I had a great time and had some amazing highlights of the trip. While driving to Casablanca our tour director has us go through the whole alphabet noting the trip’s highlights. So here is the list... it may not mean anything to you, but it’s meaningful to me. So I will end my Morocco chronicles with this list, and know that I’m back home :-)
Morocco lessons from A to Z
Flag special Moroccan beer
Goat in the trees
Hamam steam bath
Independence of Morocco in 1956
Imam leads prayers inside mosque
Jalaba (men and women wear it)
Kasbah as a fortress
Kasbah as an in
Kingdom of Morocco
Oranges with cinnamon
Phosphate is main export of the country
Pastella- fish eaten
Rabat the capital
Tim Buk Tu
University oldest in Fes
Veil Moroccan women wear
Water men (we took our group pictures with them at the Souk)
Yallah means let’s go in Arabic
Ziz valley and river
Morocco Day 9: Casablanca
We left Essaouira at 8 and drove up the coast headed to Casablanca. This road is like California’s Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful stretch of beaches and small little towns, with scattered homes and villages. We made it past Safi which is where they had a phosphate plant. Phosphate is the number one export of Morocco, and it was stinky.
We stopped for lunch at Oalidia and I was able to enjoy raw oysters on the half shell and Spider Crab. It tasted just like regular crab. After lunch we continued on inland a bit to expedite our trip and it was a smooth ride so I passed out. I didn’t even notice when our Tour Director came around the bus to collect our evaluations.
We made it to Casablanca by 5 and we had until 6:30 to get ready for dinner. Since I have an early flight tomorrow, I started to organize use all my packing into now, two suitcases. I didn’t finish so I just went to dinner and had a wonderful goodbye with everyone. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Rick’s Cafe from the movie Casablanca, even though it was filmed in Hollywood. It was cool to take a picture of it!
Morocco Day 8: Essaouira
We left at 8:30am this morning. I slept well since I was exhausted last night from walking 7 miles all day. We drove west toward the city of Essaora which will be our home for the night.
En route we stopped to see goats on tress. These goats are on Argan trees, and help farmers with pruning. Afterwards we stopped at a co-op of women that produce argon oil. They sold several products that contain argan oil. I was able to taste honey from the argon flower, it was very very sweet! I did not buy anything because I felt as if these prices were a bit inflated. I also walked next door to a wood shop where they had gorgeous items made of beautiful wood. A tray I liked was $500 US dollars which I thought was absolutely nuts. I did look at the details of it and it was beautiful, but I didn’t buy it. We continued to our hotel and right away I went to my room and I got ready to go out. I researched the best seafood restaurant and walked there on my own. Most of the people in group went to the rooftop or across the street where our Tour Director suggested. As my usual, I went against the grain a bit. My lunch was absolutely delicious and I had a nice time in my own enjoying my food and view of the beach.
I asked one of the people who worked at the restaurant where I could buy argan oil where locals go. They told me exactly where to go. So I walked about 20 minutes north into the Médina and I found the place they suggested. I ended up buying the same products as at the co-op for half the price. The girl that worked at the store told me that they charge twice as much at the co-op because they are giving demonstrations of how the oil is made. I was happy I didn’t buy anything at the co-op! Since I was in the Médina and I had a lot of free time I de used to keep walking and I found a little place that sold shoes for super cheap so I got a pair. Then I found a wood worker who sells his woodwork and it was literally a 10th if the cost from earlier in the day where our Tour Director had taken us to. He showed me his pictures of the wood he works with and showed me how he makes his pieces. I could see he was the actual maker of the products and I could see his workshop. So I was happy to buy directly from him. I found a beautiful tray with mother of pearl embedded into the wood. I continued walking around a bit then decided to head back to my hotel to relax a bit.
After relaxing for about an hour, I met with my tour group at 5:30 and we were taken to the Médina. We walked around and I was able to see the other side of the Médina which I had not made it to previously. We also went to where cannons used to be for a view of the whole city. It was a nice walk.
I chose to return to the hotel and freshen up then met for dinner at 8. We drove to a rooftop restaurant to watch the sunset and enjoy some tapas and drinks. There was a couple from Australia celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I told our Tour Director about it and they received a desert dish, then had a dance to Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now, I don’t believe in coincidences. This is the same trio that sang mine and Chris’s wedding song. Not sure how I held it together but it was very emotional for me. It truly made me miss Chris so much! I held it together and we ended our evening and went back to our hotel. It was a wonderful day!
Happy Fourth of July!!
Today was the most packed day I had so far! We were out at 8:00 and went straight to the Jardín Majorelle and Berber Museum. It was a beautiful garden that also had a memorial to Yves Saint Laurent.
We continued our city tour to a palace where a prime minister once lived at least a hundred years ago with his multiple wives and 24 concubines. Most of us feminist women on the trip were a bit annoyed.
