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Morocco



Mosaics, camels and spices are a few words to describe my adventure in Morocco. I have always wanted to travel to Africa, and Morocco was on the top of that list. As I usually do, I always plan a group travel trip when I am first visiting a new place, especially when I do not speak the language and traveling solo. I booked my trip with G Adventures, and boy was it an adventure. They have many different itineraries for all kinds of travel within Morocco. I chose an 8 day trip that hit all the key spots in this beautiful country. This was unlike any other trip I have previously done, because I was not really sure what to expect.


With G Adventures, they plan everything from hotel, transportation and tours of specific highlights throughout the country. Our guide was a Moroccan ( Berber ) who explained all the history in detail during our journey, and we had other local guides in the different cities we visited. There are a lot of different opinions on this country, but I like to see for myself and make my own opinion.


Casablanca

Started off in Casablanca, although that was just a meeting point. I did not have the opportunity to really see this city, but I did have the chance to visit a restaurant called Le Feur. There I had my first Moroccan Tagine. Tagine is named after the pot it is cooked in. You can cook pretty much anything inside of it such as chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables and more.




Volubilis

Our first stop was to visit Volubilis, which was on the way to Fes. Volubilis is a UNESCO site dated back to the 3rd century BC. It was built by the Romans ( which I did not know were ever in Morocco ). The ancient city is situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains, surrounded by olive and almond trees. I highly suggest visiting this site during a trip to Morocco.


Fes / Hammam

We arrived in Fes, known as the cultural capital of Morocco. Our hotel was just on the outskirts of the Medina. ( more about the Medina below. )


After this Hammam it was time for a glass of wine to watch the sunset over the Medina. A friend of mine suggested a rooftop hotel called Riad Hotel Relais & Chateaux. A Riad is a typical Moroccan house that has no windows to the outside, but when you walk in, there is a large courtyard and all the rooms surround it. A lot of these homes have now become hotels and guest houses. They are spectacular inside. I call them hidden treasures. A couple of girls and I from the group set out to the Medina, which is a maze of tiny streets ( over 9000 to be exact ) filled with small shops, homes, mosques, riads and more. The key to venturing in the Medina is to have data so you can follow a map, or have an actual guide. Luckily our tour guide gave us precise directions and helped us take a taxi to the closest entrance to the hotel we wanted to go to. Cars re not allowed in the medina. It is actually one of the largest places on the planet that are car-less. We found it fairly quickly and walked into a hidden paradise. The rooftop overlooked the entire Medina and we saw the sunset and listened to the daily prayer calling while enjoying a nice glass of wine.

The next day, before heading back into the Medina, we visited a mosaic & poetry cooperative. Here we learned how they hand make all of tiles and pottery. All hand made which is insanely impressive. After some shopping, we headed back to the Medina for a guided tour to learn the history of Fes and visit local leather and scarf makers plus some more shopping. Walking through all the tiny streets that seemed like a maze, we went to visit the Al Qarawiyin University. The artistry and the design inside was spectacular.


After another traditional Moroccan lunch, we visited the famous Tannery. The Tannery is where all the leather is processed and colored to make beautiful leather goods, such as jackets, purses, shoes and more. They make the color dye using all natural colorants, which has a very strong smell. As soon as you walk in, they give you a mint leaf so you can sniff it while you are looking at the workers. The entire leather production process is comprised of manual labor and involves no modern machinery. It has retained its methods since medieval times.





After the Tannery we went into a scarf making store. Here they showed us how they make the scarfs and also showed us how to tie a turban for the Sahara desert which was our next stop in the itinerary. The colors are so vibrant, I wanted to take all of them. I took a few!


After a long day in the Medina, we headed off to a very fun dinner. The table was full of Moroccan dishes and tagines of chicken, beef and cous cous. It was a typical Moroccan dinner with musicians, belly dancing and a wedding! My wedding in fact ( fake of course ) I was selected to be the bride. They dressed me in what seemed like a 100 pound beautiful headpiece. Then they presented me to the room with my “fake” husband, lifted me and spun me in a circle. It was quite an experience.





Sahara Desert / Mezouga


After a good nights rest, we headed off to what I must say was my favorite part of the trip. The Sahara Desert. From Fes its about an 11 hour drive, but with some beautiful stops along the way through the Middle Atlas Mountains. The drive is long, but once you arrive it is absolutely worth it. Arriving around 4:30pm, we checked into a special Kasbah and right behind it were the sand dunes of the Sahara. It is called Auberge de Charme Les Dunes D’OR Merzouga. It truly was picture perfect. Pretty much looked like those computer screensavers.

Just before sunset, they took us out back to the dunes to find our camels. These camels were well kept and the staff were very loving towards them. For every 4 camels, there was a dedicated person to care for them. I had the smallest of all camels, which I named Bebe! Getting on a camel was so fun. You have to hold on very tight. We walked through the bright orange sand dunes, and arrived to the perfect spot to watch the sunset,. We left our camels to rest while we walked to a higher dune to enjoy the beautiful sunset and take loads of photos. The site was breathtaking. Highly recommend this to anyone who visits the Sahara. After sunset, we took our camels back to our hotel and enjoyed a fun dinner with live traditional music and dancing.

In the morning, I had an early start because I opted in for a 4X4 excursion through the golden dunes. We went through the dunes of Erg Chebbi taking in the views of the endless sea of sand. Our jeeps stopped where there were tons of camels who are taken care of by the locals. After a few pictures and some camel kisses, we walked through an oasis. The oasis had streams of water which irrigated all the crops for the area. Then we continued through the desert, to visit a Nomad family. This was such an eye opening experience. This family showed us how they lived and prepared tea and berber pizza (delicious ). They were so happy we came to visit them and they were proud to show us their homes.

After visiting with the Nomads, we went to the village of Khamlia. Here we witnessed sounds of the African music of Gnawa, played by members of the community.


Todra Gorge


After this half day tour, we traveled to the Todra Gorge. We checked into Hotel Amazir and enjoyed another great Moroccan meal. In the morning we headed off to walk though the Todra Gorge. Wedged between massive cliff walls, the gorge is filled with a green oasis of palm trees.


Ait Ben Haddou


Once we walked through the gorge, we went to a village called Air Ben Haddou. Another UNESCO site and location for many films such as Gladiator, Prince of Persia and famous shows like Games of Thrones. ( I totally geeked out about this. )

Our local tour whose family has been living there for hundreds of years, showed us his home and how those homes were built. After the village tour, we stopped to learn how the women of the village created all the beautiful Moroccan rugs. These rugs were master pieces, and of course I left with one. It will now hang as art work on one of my walls. Each rug takes about 3 - 6 months to make. At night we had a Moroccan dinner on the rooftop of the hotel and listed to the prayers as well as the village dogs who participated in the prayer by howling. It was a very special moment.


Marrakech



Our last day was Marrakech. Although we only had one day in Marrakech, we were able to see a lot.

We had a guided tour of the Medina which included two famous sites. The Saadian Tombs and the Bahia Palace. The Bahia Palace was marvelous with intricate decoration, and expansive rooms and mosaics surrounding all the walls and floors. After the tours, we ventured off to the Medina to shop and shop some more! The streets were filled with beautiful shops, snake charmers and more. Once we finished all the shopping, which led me to buy an extra suitcase, we headed to our hotel to have our last dinner as a group.

The sites, the landscapes and the colors of Morocco was a beautiful surprise. I didn’t’ really know what to expect but it was much more than I thought of. If you want to learn more about group travel in Morocco, or any tips, click here.




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