Ever since I can remember I wanted to visit Morocco, as I always considered it fascinating, almost like there is something mystical about this destination. One might wonder is it the movies that portray Morocco as enchanting, as this is the norm in many situations, or does Morocco genuinely offer such fascination and charisma? Let’s be honest, how many times do a destination look mind-blowing on paper or on screen, and then it just falls a little short?
Morocco, for sure is not one of them! I recently explored this diverse, authentic destination for the first time. Just like any virgin explorer, I tried to inhale and experience most within the short time I was there. Morocco sure is a mystical, charming, eccentric experience! A wealth of history and culture awaited…
The moment the aircraft touched down, I was amazed. Why? I expected it to be a desert-like country, and yes it does host some of the Sahara desert, which is the largest desert in Africa, by the way. However Marrakech boasted of green fields and the snowcapped Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. What an amazing view, especially with the terracotta structures surrounding one.
The first two nights was spent exploring Marrakech. Again, I was astounded by the diversity of this vibrant city. Hustle and bustle, people going about their daily business, bicycles, horse and carriages, luxury sports cars, all sharing the well maintained roads. Was I pleasantly surprised by how modern and fashionable Marrakech is?! It is home to rich history, the Medina was founded in the 11th century and was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of many in Morocco. The Medina boasts of impressive architecture, mosques, and souks.
Where the ancient and the contemporary complement each other
The souk is a maze of shopping opportunities…carpets, shoes, lights, fabrics, leather, the list is endless. Not only does the small, narrow alleyways hug you with product and produce, the vendors rush by on their scooters, bicycles, or on foot. It is busy, no shadow of a doubt, one can easily lose yourself in this maze. All of a sudden you find yourself in the square, home to buskers, snake charmers, men with pet monkeys and more produce on sale. One thing that seriously fascinated me was how the ancient and the contemporary complement each other.
After spending a couple of days overindulging in ancient history, souks, the sights and sounds, and the outstanding cuisine of Marrakesh, a 3-hour road trip to Essaouira followed.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fishing village of Essaouira hugs the Atlantic Ocean and its contrasting features are extremely striking. Its whitewashed buildings, with its striking blue doors and window frames, resembles Mykonos in Greece, hence the typical relaxing Mediterranean ambiance overwhelms. Again, experiencing the old medina where locals go about their shopping and daily business, stops one in ones tracks as this world resembles nothing that we are accustomed to. Fresh fish, poultry, fruit and vegetable markets definitely offer a unique shopping experience to any Westerner living in first world cities. I was astounded by the cleanliness of it all!
This village celebrates its love for seafood as almost all the restaurants and cafes offer fresh, mouthwatering seafood and WOW are the portion sizes are jaw dropping! Essaouira’s relaxing atmosphere invites many that want to spend their days lazing on the beach. One outstanding feature of this quant village is Skala du Port, it is a well preserved, authentic fortress overlooking the working port. It is so authentic that a few of the Game of Thrones episodes were filmed here and in the cobblestone streets of the village.
Richard Branson's Property - Kasbah Tamado, Atlas Mountains
After encountering the Atlantic Ocean’s fresh breeze for a couple of days, another 3-hour road trip awaited. Although I had already had a glimpse of the next stop, the Atlas Mountains, one of Africa’s highest mountain ranges, snowcapped and awe-inspiring, was unexpected, majestic, exhilarating and peaceful all at the same time. Driving through the mountains was an experience by itself as the road is extremely winding and narrow at times. I tried my best to absorb all the textures as local villages, streams, and mountain peaks gently passed by. The scenery changes so rapidly, from valleys with red soil and the snow capped mountain backdrop, to terracotta villages built deep into the valleys – such diversity. The Atlas Mountains offers a ski resort, hot air ballooning, ample adventure sports, or if the preference is relaxation and fresh, clean air, this definitely is the spot !
Morocco is not a destination for someone wishing to explore monotonous.
Morocco boasts of diversity not only in history, culture, textures and scenery, it offers ample opportunity for photographers, culinary experts, shoppers, adventure enthusiasts, and golfers. Did I mention the abundant amount of day spas available? Pure bliss!
Morocco did not only exceed all my expectations, it completely inundated my senses.