Traveling. It leaves you speechless. Then turns you into a storyteller. -Batutta
I love Morocco. Its a real challenge to all five senses. You think you know something, and you don’t. Its wonderful. It keeps you on your toes that way. When I first got into Marrakech I was overstimulated. Lets say Marrakech is not the best place for sensitive people who are easily distracted or overstimulated lol. But its something you have to see and experience. Its overwhelming but at the same time exciting. Seeing all the people, markets and interactions. I was amazed by all the flavours, smells and colors. Even for a person without ADD, Marrakech is a lot to handle. It truly is something for all the senses. Marrakech is the perfect place to do some shopping, and drink some mint tea while watching all the action in the markets. There is also a beautiful photography museum which is worth a visit. I was very happy to be with Brad, as he knew the place very well. Excellent prices for food, and there is always something to see and observe. The people in Marrakech I had a different impression with. The energy of the place is very slightly agressive and pushy, but especially manly. A lot of dudes just hanging out on every corner! They often want something from you and the place thrives of tourism, which is understandable. Its very possible to travel alone in Marrakech, there are enough good hotels and people who are willing to help. Just don’t trust anyone to easily. I was amazed by the food there. Tajine was something I never heard of before, and we had if for lunch. It was so simple yet so lovely. I was amazed by all the colors, and life on the street. People interact with each other all the time, and it is definitely an overload to all senses! In a good way.
AIT BEN HADDOU
Our next stop was Ait Ben Haddou. Now this looks like a set from a movie, seriously. Its incredibly beautiful, something I didn’t expect. Also I had the best Tajine there Ive ever tasted, one I didn’t get to taste like that during the whole trip. Morocco is quite adventurous, you have to know what your doing otherwise you end up lost. Ait Ben Haddou is one of those places where you need to find a good place to stay upfront. Luckily we booked a very beautiful place, and the people there were very kind. This town reminds me of this crumbling old clay town. Literally everything is made out of clay and it looks quite interesting. It has this huge old town you can visit, and the famous Kasbah. As this fortified city full of towering kasbahs and crumbling walls took beatings from the brutal rains, its citizens defected into more modern digs on the other side of the Ounila River, except for a stubborn few that remain in the formerly majestic ksar. Its a very small town, and its perfect for just a day and a night.
The next day we set out to Merzouga. This place is know for its famous desert: The Sahara. It was something I needed to see when in Morocco, and frankly it was one of the most epic and beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. Its hot, yes. But so worth it. While arriving in Merzouga, there was a sense of mystery about this place. It was not too crowded and there weren’t that many tourists at the time we where there. Before we got into the heart of Merzouga we stopped at this amazing little village town. Since I am a photographer and Brad is too, we love to just park the car somewhere and stroll around, while trying not to look too suspicious which our camera’s. Its nice to just experience the energy of a certain town. This town was very traditional. It was like I ended up in star wars, only the lightsabers were missing. All the sudden I realized where star wars got their inspiration from. To see the traditional people wearing the “jedi” looking robes, was an amazing sight to witness. It is in these moments that I feel alive during traveling. Seeing kids play footbal, and old ladies doing some groceries. All normal things, but in these kind of environments you tend to appreciate these small things. Again I was happy to be together. Every town is quite overwelming, and when they notice you are a tourist they try to get you into their shop, like a lion hunts a pray. After a while you learn how to deal with it, and even joke around with it while not sounding too offensive. Walking into these little streets is a real experience for the smell. I wasn’t particularly happy when we past this weird shop that was slaughtering chickens in plain sight. The bio industries are no better but this was just aweful to witness. Nevertheless it was also intruiging to see, because when I visit another culture I want to respect and observe rather then judge their traditions. After strolling in the town for a while, we continued our journey to Merzouga. Once in Merzouga we checked in at the Chez Youssef Hotel. Amazing place I tell you. We hit the jackpot. Its one of the best places in Merzouga to stay, when heading for the Sahara Desert. Its just at the edge of the Erg Chebbi Dune. Arriving at our riad which is another word for homestay, we had a very warm welcome with some mint tea and biscuits. You can feel you are in Morocco just by looking at all the colors. It has so much colors, and their main material in Merzouga to build houses is clay. It was like being is this little clay village, which is something else! After having a good night sleep, it was time to head into the desert the day after.
