A whirlwind tour and a stint seaside
What an amazing two weeks I have had! I don't even know where to start except that Morocco exceeded by expectations by far! I decided to book the trip to Morocco last minute in an attempt to escape the cold weather of the UK and I couldn't have been happier with the outcome.
Despite being a late entry, I was very fortunate to reserve a place on Intrepid's "Best of Morocco" tour. Aside from a Contiki "tour" (ok, let's call it what it really was, a Euro pub crawl), when I was 19 (cliche, I know), I had never done an organised tour before and wasn't too sure how I would like it. I don't like to travel in big groups as I feel like a member of a herd of cattle and I feel that sometimes such large numbers diminish your experiences. When I travel I also enjoy my own personal freedom in deciding what I want to do each day (and change my plans haphazardly if I feel like it!). But I am very aware that this can often work against me as when time is of the essence, milling around at breakfast trying to make a decision as to what I am in the mood to do can be a bit of a time waster! As Morocco is an Islamic country, I was also concerned about my safety as a single girl travelling on her own. My French, Arabic and Berber, the national languages of Morocco, are all very below par to even attempt on my own, so thought it would be much wiser to travel through Morocco in a group. And I am so glad I did! I was exposed to so many incredible things, things that I would have never had the opportunity to see or discover if I was on my own! I am simply too disorganised and would never have done enough research (or even had the know how quite frankly) to even pull half of it together.
Now, what to say about Morocco! Well, it surprised me to be honest. In many respects, it was far more liberal than I was initially expecting. But then in others, it was much stricter than I thought (of course this very much varied by city as the more metropolitan, the more liberal, in general). Morocco is absolutely gorgeous and I was so blown away by its diversity (but I will let the picture below speak for themselves). Gobsmacking (and my photography skills are mediocre at best!). I have to admit that I did find the men to be a bit trying at times. They are pretty full on and certainly are not shy at all to approach you. It's not that I felt as though I was in danger or they would harm me, it just got very tiring having complete strangers trying to talk to me every five minutes. I don't like to be cold to people when I travel, but I found that it worked best for me (especially when I was walking around alone) to avoid eye contact and keep to myself. Not that it worked all the time (they will follow you around trying every single language they can speak to talk to you. I'm pretty sure most of them thought I was a mute!), but it helped. When I was with other people, or with Moroccans I had met previously or under met more of a formal circumstance (not just joe blow off the street), I had some great interactions with people and made a few mates. Moroccans have a fabulous sense of humour and provide some very witty banter, (which I loved!) and are such warm and lovely people.
I do not have enough great things to say about our tour guide, Abdu. He is probably one of the most patient men on the planet! And I certainly don't know how he manages to work many of these tours back to back (with maybe one day inbetween). I would have maybe lost my mind by now! Abdu is Moroccan and a Berber from a village in the High Atlas Mountains. He is one of nine (don't ask me where he falls in the line up, but I know it's definitely not the youngest or the eldest. He's sandwiched somewhere in the middle!). He is very proud of his country (and quite rightly, there are so many things to be proud of!) but is also very realistic about its downfalls and was very happy to discuss our questions. He operated under an "ask me anything" approach, which faired very well for all of us as many of us were trying to understand or relate (although "relating" to anything here was almost impossible) to the cultural and traditional norms. It was very helpful to hear a bit of background as to why things are done in a certain way instead of just automatically making a judgement on it (which is what most of us default to unfortunately, myself included!).
Like India, one thing that I very much admire about the Moroccan culture (perhaps it can be also applied to most Eastern countries) is the importance of the family unit, espeically the treatment of the elderly. I'm not saying that what we do in the West is awful or that we treat our families poorly, but I definitely felt a stronger sense of a family unit and connection in these types of countries than ones in the West. It was very nice to see.
I've decided to do one post for Morocco, so this is your warning that it will be lengthy one! You may need to get a cuppa ready for the read (and I completely understand if you totally zone out).
