There’s so much I could say.

I’ve always felt a strong pull toward the African continent. It’s hard to explain, but very real. I’ve always had this sense of Africa as the place of humanity’s beginnings, and in that way, perhaps the most real continent  of them all. This trip has only strengthened that sense, and made me love Africa all the more.

Morocco is an absolutely beautiful country, and every corner of it is steeped in centuries of history.  Everything is beautifully ornate, from the walls to the lamps, and yet at the same time, everything is also yet very raw, very real. Moroccan hospitality is something that exceeds the hospitality of anywhere else I’ve ever been, as I don’t think there’s a single house we went to where we weren’t offered berber whiskey (which is actually a mint tea), peanuts and warm, genuine conversation.  The energy and vibrancy of the people in Morocco is something you can feel more than you can quite describe; they possess a lot of pride in their country, in who they are, and in what they do. After spending time there, it’s easy to see why.

DSCN3206.JPG

What was most interesting about this journey is that now, today, in a time where the US has posted a worldwide travel advisory, and there is so much widespread fear regarding the idea of travelling to other countries, going to Morocco was an eye opener. The world is amazing, and the vast array of cultures around the world is a large part of what makes it so amazing. The human relationships we formed in Morocco were real, genuine, and beautiful. The land itself was awe-inspiring. And it’s wonderful to see how, right there, in a corner of the world that is surrounded by so much conflict and tension, there exists this beautiful country that has remained true to itself.

When one looks beyond cultural differences, political debates and religious contrasts, it becomes apparent that no matter where in the world one goes to, human beings are always the same.  People laugh, they cheer, they stumble, they come together for meals, they seek happiness. We’ve all been born on the same blue space rock, and we’re all human.

mk11

Our journey began in Marrakech, which I can confidently state is the craziest city I’ve ever been to. Within minutes of stepping foot onto the dusty streets of the old Medina, one can’t help but sense the history, and walking through those roads is probably the closest one can come to feeling as if one has stepped back into the Middle Ages. People are everywhere, and the road to Jemaa el-Fnaa (the square) is a narrow one filled with the lively combination of bystanders, bicycles, mopeds (always driving within inches of people’s legs, since they’re sharing the same space) and animals.

One particular memory I won’t forget is something that occurred when first navigating down this road, when everyone parted to the sides in order to make way for a massive donkey cart. The donkey cart was followed by three mopeds in quick succession, then a couple bicycles, and finally, the crowd filled back in.

Djem el-Fnaa is everything one might hope it would be.  It’s a circus, filled with hundreds of merchants trying to sell everything from photographs to wood sculptures, snail soup to toilet paper. The food stalls have the best orange juice in the world, and an array of amazing tajine dishes.

The souks are a meandering maze of shops surrounding the square, which are basically the best flea market in the world. Within these souks one can find an eye-popping array of amazing pieces from Morocco. Nothing has a set price, and every deal is haggled. One follower, Genealogy Jen, asked me to describe what the souks smelled like, so I’ll do the best I can to describe: imagine something between leather, smoke, meat, iron and dust.

After some days in Marrakech, we took the daylong bus ride to the desert town of Merzouga , going over the spectacular views of the High Atlas mountains. In Hassilabied we were picked up by our host, a wonderful family man named Hassan, who did everything possible to ensure that we had an amazing stay. It was a tiny village with a lot of charm, and a true sense of community.

I’ll admit that my favorite part of the trip was our camel ride into the Sahara desert, an excursion organized by Hassan.  There’s no way to possibly describe how amazing this entire journey was, or the surreal sensation of realizing, “oh yeah, hey, I’m riding a camel into the Sahara.”

The most incredible part of this experience was camping out at night, where we sat around a fire, and our guides sang berber songs that echoed across the sand dunes (as well as one round of Yellow Submarine).  Looking up into the night sky, a dazzling, unblemished array of stars, I truly felt what I’d expected to feel even before the journey began: a sense of connection with the beginning of everything, not just man, but also the beginnings of the universe, nature, reality itself.

DSCN3845

Finally, after returning to Merzouga, we said goodbye to our hosts, and then finished our journey with a stay in the ancient city of Fes. Fes is an absolutely beautiful place, and while not as crazy, hectic and exciting as Marrakech, it is a city wherein you can truly feel its entire history echoing around you, as you navigate through the narrowest roads imaginable. On our first day, the owner of our hotel invited us to eat lunch with his family, and we then set about exploring the town.

 

Traveling to such a different part of the world forces a person to evolve, and as I was saying in my earlier post about the Netherlands, I think that it also gives a person  a better understanding of who he/she is, to better grasp the nature of his/her identity.  It also opens up one’s minds to a better understanding of the world itself, in all of its complexity.

I won’t forget Morocco, and the experiences that I had there will forever be a part of my identity from this point forward.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Morocco

  1. I, too, have travelled in Morocco and totally loved the experience. It’s that amazing mix of Africa meets the Middle East and everywhere the nation’s history infuses with the present in a tangible way. It’s so beautiful and captivating and the people are just wonderful honest folk. Awesome. So glad you enjoyed your trip and thanks for the memories! 🙂

    • It really was! Such a surreal but amazing experience. I have a newfound appreciation for camels: after spending so much time with them, I think that they resemble living dinosaurs (the Apatosaurus, specifically) more than anything else. Though I will say that after an hour or so, they aren’t particularly comfortable!

  2. So glad you enjoyed your trip! Thank you for the shout out, and fulfilling my random request. I love your description. What type of smoke? Hukkah pipe/ tabacco smoke or wood fire /cooking smoke or both? I appreciate your description, because I always imagined it to be more like cinnamon, mint and sweat. ( I have no idea why.) I’m looking forward to reading your book. I put it on my wishlist for Christmas. When it came in the mail last week, it was hard to wrap it, and not just read it.

    • Oh yeah, of course! The spice shops definitely do sometimes have a cinnamon/mint scent, actually. As you can see in the one photo, the spice/herb shops are usually lined with big jars full of everything from eucalyptus to turmeric, black olive soap to something that they called “natural Viagra.” You can see a jar filled with cinnamon sticks in the same photo, as well.

      As far as the smoke smell, I’d say it’s a little bit more like wood smoke, depending on how far into the souks you go. Closer to the square I could still smell the food stalls, but deeper inside it was more of a tobacco scent.

      Excited to hear that you picked up a copy! Let me know when you get a chance to read it, and thank you for the support!

    • It was definitely one of the top experiences of my life so far. It was just one of those moments you know you’re never going to forget.

      Glad to hear that you loved Marrakech! It’s such a unique city, so far I’ve encountered nowhere else like it. When were you there?

  3. Thank you so very, very much for sharing your life-altering journey with us, man! The photos are beautiful, I’m particularly taken with the one at the very top! But Morocco’s long history and all that it entails, and especially its impact on you is far superior. I also love that you’ve always felt that Africa was the starting locale of the world…and that this journey only cemented your beliefs!!

  4. Fantastic photos and adventures, it always amazes me that people are prepared to fork out for holidays hundres of miles away that are spent solely in a hotel complex. The scents of Africa are something I would love to experience, your description is beyond enticing.

    • Agreed, I’ve never understood the notion of spending such a trip in a resort or lavish hotel when one can gain so much more spending time with the people who really live there, and learning what their lives are like. And yes, Africa is amazing!

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s