Dear fellow Babblers,
Morocco. Africa. Sunshine. Hospitality. Cold showers. Adventures. Everything that can be found anywhere else in the world, but just so much more magical. So, so much more. A country of rich history – colonial influence, social disorder, conflict between Berber and “true” Moroccan blood. To anyone living on the Western side of the globe, visiting Morocco or any country on the continent no doubt seems like a far off, close-to-impossible dream. I mean, it did for me. All I knew about Morocco before my recent 9 day stay was what I learned in class as an undergraduate. Well that along with the good graces of Pinterest. Oh and then there’s also all the stories and culture that I’ve been immersed into here in France. Morocco has always been a far away dream of mine, and like many girls raised in LA I’ve been spoiled and given everything I ever wanted in life. Well, everything that comes in boxes and dents in credit cards. But what about adventures, risks and self discovery? Not so much. Looking back on my trek through Morocco only a month ago Morocco both blessed and cursed me. It is everything I ever dreamed and what’s the bad? A stomach churning, belly aching nostalgia that could be described, in short, as Wanderlust. 16 short days. Only 16 days. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with the country. These are the top 8 moments/vibes/experiences that left me feeling tingly, excited and yearning to come back to the place where half my heart still waits.
1. Call to prayer
So let me be honest here. When I first heard the call to prayer I almost had a panic attack. It sounded like some freaking other worldly voice announcing the apocalypse. The day of my arrival, upon getting to my accommodation I went straight to my room to unload and reorganize all the bunk I hauled with me from my stops in Belgium, the Netherlands and Dublin. And then suddenly, around 6 pm I hear to God-like voice that at the same time sounded soothing but also altogether creepy. I looked out my window and everyone was still going about their daily business – smoking, laughing, crossing busy streets as if nothing was going on. I had to wander around in a daze for a few moments until it finally dawned on me, like five minutes later that this is the culture, common of all Muslim countries: the daily call to prayer.
It starts everyday at about 5 am and occurs on intervals throughout the day. It’s a beauty melodic and harmonic song that cannot be imitated or experienced anywhere else. I really looked forward every morning being woken up by it, and paused ever now and then during the hustle and bustle during the day, serving as a reminder of where I am.
2. Mint Tea Overdose
Anywhere and everywhere that you go in this country and mint tea is not far from your finger tips. It’s exotic and sugary aroma fills the cafes as teenagers, middle aged men, moms, stop by for their midday break. The making of the tea in and of itself is an art that very few can master (I’m still at beginner stage). The tea is made in a very intricate order: green tea first, then an infusion of several spices, a dash of fresh mint and cubes of sugar into boiling water and served in a beautiful silver pot. Even the way the tea is poured and sits in the glasses is important. It’s best to poor from up high to let the steam evaporate into the air before reaching the glasses.
While in most western countries it’s more common to serve guests simply an iced tea, cup of coffee, or sometimes nothing at all, in Morocco it goes without saying that this tea is the start to friendships – a drink welcoming kindness, hospitality and all that Moroccan people do and wish for each other, including foreigners.
3. Jemma el-Fnaa in Marrakech
Just like you can’t come to Los Angeles and not see the Hollywood sign, or go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower, it’s an essential to visit the Marrakech. This is a place of excitement where cultures and world collides. From the Medina to the tempting souks and all the hidden vistas, Jemma el-Fnaa Here you’ll find anything and everything you could ever imagine from assortments of dates and fruits, to furiously painted tableaux, ranges of spices and fragrances, not to mention traditional Moroccan fashion. is an eccentric part of Marrakech, well worthy of a few days visit. It’s best to come along with a Moroccan as you’re less likely to be harassed and run for your money during shopping ventures. If not, it’s more than likely that you will get ripped off and pay 200 dirhams more than necessary for a pair of slippers. But if you’re a born hustler and can bring your A-game and haggle your way through, more power to ya brotha.
But the shopping, that’s not all the Medina is. It’s a circus, a parade, a party of dancers, performers, snake charmers and enchanters. The square becomes lit up at night with visitors from all over the world looking to be swept away from reality, even if only for a little while.