Being in the Sahara desert was absolutely the highlight of the whole trip. You only understand it when you are really present. Until then you can only see it on pictures in travel books, but when you are standing at the top of a Dune, watching the stars twinkle and seeing the sunset and sunrise, those are the moments that are in my memories forever. It is in those moments I realise how small yet how big I am. Strangely enough its also a very romantic place to be, and I can image people ask to marry each other in places like this. It is truly that beautiful. We arranged to stay in the desert for a night. Youssef had his own camp which was pretty far into the desert. So we had to go on a camel for atleast 1,5 hour to 2 hours. Thats very cool, but its less cool for your bum, if you know what I mean 😉 But sooo worth it. Nothing cooler then seeing the sun go down while riding your camel. I had to laugh several times because we were in a small group, me my bf, and 3 italians, who all seem to have the same problems with their bums aswell. Which made everyone giggle the whole trip.
Once arrived at our camp, the tents looked absolutely amazing. They had real comfy beds and when we arrived the sun had go down. They cooked a great meal for us, with candlelight and warm tea. Then we opened up a bottle of homemade alchohol from the italians ( which was seriously one of the most peculiar and heavy drinks i’ve tasted) but it was to keep us warm. Being in the desert when the sun is not there is freaking cold I tell you! So when you ever plan a trip to the desert make sure to bring lots and lots of layers. Sleeping under the stars was something I could only dream of and there is was. Something that was surely on my bucketlist. It was even better, because I did it with someone I care about, which makes the experience more meaningful. After a very beautiful night of stargazing, night walks on the dunes and making music with the crew, it was time for a deep and good sleep under thick layers and blankets. The next morning we had some breakfast and head back to the Riad on our camels. It was a trip to remember. I did underestimate walking to the top of Erg Chebbi though. Thats quite exhausting, but worth it when you get to the top! 🙂
When you love little streets and suprises, Fez is definitely an interesting place to visit. It has beautiful places to stay and amazing restaurants! We stayed in a very beautiful riad, and I had the chance to take one of the best baths I had for a long time. Its very common for Morocco to have bathtubs in every Riad. In Fez you do need a map otherwise you get lost very easily. But getting lost there is not so bad! Its actually fun getting lost. (Not for real though otherwise you have these moroccan dudes telling you to go somewhere you actually don’t need to go lol.) But other than that its a beautiful town to just stroll for hours and explore all the little market and shops in every street or corner. If anything Fez is the place to buy spices, soap and authentic ingredients. It has its authentic bowls, and argan oil, lots of argan oil. Its very beautiful to see these products first hand and how they are made. What is also very interesting about Fez is the tannery. The smell of dead animals and is definitely the most horrible smell Ive encountered so far, but they also do make leather out of these juices. Its amazing to see their process and to witness all the colors and see this craft.
Now the second highlight of my trips was definitely Chefchaouen. Its one of the most amazing and authentic looking cities I’ve ever seen. Because of it its slightly touristic, but then again it was still full of locals doing their things. This town is also know because of its blue color, all the walls in this city is blue. This is why so many people call this an “Instagram” town. It is one of the most photogenic places for sure! Every corner is beautiful. In this town which has so many little stories and hidden finds, tour guides can be a blessing, even for those who normally avoid them. I learned about the majestic walls and gates of the town and admired the medina’s beautiful natural water spring. It might not be as varied or grand as in the larger cities of Fes, Marrakech and Casablanca, but Chefchaouen boasts a mesmorising traditional souk. Amazing architecture and vibe this little town has!
Until a few weeks ago this was just a place on a landmark, I used to look at. Now it has a face, a smell, a texture, a sound and especially a memory I will not forget! In my next post I will be talking about the do’s and don’ts of some places in Morocco, and I will also tell in more detail about each place and what you can do there! Stay tuned 🙂
Photographs by © Kirsten Swensen