Alice thought to herself, ‘I don’t see how he can even finish if he doesn’t begin.’ But she waited patiently.
Yes, it has been over two weeks since I returned to the United States for a brief Visa Acquisition break and yes, I am just now posting my Moroccan adventures. Turns out, being a professional traveller is exhausting…people to visit, supplies to replenish, colds to catch. And if you don’t actually start writing, you can’t actually finish! So I thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy Morocco.
I have wanted to visit Morocco for as long as I can remember, or at least since Epcot opened and featured its amazing architecture and food. So I was excited. So excited that I didn’t even hate the 2:00 AM wakeup to get the airport after a sad evening saying goodbye to my new friends from the Egypt trip. Spoiler alert- several of us will regroup for South Africa next year so more ET Adventures escapades to come.
I arrived in Morocco and fought, literally fought, my way through immigration. The line wasn’t fun and my lack of sleep and food very nearly turned me into an angry, loud American. But sanity prevailed and I instead used my rather heavy backpack as my sidekick and made my way through. I had one scheduled day off, venturing out only to forage for food and send out my laundry. I was so excited to have the chance to do laundry, I sent out every piece of clothing and had to spend the day in my swimsuit! That evening, I met my fellow travelers and was excited to yet again, find another great group of people. And the best part- lots of vegetarians!
Finally, a reasonable start time!! And also the start of many, many hours of driving, which would nearly bring me to the end of my sanity! Meknes was the first stop where, I most importantly learned how to sneeze, excuse and bless the sneeze in Arabic, and then visited a 17th Century palace for the sultan. Morocco has as many palaces and gates as Melbourne has Subways- you pretty much trip over them. This one once held 12,000 Arabian horses. They are meticulously maintained and many still used today.
It was then lunchtime- more Moroccan food!! Nope, we went to a chicken place. My choice was bread and salad or bread. So in Morocco, fish, or at least tuna in salad, is considered perfectly safe for vegetarians. I had the bread.
I always knew the Roman Empire was big. I didn’t realize, however, that my trip would visit every single ruin ever left by the Romans. Guess what- it was time for another Roman ruin. This one was pretty cool because so much of the tile and the vomitorium was intact inside the foundation of a really large house that also held a fish pond. Unesco believes they might uncover the Coliseum associated with this town at some point.
I was most excited for today as we were headed into the Fez Medina. This crazy place is over 9,000 streets filled with stores and workshops. Unlike some of my other tours, this trip had one main guide and then local guides at every stop. This particular guide made us promise to keep one eye on him at all times and if we got lost, just stop. Once I got inside, I totally understood why. It was beautiful and crazy and chaotic and organized. I loved it. We tried prickly pair (delicious), learned how to farm and weave cactus silk (where we all purchased scarves for our future day in the desert) and saw a tannery (where they gave us mint to smell to cover the putrid aroma). Lunch at a foundation that helps educate women and provide support for victims of domestic violence and an education on the theory of angles in numbers finished the learning part of the day.
Or as I like to call it- the most painful day of my adventure so far. Today we drove. And drove. And drove. I nearly lost my mind. But, after 87 hours of driving, we arrived at our base camp where we would dump our luggage, pack our toothbrushes and bottles of wine and hop on our camels. In the middle of nowhere, amidst a small sandstorm complete with thunder and lightning, we climbed aboard our camels (I named mine Bumpy) and rode over an hour into the middle of middle of nowhere. It was perfect. No light or sound pollution. After dinner, our Berber hosts brought out their instruments, sang their songs and taught us their dance. No one can be certain, but we were pretty sure the dance is just made up as you go along. A mini dance party, minus the strobe lights, continued until we were either bored or exhausted. The evening ended with everyone staring up at the stars, listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Funny how the worst day can become the best night.
We woke to another sunrise. I have found, that much like Antarctica’s penguins and whales, you become rather desensitized to the beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have seen over the last few weeks. I hope that changes soon! I hopped back on Bumpy- she was less excited to carry me today- and rode back to the hotel for showers and breakfast. Oh good- we were getting back in the car. Grrr. We arrived in Todra Gorge, which could easily be mistaken for any river in Minnesota, with families camped along the banks, swimming and snacking. Best part of the evening was the discovery that my travel companions loved games- bring on banangrams and card games!
Hollywood Day. Today was all about Morocco on film. Ait Ben Haddou is the site of tons of films and tv shows. GAME OF THRONES and Gladiator being two of the more notable. I was a total Fangirl walking through the places where Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons walked. We also drove the crazy, curvy roads so often seen in commercials and James Bond movies. I didn’t vomit.
Day Seven, Eight and Nine
Marrakech greeted us with 186 degree temperatures and full on sunlight. So of course, we spent the WHOLE DAY outside. We visited more palaces and gates and even a harem but most importantly, we found gelato. Delicious, cold, refreshing gelato. At a place that we would visit several more times! Marrakech is a great city, easily navigated and very easily shopped. Their medina is busy and full of streets and turns but nowhere near as confusing as Fez. It was fun to practice my French (turns out I can read a lot more than I suspected). To add some sophistication to our adventure, we even stopped at the Yves St Laurent Botanical Garden, where we lasted almost 30 minutes before we got heat stroke and were lured back to the hotel by the pool for beer and cards.
It was then time to take the train back to Casablanca- fortunately, two others in my group were doing the same thing. The afternoon was spent laying by the pool and watching the Olympics in Arabic, French and German. It was a dream to finally visit Morocco and Morocco did not disappoint.
Part One had come to an end. It far exceeded my expectations. I saw and did things I had only imagined. I met amazing people, filled with wanderlust and kindness. And the stories. Oh the stories that were shared and created and invented-
Part Two commences September 3 in Dubai. Stay tuned.