21 Nov 2019
It's possible in this modern day of technology, consumerism and fast-paced living, to still visit a country where you can feel like you’re stepping back in time. Where simplified living, family and traditions are highly regarded, and the plague of the Western world has yet to fully infiltrate and take hold. Morocco is a country where the discerning traveller has the option of bountiful luxury, all the while, the fact that it is still a third world country is at times, contrastingly apparent.
Morocco is an exotic blend of influences. Combining traditional Berber culture with a healthy dose of eastern Arabic influence, representations of former French and Spanish ruling remain mixed in with the gentle introduction of the modern west. The result is intoxicating and beguiling. A destination offering something for everyone; with beautifully ornate palaces and mosques, mystical desert landscapes, majestic and snow-covered mountains and medieval cities with their manic souqs and medinas.
Without a doubt, the heart of Morocco is Marrakech and its always rambunctious Djemaa el-Fna. It's everything you imagine it would be with snake charmers, jugglers, henna tattooists, performers and row upon row of smoke billowing food stalls. By day it's busy and fascinating, by night it truly surges to life becoming spellbinding. Find a restaurant balcony overlooking the square at dusk and you'll be treated to a million captivating sounds; the crowds, musicians, the haunting call to prayer. The maze-like medinas suck you into their depths and spit you out somewhat broker and miles from where you started, feeling slightly disoriented. A word of advice, treat bartering as a friendly game. It's part of the culture so enjoy the experience but don't ever accept the first offer!
A favourite on the traveller’s trail is the arty, picturesque sea-side town of Essaouira. It's worth allowing a few nights in this laid-back location where you can wile away the hours, feasting on fresh seafood and people watching on the beachfront. Back in the day it was a hippy haven where musicians like Jimi Hendrix were rumoured to have spent time.
For the adventurous, there's the opportunity of hiking and mountain biking high in the Atlas Mountains. The drive through the mountains into Marrakech is as spectacular as it is terrifying as you wind down through steep hills and valleys. Passing through picturesque Todra Gorge is a highlight with its earth red villages and lush green palmeraies.
Take the opportunity to spend a night in the Sahara Desert where you'll be treated to meals and entertainment by Berber nomads. Using their camels to transport you, enjoy the changing colours of the sand during sunset and sunrise, sleeping in eerie silence under a million twinkling stars.
It would be remiss to not mention the food! A multitude of fresh and flavoursome tajines, olives, cheeses, mouth-wateringly pastilla and the tea. A hallmark of Moroccan hospitality, it's almost an offence to leave the country without a mint tea passing one’s lips.
Morocco can be confronting, noisy and sometimes offensive, but it's also colourful, beautiful with rich tradition, spectacular scenery and mostly very warm and friendly inhabitants. If you embrace it all and go along for the ride, it will win your heart like it did mine.
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