We were taken to a place where they have wonderful products made of natural things found in Morocco like Argan Oil, rose water, and several spices. We also went to a beautiful place where they had items for the home and rugs. At 1:30, 6 of us decided to stay for lunch in the Médina. At 3, the tour director stopped at the restaurant and 4 people returned to the hotel, and two of us decided to stay and walk through the Souk. My walking buddy was Ruth from Boston. It was wonderful! First we went to a carpet place ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. Boy am I glad I didn’t buy rugs at the places our Tour Director took us to. I would have paid 5 times more for the same rugs! I ended up with three rugs and I paid a fraction of the cost, I was extremely happy!
We continued walking around the Souk and it was a much more pleasant experience than in Fes. The aisles are cleaner and wider, and there was less pressure from vendors to buy things. More importantly I felt safer walking around. Ruth and I ended up meeting a lady that came from the south of France and owns a shop where she sells items she buys from Morocco, and Marrakech specifically. She said she comes to Marrakech every three months to purchase her stock to ship to France. She allowed us to follow her around and it was fascinating to see her do business with the people there. She ended up taking us to the main square where I was able to get henna in my hands. I’m thrilled to do this because I’ve never had anything on my body and I know I’m not the type to ever get a tattoo, so this is pretty cool to me! We also purchased a mixed fruit drink which was delicious. We enjoyed our fruit drinks as we walked back to our hotel in 90 degree weather. We arrived to our hotel and sat in the lobby for a bit to cool down. While we waited, Ruth’s travel mates came into the lobby and were headed out for a walk. We asked to join them and Ruth and I quickly went to our rooms to shower and returned to meet them in the lobby. We walked across the street to the mall and walked around a bit. Then we had dinner in a restaurant. It was a nice time to share with these ladies.
I had an amazing time and I’m so happy with how things fell into place with the rugs especially. Looking forward to the next city by the beach!
We left our hotel at 7:30am to head out to Marrakech. We drove through the city of Boumalne Dades and headed west toward the Atlas Mountains. We made a stop in the city of Ourzazate (“whar-zuh-zat”). The city has 3 studios that had previously been used for movies. One of them was called Oscar Studio. They are converted Kasbahs used for filming. Pretty cool!! Oh, and I held a snake!
We drove over the top of the Atlas Mountains reaching an altitude of 7,400 feet. It was cool to see the road below!
As we descended, we stopped for lunch at a small place on the side of the road. It was a welcome stop for several people because the road down the mountains was a bit scary for some. I’ve been on more dangerous roads and honestly I think I slept through a lot of it so I was not really phased. We enjoyed a lunch of meatballs in a sauce/blend of onions and spices. It was followed by orange slices with cinnamon sprinkled on top. The cinnamon here is not as strong as the cinnamon back home so it’s actually very tasty!
As we continued to descend, there was more and more greenery and we began to enter the plains. Also, the temperature began to drop. While we were in the dessert, the highest temperature I saw was 43 degrees. But in the plains it dropped to a more comfortable 28. Since I’ve been traveling quite a bit since last year, I memorized the conversion formula from Celsius to Fahrenheit.
C x (9/5) + 32 = F
So 43 would be: 43 (9/5) + 32 = 109.4
If you know me, you probably know that I can’t go outside in this heat. Not because of the heat, rather, my skin is extremely sensitive. So I’ve been doing my best to be completely covered up. So the drop in temperature is good!
We arrived to our hotel in Marrakech around 4 where we had an hour to freshen up and then go out to shop. Our Tour guide took us to a store where I’m positive he gets a kick back. My good friend Jane was just here a few weeks ago so she recommended a private driver. I spoke with him while I was at the store and he told me that the specific store I was in had things marked up significantly because they do in fact give guides a commission. So I didn’t buy anything there and thanked him for the intel. I only bought wine across the street from a liquor store. After shopping we all returned to the hotel and we got ready for a dinner out. We met up at 7:30 and drove to the Souk. We walked in and saw the masses of people beginning to appear. There are hundreds of stall selling everything under the sun. It’s amazing! Our tour director walked us through it all and then we ended up at the restaurant. We had a lovely dinner with entertainment! At the end of dinner we all walked back through even larger crowds and had a horse & buggy ride back to our hotel. It was a great evening!
Since we had quite a long drive heading to Marrakech, our Tour Director, Hassan, shared with us the evolution of education in Morocco. The government has done more and more to get children into school, especially Nomads. The best part is that both men and women who are teachers are paid equally. This is mainly a patriarchal society where I saw several cities where women wear full burkas and men are separated from women in public places. So to hear of equal pay made me happy. Nomads are a bit of a different story. I noticed that Nomads are pretty equal in how they divide the work that must be done in order to survive out in the mountains. When children are 6 years old, they move near a school, or they send their children away to live with family that are not Nomads in order for the child to attend school. The number of Nomads has dropped in Morocco, but there was definitely a good amount that I saw. The one thing that Nomads have done in the past is tattoo the women on their forehead. This is so that they can show that a woman is married and it shows who the husband is. The Nomadic family we met a couple of days ago had the grandmother tattooed. Her daughter, however, was not tattooed. This was due to education. And I would venture to guess that the two little girls will not be tattooed either.
