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Published: November 5th 2011
Morocco is somewhere that I have always wanted to visit and after growing up in Dubai hearing tales about its exotic Arabic culture, I knew I had to visit one day.
Morocco has become infamous for the hassle that tourists receive from touts within the Medina walls and souks of the bigger cities. After hearing a few first hand stories from friends who had been hassled beyond imagine on previous trips we decided to start our trip in a quiet and unassuming place called Taghazout, which is a small surf town around 15km's up the coast from Agadier.
We stayed in some apartments called 'Surf n Stay', which were nestled into the cliffs in a perfect location with a little beach right infront of our door and the waves crashing below the balcony. Our host was a lovely Irish man called Chris who decided to leave his previous life back in Ireland behind and spend his retirement on the coast in Morocco. Chris was a wonderful host and works hard to ensure that his guests have the best experience and meet as many people as possible. He invited us and around fifteen other travellers for a 'Cous Cous' dinner
at his house, which was a great way for everyone to get to know each other. The food was amazing and these Cous Cous dinners have become legendary with Chris's guests as he now runs them most weeks for each group of travellers who arrive.
The lazy days, watching the waves were a perfect way to start our trip and we couldn’t recommend Taghazout more as a place to go and relax. We didn't manage to make it there, however, many other travellers were saying that Essaouire, a couple of hours drive up the coast was another great beach town and was amongst their favourite places in Morocco.
After our chilled few days at the beach we headed north to Marrakech for a couple of nights. We spent our days exploring the Old Medina with its countless Souks and alleyways. The real pulse and centre of Marrakech is the main square which is a hive of activity from morning till night with its story tellers, snake charmers, musicians, fortune tellers and by evening more than 100 foodstalls selling every type of food you can imagine, some of which not for the fainthearted such as sheeps brains and other
A couple of days proved to be perfect for Marrakech as longer could definitely start to wear you down a little with people trying to sell you everything you can imagine from the second you step out of your hotel, until you reach it again. It was not as bad as we had prepared ourselves for but a couple of days was enough.
It is amazing how easily you lose your way in Marrakech when you first arrive as you try to navigate around the maze like streets and alleyways. This was fun though and we managed to work it out just in time for us to leave!
There are hundreds of Riads (guesthouses) to choose from in central Marrakech and many are very elegantly designed in a uniquely Moroccan style. Some of them are amongst the most stunning guesthouses we have seen in any country.
The next leg of our journey was a trip from Marrakech to Fes in Northern Morocco which would take us through the Atlas Mountains and Sahara desert. For this we engaged the services of a local guide (www.tripstomorocco.com) to take us on this journey by 4x4 which proved
to be a great move as this turned out to be the highlight of our trip, our guides were wonderful.
This leg of the trip was incredibly relaxed and we made our way through the country, stopping in different villages along the way admiring the amazing views. We spent each night in a different place and stayed in some lovely but cheap Riads (Guesthouses).
We drove through the beautiful scenery of the High Atlas Mountains, the colours of which were amazing. We seen so many impressive landscapes which changed constantly as we made our way through the mountain range. Some of our highlights included visiting ancient Kasbah's (Palace's) which were previously the homes of Morocco's elite.
We also drove off road through vast landscapes and one afternoon drove miles into the middle of nowhere to visit a local Berber family who live in some caves. They still choose to live in this way today as they believe it is the best way for them to be closer to grazing land for their sheep and goats. We sat down to have tea with these people and played with the baby lamb that was running around the cave. Another
day we walked through the beautiful Dades Gorges and visited many other Gorges and Valleys (The Gorges of Todra, Tinjdad, El Jarf, Arfoud and Merzouga).
Another good memory was driving through fields of thousands of palm trees in one huge area which we then realised were providing shelter to dozens of beautiful but crumbling Kasbah's that had been sat there for hundred's of years.
On our way to the Sahara desert in eastern Morocco we visited another place which used to be the ocean, but is now dry desert land. We poured water onto natural rock and were amazed to see dozens of fossils moulded into every rock. Fossils of shells and other sea creatures and whilst it was great for us to see this, these fossils are very important to the local communities as they support a huge industry in this area. We passed countless fossil factories who excavate rock, extract the fossils and make them into ornaments and jewelry to export for sale all over the world.
We visited one very special Kasbah near a place called 'Ouarzazate' which is of great importance to Morocco as it has become the movie making capital of the
country. Tons of local and international movies have been made here including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Mummy, Babel and lots more.
We then reached a town called Merzouga, met some camels and set off on a 5-6km ride straight into the Sahara desert, which took 1.5 hours or so. There was a mountain range in the distance which marks the Moroccan border with Algeria maybe 40km away. Riding off into the red sandy desert was magical, the scenery was beautiful. We stopped mid-way through the journey to watch the sunset which was awesome. The camels eventually got us to our camp which was around 6km inside the desert and away from all development and the comforts that we are used to. It was very basic with no water, toilets or electricity but it was perfect for us.
We met some Spanish backpackers who were kind enough to share a bottle of Rum with us whilst we ate, sang songs and played drums around the camp fire. It was such a beautiful evening, the sky was so dark and full of stars that we slept outside watching the shooting stars, beautiful! We woke before dawn the next morning
to climb the sand dunes in time for a stunning desert sunrise.
After our time in the Sahara we headed to Fes in the North of the country for our final few days in Morocco. This perfectly coincided with my birthday so we decided to relax and eat yummy Moroccon food and had a lovely day at a spa and hamman which was great. We ate at two great restaurants in Fes and would highly recommend these to anyone, Dar Hatim and Palais Amani. Both were exceptional, wonderful food by lovely people.
Our two weeks in Morocco exceeded all expectations, we loved every minute and cannot recommend a visit enough to other travellers.
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