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.
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.
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.
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.