Recently, my son asked me if I thought I might enjoy a trip to Morocco. It didn’t take me 2 seconds to give him an answer. Yes! I would love a trip to Morocco! He booked our tickets and off we went. Our time flew by quickly, but a lot of experience and adventure can be packed into a short time!
Our first night in Casablanca, after a full day of walking and exploring hidden entrances and out of the way places, we spent the evening having a lovely homemade meal at the home of warm and generous local family. I ate large amounts of couscous, harira soup, and salads, only to be stuffed even more with cake, a trio of different types of cookies and multiple cups of strong, sweet mint tea. Despite the language barriers, there was much laughing, sharing of stories, smiles, and me being me, I got down to the business of asking them about their recipes and local kitchen advice.
The second night, we went to a buffet dinner. It was a beautiful evening for sitting outside while Moroccan music was being played and I enjoyed myself greatly. I did feel that there was a little too much fried food, but everything tasted very good. I spent the evening tasting a variety of appetizing dishes which were followed, of course, by the ever present mint tea. The following morning, however, when I woke up sick with diarrhea, chills, and severe headache, I realized that an open buffet had been a big mistake!
Fortunately, I was prepared. Having been sick a number of times in my travels to Malaysia, I now travel with a supply of antibiotics. I simply sent a text to my doctor, confirming whether or not I had the right medicine for the symptoms, and by the late afternoon of day four, we were on our way to Marrakesh!
After spending the night in a ‘riad’ in the center of the maze of streets which make up Old Town Marrakesh, we took an all day tour high into the Atlas mountains. The tour guide took us further and further up into the mountains, through small villages where everyone seemed to know him. They ought to, he said, as most of them are his cousins. The roads were quite treacherous compared to what I am used to, but he knew his way well, and I had no choice but to put my faith in his abilities to get us safely to our destination. We made stops here and there, to take photos and to cross rickety bridges on foot and to hike up mountain trails.
The scenery was so breathtakingly beautiful that it was easy to let go of fear and simply enjoy the experience. On this sunny summer day, seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of these local Amazigh boys, it was also easy to forget the absolute hardship that these families live in. These villages, 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) high in the Atlas mountains are completely snowed in and isolated for months out of each year. The Amazigh people are quite self sufficient growing apples, apricots, prunes, cherries, vegetables and nuts, as well as raising chickens, goats, and sheep, and they preserve this bounty to supply them during the winter months.
Finally we reached a particular little village where a local family was waiting and had a meal prepared for us. What a welcome after a long tiring day! We were seated ‘al fresco’ and immediately bottles of water were provided to quench the thirst from our hours of travel into the mountains. After being given a few minutes to refresh ourselves, a delicious meal of salad, chicken tajine and vegetable couscous was served in beautiful pottery dishes that are handcrafted throughout the region. A dessert of orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon followed, and of course… a pot of hot, sweet mint tea to help digestion.
The next day we packed up and were on our way back to Casablanca. After an extremely full and adventurous first week in Morocco, a little rest and relaxation was in order. Where better to achieve this than in a beautiful suite on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean? Days of long walks on the beach, leisurely breakfasts on the balcony, and coffee and pastries in a nearby cafe. For me, a Moroccan hammam, or bath, to scrub away every vestige of travel dust, a 90 minute massage to relax road weary muscles, and a manicure/pedicure so that I could sparkle and shine and I was set to leave for Washington DC.
It was with mixed feelings that I said goodbye to Morocco. Due to the sickness, the trip was a bit more exhausting than I had anticipated, but the warmth of the people I met made me feel so welcome… a part of the family. These people made their way into my heart. What with that and the deliciousness of the food, I will be returning to Morocco very soon!