I finally arrived in Morocco in 2017 and it was time to be a backpacker in one of the most backpacked countries in Africa. It was also my fifth visit to Africa and my tenth African country (or twelfth if I count transits at the airports in Kenya and Mauritania, but I don’t). My previous four Africa trips had seen me swallow at least a brace (two) of countries per visit and this was to be no exception and something to make up for my March – April 2015 trip which was meant to be a FOUR country North West Africa tour until the nasty Algerians intervened (I was supposed to visit Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara/ Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).
On that trip however I had to cancel the final two countries (Morocco and Western Sahara) due to the Algerian corruption. The fact that I spent £1,500 for the “privilege” of 17 hours on a transit visa in horrible Algiers goes down as probably my all-time worst travel moment. I never want to step foot in Algeria again, nor meet any of them.
This trip also marked my return to West Africa having been on a crazy “non-backpacking” challenge in 2016 where I had to be a tourist for 10 days in Senegal and The Gambia but without a backpack! I was on a “no luggage challenge” with Money Supermarket.com.
So in essence this 2017 trip was actually my first time “backpacking in Africa” for two and a half years. This trip in 2017 also meant that I have visited Africa in some way three years consecutively for the first time (2015, 2016, 2017). If I want to visit as many of the world’s 627 countries as possible, I’ll need at least one Africa trip per year as the continent is huge and continues to be the hardest one for visa reasons, for flight connections and for problems and dangers on the road. I say all this from my own personal experience only. There are 57 – 60 countries in Africa depending on how you look at it (places like North Sudan, Puntland, Western Sahara etc. remain disputed).
It wasn’t going to be a return to hardcore backpacking in any way though. Those days are gone. That ship had sailed since the nasty liars of July 2016 and the start of my new project Połnocny Irlandczyk w Polsce (Northern Irishman in Poland). But I did decide to tour Marrakesh and Casablanca in Morocco and pass through the coastal resort of Agadir on a double country mission where I also got a border bus by land into El Ayoun in Western Sahara.
So I had two days to explore Marrakesh as a bonus. If you do want to visit Marrakesh, please take my advice and stay at the Kaktus Hostel and say Hi to Hossain and Abdul from me. It was a great cosy place in a quirky courtyard. Here are 8 perfect reasons why you should also choose the Kaktus Hostel when touring Marrakesh.
1.Perfect Location near Place Jemma El-Fna
Marrakesh is a fairly easy city to navigate and backpack through however most tourists will want to be near or around the main square, the famous Place Jemma El-Fna.
The Kaktus Hostel is just a two-minute walk from this square. I was shocked that such a cool, cheap and cosy hostel could be so close to the hub – the thriving markets, medinas and stalls of Marrakesh. I did a Night Food Tour here with Marrakesh Food Tours, highly recommended.
I was in a 10 bed dorm room on the ground floor (Room 12 I think). It was cosy, clean and welcoming. It can get cold here at sundown in winter, and for once on my travels I found myself going to bed around 10 – 10.30 pm. Which means it’s a great place to get a decent night’s sleep here in the Kaktus Hostel. You can also meet new people and gain new friends, as I did again including Emma from Dublin.
Kaktus Hostel includes free breakfast as a standard and this came as a surprise as I hadn’t always had free breakfast in Africa or the Middle East. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was good orange juice, a boiled egg with two types of bread (I preferred the local bread), a chocolate cake and a cup of either coffee or tea. Both coffee and tea are good in Morocco, I opted for coffee here.
Head to the top floor of the Kaktus Hostel for a view of the city. Although it is a small hostel on a tiny street in downtown Marrakesh, it has three floors and from the top floor there is a viewpoint towards the main square Place Jemma El-Fna. This is also a cool place to relax and chat to fellow backpackers. The breakfast is served on this top floor, normally from 8.30 am to 10.30 am.
I was greeted by Hossain to the hostel. All staff are very welcoming and say “hello” and “how are you?” each time you return to the hostel and in the morning. This might seem like an obvious gesture but believe me it is not. The amount of hostels I have backpacked through down the years where not even a smile was in sight. In the evening I also chatted to Abdul and told him of my travel plans to head south by bus to El Ayoun and into Western Sahara, a disputed region with no official status. Owned by Morocco, claimed by the Saharawi Arab Republic.
Morocco (and Africa in general for that matter) is never a great country (continent) to be online and use WiFi from, however here it worked even from my bed. So from there I could blog, answer emails, write and get on Social Media. While it’s never super fast anywhere in Africa, this was surprisingly good!
I had no idea that Morocco and especially a tourist hotspot like Marrakesh could be so cheap. It was also a huge surprise. My dorm bed was around $7 US per night (about £5) which is absolutely crazy when you think it includes breakfast and WiFi and is two minutes walk from Place Jemma El-Fna. Even some of those dingy hostels I used in Laos, China and Myanmar were now beginning to look like a rip-off.
Anyone who has been to a North Africa country (or Middle East country) will be aware of the Medinas / Kasbahs / Markets / Souqs etc. These are basically markets and poky streets away from traffic and the main drag. Kaktus Hostel is situated in one of them, and is therefore in a traditional Moroccan building. This makes for an artistic interior. There is a balcony on each level looking down onto the main courtyard. This is decorated in Kaktus colours – green and white. Furniture matches the design which provides a peaceful and relaxed setting for tourists.
Overall, Morocco was just a short side trip as my real niche and dream was to backpack to Western Sahara which was more up my street. However, Marrakesh is a brilliant city and you should try and visit it while backpacking in Morocco.
Here are the details for booking the Kaktus Hostel in Marrakesh, Morocco:
Kennaria Derb Zaari number 21,
Morocco / Maroc.
+21 2601606538 / +21 2611209929
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Kaktus Hostel on Facebook
Here is a video of my stay in the Kaktus Hostel in Marrakesh, Morocco: