I said this before, and I say it again – As long as you have this, it really doesn’t matter:
When I first got my passport, I felt like a whole new world just opened its gates and invited me in. Travelling for me is always an amazing experience, which gives me new eyes to see the world with, and a free heart to experience the surroundings. As Danny Kaye said, “To Travel Is to Take a Journey Into Yourself“. Meeting new people, learning about a new culture, helped me find myself in more than one way, and this is why I like to travel as much as possible. Every trip made me richer in a way in which money will never be able to.
Ever since I was younger, I started dreaming about experiencing the desert ( seeing the camels, meetings the Berbers), the food, the music, the landscape. When I told my family and friends I wanted to travel to Africa, the reactions weren’t very positive ( “What about riots, disease, kidnappings?” ). But, how do you stop a derailing train 🙂 ? In the end, life begins when you let go of your comfort zone! My heart told me I should be there, so, I decided to go for it.
Arriving in Morocco
Starting from up in the sky, you can see the difference in landscape and colors between Europe and Africa. Sandy, rocky, wild, and extremely beautiful. Leaving Romania behind (negative temperatures, wind, snow) and arriving in a place where you feel the warmth of the sunlight on your skin, palm trees and orange trees next to the airport, it’s an amazing experience on it’s own. The gates to an amazing trip were declared open!
Europe VS Africa
Fez -country’s cultural and spiritual centre
The first city to welcome my arrival in Morocco, Fez! And it felt like home, right away. My first contact with a Moroccan house, gave me a wonderful feeling inside. The combination of mosaic work, wood, fabrics, colors, takes you on a trip in time on it’s own.
Warm people, hospitality, mint tea, fresh food cooked with a lot of heart and dedication. What else can you ask for?
One thing is for sure, if you go to Morocco and you say you love their music and you love to dance, this translates into a party. Whoo hoo! And my new friend, Said, planned it all perfectly! He found someone who can play music for us, took me on a shopping trip in the Medina, to get authentic Moroccan food cooked with so much love, got the mint tea ready and the party started. Even if it might sound weird, I’ve always dreamed to have someone play live music for me somewhere in Morocco, so I can belly dance. And this dream came true…
I love to cook, so obviously one of my wishes was to see a Moroccan dish being cooked, and learn some tricks from a local. This was also turned into reality. Some of the Moroccan guests from Marrakesh, staying in the hotel, also musicians, were passing by through Fez, while I was there, and invited me in the kitchen to cook Tanjia with them, and listen to their music. I’ve learned the spices, tasted everything and absorbed the whole experience like a sponge.
I consider myself very lucky and honored to have been invited into their lives, and learn from a real master, how such a complex dish is made. Many thanks for making my experience in Fez, so enjoyable!
How do you go though all 4 seasons in one day? By leaving Fez, crossing the Atlas Mountains, heading towards Merzouga, of course. We went from rain, to snow, to sunny in only a few hours. And, I was lucky enough to experience a snowfall in the mountains.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about Morocco I think about heat and nice weather, so this was a total shock for me. What was even more shocking is to stop the car next to a forest, in the mountains, and have monkeys coming down from the trees! Beautiful animals!
And we continue our journey down the mountains….and in a few minutes, we leave the snow behind and enter a gravel-desert. In the middle of nowhere, we find a super nice restaurant, with WIFI?! and a super friendly fireplace, waiting anxious to warm my frozen hands.
I was questioning if we’ll ever get to the sand dunes or not. The location was beautiful but wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, when thinking about the desert. We keep on driving, and then…..They appear:
WOW! Sand duneeees! And there are as high as a building!
We arrive at Merzouga!
In this small village, 50 kilometers from the Algerian border, we leave the car behind and jump on the camel, for a night in the middle of the desert.
Saying Assalamu Alaikum to my camel, Bob
What I’ve found out when arriving at Merzouga is: those scarfs, are not for fashion. You simply need them! Crazy wind started soon after our arrival, and in the desert, sand in your eyes and mouth is not fun. I was ‘very lucky’ to experience rain in the desert. Yes, rain! In a place where it rains twice/year, I managed to be there on one of those two days.
Now I don’t know about you (in case you’ve ever had the change to ride a camel), but I’ve tried to sit on it in all possible ways, and none managed to make me feel comfortable. What made the ride even more exciting was the moment when Bob decided to trip and fall face first into the sand, with me on his back. After looking at me, and breathing out deeply, we continued the journey. With an aching bottom, sand in my eyes, and a hurt ego after my camel called me chubby (in less words than this hahaha ) we arrived at the tents.
