Morocco is a vast & complex country, and yet it is highly unlikely that you will ever find yourself unable to negotiate travelling between one city and another.
Despite expansive areas of empty desert plains, scarcely populated farming districts and technology-free mountainous ridges; from every main city there are an abundance of transport options which can be arranged in advance of a trip.
Perhaps due to the historical significance of nomadic peoples in Morocco, a religious understanding about the importance of motion and movement, or simply just in pursuit of opportunity; many present-day Moroccan’s have a great appreciation of travel. For a great number of young Moroccan’s, the ability to commute is essential to work opportunities and study. If you ask some of the shop-keepers and traders in Marrakech where their family live, you will likely discover that they are from mountainous or desert regions with small communities; and that they find no issue in travelling for 6 or 7 hours between their home town and the city in which they work or study.
Between 1912 and 1946, Morocco was under French Protectorate (established by the treaty of Fes); a subject which is still a cause of controversy within Morocco, with people maintaining various opposing opinions on this agreement.
Aside from the complexities of the politics around the French Protectorate, during this time there were several technological advances which were made available in Morocco at this time. One of which was the addition of locomotive transport to Morocco, which was introduced in the 1920’s.
In 1923, the first railway station was constructed in Marrakech. The old station was located along Hassan II Avenue and served as the final stop of the rail system, and despite a rebuild of the railway station in 2008, it is to this day it is the southern end-point of the Moroccan railway system.
The new station built in 2008, is located 100m closer than the old station to the French Quartier, or the New Town (Gueliz). The updated station is a large, glass fronted building with some art-deco design features. It houses a variety of boutiques and fast-food joints, as well as a restaurant on the second floor with a terrace and views over the Theatre Royal. If you take one of the many trains that run between Marrakech and Casablanca, then you will be able to see the old station en route.
From Marrakech, there are 16 trains on a daily basis which provide a direct route to Fes via Casablanca Voyageurs Station and another two direct connections to Tangier. The journey between these cities takes 4-5 hours, and since the massive improvement of the main motorways in Morocco, the train is no longer the fastest way to travel between the major cities. However, it is still the most scenic and relaxed way to travel – with many of the trains having old-fashioned, private cabins and large windows which look out onto typical, changeable landscapes. In fact, if you’re a smoker then the train will be far more favourable than the bus, as many of the trains offer a separate smoking area.
Tickets are usually purchased just in advance of your journey, from ticket machines or desks inside the station itself. You can use the ONCF website to get an idea about times and tariffs, but it seems more reliable to drop in at the station prior to your journey.
You can find the exact route to the station from your hotel, using the free Marrakech Riad Travel Guide App. Happy travels!