which goes from 80 to 60 to 40 in about 200 meters so I guess I was decelerating slower than required!
Anyway, we were pulled over and the policeman asked the normal questions, name, profession (never sure why this is important), from to where etc, papers and licence..blah blah … Then I was offered the choice of a ticket for 500 dirham, or as I was a tourist, they would let me go for 200 dirham without a ticket! I have never seen a note vanish so quickly into a pocket ever….I guess this happens all over.
We were soon well on the way to Marrakech. The new toll road was completely clear of traffic and was a real pleasure to drive on, passing through some fantastic scenery and snow capped mountains….but as with all motorways is extremely boring.
After about 3 hours, the turning came for Marrakech. We took the first turning of the two and it took us through several suburbs for about 20km until we hit Marrakech.
Then the madness started.
Traffic seemed to just come from everywhere and at all speeds. The lack of signposts just added to the confusion and the total disregard for any courteously was overwhelming. We were attempting to find a small car park which allows 24 hr secure parking near the Djeema el Fna, but anybody who has visited this area knows what it is like for people and traffic – it is just manic.
With all this going on, I managed to jump a red light – along with about 10 other cars. I was the one pulled over! More of the normal questions….by now I was getting used to the routine…but this cop was cool, he just gave me a telling off and then gave directions to our destination. Meanwhile as we sat there at least a dozen or more jumped the same set of lights!
Finally, we got parked up then needed a taxi to find our Riad. This is when I was glad not to be driving anymore. Going into the centre of Marrakech to the quarter El Bacha was just insane. Literally we must have had 10 near misses in the first 1/4 mile. We did see a few clashes, mostly people being knocked off bikes, but little or no regard was made for this. Unfortunately, we did not get any actual photos of this as all eyes were firmly employed at looking for danger!
As it turns out, our Riad booking got messed up and we had to drive out of Marrakech with a guide who took us to a farm instead, but this posed a problem as we wanted to be in the city, so had little option but to drive in later.
To enjoy the atmosphere of Djeema El Fna to its fullest, you need to go in the nighttime. During the day, it’s very busy with snake charmers, jugglers etc, but at night it transforms into a massive restaurant full of food stalls offering everything exotic you could think of. The smells and the noise is like nothing else. There are literally thousands of people converging on one place.
As you can imagine, getting a place to park in all this madness is unbelievable. Our young guide did not drive so had no idea where to park, leaving that basically up to me. I can honestly say, driving after dark was a different dimension of crazy. Cars and bikes now whizzed about you without lights on, so you had no chance.
All driving rules just went out of the window and it became survival of the fittest (or fastest as it seemed). Basically, you had to just go….any gap or opportunity you just went for it. Having raced in the past, the same rules applied, if you had the line, it was up to others to move around you. Once I sussed this concept, driving became a bit like a race so taking hard lines and not yielding seemed to put me on a level footing with other drivers, cyclists just got ignored as did the ubiquitous moped maniacs.
We eventually found parking right next to the Koutoubia Mosque right by the square which was perfect. After a few hours and a nice meal, we had to do it all again to get out and back to the farm where we were staying.
The farm was very basic, but very pleasant. It was a far cry from the madness of the city and actually being here was probably more our style, a sort of best of both worlds with the city being only 4km down he road.
One funny thing was that we had to drive on part of the Moroccan grand prix circuit to get to and from the farm – how ironic!
Next day, the trip home was pretty uneventful despite the lack of signposts and getting terribly lost trying to get out of Marrakesh, but at last we came back to the toll road heading for the relative sanity of Agadir. Incidentally, the toll for the 300km trip was 60 dirhams, about £4.50 – a real bargain to save 3 hours driving!
I am not sure why there is such a difference in driving between 2 similar sized cities, but Marrakesh is not a place for the faint hearted to drive in – its an adrenaline junky heaven especially in the evening. I have never experienced a place like it. Next time we fly in I think!
Why not combine a trip to Marrakesh with a beach front holiday in Agadir – the best of both worlds. Contact Holidays Morocco now to check price and availability of our beach front villa in Agadir.