*I am not good at blogging about my travels, as I usually just recount my days and activities, but I find this is a really boring way to do it and reading about it. So after talking to a friend she convinced me to do it a little bit differently. So, here goes. Forgive me if it’s still boring and rather weird.*
Landing in Morocco my first impression was a massive sense of being overwhelmed. I don’t think I’ve ever been as overwhelmed in any other country that I have travelled to as I did there. I’m not entirely sure what the main reason of this feeling was, as it could have been a number of factors that contributed to why I felt so shaken up by this country, but a lot of the time, I just felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there; my synchronicity was completely out. However, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time there or anything; and I think it is a magical place with so much crazy energy and attraction. If you have ever wanted to travel there – do it.
My main reason for going was to meet my brother somewhere because he was living and working in Europe since February 2015, and I didn’t really want to go visit him where it would be much colder than…say, Morocco! So once we decided to meet there, we formulated a plan to spend a few nights in the desert. We landed in Morocco and met up with each other and didn’t waste any time on booking out Sahara experience, we spoke to the people who ran our hostel who organised tours through a company and the following day, we were off. We opted for the 3 day (2 night) tour to the Sahara from Marrakech, which in all honesty was a bit of a letdown. If you really want to see more of the Sahara, you should probably book a 4+ day tour…or organise a way to see it yourself. Our 3 day tour consisted of a lot of driving. Every. Single. Day. We visited a few cool places on the way, one being the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou (a rather famous old fortified city), famous due to its appearance in many films and some TV shows – unfortunately none of which I have seen, so that element of the place was lost on me – but the site itself was pretty damn cool. The first night of our tour we stayed in a hotel which I think was so incredibly cold and was actually colder than the night in the desert! Anyway, the biggest letdown of the tour was that we literally spent just the night in the desert. We arrived at the edge of the Sahara just before sunset and rode our camels off into the sunset, had dinner and camped in a little berber style hut, and then left the following morning at sunrise. I was really looking forward to having a few hours of day time to play in the dunes and stuff, but we regretfully didn’t have that option, so we just had to make do with playing in the sand under the moon and stars – which might I add was insanely awesome! Sitting around a campfire in the middle of the Saharan desert playing and listening to Moroccan style bongo drums while watching the stars with my feet buried in the sand, was just such a special experience.
After arriving back in Marrakech, my brother only had a few days left before he had to head home, so we kind of just took the days easy and hung out catching up and stuff which was really nice. A girl that I met online (on the thorntree forum through lonely planet – I highly recommend it) arrived the day that my brother left, so I met with her and we ended up spending most of the next 10 days together while also meeting up with two guys and travelled with them. Throughout the week and a half we ventured to Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, Chefchaouen, and Tangier.
There’s honestly not a whole lot to do or see in Casablanca, and it is a very cosmopolitan city. But thanks to some great friends, it became my sort of ‘home base’ for my weeks in Morocco which was an absolute god send. The biggest attraction in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque which is so superbly stunning! We were told that it is the only mosque in Morocco that is open for non-Muslims to enter, but the two days that we tried to go, were two of the worst days to choose. One of the days, apparently the king was coming to pray…so it was closed, and the second day, was the Prophet Muhammed’s birthday…which was a massive public holiday…so it was closed again! Nevertheless, the structure is just so beautiful without even having to go inside.
Upon arriving in Rabat, something clicked within me. This place felt really comfortable and peaceful. It could have been the hostel we stayed at – which was a really cool and laid back surfing hostel, or it could have been that it was on the coast and going for a walk to the beach which was so close just made my heart sing, or it could have been something that I found incredibly beautiful – their cemetery was on the hill that led to the ocean. At first glance I thought it was really strange, but beautiful, but strange that they wouldn’t want to build houses there instead. When I asked Abdel who is the owner of the hostel we stayed at, he said it was because they respect the dead and wanted them to have the best view of the town and coastline; hearing this really made me smile and I realised that’s what I was hoping the answer would be when I thought it was a wonderful sight.
Fez was pretty cool, though similarly to Marrakech, to me it was overwhelming and I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with that sort of town again, so I spent most of the time hanging out on the roof top of our riad soaking up some overdue sunshine and doing some colouring/drawing/writing.
Again, I felt quite relaxed in Chefchaouen (AKA the Blue City), even though it was nowhere near the coast, I think the fact that this town is almost all painted blue, has a sense of calmness to it. I would have happily stayed a few days longer here too. I had some souvenirs and gifts to buy, so I split from the others for about half a day which was really good (not that I didn’t like my travel buddies, but I just needed that time alone) and I sat down and had lunch for the first time on my own in a lovely restaurant in the middle of the square, and it was just what I needed.
Without much time left, we had to head off to our last stop before going our different ways. Tangier was our dispersal point as the other two were heading into Spain, and I was catching a train back to Casablanca to fly home. After nearly 3 weeks of dry, arid, sunshine, it rained in Tangier! It was quite welcoming, but more so for the locals than us. Though, in our last few hours, [the girl I was travelling with] and I decided we needed to treat ourselves to a Hammam experience. The Hammam is a traditional Moroccan steam room/bath house where locals go roughly once a week to cleanse themselves. You can either go in and bathe yourself or friends, or you can request to be washed and scrubbed by someone. These Hammam’s are obviously gender separated, and as we stepped into the change rooms, we were hit with the contrast of naked women as opposed to them being overly covered up out in public. We requested to have someone wash us, and after what seemed like 30 minutes trying to decipher what we wanted as the ladies in the Hammam we went to spoke no English or French (as I had been able to get by in Morocco with my high school level of French). Anyway, we walked into the steam room, and my word it was hot and so humid compared to the dryness of the country outside (despite the fact that it was actually raining that day). What an amazing experience this turned out to be, I’m so glad we went to a proper traditional Hammam rather than one of the expensive ‘western style’ spas that Morocco offers to visitors. We paid 100 Dirhams for a wash, scrub and hair washing, which included a bit of massage, and was only about 10 Euros, or $15 AUD and it lasted about an hour or so having us both washed and scrubbed down by the same old lady who was absolutely adorable. Definitely something to experience if you go to Morocco, so put it on your list!
As it may have been noticed, we only spent 1 or 2 days in each of these towns (apart from my first week in Marrakech), so unfortunately we didn’t get to see a great deal of each place. Due to travelling with other people, I didn’t really have the chance to travel the way that I would have liked, but it was still such an awesome adventure to a very crazy country that is unlike anywhere else I have been.
I’m sure I have possibly left out some cool experiences that I would have liked to write about, but if you have any questions about Morocco, or want to know more of what I got up to, just shoot me a message or comment. I’d be happy to share specific experiences if you want to find out a bit more.
I’m not too sure if this will work, but if you want to check out my photos of the trip, click here and it should take you to my album.