I’ve just returned from three wonderful weeks travelling in exotic Morocco. What an incredible country. The people were warm and friendly, the food was delicious, and the geography was stunning. The mix of Berber, Arab, and European influences creates a fascinating blend of old and new world.
The cities are vibrant and colorful, but the real adventure is venturing beyond the ancient, high, stone walls of the medinas, and exploring the twisting, narrow streets of the kasbahs. The streets teem with hagglers, hustlers, mule drivers, and motor scooters. We leaned very quickly that when someone shouted, “Balak!” we needed to get out of the way as a cart or donkey was bearing down on us. The shops sell everything from freshly butchered camels and goats, hand-woven carpets, lamps, shoes and clothing of all types and descriptions, to fresh vegetables and fruit. The smell of the spice stalls with their baskets of freshly ground turmeric, cumin, saffron, cinnamon, and paprika is intoxicating. Hidden deep inside the medina is the leather factory where pigeon droppings are used to cure animal hides to make beautiful leather coats, purses, and shoes.
There is so much more to Morocco than cities. Todra Gorge, located on the eastern side of the High Atlas Mountains, with its stunning, red limestone cliffs, provided a great hike where we passed nomads herding their goats on the rocky ledges. Another hike took us into the High Atlas Mountains with their jagged peaks frosted with freshly fallen snow.
Another highlight was the camel ride in the Sahara Desert. Traversing the desert with its rippling, golden sand extending as far as the eye could see and stark, wind-sculpted dunes on the back of a camel was something out of another time. After watching the sun set over the sand dunes, we enjoyed a feast of tagine (made with chicken and vegetables cooked in a colorful earthenware pot), fresh-baked bread, cinnamon-sprinkled oranges, and fragrant, sweet mint tea. Our bed for the night was in a traditional Berber tent. The tents, though basic, were comfortable until a sandstorm arrived. We awoke in the morning to a world buried in sand. Some of our fellow travellers had to be dug out of their tents.
Essauira, a small seaside city on the Atlantic Coast, was fascinating. The city is surrounded by the towering stone walls of a medina. The remains of an old fort (cannons included), fronts the pristine beach. We bought a variety of fish (octopus, herring, sole) in the bustling fish market and took our purchases to a local restaurant where they cooked our ‘catch’. Delicious!
Volubilis is an ancient Roman town near Meknes, where we wandered amongst the stone ruins; Ait Benhaddou, a World Heritage site, has a well-preserved medina; Toubkal National Park with the wild Barbary apes; and Marrakech, an exciting city rife with snake charmers, trained monkeys, and women eager to paint your hands with henna.
If you’re looking for a unique, fulfilling travel experience, Morocco is the place for you.