In the last week of January I was randomly poking around flight search engines (as one does) when I came across a direct routing from Dublin to Marrakech for just €49 one way. The city was an ideal launching point for the roller coasters in Morocco, and the low price gave me all the incentive I needed to flesh out a long weekend trip. Rather than fly back from the same city (what fun is that?) I worked through a number of permutations before settling on a connecting flight from Tangier with an overnight stop in Madrid that was almost as cheap as the outbound journey had been.
With the basic itinerary in place I did a sweep of the country using Google Earth. There were at least a dozen parks with no coasters, and I was just about to give up when I spotted a suspicious shadow at Palooza Land. Further research revealed my find to be a figure eight spinning coaster, and I duly forwarded the data to RCDB so the rest of the community could benefit. I also found a travelling fair operated by an Italian company in Agadir, but sadly it was too far off route to fit in to the itinerary. Perhaps next time.
10th February 2017
Palooza Land is located behind a shopping mall in the outskirts of Marrakech right next to the local branch of Fuddruckers. There is no designated parking area, a somewhat bizarre omission even for a city park, but we were able to find an on-street spot no more than fifty metres from the main entrance. Out of an abundance of caution we placed all luggage out of sight and removed the Hertz decal from our rental car, though this was probably unnecessary as there was a security guard in a high visibility jacket roaming the area.
The park has been heavily advertised as the first theme park in Morocco, with five distinct sections: Dino World, Fantastic World, Play World, Water World, and Show World. Each area has its own design touches that have been carefully thought out. The majority of attractions are geared towards a younger audience, though there's plenty to do for older visitors too; we ended up staying almost two hours, which was quite a bit longer than I'd have expected given that the park is relatively small. Enthusiasts retracing our steps would be advised to plan accordingly.
There is no pay-one-price deal available, though there are two designated formules which give access to six or eight specified attractions at a fixed price. We never managed to figure out what these were, deciding instead to go with a rechargeable smart card, which we could share and top up as needed. Even with this approach the overall cost was relatively inexpensive in comparison to parks elsewhere in the world; the three of us went through just two hundred Moroccan dirhams (~€18) between us.
It looked at first glance like Coco Piloto (#2322) was under maintenance, as one of the twelve motors was in pieces on the ground and the cover on a second had been removed. However, a staff member confirmed that it was operational, and moments later we were clambering into our seats. It was quickly apparent that the ride was a copy of the SBF Visa design thatweencounteredseventimeslastyear rather than an authentic model. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the restraint design, which just screamed China; individual ratcheting lap bars locked at least six inches away from our bodies, and the supplemental seat belts had to be adjusted manually. For all that, though, the experience was comparable to the original machines, with a modest amount of spinning delivered over an interminable number of laps. The presence of a knock-off coaster was surprising to us given that several machines in the park had visible SBF branding, including the Sky Glider and Wai Kiki; one imagines that it would feel somewhat strange for a manufacturer to commission rides next to a copy of their own product.
Our next stop was in Fantastic World, which Megan described as resembling something from Alice in Wonderland; the six hundred square metre area had a collection of oddities including brightly painted trees, an oversized animatronic butterfly, a two metre high rose with a smiling face at its centre, a boot the size of a small house, giant spiders, and an anatomically complete homo erectus that provided considerable amusement for the local children who kept grabbing on to his parts. There was a track ride around the outside of the area with target shooting elements but this turned out to require a separate ticket, and given that, we decided to give it a miss. Later on I wondered whether we'd missed another opportunity to hear Under the Sea in an unsuitable environment; perhaps another enthusiast can determine that for us at some stage.
The highlight of the morning by some margin was the magnificent Monster Tower, a combination haunted walkthrough and observation tower with live actors. We were lucky to be able to experience this as it generally doesn't open until 1:00pm, an hour after our planned cut off time, but today they began their start up procedures two hours early. There were no photos allowed inside, but I can say that the presentation was of international standard with some top quality effects that worked very well indeed. It took us almost fifteen minutes to move through the whole route, which alternated between outdoor viewing areas and well-themed dark sections.
Our last stop was in Dino World, which once again was well presented. Those who wanted to could pay an upcharge to shoot the animatronics, and while this facility was not available today we did notice a variety of targets which would presumably trigger effects when hit. The area also featured an aerial assault course with uneven bridges that looked like a lot of fun. The best feature for me was the presumably inadvertent presence of a lawnmower in front of the Velociraptor sign; I was still laughing about it hours later, proving once again that I've never bothered to grow up.
10th February 2017
Sindibad is by far the largest amusement park in Morocco, covering an area in excess of 175,000 square metres beside the corniche in Casablanca. The park that exists today is the second to occupy the site; the original closed during 2008 following several years of decline and was completely razed in 2013. The only item to be preserved was a statue of the park mascot, a twenty foot high model with a slightly creepy smile and a turban that could legitimately have been allowed to pass into history. The new park began construction in 2014 as a joint venture between Moroccan investors and French conglomerate Compagnie des Alpes, best known as the parent company of the Walibi parks, and perhaps unsurprisingly the result is excellent, if sparse; though it is five times the size of Palooza Land there are fewer attractions in the space.
The weather was far from ideal for our visit, being both damp and cold, and as a result there were just five cars in the parking area. One of these was a black Porsche Cayenne with tinted windows that had been parked across two spaces, a tragic demonstration of the inherent disregard for humanity that afflicts upmarket car owners around the world. I found myself thinking of the joke that has been circulating on Facebook in recent months: if you ever feel that your life is without meaning, then remember that there's someone out there whose job it is to fit indicators to BMWs. Despite the empty park, however, almost all of the attractions were open; the only major casualty was Ain Rokh, a 42 metre high Aerobar built by French company Aerophile SAS and one of just a handful of installations of its type around the world. Though I was sorry to miss out I expect I'll catch up with one of the French installations sooner or later.
The park offers unlimited wristbands, and on a weekday they are the bargain price of just sixty Moroccan dirhams (~€6), rising to seventy-five (~€7) on a weekend. There is also the option to pay as you go, though this option is really only useful for observers as there is an admission fee and the break-even point is reached with just two rides. In theory there is a nominal charge for car parking also, though management had obviously decided that it was uneconomical to staff the booth today.
The only really worthwhile attraction in the park for enthusiasts is Serpent (#2323), a standard model Eurofighter 320+ design also found at Adventure Island, Canobie Lake Park, Duinrell, and IMG Worlds of Adventure. This installation has two eight person vehicles with an understated yellow and red design that is simple yet effective. Today one was parked on the transfer track, while the other had been fitted with two sandbags in the outer seats of the back car. The ride quality was surprisingly good, with the only slight moment being a shudder at the exit of the loop that was scarcely noticeable, a definite improvement over the version at IMG. We ended up riding three times in succession, which isn't something I've felt the need to do on a Eurofighter in a long time.
With that done we spent a bit of time documenting the rest of the park with our cameras. Much of the time was spent in the animal area, home to thirteen different species including giraffes, zebras, tigers, and some particularly excitable gibbons. It took us around ninety minutes to complete our exploration, and with that done we decided that we'd go for an early dinner.