In the Berber’s camp, we managed to get to know the locals a bit better. They warmed our hearts with their music and good food. Amazing is that they didn’t go to school, but they speak 4 foreign languages, not perfectly, but they start a conversation. Using all the language skills available, I had an amazing evening.
Going to bed was really interesting, as combing the rain with very low temperatures, got me from my normal routine of sleeping in my pajamas, to sleeping with my hiking boots on, jeans, 2 blouses, a jacket and a scarf … Suddenly, sleeping outside with Bob seemed like not such a bad idea!
Waking up a few hours later, the storm was long past us, the wind stopped and the stars were absolutely fascinating. It’s unbelievable how bright they shine and how big they look like from a place where there is zero light from close by cities. With camera batteries dead from the very low temperature, we headed back to Merzouga, before the sunrise.
Sunrise in the desert – with our Berber guide
With my new buddies
Ouarzazate – The door of the desert
Home of Morocco’s biggest film studios where movies such as The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and others were shot, as was the TV series Game of Thrones.
The fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the place where we were invited in a Berber home, leaves you breathless. You look at the enormous Ksar, and you still can’t believe people still live there! The nice Berber told us all about his carpets business, and served the never missing Moroccan tea.
Gorges Du Dades
The road runs from Ouarzazate and stretched to the east to Tineghir. Heading towards Marrakesh, we drove through stunning desert landscapes and villages through the Dades Valley. It left like traveling through a smaller scale Grand Canyon!
First contact with Marrakesh, late in the evening, when the Jemaa El Fna is at the highest activity level, was confusing, to put it mildly. Very busy city center, crazy traffic which goes from donkeys, to bikes, to scooters, to cars, to trucks, on very narrow streets, making sharp turns in front of stores, or between the carpets on which people sell products. Jemaa El Fna is a mix of restaurants (street food), clothing stores, snake charmers, henna painters, hotels, and others. All the food stands are opened only in the evening; during the day, they simply vanish, until sunset, when they magically reappear.
When you first arrive there, you will feel a bit overwhelmed if you are not used to having cars and bikes on the sidewalk, driving fast close by you (living in Romania, gave me some serious training when it comes to this hahaha, and even so, it took some adjustment). After a bit of walking though, you just get into that rhythm, you are absorbed by the smell, the colors, the music, the people, the entire atmosphere, and don’t even notice the traffic anymore.
To describe it in one word: unreal. Stunning plants and colors! A little green oasis in the middle of a very busy city.
On our way to Essaouira we stopped in the area where argan trees grow and argan oil is made. I’ve never been more surprised, than when I saw beautiful goats sitting in a tree. Absolutely amazing!
While looking at the process of making argan oil, I’ve realized the price is correct, even if at a first glance it seems expensive. You have to put so much work into extracting just a small bottle of oil, that the price is more than justified.
Leaving the argan trees behind us, we reached our destination – A place you definitely shouldn’t miss when going to Morocco! This city at the Atlantic Ocean, situated in a fishing harbor, set my mind and heart free and brought me the peace so very much needed.
Essaouira is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, like wood-carving. Being a harbor city, this means besides a lovely beach, you will find fresh sea food. This makes Essaouira one of tourist’s favorite destinations in Morocco. Besides small arts and crafts, it is also well known for the fish market. What you can do, is choose the fish you want to eat, and then ask a restaurant to cook it for you. And so I did…
Packing to come back home was a hilarious experience. With a very small backpack, quite a bit of clothes, a few small gifts I’ve got for my friends and family, and a tajine I just couldn’t leave behind in the store, I had to make them all fit…somehow. So, let’s get dressed. How do: 3 pairs of pants, 3 blouses and 2 jackets sound to you? :)) …I couldn’t even bend over, or sit down without some effort, but hey, I did got the tajine home in one piece!
It’s been a few months since I came back from Morocco, but I would go back there in a heartbeat! The people, the landscape, the music, the food, everything combined into such an amazing experience. I don’t have any regrets about this trip, except ending too soon. It was a journey which got me back in touch with myself, a trip in which I’ve meet wonderful persons and learned about a fascinating culture. If you are not sure about going there or not, my advice is: don’t hesitate! Nothing to lose, but everything to gain.