Table of Contents
- How did we make the decision to travel to Morocco?
- Arriving in Marrakech
- Exploring Marrakech For a Month
- The text message that changed everything
- Running out of options to get back home after the coronavirus outbreak
- How we struggled to get back home safe
- An Odyssey to cross the border to Spain
- A bitter end of the adventure
- What to do if you are in a foreign country and you are struggling to travel?
- Did you Like the Article? PIN IT!
13 hours of train, 4 flights canceled, hours of waiting in the border to cross and a lot of uncertainty. This is the story of how the coronavirus outbreak affected us while in Morocco.
A story of how everything changed after I received a text message due to the coronavirus outbreak. How we got trapped in a country and the struggle we had to get through to get back home.
Sometimes, things don’t go as expected, and, in this case, our trip became a nightmare in one second, after receiving a text with really bad news.
If you want to find out what happened, keep reading.
It was the end of February and we were both having one of these exhausting weeks in Madrid. We were working long hours, the weather was horrible and we were feeling a bit down… so we decided to look for a housesitting!
We looked through lots of options, in Rome, England, Portugal… until we found the one we both wanted. Cat sitting in Marrakech for a month. What an opportunity! Staying in Marrakech for a whole month, being able to slowly explore the city.
After fantasying for a while we decided to apply for that housesitting and after the interview, we got chosen as petsitters in Marrakech!
We didn’t have much time to prepare ourselves as we were leaving in two weeks, I was a bit anxious as I normally like to get my head around with more time in advance but the opportunity was there and I didn’t want to miss it.
So we book the flights, did a little bit of research, packed our bags and off we went…!
When we arrived I had a mixture of feelings. Getting the taxi at the airport was an overwhelming task as they wanted to charge us 8 times the price for a taxi. We knew in advanced that it was going to happen so we had to negotiate with them,(you obviously learn the perks after, so you need to be patient when you first arrive) But then, after leaving our bags at home to go out for lunch, we discovered the Moroccan hospitality and cuisine and we fell deeply in love.
During the days we stayed in Marrakech we used to spend some time working at home and going out to explore the city and eat, which I truly enjoyed.
Marrakech has so many wonderful places to visit all over the city. From beautiful palaces to gardens, ancient riads, local museums… Wherever we went in Marrakech, it all had its own magical sparkle.
The first time we visited the Koutoubia Mosque I was impressed by its magnificence. The tallest mosque in Marrakech was rising in the medina quarter watching people passing by every day.
Close to the Koutoubia Mosque is the most famous square, Jemma el Fnaa… It was shocking how much was going on there, the loud sound of vendors, pipe players with real cobras, Monkeys, life music…. It was hectic but curious.
Getting inside the souk to discover the wide variety of handmade products along the narrow labyrinth was an experience. The colors of clothes and stunning carpets hanging from the shops, the handmade Moroccan lamps, the smell of spices…
As we were getting deeper and deeper, we were able to see how artisans were creating their handmade products, by carving, sewing or using techniques to turn the materials into pieces of art.
One of the best experiences we had on our trip was spending a night in the Sahara desert. We drove around ancient kasbahs, rural villages, mountain landscapes until we get to the Sahara desert to spend the most magical night.
We were having a fantastic time in Marrakech. Falling in love with the city and its delicious gastronomy until the night I received really bad news in a text message.
On Thursday 12th of March at 10 pm (4 days before we were finishing the housesitting), I received a text message saying: “Morocco has just closed its borders with Spain due to coronavirus”
At that moment I could not believe my eyes and I didn’t know what to do…
We have to say that at the moment we accepted the housesitting we couldn’t have imagined that this could happen, as there wasn’t any case of coronavirus in Spain at that time and neither in Morocco.
I didn’t know what to do at that time as it was too late, so I started to read the news looking for accurate information and decided to go to the Spanish Embassy first thing in the morning.
Fun fact, at this point Sergio still wanted to take a day trip the next day to Ouzoud waterfalls while I was freaking out… yes…
The first thing we did the next morning was to go to the Spanish Embassy and find out how we could go back to Spain, but they didn’t know more than we knew. We left them our phone numbers and left.
