A Mo-rockin’ Adventure

Okay, first of all, I apologize for the overly cheesy title, but it had to be done. Second of all, I’ll point out that it’s been almost five months since my Morocco trip, but I’m finally getting around to writing about it.

In December, blessed with a week-long puente (Tuesday and Thursday were holidays, meaning we also got Monday and Friday off, and my school was kind enough to let me take Wednesday off as well), I took off for 5 fabulous days in Morocco, led by DiscoverSevilla. I had been to Morocco two years prior and absolutely loved it, so I was psyched to go back.

We took a bus from Sevilla to Tarifa, then a ferry from Tarifa to Tangiers, then a bus from there to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, where we had lunch (oh man, Moroccan food is amazing), walked around the beach, and explored the town a bit. First stop was the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and Hassan Tower, featuring some beautiful Moroccan architecture. Next, we headed into the old medina of Rabat. With its blue-washed buildings lining tiny, winding streets, Rabat’s old medina reminded me of Chefchaouen, my favorite town from my 2009 visit to Morocco, although this led out to a view of the city lights twinkling over the sea accompanied by the tunes of street musicians.

The beach in Rabat

A friend and I in front of the Hassan Tower

Rabat's old medina

We continued onto Fes, where we stayed the night before heading on a long journey south to the Sahara Desert. Along the way, we made a stop to play with monkeys, who we were able to get right up to and feed. Driving through the Atlas Mountains, we encountered patches of snow, a thrilling sight for a native of sunny Southern California.

If you give a monkey a peanut...

We eventually reached Erhoud, where we piled into 4x4s, driven by Moroccan guides that spoke no English, and left on a wild journey, flying over bumps and pot-holes and into the dark desert. Just like the Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland! Except, you know, authentic. We got out and transferred to our next form of transportation: camels! Here’s where it really hit me that I was in Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, looking up at the billions of stars surrounding us and around at the endless expanses of desert. If that’s not a memory I’ll carry with me for life, I don’t know what is.

What the Sahara Desert looks like at night from on top of a camel: dark.

We reached the camp, left our belongings in our tents, then joined a group of Berbers playing music around a campfire. After yet another delicious meal, we returned to the musical campfire, played with sparklers, and then attempted, in vain, to get a good night sleep. It may have been the coldest sleep of my life, and the majority of the trip-goers may have gotten sick, but who cares? We were sleeping in the Sahara!

Berber musicians

Early the next morning, we woke up to begin quite the challenge: climbing a massive sand dune to watch the sun rise over the Sahara. If you’ve ever walked on the beach, you know how difficult it can be to walk on sand, and when you’re climbing up a steep dune, for every step up you take, you seem to slide down two. It was insanely exhausting, but I was determined to make it to the top before sunrise, and eventually I did! The views were stunning from there. Totally worth it.

Victory! Rocking my pajama pants.

Our tent, back down in the camp

Needless to say, the climb back down was significantly easier. We packed up camp, hopped on camels, and rode them to a hotel, where we ate, showered, and were ridiculously pleased to use plumbing. Later in the day, we walked to the tiny nearby town, where we got a glimpse of small-town Moroccan life and visited a series of shops. Next, we traveled to that night’s hotel, which was beautiful and luxurious and featured the coolest-looking hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. We enjoyed walking around the hotel grounds and watching the camels that roamed around them before having yet another delicious buffet of Moroccan food.

Back on those camels! My new preferred method of transportation.

Rugs for sale! Anyone got a couple hundred euros?

Our fabulous hotel room

We spent most of the next day on the bus, heading back north to Fes. The main source of excitement that day was when our bus got stopped by a big political protest. Fortunately, rather than tipping our bus or throwing rocks at us, as some of the group feared, they let us continue. Pretty exciting.

After arriving in Fes at night, we hoped to venture into the city a bit on our own, but we were quickly told that it was dangerous for girls to walk around by themselves. Sigh, to be a guy when it comes to travel. But no worries, because the next day we got a fantastic tour of Fes, weaving through the tiny, hectic streets and alleys, filled with shops, locals, and donkeys. To me, this is the real Morocco, and I adore it. We also stopped in a spice shop and a leather tannery, had our last delicious Moroccan meal of the trip, and did some quick shopping.

Leather tannery

None of my photos really capture the true essence of Fes, so here’s a video instead. It’s a bit shaky, but just think of it as an action movie?

Sadly, my time in Morocco had to come to an end, so after our tour of Fes, we returned by bus and ferry to Sevilla. The highlight of that trip was the Moroccan kids who hitched a ride on the back of our bus on the way to the Tarifa port, Marty McFly style (minus the skateboard). Beslama, Morocco. You were nothing short of amazing.

Morocco is definitely one of the greatest places I’ve ever been, and I’m grateful to have now been there twice. If you ever get a chance to, seriously, go to Morocco. Sometimes it gets a bad reputation for being dangerous or dirty, but it’s beautiful and fascinating and unlike anything you’ll ever see in the standard North American or European tourist destinations. Ryanair often has cheap flights between Madrid and Marrakesh, so if things work out and I teach in Madrid next year, I definitely hope to make a third Morocco trip! There’s nothing like it.

6 Responses

  1. Nana says:

    Sounds wonderful. LOVE that beach shot. That could win the photography contest the Washington Post holds yearly! XOXO

  2. janet jeffries says:

    That was just what the doctor ordered! A trip to Morocco! I feel better already! It must have been the delicious food! That starry night helped, too! I am so impressed! I will be anxiuos to have you tell us all about it in person! I love you so much!

  3. Ok, so glad you’ve been and my friend and I are looking at doing a similar trip BUT BUT BUT I need honest to god thoughts on if you think it’s safe for two American girls to do this trip alone.

    • Kirstie says:

      Hmm, I’m probably not the best person to ask since the two times I’ve been to Morocco I went with a tour group. I have heard some bad things from independent female travelers, although I feel like you could be okay if you were smart and cautious. Tour groups are not normally my travel mode of choice, but I thought it was worth it for Morocco, so see if you can find one that doesn’t seem too overbearing, or perhaps you can get a guy to tag along. Ask around further, though! I think some cities would be safer than others, as well.

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