Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Our Moroccan Adventure: AMAZING.

Well, sadly we have returned from Morocco. We had an absolutely amazing time. I learned a lot about both Morocco and myself (which, I think is the best reason to travel).

Anyway, I still can't describe the trip we took, so I will let my pictures do the talking....(what's that old cliche?) I made a Google Map of (most) of the route we took in our journey from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate to Tata to Agadir to Essaouira (for the Essaouira Gnaoua Music Festival) back to Marrakesh. You can see the map with links and descriptions HERE.

Our arrival in Marrakech was somewhat crazy. We drove into the heart of Marrakech which was just buzzing. The streets were alive. We rode in our driver's black SUV through large streets, and then gradually narrow alleyways that were full of people, bicycles, mopeds, and even donkeys. But we made it to our Riad (garden apartment/hotel) just in time to fall asleep.

Monday, June 18th, 2007, was our first full day in Morocco. We woke
up early to meet our fabulous guide, Brahim. Then we were on our way from Marrakech through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass in the High Atlas Mountains to the city of Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou, an amazing and beautiful Kasbah built in the 12th century. (It was at this kasbah that many films have been made including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and The Mummy).

Here I am on the balcony of our hotel in Ouarzazate. This place had a lovely (but very cold) pool and a delicious restaurant. It was here that we had our first taste of Moroccan cuisine. Tagine. yum!

The next day we spent most of the day traveling across the edge of the Sahara (between the Anti-Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert) to the small town of Tata. The scenery was beautiful.

After driving through the desert (at the edge of the Sahara) with temperatures at about 116 degrees Fahrenheit we stopped for lunch in Tazenakht, a town that is "famous" for making Berber carpets. As you can see from the pictures, something really interesting about the places we visited in Morocco is that a place can look so drab (made of mud and straw or cement) and blend in with the mountains or desert (being red or brown or white) but have a beautiful and ornate door and opening this door leads to fantastic and simple beauty and life.

It was here that we learned that in the desert there are parts of the day that it is just too hot to do anything more that relax indoors or in the shade. The hours between noon and 3pm are almost like a "siesta." So, after just relaxing and visiting (and letting the van cool down) for about 3 hours we continued on our way to Tata.
The following day we traveled a short way to a small Berber village called Tagmout. Here, in a large home, we drank mint tea, ate lunch and were lucky enough to see an "Ahouach" music "festival." During this traditional festival the village congregates (in this case, at a private home) to hear stories told through musical poetry. Our guide Brahim was part of this musical group. The performance was also a competition between two singers, a famous poet (whose name I never got) and another man--the Poet kept calling on Brahim to compete but he declined. This festival is both spiritual and musical, the musicians were seeking inspiration in the moment, and I even got to be a part of that moment:

It was also here that I met these women, and even though we didn't speak the same language we were still able to joke and giggle together. How fun! These beautiful woman also led me to my new love of black eyeliner (kohl). The kohl they wore on their eyes was amazing.

Later Brahim took us to visit a nomad family that we knows. He had found out earlier where they were living and brought us to their (handmade) tent for mint tea. Again, the experience was unbelievable. The children were beautiful as they stared at us and played with baby goats. Probably the most fascinating thing about their home was that hanging in the center of their largest tent was a single compact fluorescent light bulb. I followed the cord with my eyes to find that it, and a cell phone, where being powered by a very small solar panel. Something about the whole scene was like glimpsing the future from the past. So awesome.
On the way to Agadir the next day we stopped in Brahim's home village of
Issaffen. He took us to his mothers house, where he was born and where she still lives and we drank tea with her. (The following pictures were taken outside her house, which is built into the side of a mountain).

After one night in Agadir we hit the road again to Essaouira. We made a few stops, one being in Tamanar at the Coopérative Amal, we watched women crack open argan nuts with rocks. The argan tree grows only in Mexico and Morocco, but only produces fruits/nuts in Morocco. Goats also like to climb the Argan trees.

In Essaouira we attended the Essaouira Gnaoua Music Festival.
Essaouira is a medieval fortress town on the Atlantic Ocean, It's also known as "Wind City, Africa," and let me tell you, it is very windy--at times there was ocean spray blowing in the air. We stayed inside the city's walls in a cute little apartment, which was really pretty. The city itself was quite busy because of the festival.

The following are pictures taken in Essaouira with descriptions as needed:

(view from our apartment in

I love the Postal Service , any postal service really.
So, when we travel I like having my picture taken in front
of mailboxes
. Seriously. I have more mailbox pictures here.

One of the best days we had in Essaouira was buying carpets from this man in the souk.
We spent a few hours haggling,
talking, laughing, and drinking tea with him.
He kept telling me how much he liked me--I'm not sure if this is because I have a great sense of humor and laughed at his jokes, or because my husband was heading to the ATM to get cash to buy carpets from him!

This man is carrying our backpacks (luggage) for a small fee.

After a few days in on the cool coast, it was time to head back to Marrakech for our final day and a half in Morocco. In Marrakech we strolled along the alleyways to Djemaa el Fna, the largest square on the African continent. It is just buzzing with "henna ladies," orange juice stalls, men with apes who pose for photos, storytellers, musicians, acrobats, "dentists," water sellers, and snake charmers.

I bought some fabulous handmade jewelry from the nice old man who runs this shop.

So, here we were on the roof of our Riad on our last morning in Morocco. We had such an amazing journey. We met so many wonderful people.
We learned so much about Morocco and ourselves.

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