As I mentioned in my previous post, I took the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. The transition from being in Europe to Northern Africa was like a punch in the face (but I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way though! Just trying to accurately describe the drastic contrast). I was in Africa and it was time to put my game face on. No more looking at people in the eye and smiling down the street (this would be an open invite to be approached, and as a white woman that tried to mind her own business for the most part, I got approached enough; Moroccans love to talk!). I was ready to be hassled and prepared to haggle (so much fun!). But please don't let my comments paint a negative picture of Morocco in your mind. It is just a completely different type of society, a society that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and being exposed to. And while it certainly can be tiring at times, it is a beautiful country that is full of some very lovely people.
I spent one night in Tangier exploring the city. It's beautiful and had some exquisite bulidings (which were run down but part of its beauty) and then made my way to Casablanca via the overnight train to begin my tour. Unfortunately, I was sick upon arriving in Casablanca so had to spend the first of my two nights there cooped up in the hotel room. I was concerned with starting a tour unwell so wanted to ensure that I was 100%.
As much as I would like to accurately paint a picture of the entire "blow by blow" of the trip in words, I have decided against for the following reasons a) it make for a very long story, b) I'm not entire sure any of you would finish reading it and c) this post has taken me so long to pull together and I just don't have the time! So I've done my best to summarise the Cliff Notes for the most memorable experiences (I have also done a bit of commentary on all the pictures below, too. There are heaps! Too many to choose from!). The highlights of the itinerary for the tour went as follows:
Day 1 - Met in Casablanca and met the group. Casablanca, what a disappointment! I definitely do not ever feel the need to go there again (although I did have to fly out of there!). It's just a big, dusty, industrial town. Which is such a shame because the movies romanticise it so I was expecting much more. Having said that, it is a great place to start a tour because every other city in Morocco would blow you away by comparison.
Overall, we had a great group. There were 16 of us and I'd say 75% of us were Australian (or I guess I should say Antipodean as there was one token Kiwi!). As with any group, there are always a few trying personalities. But fortunately, there were enough of us that made it quite possible to avoid said individuals when they were having one of their moments (although on a few occasions I found it a bit rough as I roomed with one of them!). The other countrymen that joined us on the tour were representatives from Germany, Canada, England and Romania. Like I said, a great crowd, for the most part. We certainly shared many laughs and the Antipodeans showed that we know our way around a bottle, or ten.
Day 2 - We travelled early to Rabat by train. Rabat is the capital and fifth largest city in Morocco.We had the afternoon to explore Rabat, which is a beautiful city and got to spend time also exploring the white Kasbah (a Kasbah is a smaller version of a medina, which is defined later). Later that afternoon, we made our way via train to Meknes. Abdu, our tour guide, gave us a cheat sheet of Arabic words and encouraged us to have a chat to some of the locals on the train. Pam, the token Kiwi, and I shared a cabin and had a go at chatting to a few. They found it quite entertaining chatting with us and quickly switched to English as the conversation wasn't progressing very quickly! Moroccans love to talk and were very interested in us and our impressions of Morocco. So far we loved it!
Day 3 - Explored Meknes and it's lovely Medina. A Medina is the term used for the old city and is where you find most of the markets (where the locals would buy their produce on a daily basis). As well as food, it also sells goods. Following our experience in the Medina, we took a mini bus to Volubillis, which is the site of some impressive Roman ruins. After the tour of Volubillis, we took a bus to Fes.
Day 4 - Fes. We had two nights in Fes, and on the morning of day 4, we had a guide take us on a tour of the medina. The medina in Fes is the largest in Morocco and is absolutely fabulous (by far the best one that I visited while I was there!). It is enormous and would be impossible to visit it on your own without getting lost. Fes is also described as the spiritual heart of Morocco and I definitely would agree. No trip to Morocco would be complete without visiting Fes!
Day 5 - Midelt. We travelled for 5 hours to Midelt, which is in the Middle Atlas Mountains. Abdu took us on a guided walk along and gorge and around the local Berber village and we got to see how they live (mud-brick houses and comically, many of them had satellite tv!). It was a very interesting experience. Prior to arriving in the village, we also visited Kasba Myriem, which is a women's cooperative for the local Berber women that is run by Franciscan nuns. That evening, some local villagers also came and played some Berber music and dancing (and of course I dusted off the old dancing shoes! My Moroccan moves are significantly worse than my normal moves if that gives you any indication for what it looked like!). But, you gotta get involved!
