Welcome to Morocco! Only 9 miles from the European coastline, leaving plane or ferry you are instantly in a culture and atmosphere a world apart. Morocco is one of the most popular North African destinations and for good reason. Warm temperatures, lush scenery, exotic culture and delicious cuisine all await the adventurous sojourner.
There are a lot of activities depending on the traveler. For some the ideal holiday is all about relaxation. In that case, take a leisure trip, like spending three days to explore the city of Marrakech with plenty of time to hang out by the pool. Otherwise, there are activities like day excursions with adapted 4×4 vehicle tours and cooking courses. No matter your agenda, you will enjoy delicious cuisine.
Morocco standards for accessibility are certainly in need for improvement. Traveling in wheelchair around this area has its challenges. The infrastructure is old so cobblestones and potholes are common throughout the cities’ walkways. In general, it’s much easier to travel this area in a manual wheelchair. If you need to rent a wheelchair then consider Handi-consulting. This company is based in Marrakech, so if you need to rent one then start your journey in this city.
Another challenge that traveling to Morocco proposes for wheelchair travelers are accessible bathrooms. There are a few public restrooms in Marrakech that are accessible, fewer in Fes. For long trips between Marrakech and Fes there are a few rest-stops that are equipped with accessible toilets. Hotels that have accessible rooms have accessible public bathrooms. The guides at Morocco Accessible Travel know where all the accessible restrooms are.
Food, Beverages and Culture
Many tourists and Moroccans enjoy walking along the Corniche in Casablanca, a long sidewalk that is raised and overlooks the ocean. Restaurants are often set up on one side and serve fresh fish. The road that runs parallel with the Corniche in Casablanca is a wonderful drive too and great way to see the area, depending on the time of arrival/departure from Casablanca.
One of the most popular dishes you will find in Morocco is couscous. Couscous is a delicious dish traditionally served on Fridays but available from restaurants and at most riads and hotels any day of the week. Tagines are the staple dish in Morocco and gaining in popularity all over the world. Dishes are slow cooked for hours. Specific blends of spices go with different kinds of meats and vegetables. For example Lemons and chicken will be garnished with onions, local olives and spices like ginger, garlic, saffron, and parsley. Beef and Prune tagine will have tomatoes, ginger, paprika and cinnamon. The blend of sweet and savoring spices, tender meat and vegetables is an essential part of all tagines. These meals are served piping hot in individual clay dishes and eaten with homemade flat bread. Yum!
Mint tea is the drink of choice all over Morocco. Fresh mint leaves are available all year long and stewed with black tea and plenty of sugar. Tea is served around 4pm all over the country or as a welcome drink. Another popular drink in Marrakech is freshly squeezed orange juice available every day in the main square Djemaa al Fna. In the evening a hot drink is served from stalls at the Djemaa al Fna spiced heavily with ginger, sure to warm you up on a cool night. Morocco is a Muslim country but alcohol is served widely throughout the country. However, alcohol is readily available in most hotels and in fancier restaurants. Local wine is becoming more popular as vineyards in the north eastern region of Morocco around Meknes develop. Most restaurants and hotels will have a selection of Moroccan wines.
Another popular product unique to Morocco is Argan Oil. The nutritious oil is very versatile. It is available as a salad oil, cooking oil, facial oil/cream and used as a hair treatment. It is only harvested in Morocco from Argan trees native to the southern part of the country.
The City of Fes
Fes is a place to experience. Fes is one of Morocco’s imperial cities as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medina or old city of Fes is the heart of the city and considered the largest car free urban area in the world. Stroll past donkeys and carts, children coming to and from school and ladies carrying long wooden baking sheets to local bakers whose furnaces feed the hammams or public bath houses. Also in the medina you will see public fountains, historic mosques, butchers, markets and the myriads of small shops selling souvenirs.
