Colours, fragrances, shapes, landscapes and rhythms that I will never forget.
Morocco is a magic country that opened its doors to international tourism in the 80's and became the most important country in Africa in terms of arrivals. Low-cost companies have recently boosted their daily flights to Casablanca and Marrakesh for really cheap prices increasing the number of European tourists.
Visiting Morocco is an immersion into a magnificent ARCHITECTURE and a totally different culture. MUSLIM religion is a real pillar for the country and its influences can be perceived in the traditions and habits of the inhabitants.
Hearing the Muezzing to recite the call to preyers, trying a real mint green tea, admiring the decoration inside a mosque, entering a local shisha bar, visiting a Kasbah (ancient fortified villages), but also strolling in a Souk (open air markets) surrounded by spices, colourful powders and handmade carpets. You really have the impression of being in a different universe.
But the thing I loved the most is the trip to the desert, when we reached a tented camp by riding a CAMEL (noooot so comfortable!) and we lied on a sand dune to see the sun disappearing in all its shades to allow the Milky Way to invade the sky, Wow. You know the feeling when you're aware you're feeling a sensation that can't be explained? When you know you're living a moment that you will never forget.
Here my Highlights of Morocco!
1. Jema-el-Fnaa Square & Souk Market in Marrakesh
This is the main square of the city, a vibrant meeting point where locals and tourists meet to eat Moroccan specialities on the rhythm of Arabic beats, to admire snake charmers, elderly story-tellers, magicians and inspired artisans. The ATMOSPHERE is absolutely incredible during the day and when the darkness falls as well.
We visited the Souk market during the night accompanied by a local guide that told us about its secret streets, shops and traditions. The market was ASLEEP: almost no tourists, closed shops and desert streets. We had to imagine in our mind the crowd of the dat, the fragrances, the colours, vendors promoting their handcrafts and tourists trying to negotiate the best price.
2. Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
It's an ancient fortified village along the former caravan route connecting the Sahara desert to Marrakesh. What makes it so special is that it's an example of the typical EARTHEN architecture that creates an incredible harmony with the surrounding landscape. Nowadays only a few families are living in the village, mostly traders. We reached the Kasbah by crossing a river on a rocks line with the help of local kids so happy to help us in exchange of a few DIRHAMS.
3. Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
In front of this mosque, we all feel so tiny and it's not only an impression. In fact, this is the largest mosque in Africa and the third in the world. The external architecture and decoration are absolutely stunning with shiny marble, horseshoes arches and coloured mosaics. The mosque overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and this is why sea, wind and sand create this unique LIGHT around the holy structure. The inside is meticulously decorated and dominated by huge windows right on the Ocean.
4. Driving through Atlas Mountains
It's a mountain range in Morocco that separates the cost side from the Sahara and crosses Algeria and Tunisia as well. We drove through its panoramic routes to reach the desert and we spotted several BERBER's villages, the indigenous population that still conducts a very primitive lifestyle. Our lunch break was in a tent in a sort of oasis where I ate the best dates ever!
5. Discovering the Carpets production
There's an incredible work behind the production of Moroccan typical carpets. They're made by talented hands capable of creating a real piece of art in terms of shapes and colours. And of course, Moroccans are known for their SELLING ABILITIES, so you can expect a great vendor to persuade you to buy in all possible ways!
6. Entering a Maroccan Pharmacy
You're probably wondering why a p harmacy. Well, a Moroccan pharmacy is far from the common image that we have in Europe. It's a sort of LABORATORY with any kind of medical herbs, beauty products, fragrances, spices and so on!
7. Trying local Gastronomy
Dates, couscous, tagine, lamb, mutton... Moroccan gastronomy is a mixture of various cuisines: Arabic, Berber but also Mediterranean. And the tea culture is very important, the speciality is green tea with mint!
8. Ouarzazate Trip to the desert by Camel
The trip started with a camel ride to reach the TENTED CAMP in the desert. We had a typical dinner and then our guide made a FIRE and he started playing music and singing on the typical desert rhythm. Dancing around the fire, improvising moves right under a plethora of stars that seemed to be the biggest ever seen in my life. Such a magic moment.
If I close my eyes I can still visualise our 6am camel ride in the morning to catch the desert waking up.
My trip to Morocco was quite special, a sort of parents and sons trip! Unfortunately it was quite fast, only 5 days so I will definitely come back to visit Fez, the imperial city, and the blue houses of Chefcaouhen!