Day 6 - Merzouga & a night in the Sahara (with camels of course!). Today we had another 5 hour journey (it is hard being in a bus for so long!) to the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes. In the late afternoon we loaded up our camels and had a one hour trek into the desert where we set up camp. Prior to the sunset, we also climbed the highest dune at our camp which was quite a feat (all I can say is if you are ever in a group and climbing a dune, don't volunteer to lead the pack as you have to do all the work in breaking in the sand, and your feet sink!). I was so bloody knackered after getting up that dune, but the views were absolutely amazing and well worth the torture.
Day 7 - Todra Gorge. We woke up very early that morning and climbed the dune again (well, halfway), to watch the sunrise. Following the trek back to the base, we bid au revior to our camels and piled back on the bus for another long journey to Todra Gorge. We stopped a few times on the way for some pictures. Todra Gorge is absolutely stunning! That evening we laid low at our hotel in the gorge.
Day 8 - Today was a free day but we could elect to do a hike through the Todra Gorge. It was about three hours long and well worth it. Our local guide also took us to meet some real Berber nomads! It is absolutely amazing that people this day and age are still living the nomadic lifestyle. We got to meet Bob (can't remember his name, unfortunately and I promise it was much more authentic than Bob!) and his family, his wife Jane, and young son Doug (who was about 6 years old). Jane was Bob's second wife; his first wife, Sandra, died during child birth, and Doug was the youngest of his six children. Bob is about 70 years old (and he has a 6 year old!). Jane is about 40 years old (estimate). Anyway, they kindly served us some delicious lemon and thyme tea and we sat chatting with him for a half hour or so. I think he really enjoyed our company as he kept pouring us more tea. Not that I was complaining, it was delicious!
Day 9 - Ait Benhaddou. We piled ourselves back into the mini bus for a four hour journey towards Ouarzazate, which is the movie capital of Morocco (many, many famous movies are filmed here. Gladiator, for instance). We had a quick lunch in Ouarzazate and then made a quick drive to Ait Behaddou where we stayed the night. Whilst in Ait Behaddou, we visited Project Handicapped Horizon, which is a local project that Intrepid supports and works with people with disabilities. It is a great organisation and really encourages and gives handicapped people the means to be involved in a routine and create handicrafts, which they sell at their retail shop, etc.
That evening at the hotel, Mr. Action Houssain (they call him Action because he has been in hundreds of movies as an extra. He is an absolute character and LOVES having his photo taken), gave us a couscous cooking class. Let me assure you, it is much harder than the couscous we cook! It takes one and a half hours to cook! But you can certainly taste the difference, delicious. I only hope that I can repeat it to taste half as good as Action!
Day 10 - Aremd. Today was by far the longest ride that we had on the bus but also the most spectacular! We drove across the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi 'n Tichka pass, the highest point in Morocco which stands at 2260m. We left the bus in the Toubkal region to Imlil and then had a 45 minute uphill hike to stay in the small mountain village of Aremd. From the terrace at the auberge, we could see Jebel Toubkal, which is Morocco's highest mountain. It was Diane's birthday that day, and the villagers at our auberge made her a beautiful Berber cake. Yum!
Day 11 - Essaouira. That morning we had an optional hike up the mountain (not to the top as that would take days) and through the valley. It meant a very early start, at 6.30am, but was well worth the forfeit of sleep. There were many hikers on the trails and the views were so rewarding (so was the amazingly fresh and delicious orange juice that was freshly squeezed at the top!).
Following the walk, we came back for an early lunch at the auberge before we descended the 45 minutes back to the mini bus and made our way to Essaouira (my haven!). I absolutely adored Essaouira (hence why I went back for a week of R&R post the tour). It is a very relaxed seaside village with an abundance of fresh fish and freshly squeezed juices. It is also a very chilled out part of Morocco, by far the most "western" of the places that I visited. I didn't get hassled as much there, and there was a very laid back and chilled out vibe (there is also a lot of hash there, so maybe that helps, haha!).
