To visit Morocco is still like turning pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines. ~ Edith Wharton

Mya danceThe other night I attended my granddaughter's dance recital. She was in several numbers but her colourful veil dance set to the beat of the oud and the riq, instruments of middle eastern music, was most enticing and it brought back wonderful images of a week I spent in Morocco last year.

Of all the places I have visited, Morocco leaves an indelible imprint for its many contrasts and its exotic experiences.

We traveled from very cosmopolitan cities such as Rabat and seaside Casablanca to unforgettable Marrakesh where we visited the Koutoubia Mosque and the Saadian Tombs and experienced the bustling night life during an hour-long caleche ride through various city streets. In Marrakesh or the red city, the contrasts are most jarring: the snake charmers are found not far from the exclusive boutiques and high-end hotels.

Morocco
Morocco

Our next destination was Ouarzazate in southern Morocco, home of two immense movie studios and location of films such as Gladiator, The Mummy, and Prince of Persia. To get there, we would be driving through the high Atlas Mountains and we were advised to take a motion sickness pill before our climb began. Our guide, Rachid, wasn’t kidding. In one 30 km section of the road, there were no less than 99 hairpin bends if we cared to count. By this time, the passengers who were nauseous had moved to the back of the bus while I was gripping the edge of my seat listening to those who were ooohing and ahhhing at the deep gorges that appeared on one side or the other or even on both sides of the road.

fossilsHigh up in the mountains we felt the cool refreshing air on our skin. And then we saw snowploughs stored away for the summer. Snowploughs in Morocco? Whaaat? Our guide told us that they do get snow at this high altitude. In this rather barren area, people survive by selling fossils and beautiful rocks with minerals and semi precious stones.

From Ouarzazate to Erfoud, castles or kasbahs appeared here and there as well as adobe houses as we continued along our route. A little lower, closer to the valleys, there were walnut and apple trees, olive groves, dates, fig, juniper, pistachio, cedar, pine trees and fields of roses. We saw few animals other than sheep that were fed alfalfa. Families do not have enough land here to feed livestock. We see cooperatives for milk or for argon oil. The women in the argon oil cooperatives have been quite successful in selling their oil to the beauty industry and it is touted as beneficial for all types of ailments.

 

 

Morocco

In Erfoud, the sky was dark and menacing. There was talk of a storm approaching. Our group was split up and our Berber drivers would bring us to Erg Chebbi, the desert sand dunes of the northern reaches of the Sahara, 45 minutes or so from our hotel. (http://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/news/morocco-travel/erg-chebbi-morocco-2.html)

On this grey overcast day, the desert is an eerie place. It is as if a big bowl has been placed over the entire area from which nothing can escape and every sound is muffled. To the uninitiated like us, there are no visible signposts to guide us to our destination. In the distance we see dromedaries and an occasional stone hut.

By the time we reach the big Berber tent in the midst of this vastness, a sand storm is working itself into a fury. There is no escaping the grit. It is in our hair, our ears, our eyes, and even in our mouths. I feel like every drop of moisture has been sucked out of my skin.

We seek shelter in the tent staying out of the storm for about an hour while some people in our group go out for more sand blasting (great natural skin cleanser) further into the desert on dromedaries. By the time we are all ready to return to our hotel, it is dark. Again, our amazing driver navigates very confidently over the dunes and around the rocks, and we reach the well-lit paved road within an hour. What a thrill this whole experience has been!

Morocco is a land of breathtaking open spaces, of deserts, canyons and caves and gorges. It is a window to the past with its kasbahs, and medieval walls. But Morocco is also a chaotic labyrinth of crowded souks and leather tanneries where the sights and smells overwhelm the North American sensitivities. Then again, it is a land of olive groves as far as the eye can see, of strawberry fields, of vast arable lands, of pristine beaches and fields of sweet smelling roses. It is a place of friendly family meetings in town squares and sidewalk cafes where everyone is welcomed with sweet tea and honey-coated desserts. In Morocco, you will never be bored.

10 Responses

  • Started to read your blog. And here I am reading this as part of a trip you took. I took this trip to Morocco and I have to tell you I did not enjoy it. It is one of the only trips that I took that I did not enjoy. I found it barren, scary. I went quite awhile ago but to this day I would not go back. I love the way you explained everything. I relieved my trip which I call “mon voyage d’horreure.” We were to stay 1 full week and after only 3 days we decided to move on the Spain to which I fell in love with. Good read though Louise…..

    • Hello Anne Marie:

      I think Morocco is such a change from anything that I had ever experienced especially the desert storm that I shall never forget that part of the trip and relive that part of the trip with some fondness. However, there were some aspects I did not appreciate – I was very sick most probably from the food even though I was extremely careful, I was frightened in the high Atlas Mountains on all the hairpin turns, and I was most discouraged at seeing all the pollution in the form of plastic bags in the desert for as far as the eye could see and on and on for miles and miles. I doubt I would return but I still found this exotic country very beautiful and welcoming. Thank you for leaving a comment!

  • What a wonderful Journey, Morocco has never been on my list of places to visit, but you certainly make it sound like a place worth travelling to. Loved the photos and also your art work. Keep these coming Louise.

    • I would go back to certain places like Marrakesh and stay a week. But I would prefer to go back with people who know the place well. I guess that means I will never be going back! I remember Marrakesh as being a place where hippies gathered in the 70s. I was very curious to see it. It is by far, the most beautiful city in Morocco.

  • PS tu es une archiviste exceptionnelle et une bonne commentatrice ( en plus d’être artiste accomplie en dessin et en photo !!). Tu nous fais voyager avec toi. J’ai un bon aperçu du Maroc grâce à toi, je trouve cela magnifique.
    Merci

    • L’idée du blogue vient d’une amie suite aux courriels que j’envoyais pendant le voyage.

  • Ah, Louise, quel beau voyage !! tellement exotique ! Je vous trouve hardis et bien courageux d’avoir visité des coins où le cœur a de la misère à suivre !! Et des déserts où on ne s’aventure pas sans guide !! Merci pour les magnifiques photos et dessins ( la texture du vêtement de la dame en bleu m’impressionne beaucoup ). Amitiés et admiration,
    Marie

    • Le vêtement de la dame c’est de la peinture acrylique avec du tissu papier (tissue paper)du genre pour les cadeaux collé par dessus l’acrylique. Une expérience.

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