As everything was collapsed due to the coronavirus situation, it took hours until the airline got back to us but they finally gave us a solution. We were going to fly back to Spain with a stop-over in Portugal.
It was great news! Five minutes later, Portugal announces that they have closed the borders too because of the coronavirus! So what now? We had to wait again until the airline gave us a solution.
I was quite anxious at this moment while I was checking other options. I tried to figure out a way to get back home but it was impossible. We checked flights to London, with a long stop-over, Belgium, Paris… everything was sold out.
After a while, Ryanair got back to us with the solution: flying to Marseille and then to Spain. The only downside was that we would have to wait two more days, but we didn’t have any other option. We took it.
Ten minutes later, France announced they close the borders too because of coronavirus. So in a matter of minutes, all our hopes were gone again.
We tried calling the airline, the travel insurance, the embassy… nothing! We imagined us trapped in Morocco without accommodation, no money, no resources.
When it looked like we ran out of options, I received a message! “Morocco has temporarily opened the borders with Spain by land”. Good news, we could cross the border to Ceuta or Melilla. We had to do so as soon as possible as they couldn’t assure us how long it would be opened.
The options to get to Melilla were not promising though since airports were closed due to coronavirus and the only way was either train or bus. We chose the train, which would take us 13h to get close to Melilla. Once in Melilla, we would need to get a flight to Madrid.
So that is what we did, we packed everything in a hurry and headed to the train station.
After two trains on a 13 hours trip, we made it to a place closed to Melilla, arriving at 2.am. As it was that late we could not cross the border until the next morning. We were mentally and physically exhausted so we booked a room in a hotel and slept for a few hours.
The next morning, we grabbed our stuff and went to the border early. We wanted to be as early as possible as that border is a sensitive area and we wanted to avoid any conflict.
When we arrived at 8 am there were lots of people already waiting. We thought it would be to be opened but they informed us that we could not cross to cross until 11 pm. The atmosphere there was heartbroken. Many, families were not allowed to cross the border together so one of the members had to stay in Morocco. There were lots of people in tears. It was really hard to see all these people struggling.
After waiting for 3 hours, the police called us over to tell us that we could cross. Due to all the stress and uncertainty, we had been through, I couldn’t stop the tears in my eyes. I had a mix of feelings, grateful for having made the most difficult part and heartbroken for the families on the other side.
The image that is stuck in my head was, seeing everybody wearing masks, gloves, and nobody on the street because of the coronavirus. It struck me as if we were in a horror movie but Spain had declared the State of Emergency. The police started to shout at us to keep the distance between us… I was completely shocked.
Arriving at the airport was the final step. After a 13 hour train, 3 hours to cross the border and getting to the airport, we only had to wait 4 hours more to get our flight with a stopover in another the city, to then fly to Madrid. We were closer now.
The airport was chaotic and people were in fear. When I looked up the pannel I saw it: our flight was canceled again. At this point, I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it.
When we saw our flight cancelled again we were mentally at the edge… We couldn’t do anything else at that point.
We were exhausted, hungry because we hardly had food in 24 hours and we just wanted to be at home. Luckily I went to speak to the lady of the airline explaining to her our situation and she gave us the solution.
She put us both on a direct flight to Madrid instead of having to fly to another city and do the stopover. Finally happy news!
At this point, I just wanted to hug the lady that helped us (noooo, I didn’t do it but I showed her how grateful I was)
So, home was closer than ever.
When we arrived in Madrid it felt so wear seeing how empty it was because of the alarm situation. But I could feel nothing but happiness for being home.
In our experience, the only 2 things that provided us some insights about how to leave the country were:
- Talk to the embassy. They will know the latest news and they are in the best position to repatriate you back. They will explain to you the options and how to proceed so you can safely leave the country
- Talk to your airline. Even though most of the flights are canceled, they still might be able to provide you with some connections options to make it back to your country.
Also, for guidance about all related to coronavirus, you can visit this gov.uk website. They always try to have all the information updated.
Here you can also find general advice for travelers.
We know we were not the only ones in this situation, but this was probably one of the scariest moments in my whole traveling experience. For the uncertainty and the series of events that were happening and we weren’t even sure if we could overcome them to get back home.
Luckily we arrived home, with the hope that all the families made it to their homes to be reunited with their families.