Day 12 - Essaouira. We began our day in Essaouira with a tour of the medina (a far less chaotic medina than the ones I had previously experienced). We had free time in the afternoon and I decided that I'd like to try a hammam, which is the traditional way to bathe in Morocco. Abdu was able to put me in touch with a local girl who took me to the hamam for the local women. What an experience! I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do something like this as what many tourists would experience would be a tourist version of the hamam and would be quite a different (and a significantly more private experience than the traditional one. I ended up doing two, one traditional and one tourist, so that is how I know!).
For a country that is so conservative and the women are so well hidden beneath their gowns and head scarves, it was nice to see them in their own element where they can show no inhibitions (obviously this can also be shown in their own homes too, but I am not privy to this so a public hammam is the next best thing to witness it).
As expected, the hammam is separated between a men's and women's hammam. Moroccans go to hamams several times a week as this is the traditional form of bathing and many of the traditional homes are not fitted with a shower. These days, many homes are, but because it is such a significant and social part of their culture, the tradition still holds strong. Touching between men and women in public is frowned upon, so interactions between same sexes are often much stronger than we would usually see in a western society. It is common place to see men embracing and kissing each other in the street (both cheeks). I guess it all boils down to the fact that we are all human, and crave that closeness with another being. So if you can't have that connection with the opposite sex, you embrace the next best thing!
Being stripped down completely nude (aside from my undies) was a bit of a daunting experience at first, but when I first walked into the room and saw that everyone else was just getting on with business as if you were just shopping at the grocery store, I was put at ease. My uncomfort at first probably was aided by the fact that I was the only white girl in there so did get a few looks of curiosity, which were later turned into acceptance, and again, getting back to business. I would never consider myself a prude, but sitting freely nude amongst a bunch of strangers was certainly something quite foreign (in the old swimming days, getting changed in the lockers was a bit of an art form and I was able to get my togs on and off very quickly and efficiently baring very little skin). But here, these women sit amongst each other very openly, chatting and laughing as their scrub themselves (and the process they use is a whole other story). They seemed so free, so happy and it was just a really lovely thing to see. I once had the notion that these women were significantly oppressed of their own expression but now I have a little more insight into one of the free forms of their expression. A very short snippet into life behind the veil, so to speak.
If anyone ever has the opportunity to do a traditional hammam, I would highly recommend it. Just remember to go in there with an open mind. It was definitely a revelation in how prudish we are in western society (excluding most Europeans of course, they're pretty good with nudity!). Maybe it is the British in us, ha!).
Day 13 - Marrakech. I spent the morning hours doing a quick whip around my beloved Essaouira for the "last time", but it didn't take long for me to finally decide to scrap my plans to go to Portugal and head back here for a week to relax instead. I'm a beach babe at heart and feel closest to home when I am by the sea.
By mid-afternoon we were en route to Marrakech, which was a three hour bus ride (on the "chicken bus", which Abdu, the funny fella, had informed us the previous night, so when we saw a nice public coach arrive, we were all quite pleasantly surprised). We had dinner on Place Djemma el-Fna that evening and feasted on many of the Moroccan gastronomical delights that I have grown so fond of (the food is incredible there! So many incredible and intense flavours). Following dinner, we walked around the square where people from all over Morocco come to see the story-tellers, snake charmers and acrobats. It's a very lively square with so much to see and do! You just need to be wary of the bum pinchers!
Day 14 - Marrakech. This was a free day in Marrakech and I decided to split off with Annmarie and Pam to explore the city. By that time in the tour we were all a little fizzled out. It was tough going (especially in the heat) and there had been very little down time throughout the tour so I had lost my appreciation for seeing things (which was a bit of a shame). It all just turned into a bit of a check the box exercise. Having said that, I still thoroughly enjoyed what I did see and would certainly recommend Marrakech!
