Some fun instagram shots from Morocco...
Having had my new camera for only a short time, I am still learning so much about video. I first started making home videos from Blackberry phone clips in attempt to capture the essence of our adventures that still photos just could not do. So although I have come a long way, I am still learning so much... here is a rough draft from our Morocco adventure... enjoy!
A rare stormy day of rain and dark clouds greeted us the morning we were to drive over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh and Essaouira. It seemed as if the tiny villages made of red earth and rocks could dissolve and wash away into the deep gorges at any moment. It was a treacherous drive through the mountain range along the narrow road comprised of endless switchbacks and sharp corners, dodging huge tour buses that hogged the road and boulders washed down with the rain. Relieved to finally reach the flat empty lands around Marrakesh, we continued on to Essaouira, dramatic skies creating epic backdrops for the shepherds and small villages. We arrived in Essaouira as the sun's rays finally succeeded in piercing the dark clouds, shining warm light onto the ancient walls of the small seaside town. Even the thousands of gulls seemed to revel in the beautiful light, swooping and cawing high in the sky. Yes, it was nice to be on the ocean again.
Essaouira was the perfect place to end our month long adventure in Morocco. It had the grit of Fez and the beauty of Chefchaouen. We wandered the narrow streets, in perpetual awe of the depth and texture, stumbling upon local shops and markets, loving the endless stream of exotic smells and sounds. Around every corner was sight that excited all senses.
We stayed at Dar Skala, a guesthouse with a tiny entrance that takes you up winding passages until you reach the rooftop patio with one of the best views in Essaouira. Jorge and his son Pablo were incredible hosts, adding a personal touch to the beautiful home they welcomed us in. We rose with the sun and ran along the vast stretches of beach, followed by breakfast on the roof and full days of exploration (always taking a break for a coffee and croissant in the main square, of course). Inevitably we would end up watching the sun sink into the ocean with a glass of wine, lulled by the evening prayer, eventually venturing out in search of kefta tagine. Yes... the days were perfect...
I spend a lot of time in the desert. It is a special place for me. Perhaps because it is so opposite from my everyday life of living in a city, driving around congested streets, rushing around here and there. But when I am in the desert, I am filled with such peace. The vastness demands presence. Your senses come alive as all your worries melt away. At times the only thing I can hear is my own breathe mingling with the wind, my thoughts becoming clear and light. Everything slows down in the most beautiful way.
And then there are the dunes. I was so excited for this part of our Moroccan adventure, never having experienced anything as large as the Sahara. You can’t ignore the energy emitted from these beautiful shifting mountains. Always moving, always changing… and never with the same particles of sand.
We rode camelback through the dunes, watching the evening sun warm the sand into deep red tones. Once again, silence, except for the camel’s large hooves prodding softly along. We passed Berber camps, set up in the middle of nowhere. Their houses were made of scrap wood, covered with blankets and carpets, some surrounded by carpet walls for protection from the wind. Nearby, their herds of goats were eating the patches of grasses, growing in the most unlikely places. Our Berber camp was not unlike the others, except ours had queen size beds and running water (so yes, maybe it was quite different!). That night by candlelight, we ate one of the best meals of the trip, a Moroccan salad and a meat tajine. The most spectacular of all though, was the sky. So littered with stars it took your breathe away. Mesmerized, we lay and watched the luminous sky until the day finally overwhelmed us and we crawled into bed. We awoke before light, climbing a nearby dune to watch the morning light flood across the dunes, warming the vast Sahara. Yes, the desert is a very special place.
As much as I love the desert, the ocean, my true love, is calling...
Location: The Sahara, Merzouga, Morocco
Accomodation: Yasmina Hotel (would highly recommend)
Tucked away behind a nondescript door at the end of a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, is a beautiful haven called Riad Medina. We were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves, and we basked in the luxurious space filled with colorful tapestries and intricate tiling. It truly was a sanctuary amidst the chaos of the old medina... we didn't want to leave.
A big thank you to our lovely hosts who filled our stomachs with amazing food and helped us explore the incredible city.
It was a 5 hour drive from Chefchaouen to Fez in the old Mercedes taxi. With no AC, we had the windows rolled down, and the air that whipped across my face and through my hair felt like a blow dryer. Speeding along the highway, we drove through groves of olive and almond trees, past dry brown fields once filled with hay, and small towns consisting of only a handful of decrepit buildings. We passed swarms of children walking home from school in small groups, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, sometimes crouched in the shade of a broken down wall. The lucky ones sat nonchalantly on a donkey, getting the easy and (somewhat) faster ride home.
After a few days in the charming village of Chefchaouen, we were ready for a bit more grit. What better place to find it than the largest living Islamic medieval city in the world. The medina in Fez is also believed to be the largest contiguous car-free area in the world. That being said, nothing can really prepare you for the labyrinth of narrow alleys and markets, the restaurants, workshops and mosques that fill the maze of passages.
Fez is a city of assaults. Assaulted by the young boys offering hotel rooms and tours to the tanneries, by people pushing their carts through the dense crush of bodies in the narrow streets, by the local shoppers, by the shop keepers calling to you with their olives and nugget and leather slippers for sale.
You are assaulted by the donkeys that barge through the crowds, laden with hides and produce, by the thousands of stray cats, by the wandering chickens.
And of course, you are assaulted by the smells. Of spices, of smoke, of fresh bread and tagine, of donkey dung, of semi-cured animal skins from the tannery. One moment you are intoxicated, the next, debilitated.
People are yelling at you to buy things, to move out of the way, offering rooms and restaurants. Donkey hooves strike loudly on the cobblestone alleys. The call to prayer layers itself over the city, rushing over rooftops, nestling into the alleys below. The distorted stream of Arabic vibrates in the air, echoing off the stone walls.
This assault on the senses is exhausting, yet somewhat addicting. After an invigorating mint tea in the solace of our riad, we are off again to explore the secrets of the medina...
Yes, I'm in Morocco. After a busy (and incredibly wonderful) summer in Vancouver, I was in dire need of spreading my wings (and mind)... thus the order for an adventure! It is now day 6, three of which were spent in Madrid to decompress before the madness of Morocco. We flew into Tangier, then hired a car to take us to Chefchaouen, a small village in the Rif mountains two hours away, known to many for its indigo blue-washed buildings and to others for its kief, which grows abundantly in the hills.
This turned out to be a wonderful introduction to Morocco. The various hues of blue make for an incredible palette, although the locals shy away from being photographed. I don't blame them; I wouldn't want tourists photographing me on my front porch every day either. Although it has changed little since it first opened its doors to foreigners in 1920 (over 400 years after it was first founded in 1471), Chefchaouen has accommodated for the thousands of tourists that swarm its narrow stone streets with a plethora of restaurants (all with the same 10 items on the menu) and shops brimming with silver trinkets, woven rugs and wool clothing. Yes, Chefchaouen had a beautiful charm... now on to Fes, the oldest of the imperial cities, said to be the symbolic heartbeat of the country.