I just returned from a glorious 2 week trip to Morocco. Why Morocco? I felt I needed to have an adventure, for inspiration and to feed my soul. I got that in spades, plus much more than I could have asked for. Sometimes when you go away to a place so different than what you know, it forces you to re-examine your life, and things you may take for granted.
Here’s some of the typical food I ate there. Mixed salads, with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, green beans, zucchini, etc. and couscous with vegetables. Though I don’t usually ever eat couscous (I eat millet or quinoa instead), when you’re traveling you have to be flexible and adapt!
In the souks (covered marketplace), looking for the perfect tea pot!
Life in the medina, which is the old part of the city. It is all windy alleyways, without cars. It is where I stayed the whole 5 days I was in Marrakesh.
I am very grateful for taking French in school, and also for having a French ex boyfriend whose family didn’t speak English…my decent conversational level of French allowed me to interact with the locals in Morocco, including this little boy whose family owned a spice stall at the market. I got a lot of traditional spices, including the traditional tangine blend with over 35 spices!
Everywhere you look in Morocco, it is pure magic. The colors, the alleyways, the doors, the doorways…
Jaama El Fna square is the place to be at night. Thousands of locals gather to see live street theater, eat from one of the 100 makeshift restaurants which gets assembled every evening, sell their wares and more. Amazing! It was named in 2001 as a World Heritage Site for “oral history.”
Life = joy.
Snake-charmers at Jaama El Fna!
In the square, there were tons of almonds, walnuts, figs and dates to buy, which grown locally. I stocked up, which was fantastic for snacking on during the whole journey and into the desert.
This is the local market, at the other end of the medina. Chaos!
This is the famous Baba El Khemis doorway, less than a 3 minute walk from my riad (guesthouse) I stayed at. Life around the door, with donkeys hauling wares and people walking to and from the local market, hasn’t changed much in 500 years.
As a tourist, you don’t interact so much with the women as the men. They remain mysterious.
The souks were covered in wooden thatched roofs, and sometimes, at just the right time of day, the light would come in through the cracks in the wood, and create this absolutely beautiful, magical light.
My favorite custom in Morocco is that after you shake someone’s hand, you touch your hand to your heart, to show that you take the meeting to heart. I want to keep practicing it.
This is the entranceway to get into our riad. Everything is confusing alleyways, which become even more dizzying at night, when the stalls close and your visual points of reference vanish…At first I was a bit nervous about walking the 20 minutes from the main square to the riad in the dark, through the unlighted alleys, but I realized that it was okay, and safe.
Ah! Life outside the city. Rented a car and started driving south…
The land changed dramatically from desert landscape, to snowcapped mountains that we had to drive through. The roads were windy and not for the faint of nerves.
Had to get out and play in the snow!
Stopped and stayed at a small village called Ait Bennadou, which has a fairytale-like look to the kasbah (old fortress). The whole village is about the length of 2 NYC blocks. I loved it and we stayed a night down and another night on the way up. Lots of amazing locals, fires in a cozy riad and great food. We were the only tourists in the whole village!
We ate in Berber (the indigenous Moroccan people) tents.
And climbed all through the kasbah.
Next, we drove South through Zagora and M’Hamib, and camped for a few days in the Sahara Desert. This was probably my favorite part of the trip of all. The Tuareg people are the traditional nomads that travel through the desert as their animals (camels, sheep, goats) need more food. I have never met people who love the desert so deeply and love their life there. They play music, wonder at the stars, and are meditative, wonderful people.
At sunset, we would take the camels to go over the sand dunes. Sweet, powerful animals they are.
I won’t lie… at night it was freezing! Slept in simple Berber tents, with a carpet put down right on the sand and some thick blankets to sleep under. No electricity, so just had candles.
This is our Tuareg driver, who drove us to El Chicaga, the biggest sand dunes in Morocco a few hours outside the M’Hamib. This is where the road literally ends, and you are on a 4 x 4 through the sand for hours to the dunes!
Our Tuareg driver was a nomad in the desert for most of his life. He knew where there were interesting rock fossil sites, oases, and lookout points. He knew every twist and turn in the road-less desert.
The energy in the Sahara is palpable and so powerful. I’ve been to deserts in Mongolia, Southern Africa, India, Namibia, Bolivia, Australia and all around the world, but the Sahara may be one of my favorites.
Yoga overlooking the kasbah.
The ubiquitous mint tea. I always asked for mine “sans sucre” (no sugar)… you can see why!
The nut market part of the souks.
As with every adventure, the journey changed me and helped me grow. I feel newly refreshed in creativity and inspiration. This time I did go in the middle of a film and in a very busy time, but I am back working for my clients on the film now. There really isn’t ever a perfect time to get up and leave for an adventure, so you just have to go. It is the best thing ever. You’ll never regret it.