That evening we had a leaving dinner with the group. Dinner was fun, but not as rowdy as some of the other nights we had had together. Quite a few people had early flights so those who did, bade us farewell at a reasonable hour. The rest of us pushed through to send ourselves off in style!
Day 15 - I spent the morning cruising around Marrakech with Annmarie and Ange and then I hopped on the 4pm bus straight to Essaouira which served as my haven and resting spot for the next week! And goodness knows I needed it! I never realised how important my own time and space was to me until I finished a tour. While I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, it is absolutely exhausting and I definitely appreciated being able to be on my own and with my own thoughts for a while.
There wasn't too much to my time in Essaouira for the extra week other than resting and relaxation. I did meet some absolutely fantastic people though; my Dutch friends, Guus & Susan, the Belgian girls, Leen & Anna, Aidan the Englishman and my two favourite Moroccans, Assan & Jaouad). We had some great times together and many laughs at Hostel Cloud 9 (one of my all time favourite hostels!) playing cards, making "burnt" tagines (Assam is an amazing cook! And "burning" it makes it even more tasty!) and getting our tan on on the rooftop terrace (the only "safe" place to show some skin).
One thing that Morocco and India (and many of the non-western countries that I have visited in my life prior to this trip) have taught me is to keep an open mind. There are many different ways to live your life and be in a society. Sometimes coming from the West, we tend to put our Western glasses on and blankly categorise anything that is vastly different from how we would grow up or operate is flat out wrong. I don't think this is the case. It is different, but not wrong. Many of these "differences" work within other societies. They might not work in the West, but they do in their cultures and should be respected. Having said that, there are many things that I certainly admire about these different cultures; their rich history, strong sense of family and the greater community. But it has also taught me to appreciate the little things that we take for granted being born western (especially as women), like dressing as we feel fit, having a career if we want to, and for those wandering souls like myself who need a bit of time to just figure out life in general, having the opportunity to do just that. In my opinion, I am very fortunate to have won the "birth lottery" but I do hope that through my travels, I can learn something from each of the cultures I experience and apply it to my own life and enhance my own experience in western society.
For anyone who has ever been interested in Morocco, I highly recommend it. It is a bit of a culture shock at times, but that's the best part! You won't regret it
Hope you are well, wherever you are in the world.
PS Apologies for my "reflection" above. Every now and again I like to have a bit of a think about what I have been learning during this journey and admittedly, as I read it now, I feel like it's almost a summarisation or concluding paragraph to a high school paper! Anyway, no more reflections, it's just my spiel for the day!
I spent my first few days in Morocco wandering the streets of Tangier. Within the first half an hour of being in Morocco, I had already been "had". Clearly I am quite naive and will believe anything anyone says! I was walking from the ferry station to my hostel when a young boy approached me asking if I needed help getting to my hostel. My instinct said to decline his offer, but when he whipped out the business card of the hostel and said that his brother worked there I foolishly believed him (I mean who would lie about that?! SO NAIVE!). But before you judge me and think how stupid I am, let me clarify what it is like arriving from Spain, where you are never hassled, to Morocco where it is an absolute mob scene. Men and boys would approach you left right and centre asking if you needed help, can they give you a lift, do you want to buy these tissues (a hot commodity...especially when you have squat loos!). I was fully aware this would happen, but still, you never know what it is really like until you experience it. I was hassled continuously during my 30 minute uphill walk to the hostel (usually by men), so when a young boy approached me with a card (has to be legitimate right?!) and as so innocent, it was like my prayers were answered! The roads are like a labyrinth and it was proving quite difficult to navigate though with google maps. Thankfully I got there safely, he was very nice and his English was excellent so he happily (and very proudly) chatted to me about Tangier and how beautiful it was and telling me about his family and his hobbies and interests. It really was endearing. One particular interaction will forever stick in my mind. "Miss have you ever been to Morocco?", I shook my head, "Ok, and Miss have you ever been to Africa?", I again said no, and he said "Oh Miss! Welcome to Africa! It's like nowhere else in the world!". Reflecting back on it later that night, I laughed to myself, yes, welcome to Africa! And you're not wrong! Africa, where even cute little kids can doop you. Even though accepting his help, and then later accepting his offer for a guided tour may have been a bit of a mistake (according to the guidebooks), he was completely harmless and I was happy to float him some money for being such a top bloke. At first they say they do not want any money from you (I may be naive at times but I'm not stupid!). Of course they do! When I had had enough of him, I gave him a 30 Dirham tip (which I was later told was far too much, oops! Only about $7 AUD) and sent him packing.
