Motoring in Morocco

I took my sixth trip to Morocco in October ’05 and chose to rent a car for the first time, after reading in a recent issue that another subscriber enjoyed driving there. (I usually use the trains and have found them almost comparable to those in Europe.)

The car was delivered with no fuss at Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport (CMN) after my flight from Milan’s Malpensa. I stayed with friends whose apartment in a highrise overlooks the corniche and has a beautiful view of the Grand Mosque, especially attractive illuminated.

Over six days, we enjoyed almost 2,000 kilometers of motoring to Fes and Taza and on to Al Hoceima on the Mediterranean and then Nador, making a circular round trip through the mountains and back to Casablanca.

The driving itself was no problem. However, readers who decide to try this should beware: police make frequent spot-check stops (six times in one day, for us), and I was ticketed twice for “speeding,” though other vehicles were passing me like the wind! (My Moroccan friend told me that the police can spot rental cars “miles” away.)

Each time, I was fined 500 dirhams, about $50. My friend talked them down to 100 dirhams on both occasions. The first time, the officer wrote a citation; the second time, a different officer stuck the dirhams in his pocket!

In spite of this, and the fact that Ramadan was in progress, meaning fasting until dusk, I had my usual wonderful time, with amazing bargains and food (once the fast ended) and encounters with engaging people.

I returned the vehicle to the airport on the day of my departure (Alitalia round trip) and, again with no fuss, everything was completed and I was on my way back to Italy.

I reserved the car with Alamo Rent-A-Car, going through, at which I also booked one of my flights. The vehicle, very comfortable, was a 4-door Renault, and the total cost was $265. At their request, I returned the car with an empty gas tank!

By the way, most of Morocco’s superhighways charge a toll. Make sure you have a few extra dirhams for those, usually 10, 20 or 30 dirhams per exit or entry.

Motoring in Morocco is highly recommended.

Forestville, CA