Visiting, Spain, Portugal and Morocco had always been on my bucket list. Well I scratched them off my list this past Spring. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Spain and Morocco with a friend I had travelled with 40 years ago. We have lived in different provinces for the last 35 years and haven’t seen each other much. But, you know what, it was like not a single day had passed when we met up again. This, I think is the sign of a true friendship.
We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company as we toured around Spain and Portugal seeing some wonderful sites and eating some good food (it tasted all the better because we didn’t cook it!)
Sherry had to return to work after Portugal but I went on to explore Morocco. I have to say it more than met my expectations. Soon after I returned to Canada I put my thoughts on paper.
Morocco A Country of Contrasts
This North African country has a long and storied history and is one of so many contrasts.
I had always wanted to visit the Sahara Desert and ride a camel so with that in mind I set about booking a trip to Morocco. I had seen sand dunes before and seen camels in a zoo so I was sort of prepared for that desert experience. What I was not prepared for though, was the exotic nature of the country, the incredible variety of contrasting experiences it offers the traveler and the wonderful, friendly people to be found there.
Morocco is a country that boasts bustling modern cities reminiscent of many cities in the western world with large grocery and department store chains, downtown and urban areas and cars, taxis and buses clamouring for space on the busy roads. In direct contrast are the souks and medinas found in many parts of the country.
Souks are open air markets some of which boast small store fronts built several centuries ago. Here, produce and spices, fish and meat are not sold in bags or packages. Instead, spices are heaped high in bins to form a colourful and irresistible display. A butcher will carve a hind of beef or spatchcock a chicken before your eyes and orange juice is made from freshly squeezed oranges while you wait. You can order handwoven rugs in a pattern of your choosing or have a bespoke leather jacket made for you. The colours, the aromas, the flavours, sounds and sights are a feast for the senses.
Medinas are old towns or an older section of a city surrounded by fortified walls and narrow twisting alleyways which you can only navigate on foot. Like some of the stores in the souks, dwellings in medinas are often centuries old many of which do not have running water. Fortunately, there are public spaces within most medinas which offer a working tap and sink. Interestingly, all of these public water stations also provide a cup hanging nearby for anyone to use to quench their thirst.
The geographical landscape and the temperatures found in Morocco also vary considerably. Only in Morocco can you experience wildly differing terrain and three distinct seasons within an eight-hour span.
Beginning in the bustling city of Fes it could be gray and rainy like many spring days. Then, as you ascend the Atlas Mountains the urban landscape gives way to forests of cedar trees on which snow gently falls. As you near the mountain top you are greeted by a winter wonderland in the town known as little Switzerland. (Little did I know when I left snowy Canada that I would see snow in Morocco!)
Upon descending the mountain, the temperature increases until you reach the Sahara Desert and the scorching sun of summer. Rainy, wet and cool to cold and snowy to blistering hot in only eight hours!
The vibes you feel in Moroccan towns or cities are also contrasting. In Casablanca you are in a large port city where vehicles and people tend to move quickly. Being a centre of industry and commerce there is an earnest and rushed vibe in this city.
Essaouira in the other hand is a beach side town with a more laid-back vibe. It was a haven for hippies in the 1960’s and now it is a haven for ‘new age’ hippies, wind surfers and kite surfers who contribute to the edgy and fun bohemian vibe of Essaouira.
And Marrakesh. Again, a busy city with old and new areas but the only place that I have ever visited that presents a circus and a party each Saturday night. I felt sensory overload when I visited the Djemaa el Fna square on a recent Saturday! Music, drummers, dancers, lights, singers, monkey trainers, vendors shouting loudly about the wares they had for sale, horses and carriages, snake charmers, food stalls and hundreds and hundreds of people from infant to very senior.
In visiting a country of such diversity and so many contrasts you can learn so much and in so doing you become richer for the experience.
Whether it be Morocco or another place n your bucket list, my advice is “Go.” There is nothing like travel to open your eyes, your heart and your mind.