Streets of Tangier!
India may have been the country of dogs, but Morocco is the country of cats! Cats are everywhere! They come in all shapes and sizes (and varying degrees of health too!). This guy looked pretty healthy to me. He must get his fair share of the tagine scraps!
More of the Port (hi Spain!)
View of the water from the French quarters of Tangier
These water fountains/taps are also very common all throughout Morocco. I would never drink the water from them but they make for a pretty picture. On the topic of water, I was drinking the water in Tangier and had no problems. Once I joined the tour, because I was on a tour and we were going to be moving around a lot, I moved to the bottled water just in case (a few of my fellow tourees had some tummy problems for a while and it was not pretty! Especially on a travel day...I thank PPFA for my stomach of steel!).
Square in Casablanca
Famous gardens. Nothing to really rave about but it was on the list as a "must see" in Casablanca.
The Hassan II mosque. It was also a "must see". A lovely building but I can't say that I was too blown away by it. For starters, it was built in the 1990s (I think), so I am genuinely older than it. And being that it was built then, everything used to build it was state of the art. Seeing something that is hundreds or thousands of years older is far more impressive to me. Especially when you consider how they would have made such sites all those years ago! It would have taken forever...
The beach...all I can say is gross! Don't worry, there are far nicer beaches in Morocco! Regardless, there were still tonnes of Moroccans down by the water messing around. I couldn't believe it!
The detail up close. This day and age, mosaics like this are done with machines so there is flawless accuracy. In my opinion, seeing something done by hand is far more impressive!
One of the many administrative buildings in Rabat.
More administrative buildings. PPFA, do you recognise any of these? My mum used to live in Rabat in the 70s for a period of time...kinda groovy (haha, sorry, really poor joke!).
The waterfront at Rabat.
The view of the white Kasbah from the waterfront.
Gardens within the white Kasbah.
Inside the Kasbah. The white with the blue trim is just stunning. Very striking from a distance seeing it all together!
I have a door fetish apparently...more white Kasbah.
I believe this is Hassan II Tower (we got absolutely drenched trying to get to this spot!).
This is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V
A guard (on guard) at the mosque.
Inside the mosque.
The view of the Hassan Tower from the mosque. The tower is a minaret of an incomplete mosque that was intended to be the worlds largest but was never finished. In 1199, the Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died and the construction of the mosque ceased.
So this was quite a rather entertaining event. A couple of us were en route back to our meeting point at the train station when a riot broke out in the town centre. I was dead centre in the middle of it, and fully aware that nothing good could come from a riot, as soon as I saw the swat team, I legged it across the Main Street and sought refuge in a shoe shop. Anyway, the girls I were with were laughing so hard because they couldn't believe how fast I moved and were left standing around wondering where I had gone to! Funnily enough, this was not a crazy riot, and is actually a standing riot that occurs every Monday but the swat team come anyway. From my safe view at the shoe store, everything appeared in order and no one was getting crazy. It was just a bit scary that everyone was running as soon as the swat team showed up, so of course, I did my best Ussain Bolt impersonation and BOLTED! Pun intended
The walls of the Imperial Palace
View of the lake from outside the Palace.
The amazing mosiac within the Maousolem of Moulay Ismail.
More of the gateway to the Imperial Palace
These are the Petit Taxis that are all over Morocco. They are by far the best (and cheapest mode of transportation). Each city has it's own colour! I thought it was quite cute and I used them quite a bit (always good for a haggle!). Also available to use are some of oldest Mercedes around (Dad, I reckon it might rival the old model that we used to have!). I don't know how those things are still going! But they are much more expensive as you have to pay whatever fare it is time by 5 (as that is how many people it can hold), even if you only have one person! Rip off! But great if you have a large group.
