Bringing myself to write about the best trip of my life, so far, is incredibly difficult. It’s almost like re-living it, but not quite the same. Just the images; lacking colour, scent and atmosphere.
I had always dreamt of my great Moroccan trip, and finally I was about to take off – listening to music, looking out of the window. I couldn’t stop smiling; I was about to see the beautiful land of mountains, old medinas, and the colours so bright you feel like you’re part of a beautiful painting. Feeling so surreal.
The bright sunlight hit my eyes, as soon as I stepped out of the plane. The light, so harsh and strong, that I struggled to keep my eyes opened.We landed in Fes, rented out a car, and drove for, what didn’t feel like very long, probably because the sight of the purple-brown mountains completely swept me off of my feet. Drove to a place you can call a ‘heaven on earth’, literally. Located high in the mountains, the beautiful old medina of Chefchaouen, blinded me with the blue paint radiating from the buildings. Each a different colour, all equally beautiful. Every door was prettier than the other.
Arriving at a small traditional Moroccan medina guest house, for the first time, we tasted the liquid sent from the ‘h i g h a b o v e‘ – ‘Berber Whiskey’, the mint tea special – only prepared by the men (as the kitchen is dominated by women, men are responsible for the mint tea). It tasted sweeter, and even more minty, with every sip. Everywhere I went, Chefchaouen, El Jadida, Ouzoud or Fes, I couldn’t get enough of the mint liqueur (non-alcoholic, of course) – knowing that I only had a short 10 days to enjoy the flavour of non artificial tea, that’s completely unavailable in England. You can bring the tea herbs back home, I brought half a kilo, but you will never be able to replicate the flavour without real Moroccan, fresh mint.
I travelled during the Ramadan, expecting empty markets, closed shops and empty streets. I was wrong. The Moroccan markets beamed with people, massive hoards of them, buying, selling and enjoying the atmosphere, just like I did. Although in 43C heat, it was slightly less enjoyable. I can only imagine what the local Arabs felt like, not drinking water and working all day.
Walking past every mint tea stalls was the best feeling in the world; the freshness would hit your nostrils. Bright oranges sold at almost every stall – my favourite – a man with a stall and a hand juicer, squeezing fresh juice into a glass. Gulping down a whole glass of juice at once, does not compare to the Western take-away coffee and carton orange juice. Since experiencing a fresh Moroccan ‘juis d’orange’, I don’t drink, or eat, oranges or orange juice anymore. I will save that for when I travel back. Soon.
The blue pearl of Morocco, Chefchaouen, radiated with blue, the scent of hand made soap and spices. The oriental orange and red carpets hanging on every corner of small shop displays. Sellers inviting you to purchase souvenirs and traditional items. The sound of children playing and adults selling. Unique.
Silence; would sound at 7pm, every day, as everyone made their way home to eat their long awaited meals – after fasting all day.
The village really came alive at night, due to the Ramadan, of course. Children running through the dark streets of the blue medina – everyone eating, celebrating. Drums sounding in the middle of the night. Restaurants opening, smells of spicy Tajin and Harira. Tourists dining in local restaurants. The orange lamp light, warming the blue walls of the medina, creating a cosy atmosphere – incredible – finally the harsh sun has hid. The warm night air sweeping my skin.
After spending two days in the blue gem, we set off to El Jadida, a town located at the sea side. Disappointing. We were staying in an old Portuguese Medina, which clearly has European influences… taking away from the enchanting dreaminess of Chefchaouen. The run down walls, the messy streets were really unappealing – now I understand the quote:
Morocco as it is is a very fine place spoiled by civilization.
Richard H. Davis
Despite Morocco being the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, somehow, the poverty, the culture, spoils the beauty and art that Morocco explodes with. While driving through Agadir, the capital, I felt like I was in a completely different country. Tidy, neat, rich – flags every ten meters. Almost seemed too good to be true. Red and white curbs, soldiers every few meters. We were driving past the Royal buildings. We weren’t fooled for long. Just around the corner – slums – small, poor, neglected estate, where the people were not part of royalty. Poor beggar in the middle of the road, stopping cars, selling tissues, begging for money – with a small baby wrapped in a scarf around her back. 40 degrees. Children running around, playing in the grubby ruins. The streets that were not swept in years.
My deepest dream, Morocco – the synonyms that used to come to my head, before I arrived, were ‘colourful’, ‘happy’, ‘oriental’ and ‘picturesque’. Now, although I still think of those words, after experiencing living in traditional Moroccan homes, avoiding the touristy parts of Morocco, just immersing myself into the culture, I also think of poverty; The desperate mothers sitting on the floor with their babies, begging for money. I think of how the poverty turns men dishonest; how on the first day, searching for our hotel, the satnav, took up to a beautiful parking on a cliff, and an overly helpful Arab, let us park there. He even wanted to help us carry the bags to the hotel. All was good, until my grandad walked all the way down and up the b i g g e s t stairs in the world. He came back with sweat pouring down his face and out of breath.
The Arabs laughed. One tall and one short, both lanky and dark skinned men, with missing teeth and dirty feet came up to him.
”Money for me and my brother.” He demanded gesturing.
My grandad gave him 20 Dirhams. He laughed in my grandad’s face.
”20 Dirham to me, 20 to my brother.” My grandad laughed and refused.
“50 and we share” he said in his broken English.
My grandad, gave him 20 Dirhams and walked away.
“Your daddy stupid.” I walked away, disgusted.
This was my first encounter with those type of men. They all scavenge for money, because of poverty, of course. It makes you feel uncomfortable. But you get used to it.
Outside of the old Portuguese medina, stood a market. Not a pleasant one. During the dusk, when nobody was around, when everyone was eating; the place was filled with rubbish. Unpleasant smells and darkness. During the night, however, the market was full of people – it was not the best Moroccan market I’ve seen, but it was more pleasant when there was a lot of people. The seaside was full of life, with boys playing music and dancing, sellers selling snail soup and sweet corn. Children running around and girls and boys walking together in groups. Incredible.
It is so hard to fit everything into one post. The mountains, the awing road-trip views from high up the mountains, the waterfall, the 3000 street medina in Fes, the plate buying, the carpet haggling and eating. I will carry on writing more posts about my trip, until I cover everything.
Please let me know what you think! Have you been to Morocco?