The steep inclines of the Fes medina as well as the uneven cobble stones and the occasional narrow street make difficult for people in wheelchairs or those with limited mobility but it’s not impossible. There are many Moroccans with disabilities living within the medina and they travel with the help of assistants to push them and navigate the medina. These assistants are available for a reasonable fee and are also knowledgeable guides who can take visitors on accessible routes to the most famous sites in the medina.
The Red City: Marrakech
Marrakech is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Morocco. Marrakech means ‘The Land of Gods’ the name was given by Berber tribes who came in turns to take over the fertile valley in the shadow of the snow peaked Atlas Mountains. It is full of cultural and historical sites. The red walled city was built up over the last thousand years and within its walled city palaces, treasure filled market streets and its famous grand Djemaa el Fna square still bring pleasure to tourists and locals alike. The Djemaa el Fna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marrakech is also close to the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains if you are interested in doing a day excursions.
There is an airport in Marrakech and while no flights fly directly from the United States to Marrakech there are several European flight options from England, France and Spain. Most fly into Casablanca the largest Moroccan airport. There are several options for flights to and from Fes. Some of the European discount airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet fly directly into and out of Fes. The cheapest flights are often from Spain. Other direct flights come from Bergamo and Pisa, Marseille and Paris, Brussels, Belgium, Gerona, Seville, and Madrid, London, England, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. International flights from all continents fly into Casablanca and a flight from Casablanca to Fes is available, though expensive.
Marrakech is about 137 miles south of Casablanca and takes about two and half to three hours by car. Trains in Marrakech are not wheelchair accessible. Vehicles are the most common way for people to travel. So hiring someone to drive you is necessary. The adaptive taxis are usually medium-large-sized vans with big windows to view the passing countryside. The ramp into the vehicle is steep. Unfortunately, there are few wheelchair accessible vehicles in Morocco so most people are assisted into the vehicle and their wheelchair stored in the back. This is an important reason why it is recommended at this time for travelers to use a manual wheelchair when visiting this area. There are only two vehicles in the south of Morocco that are allowed to transport tourists in wheelchairs. These vehicles would not come up to western standards, meaning the vehicle is not lowered, the ramp is steep and requires assistance.
Where to Stay
- The HandiOasis is a beautiful retreat 15-minutes from the city center. An accessible pool with a lift is available, a terrace accessible via ramp with a beautiful view of the countryside and friendly staff. If you are specific with your needs HandiOasis is able to accommodate just about anyone. They even are able to assist clients who need dialysis. The owners are friendly and experts in accessible travel. They are fully equipped and have an adapted vehicle.
- The Four Seasons is a beautiful new hotel in Marrakech. It is fully accessible. They have one suite and two rooms that built especially for people in wheelchairs. The grounds of the Four Seasons are gorgeous and include an activity center for children and young adults, a Moroccan cultural center, a luxury spa and a several restaurants. It is a great place to retreat and enjoy Marrakech with the whole family.
- In general, Gueliz is part of town where you can find many modern hotels to choose from for a range of budgets.
- For those who are on a budget, look into staying at a raid. Riads are popular places to stay in Marrakech. A riad is a traditional Moroccan home with a center garden. There are hundreds to choose from in Marrakech but only a few Riads within the old city that are equipped with elevators. This means that even if they have ground floors accessible rooms, wheelchair users will not be able to access the roof top terraces. A few raids have roll-in showers and accessible toilets.
- Furthermore for the traveler looking for a deal, try the Hotel Novotel, it is fully accessible but affordable and not far from the main square.
- For places to stay in the city of Fes, check out: Accommodations Fes.
More and more people with disabilities are heading to Morocco, and more of us are looking for the fun and experiences. We, like so many of attraction places, want to get off the tourist track and experience the real of land of the beauty and history. Yes, that includes those of us who use wheelchairs. I’ve been traveling around morocco since I was kid — and here are some of my best tips.
I use crutches and I wear a brace. I take a backpack, since I usually travel alone, if I can’t carry it myself, I don’t take it.