This is the traditional metallic work of Meknes. The man here was demonstrating his work (which I absolutely loved! And bought a plate!). He said it takes three days to complete the plate that I bought...I got quite a good deal too (PPFA, you would be so proud!)
This picture makes me crack up every time I look at it. I wasn't sure whether I was going to laugh or choke! Karen, the lady next to me (who is an absolute legend and bloody hilarious!) had just made a rather unsavoury joke about the shape of my camel burger representing one of the camel's appendages! Anyway, caught me at a good time! On a more wholesome note, camel burgers are a double thumbs up! They were beautifully spiced so you would hardly know what you were eating. Let's just say, I'm not sure I could have gone through with it if it was after our camel ride!!! Poor Mr. Camel!
The camel burger man! He was a top bloke.
The view of the valley in Volubilis
Roman ruins (and look at that scenery!!!) Seriously, am I in Morocco?!
More ruins, spectacular!
The crew at the ruins!
This was a pit stop on the way to Fes. It honestly blew me away! Morocco?! What?! I can't tell you how many times I had to pinch myself during this trip and keep asking if I was still in Morocco! I never expected this. Absolutely breathtaking.
There aren't too many photos of me where I am not doing a very average and awkward attempt at a selfie. Hi!
Hello Fes! The gates at the Royal Palace.
Me at a door that I was quite taken with (I told you, door fetish!).
In the medina. This is what they call black soap and it is an olive extract that they use to clean their skin in the hammams. It is honestly beautiful to use (looks gross, I know!). After using it with the special scrubbers, my skin has never felt so smooth! And it peeled so many dead layers of skin off. Great product!
Beautiful Fes from a lookout.
The chaotic traffic!
The date man in the medina! Lots of date men in Morocco. Those dates are divine! He didn't really like having his photo taken though!
The olive pusher. He was a nice guy. Great olives to sample!
Nouss Nouss! This was by far my favourite drink. I think I may have been averaging three a day (yikes!). It didn't help that Abdu was a coffee fein, so would regularly call pitstops so that he could get another hit of the java. Nouss Nouss is essentially a half and half. Half black coffee (espresso) and half hot milk. It's delicious (less milky than a latte!). I much prefer it.
The world famous Fes tannery. It absolutely stank! They gave us mint leaves to sniff as we walked through (I basically had mine up my nose). But how they make the leather using all natural dyes is very interesting. They have the most beautiful products as well! If you need great quality leather goods, head to Fes.
I believe this was an entrance to a university (if I remember correctly).
We also had a carpet making demonstration in Fes. These women are absolutely incredible. They work at such a quick speed and without a pattern! Each design of the rug is based on memory. Unbelievably talented. The work was just beautiful.
Another photo that makes me giggle. We also learned about the traditional dress in Morocco (and apparently this is one of them!) Anyway, it was all very funny, I was sitting down minding my own business when one of the workers quickly pulled me up and started dressing me in all of this fabric (it's all attached as one piece, a giant Moroccan onesie!). Pull one string and it all comes off, ha! He then informed me that my "selling price" was 1,000 camels. Good to know! I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but just a warning to my folks, if you suddenly receive 1,000 camels, there has been an offer! Make sure the new house has land
Another "where am I?!" moment. This tiny town called d'Ifrane reminded me of a Swiss or Austrian village in the Alps. So bizarre! There is a highly accredited university here apparently. It was a pitstop in one of our bus legs.
My mate the butcher. This was maybe one of my favourite lunches. We had a pitstop in a small town that looked like something out of the Wild West. We picked our meat (I went for the lamb chops) and this bloke cut it for us.
We then took our meat to the bloke with all the power, the barbie master, and he cooked it up and served us!
A Moroccan barbie!
The "ranch" where we ate.
My day in the front seat with Braham (our bus driver, an absolute legend!) and Abdu. View of the Middle Atlas Mountains.
