Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Of Morocco

I just got back from a five-night trip to Morocco.

Why Morocco? Well, when someone has planned a whole trip and airfare is cheap, why not? The back story is this: My friend Amy’s work colleague, Dom, planned a 2-week trip to Morocco with a buddy of his. The buddy flaked on the trip but Dom was still determined to go. Dom invited Amy, Amy invited a few friends, I invited a friend from Chicago and before you knew it, Dom + 5 American girls were headed to Morocco together. We liked to refer to ourselves as Dom’s Harem.



As you can see by the pic on the right, Dom was pretty excited by the whole idea.

Most of us just joined for the first five days. We flew budget airline RyanAir into Agadir, took a 3-hour taxi along the coast to beach town Essaouira where we spent a few days relaxing. Then took a memorable bus ride to Marrakesh for two nights of in-your-face sensory overload.

People of Morocco

The people of Morocco were very nice though tourism is a large and growing industry, so often the people we encountered were trying to sell us something. Moroccan Arabic is the official language but French is also widely spoken. Most people in the areas we visited spoke enough English for us to communicate. 99% of Moroccans are Muslim. Women were always covered and not seen nearly as much as the men. In order to respect their culture, we were advised to be covered as much as possible with our hair pulled back.

Lodging of Morocco

Traditional hotels in Morocco are called Riads which are similar in standard to a bed & breakfast. They typically have rooms around the perimeter, an internal garden and a roof terrace. Both of ours were simple and sweet.

 






Open air center part of the Riad where breakfast was served & Sunset view from the roof terrace.

Transportation of Morocco


I mention transportation for one reason: our bus ride from Essaouira to Marakesh. I was actually looking forward to a relaxing 2-hour ride through the countryside from one city to another. We hopped on the bus and I ended up in the first row with a huge window view. 


Three minutes into the ride, we nearly hit a car that pulled out in front of us. About an hour later, we were inches from running a bicyclist off the road. One passenger was so angry by this move, that he walked to the front of the bus, got in the drivers face and started yelling.  The driver was yelling back and even though it was all in Arabic, it was clear it was about the recent near-catastrophic incident. A couple additional close calls later and every Arab on the bus was screaming. It became an all out verbal war. And it was pretty scary for the rest of us.

Souks of Morocco

Shopping is typically done in souks (open-air markets) where goods are hanging all over and the shopkeeper is quite aggressively trying to get you into his shop and is more than happy to ‘make you a cheap price’. Haggling is a given. Rugs are one of the most common items for sale along with blankets, pottery, scarves, oils and spices.

 

 

 



Streets of Morocco

The streets were often narrow, windy roads with washed-out, once colorful walls. 





 

Beaches of Morocco


We spent all of our beach time in Essaouira. The beaches are known for surfing, kite surfing and camels. I spent lots of time strolling on the sand, sunbathing and lounging at the pool at the Sofitel hotel....a step up (or three) from our Riad.



Nightlife of Morocco

It’s a good thing the six of us had a good time together and made our own party wherever we went. Given that you can’t find alcohol inside the main Medinas (squares), the nightlife in Morocco is pretty slim. In Essaouira, we did visit the one and only bar in the whole place. It was a hookah bar with live music. Our group provided half the patrons of the entire evening. They only served one (bad) bottle of wine, one (bad) cocktail and warm beer. In Marakesh, we had some options but only if we wanted to take a taxi to the “new city”, which was outside the old, traditional city quarters. We decided to go for dinner one night in the new city and then ended up at a club with our waiter. I told you they were friendly!



Food of Morocco

Traditional Moroccan food includes coucous, tajine (Moroccan-spiced, flavorful meat or fish served with vegetables), kabobs, lots and lots of olives, bread with dipping sauces, greasy pancakes served with butter and jam, big round breads, freshly-squeezed orange juice (yum!), hot mint tea and some crazy meat….that hangs outside all day long.




Sites of Morocco

The Mosque in 
Marrakech


  

We couldn't get in so we took a rest instead.

Yves Saint Laurent Gardens 



Pondering his Memorial


Bahia Palace 





Sounds of Morocoo

I’d really be leaving something out of the experience if I didn’t mention the sounds of Morocco. In Essaouira, especially, we woke every morning to a rooster that cock-a-doodle-doo'd from about a 5A til 11A. Street cats were often fighting with each other. Dogs would join the mix too and start barking, forgetting to stop. The first night, there was a party that started around midnight in the building next to ours that lasted until after we woke up the next morning. They entertained themselves by chanting, singing, and playing drums....all night long. Finally, the call to prayer. Five times a day we would hear the call to prayer which was a deep humming noise blasted throughout the cities. For as much as I heard the call, I never actually saw anyone praying.

What a great trip and cool experience. My only regret is leaving after Marrakech. The next part of the trip left Amy and Dom with a night in a castle, a camel trek through the desert, and ending in the city of Fez. From there, Amy headed back to London and Dom remained for an additional week.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect recap. Except you missed the part about 4 overpriced waters. :-)

    ReplyDelete

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