Morocco and The Sahara

I had the opportunity to go to Morocco and The Sahara for a 15 day trip.  It was really magical, educational and very eye and heart opening.  I had no expectations and so for me it was a true adventure which unfolded itself-one “magical-day” at a time…

What I came to discover was that Morocco was a land of contrasts.  A Muslim country where most women’s clothing reflects the privacy of protection through either the traditional head scarf or the full robe and headscarf and where many Moroccan’s live in riads which are basic Moroccan traditional houses which are sheltered from view by a large wall, a door and perhaps two small windows (to serve to allow for family privacy and protection from Morocco’s challenging weather!) but that once inside exhibits a courtyard with a fountain and many rooms and apartments.

However, on the other hand, I also found Morocco to be a very open country.  Open in the sense that I found most Moroccan people to be very warm, friendly and helpful. That pretty much the entire country reflected tolerance and acceptance of all kinds people, Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.  I was very, very, very impressed with this feeling of harmony that permeated everywhere that we went.

So in this travel post I decided to let you experience the country by sectioning the article based on location and to give a sense of that location, either through photos or video.

In this way, I’m hoping that you’ll put Morocco on your trip wish list as well!

Enjoy!

So our first stop in Morocco was Rabat.

In Rabat we stayed at Villa Mandarine, which was simply unbelievable.  It was an estate, turned hotel and it’s owner’s passion was to grow fruits and flowers.  I felt that I had arrived in paradise…..

IMG_0020

IMG_0019 - Copy

IMG_0003 - Copy

IMG_0008 - Copy

And while staying at this blissful place in Rabat, we visited the entrance to the Royal Palace, Hassan Tower, part of an unfinished mosque started by a 12th century caliph, and amazingly well preserved Kasbah of Udayas as shown in the photos below…

IMG_0095

IMG_0101

IMG_0103

 

Then it was off to Fez…

Now once we arrived in Fez, which definitely had less traffic lights and stop signs then RabatSoLOL-I got to experience a stay in my first riad.

And what an experience it was…

After walking through a long winding passageway in the medina we arrived at  Riad Salam Fes.  I had no idea where we were going but the video below shows what the immediate inside of the riad looked like  when we arrived and it was an amazing. I felt that I had arrived and would soon meet Hercule Poirot on his next case in Morocco!!

 

In Fez, we then visited the famed Al-Bou Inania madrasa, shopped for authentic Moroccan carpets and stopped at The Chouwara Tannery to see how leather is cut and dyed by using traditional techniques.  Then we browsed the Nejjarine Museum, to see their collection of wooden arts and crafts and then watched copper craftsmen at work in Seffarine Square. Our tour ended that morning   outside the Karaouine Mosque and University, the oldest continuously functioning university in the world and then after lunch we walked through the Jewish Quarter or mellah which was built in 1438. Then that evening we had a home cooked meal as guests of a local Fez family and that was really a wonderful cultural experience and exchange. Wonderful!

Then it was time to leave Fez and head to Erfoud and yes, I was really excited because I knew that the night after that we’d be staying at a Sahara Tented Camp and I was really looking forward to that a lot!!

So we left Fez and arrived in Erfoud at this absolutely gorgeous hotel in the Eastern part of the Sahara called Kasbah Xaluc Maadid.  It was absolutely amazing. Here are some photos and a video so you can check it out!!

IMG_0392

IMG_0371

And here’s a video of what the inside of a room looks like…

The next day we explored the small city of Rissani on the edge of the Sahara, stopped at a fossil factory to learn more about this special activity which is unique to this region and then wandered a lively souk (see photos below)…

IMG_0408

IMG_0413

IMG_0418

 

And so the next morning we left Kasbah Xaluca Maadid, and headed into the desert dunes for our sunset camel ride and our stay at Bivouac La Belle Etoile, the Sahara Tented Camp.

Well, there really are no words to describe this journey into the Sahara.  None.  So first we visited a Berber family in their tent

IMG_0447

and then we headed across the desert landscape to meet our camels for the sunset ride across the dunes.

IMG_0450

 

And here I am all ready to take take that desert walk…

IMG_0462

At the end of our sunset camel walk the camels dropped us offSoLOL in front of Bivouac La Belle Etoile, our Sahara Tented Camps. To say that I was excited was an understatement.

I seriously had to pinch myself to know if I was really experiencing this.

But to give you an idea of what arriving at the camp was like, watch the video below…

So after an amazing dinner and Saharan Desert Dance PartyLOl- it was off to sleep and to date, I can honestly say—that it’s the most interesting and different hotel roomLOL-that I ever spent a night in and what an adventure!!!

Then next morning it was off to Marrakesh, but first there was one night on the way to Marrakesh which we spent in Ait Ben Haddou at Riad Ksar Ighnda. So in the morning, after our evening in Ait Ben Haddou we visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a ksar (a fortified city) along with a former Caravan route which with its desert-dusted Kasbahs and maze-like passages took you very way back in time…

Yup, that’s right- next it was Marrakesh…

So once we arrived in Marrakesh, we found our way to another riad called Riad Bahia Salam. The riad was a few blocks from the main square in Marrakesh but I must also share with you that crossing the streets in Marrakesh in the medina area reminded me a lot of my time in New Delhi.  No traffic lights, no stop signs and the bike, the motorcycle and the car.  Pretty scary stuff and crossing by myself was something that was going to take a lotLOL of practice…

Having said that, in Marrakesh we visited the 12th centrury Koutoubia Mosque, then we explored the Bahia Palance, then we shopped for authentic Moroccan jewelry, and then we wandered the medina and the square on our own.  But to get a feel of what the square was like and where a lotSoLOL people hang out say after 5 pm definitely check out this video below.

Then it was good-bye Marrakesh, hello Essaouira-which was my personal favorite to visit-

Essaouria is a kind of like a seaside resort town with a huge fishing industry as you can witness in the photo below…

IMG_0777

We stayed at Hotel Dar L’Oussia and it was just lovely.  Essaouria is more low key than any of the other places we visited and has a very easy vibe.

I have to tell you that arriving in Essouria was a big relief after three days in Marrakesh and I did savor every sea breeze that passed my way.

So it was after a few local tours and wandering their souk and exploring all the handicrafts that were available for purchase-it was time to leave the next day and get to Casablanca-my final evening in Morocco before I flew back home.

We arrived in Casablanca late that day and spent most of our touring time visiting The Mosque of Hassan II which as it turns out is the third largest mosque in the world after the one in Mecca and the one in Medina.

I’d be remiss not to addSoLOL-that we also passed Rick’s Cafe from the movie Casablanca and I took a picture through the window of our bus.  It’s not the real Rick’s Cafe but was recently opened and serves as a great tourist attraction…

IMG_0801

So after a night night stay at the Kenzi Tower Hotel, it was off to the Mohammed V Airport and then back home to New York.

Morocco surprised, delighted and assured me that its a country of ancient, of old and of change and progress with friendly helpful, accepting people who love their visitors and welcome them with open arms.  Don’t miss a chance to go to Morocco.  You, too, will feel and see the magic…

4 thoughts on “Morocco and The Sahara

  1. Absolutely great pictures. My favorite ….by far…….were the tents, the night atmosphere, the music, and the bon fires.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s