The Berber village (Berrem). Check out those mud huts equipped with satellite tv! Unbelievable!!!
I just thought this was funny. That poor mule! The man can almost touch the ground!
Cute little girl in Berrem.
A mini oasis on the way to the Sahara.
After Abdu had appropriately prepared my attire for the camel trek. A real Arab now! At the foot of the dunes (before we began the camel trek).
Abdu and Braham going nuts on the drums. Very talented!
Trying not to break the poor camels neck! I still loved him (even though he had a butt fetish for the camel in front of us!) Gross!
The tents (nowhere near as glamorous as India!
Ange making her way up.
The crew at the top (hi John!)
The trek in the Todra Gorge. Steep!
Bob and his abode.
View of the gorge from the top of the hike.
The Todra Gorge.
A local market that we pulled over to see. Every town has one once a week where they are outside and you can buy lots of different things (even livestock!). All very exciting. This was very much a local experience, definitely the only white people here!
That watermelon was to die for!
A random stop off.
Another random stop off (think it was the same one!)
Mr. Action Houssain! What a legend! Upon arriving at every hotel, the Moroccans will greet you with mint tea. The sweeter, the better (as it means they like you!) and also if you have a "high" pour, then that is also a sign of how much they like you. I was giving Action a pretty hard time about the height of his pour. And like any savvy Moroccan, he was quite witty back. Also, a very interesting fact about the Moroccans is that when a family has asked for the hand of another family's daughters, the daughters family will invite the prospective family over for tea. When the tea is served, if it has been sweetened with sugar, the family has accepted the offer for the daughters hand. If the answer is no, then the family has declined. So much weight placed in sugar!
View of Ait Behaddou from a lookout.
The crew at the lookout!
One of the highest points in the High Atlas (we stopped as we were driving). It doesn't look too high because we were already so high from the road. Take my word for it, a monstrous mountain!
Karen and Diane took the mules up to Aremd. It was quite a steep hike!
The view from our auberge at Aremd. It is Jebel Toubkal, Morocco's highest mountain.
The trek that we did bright and early the next day!
Someones house along the way!
The best orange juice of my life (freshest and COLDEST!). Freezing mountain water is running over those oranges.
A lovely waterfall in the mountains at the top of the trek.
The gates to my haven, ESSAOUIRA!! My happy place
I love this seaside village! Home of the worlds biggest seagulls! I could not get over the size of them! Beastly.
The juice stand that I visited everyday!
Some snaps of the old town (doors! haha)
This picture makes me laugh. Brian is such a character and had me in stitches for most of the trip! Brian posing with his war wound at the hammam that I went to! See that bruise on his arm? He did a hammam in the Todra Gorge and after asking him how it was, he just said it was an interesting experience. The next day, that bruise popped up (clearly he bruises like a peach!) We are all still wondering what happened in there to warrant the bruise!!!
The fish market! I went here almost everyday (until I got food poisoning!). You choose your fish (caught earlier that morning) and just like the barbecue at the Wild West, they cook it up for you and serve you chips and salad. The best fish of my life! So much fun!!!
The fishes (there was so much to choose from!)
Gross eels. I didn't have a crack.
The main event! We had sea bass that day.
The beach. Essaouira isn't really my idea of a great swimming beach. It's very windy so ideal for wind sports (great for spectators!). You definitely can swim though!
Kite boarder dudes.
Place Djemaa el-Fna (the market we ate dinner at). Delicious!
Jardin Marjorelle (also known as the Yves Saint Laurent Jardin).
The medina in Marrakech.
Juice, juice baby! Moroccans love their freshly squeezed juices (and so do I!).
Wanna date? Or a dried apricot?!
Lights in the souk.
Bedlam in the square!
The last supper! Abdu, Phil and I
Pam, Phil and Annmarie
Annmarie, Ange and Abdu
Brian, Diane and John
Karen, Karen and Dan
Jason, Dirta and Maree
Pat, Me and Phil (geez, how many bloody photos do I have of Phil! haha).
The whole crew! What a fantastic trip!