Our first, and only, trip abroad in 2020 was a tour through Marocco. We decided on a wimp because we could not decide on any other destination that was further away. But sometimes the good is not well thought out, but rather a lucky strike.
To make things easier we opted for a guided tour by Intrepid. That too turned out to be an excellent decision. The group was awesome, consisting of fellow travelers from England, the USA, Australia, Germany and Canada. A lovely bunch that was always up for a good laugh.
We started in Casablanca and dipped our toes in the local culture. Hectic, loud, exotic, a perfect place to start exploring. The city was much more modern than expected. Highrise office buildings interchanged with smaller homes, shops and a brand new small train gliding through on the main street. But we didn’t come here to see familiar things. We wanted to experience the exotic.
The Medina was what we were looking for. Medina is the name for the old-town part of a town. It is here that you can buy food, cloths and everyday items instead of international brands. The narrow alleys invite to be explored. There is something new and unexpected around very corner and we thoroughly enjoyed our first stroll.
In the distance, a tall building pierced into the blue sky. It is the seventh largest mosque in the world with the second tallest minaret tower. Named after King Hassan II, this building is huge. A short tour gave us a rundown of its history and amazingly the whole roof can be opened to cool the interior. What an amazing combination of architecture, art and engineering.
Later the same day we meet your group and our guide; Mohamed. We got briefed about what awaited us for the coming two weeks and then left for our first dinner in Marocco. Pizza and burgers. Why? Because, and rightly so, we expected to eat many more maroccan dishes in the coming days.
The first stop in the capital, Rabat, wasn’t too exciting. But the stop after in Meknes was. The impressive wall surrounding the old-town was an invitation to make a lot of photos. So did the bright white and blue painted houses inside those walls. Outside Meknes we wandered through ruins of a roman settlement. Amazing to think that the roman empire reached this far. It is here that we got our first Tajine, the local traditional dish.
Fes is a total different animal. It is much more traditionally build. The Fes el Bali looks like in a medieval painting. And the old dying pots in the center are a must-see for any visitor. Highly recommended.
For the evening we managed to buy wine. Yes you do get alcohol in Marocco. But it is only sold in special shops that have a license to sell it to foreigners. And of course or seasoned guide Mohamed knew exactly where to look for it. To make it complete we got our hands on some camel burgers too. Although later we found out that there are no camels in Marocco. Just dromedars. Makes you wonder what we ate…
The next stop Midelt was a normal small town. But the drive there was what impressed us. The wide, dry landscape was outworldly and we asked our driver many many times to stop to jump out of our minivan to get that perfect shoot.
Then it was time to see the dry dessert in the far west. That afternoon we got to ride camels (wait, dromedars) through a patch of the Sahara. Riding them was easy. Climbing up was more of a challenge. But not falling off as the dromedar went down on its knees was the really tricky part. Sue decided to abandon her steed and walk back on her own. Here sense of direction is flawless. The struggle was worth it, though. The sunset over the sanddunes was breathtaking as every grain turned brightly orange and then to a dark red. Unforgettable.
That night we stayed in beduine tents between the dunes, drunk delicious tee and even danced a bit to drums.Was there some spirit in that tee? We will never know.
Out of the Sahara we drove through rugged terrain and the Todra Gorge and stopped to explore old castle like towns. Apparently the different tribes used to fight a lot and decent walls needed to be erected to keep the neighbours away from your grain and cattle. But the highlight was a hike up to a beduin camp. It was nothing more than a circle of pilled up rocks with a rugged sheet of tapestry over it and a tiny cave. The little kid, not older than five years, played in the dirt while his mother made wool with a comb. The man was very hospitable and offered us tee. We would all have liked to chat with him but the language barrier was unbreachable. What a pity.
Our last stop was the ocean town of Essaouira. It is not big but a well know place amongst artist and, now, tourist. Even Jimi Hendrix stayed in this town. If you listen to the locals it would seem that he lived here. Other sources tell that he came for a few days… I tend to believe the second.
Nevertheless the town is pretty and strolling through the market is fun. Of course most shops nowadays cater more for the tourists. But here and there you can see remnants of the past. For example camel stables (here we go again) fed and slept while their owner probably negotiated for a good deal to transport goods across the desert.
John, Hugh and me managed to organize an ad-hoc surf session in the Atlantic. Despite our drivers assuring us that they had prober boards, in the end they didn’t. But we hit the beach anyways and braced the crushing waves. It was more paddle training than surfing. But John and Hugh showed off their skills and rode some maroccan waves.
But all good things must come to an end and everyone made their way home. The Covid pandemic was just starting to kick in and for some the way home proved to be another adventure. Sophia and I hope for a reunion somewhere once traveling and flying is not a far dream anymore. We all have to make up for a few missed trips.
Check out the gallery of the trip.