Comfortably Moroccan around Northern Africa
I'd never taken a guided tour, but now I have.
Oh my God. This blog post has really been interfering with my existence. It’s been constantly at the back of my mind, hovering eagerly on my to-do list with getting an STI check. I just don’t know how to write about something that was so stupidly comfortable. There’s not a lot of humour in good food and clean sheets. In the first week I paid €310 for a five-day tour with my best mates. We were picked up and dropped off door-to-door by a private driver and I didn’t even get to carry my dirty backpack once.
So I’ve decided to just post – any sort of a post. A post without the most. No hoots given here. I’ll just rattle something off so you know I went to Morocco and it’s worth you going too. Here it goes.
So I guess anyone who travels tends to have a bit of a bucket list they cross off. And the Arabic African land of Morocco had never graced my list with its presence. I love Moroccan seasoning and chickpeas and everything, but I guess I’ve never known enough about the culture or the country to feel that enticed to visit.
My friend Clare on the other hand, she had somehow been lured by it. And so, on a whim, we booked a trip over Easter. And we brought along our friend Dean who hates leaving the house.
I hadn’t really minded about the destination when we booked. I was just excited to move back to the northern hemisphere and take a vaycay with my besties. But weirdly, as the travel date approached, the three of us felt this synchronised feeling of utter dread. The uncertainty of the toilet situation and dress code loomed. And the mixed reviews from travellers, who had either loved it or been totally perturbed by its discomfort, were confusing.
Alas, there was no way we could chuck the towel in on the trip without losing a lot of respect for ourselves. And so off we went, departing the idea of the comfort zone once again.
I guess I gave a spoiler at the beginning, but here it is again in case you skimmed: Aside from all the bread we ate for five days straight, there were absolutely no other regrets. It was a grand time.
The reason the experience was so good had a lot to do with the free olives people we met.
Just to give you a quick history – Morocco has a pre-dominantly Arab population because they invaded the country in the 7th Century. So the Arabs share the space with the ethnically indigenous people who roamed the land well before they arrived. They’re commonly known as Berber. A lot of the Moroccans speak Arabic, Berber and French. Because the French came over in the early 1900s for a little colonising themselves.
So aside from the fact that it seemed to be totally socially and culturally acceptable for all Moroccans to charge tourists extortionately higher prices than the locals, the people in general really were warm and friendly. They also have superb taste in homewares.
We stayed in Essaouira, this groovy little seaside town with an easy-to-manage Medina, for our first couple of nights. It was a town with narrow old passages and cute Instagram-able doors. On one of those nights we went to a cooking class with Khadija. We spent about three or four hours there. Just chatting to this local couple in their home, cooking with them and being culturally-exchangey and merry. The food we made was wildly delish. I voted it the best we ate the whole time.
We then took off to Marrakech, comfortably in a taxi (about AU$80 for three hours). The night we stayed there we made a conscious effort to find one of the few places in the area where you can drink alcohol (Terrasse des espices). We took full advantage of it and got really drunk.
Then the (touristy) adventure to the desert began. The Sahara Desert!!! All I can say is that it was a fantabulous experience (alongside all the other tourists) and I loved it and I recommend it (particularly if you’re the tourist type). I will never forget the 360 view of sandy dunes, or running up and down them for my morning exercise. The tour we took was through Hassan’s Moroccan Excursions Company. Our driver Aly was cool, as was Hassan himself (both Berber people from the desert, with mobile phones and fast 4x4s). We stayed in some really nice riads, and breakfast and lunch were included (which were never short of a full bread basket). We spent about 100 dirham (AU$13) on a tourist-priced lunch every day and there was an overnight desert stay (via camel ride) included too.
Here’s a funny video I cut together of our time in the desert. Please keep an eye out for the distasteful tourist TWERKING in the middle of an awkward Berber dance ring. (We sat out and unfairly judged.)
After the tour we went back to Marrakech for a night and then my friends went home. And I kind of misled you earlier when I said the whole trip was comfortable. This is the part where I was left in the country for another week. I made my way up to Fes where I lived unhappily in a dorm-room bunk bed for a week. That’s where I wrote this post about no longer being a fan of solo travel. And this will be the inspiration for my next post. But I needed to get the good stuff out of the way,
I’ll just wrap this up with another video (of Essaouira), followed by some photographs (of week one):