4. Beginner Camel Ride
One solid hour of hippity-hoppity sightseeing. I was actually saving my extra adventurous camel treckking voyage for Merzouga, the start of the great Sahara desert when I return to Morocco in April. However, during my stay in Marrakech, while I was walking around the Palemeries I came across a group of workers who I noticed had a couple of camels nearby. After a bit of small talk one of workers offered to guide me on a quick one hour camelback ride for almost nothing. The ride itself was actually rather uncomfortable, no where near as relaxing as a regular horseback ride. However, it was a wonderful experience to sightsee through the small desert bordering Marrakech, so the butt-kicking was well worth it. As I said before, I’ll be returning to Morocco in just a couple of months to camel-trekk through the Sahara for a couple of days. While I’m sure the comfort level will still be the same, I especially look forward to the nature and experience of falling asleep for three nights under the stars. I mean, who in their lifetime really gets to say “I rode a camel through the Sahara Desert and camped out with some Berbers” ?
5. Exploring Taghazout
A small fishing village just outside of the touristic Agadir, Taghazout is a quaint little area, provoking a Mediterranean seaside vibe for its white and blue buildings, narrow and twisting streets, and chill locals. Hitchhiking, this small trip took me about one hour but was well worth baring the blistering sun and, at time, questionable drivers. Today, Taghazout is mainly occasioned by surfers and beach bums alike looking for the best waves and most relaxing place to doze off. I wandered through the town and alike the beach for the greater half of the morning and afternoon and was charmed by its free and easy ambiance. There are no crazy shop vendors following you around the corner with money signs gleaming from their eyes. The locals are used to tourists and willing to help and make you feel welcome in any way they can. There are few, if any, crowded areas as most tourists remain in the resort parts of Agadir so I never found myself drowned out by noise or being annoyed by jumps and shoves here and their. It’s very easy to pass the day here, soaking in the sunshine and just losing yourself in the beauty of the country. Highly recommended for travelers looking to dream away for a bit before returning back to his or her strict traveling itinerary – mosques, souks, Tajine – all that good stuff.
6. Paradise Valley
I actually also hitchhiked here after my trip to Taghazout which took yet another hour, but well worth the drive. This is a stunning walk through the Atlas Mountains through several Berber villages and water falls – a must see for nature lovers. Any couples out there in look for a romantic afternoon stroll this is by no measure of the imagination the place for you. This a steep, curving, dusty hike that takes you around gardens and waterfalls that includes hopping across rocks and occasionally tripping over bumpy paths. There are quite a few tourists but also locals just the same as many people actually live here, as hard as that is to believe with Agadir and neighboring cities not too far off. The scenery is well worth the workout and a great place for photoshoots.
7. Living off of Tajine
I love Tajine. Okay. I finally said it. This meal is the absolute bomb!!! It’s not like anything elaborate or something that requires a lot of ingredients but let me tell you, it is just about the best meal I have every had. I ate this stuff every single day in Morocco, and having stayed 16 days, that says a lot. In a nutshell Tajine is a mixture of veggies, spices, cinnamon, sometimes dates and meat (none for me as I’m vegan). It’s served in a saucer dish with deliciously homemade Moroccan style pita bread. Each place I ate this simple dish at made it differently so it tasted sometimes spicy, other times sweet, but always delectable.
8. A different kind of art
Unlike many metropolitan cities where “art” is just a bunch of tag name graffiti lining buildings, Morocco is the very epitome of art. There is splashes of color, detailed murals, grand mosques clothed by vivid mosaics, glistening beaches, countless museums housing the works of modern Moroccan artists. Every corner I turned, BOOM! Another work of art worthy of another snapshot. Art, especially street art, is one of the things I mainly look for when traveling. I love to see how art changes across cultures, getting to know the country through its art. I always try to capture as many photos as I can, taking a little piece of the countries I visit back home with me, sharing it’s beauty with my friends, family and fellow blogging babblers. Morocco has proved to be not only a place of colonial history and scenic architecture but also a place where diversity strives and boundaries are crossed welcoming newness and originality.
Morocco is easily and by far my favorite traveling destination. It pushed me to try new things (hitchhiking, camelback riding, eating couscous) and talk to people of different backgrounds and languages. I made friends and discovered different parts of myself, an inner strength that I never would have believed I had. The feeling of newness and the idea that I was doing everything I always dreamed of doing, but was always too scared or skeptical to try at first is really what I loved about Morocco. This is a destination that I will always come back to and look back as the beginning of me, just me.