The other interesting thing about Nomads was that they don’t have a concept of time. When asked their ages, they had no idea how old they were. When asked how long the daughter was married, they didn’t have a specific answer. They are truly removed from any type of large cities, only going to a local village to get supplies or sell animals. Coming from a westernized life, this is difficult to understand. At the same time, this is the life they know and it works for them. Upon a marriage, a girl moves in with her husband’s family and she also has a dowry. The girl we met a couple of days ago said that when she married, her family gave her husband’s family two goats and $250€. If she has a son one day, she and her husband will receive a cow.
Nomads seem to move twice a year. They go to the higher points of the mountains in the summer. In Sept/Oct they move to lower ground to avoid the cold and the snow. When temperatures rise after winter, they pack up and move to higher ground. Because of this, they can’t really rely on any harvest since they are not on their own land. They keep lambs, goats, chickens, donkeys, and some have cows but not all. The donkeys are used to transport them to and from new locations. Upon arriving to a new locale, the women build small fences so that their animals will stay and also, so that other wild animals won’t eat them. The chickens had a little home made of sticks, dirt, and rocks. The baby lams and goats were inside the tent so they won’t get eaten. They build the same fence around their tent. The tent is mostly open which keeps it very cool inside. There are no “walls” except on one side. This also seemed to create a nice breeze which kept the whole tent cool from the scorching heat outside.
Men tend to their goats and lambs which for the most part roam free in the areas where there is a lot of greenery for them to eat. If I remember correctly, some of the animal hair is used by the women to make small rugs or other items they can sell in local markets. Upon selling these hand made items, they gather money and are able to buy clothes for the family. There is a large well/spring of water near these Nomads so they are able to go there for water which they bring back with pack mules. I dare say, it’s not a short walk, especially in the heat.
The family was a Burba family. The grandmother was welcoming and spoke with us freely. Her daughter and granddaughters were all quite shy, sometimes turning away from us (strangers). The little girls did not have their heads covered but both grandmother and daughter were covered. It was interesting to see the little girls stare at us in wonder.
I don’t know when I may ever again step foot inside the home of a Nomadic family. I can say that it was an incredible experience, one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Morocco Day 5: Boumalne Dades
I woke up at 5 am today. No reason, just couldn’t sleep well. The bed at the hotel was a bit too firm for me and I was not totally well rested. Regardless, I’m on vacation so, off I went! We left at 8:30 in the morning and drove straight to a place where they dig up fossils and make beautiful pieces.
Afterwards we went to a beautiful Oasis. Actually we went above it in order to see it below. It was beautiful to see all desert and suddenly lush greenery everywhere!
We continued on, and en route I saw a lot of every day life for people. I was completely fascinated, even came across a camel crossing!
We went to a gorge called, Gorges Toudgha. It was amazing!!
I enjoyed a lunch of chicken kabobs and shared a bottle of wine with another adventurer. We all headed straight to the hotel and I was able to get a massage. Afterwards I relaxed in my room and went down for a pre-dinner cocktail. We had a buffet dinner and then went to the patio to enjoy the beautiful sunset. What a fine day!!
Morocco Day 4: Erfoud
Today we left our hotel quite early. Our director wanted to get a jump on things and had us depart Fes at 7:30am. We were headed toward the Atlas Mountains to end our journey in Erfoud.
on the way we encountered some monkeys, donkeys, and cranes! Oh my!
We continued through the mountains and we made an unexpected stop at the home of Nomads. It was truly an amazing experience to sit inside the home of a family of Nomads and see how they live. A truly humbling experience.
After meeting the family of Nomads, we encountered an Oasis. It wa slush with greenery and had a small stream of water through it. In the middle of purely dessert, it was a welcome sight!
We arrived to our hotel which was actually a converted Kasbah (as in “Rock The...”). We were greeted by musicians and dancers, as well as cold towels!
Shortly after arriving, we had an hour to get ready for our dessert tour and camel ride!
The drive to the desert was super fun!!! I always love off-roading! And then the camel ride was unreal!!! What an awesome experience! Toward the way back, a sand storm began to form and our director hurried us into our cars and we went into another Kasbah to enjoy snacks and drinks. We boarded our cars and headed back to the hotel. I’m the way back there was a severe sand storm and it was co platelet black! Scary but exhilarating!! We made it to our hotel (Kasbah) and had dinner, then ended our night.
What a a memorable day!!!!
Have passport, will travel.