From the Mountains of Atlas To Souks of Marrakech
Happy new year everyone! It’s been a while since I posted, and many things have been happening. Nevertheless, it’s good to embrace a new year with a recharge of mind and spirit. I’ve been visiting a few places last year like Europe and South Africa. One of my favourite places was Morocco. It’s like a magical land with ancient secrets ready to be found. I was (happily) lost in the alleys of the markets, to the hot sand in the desert. So, it is an honour to share this with you all!
I’m the kind of person who loves to travel where it’s not in the busy summer season but the weather is still lovely. I went on a trip in the spring of 2022 to Morocco which was my last destination after I visited Berlin, Germany and Den Haag in the Netherlands. Morocco is a country located in North Africa where African, Arab and European cultures are entwined. Situated at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco is the closest point of contact to Europe for Africa as a continent. Morocco is a land of tolerance, a blend of cultures and religions, and a country known for its amazing hospitality. It is a well-known location for Hollywood film shooting locations such as The Mummy (1999), Casablanca (1940), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), Gladiator (2000) even some famous series like Game of Thrones and Prison Break.
Morroco’s capital is Marrakesh (or Marrakech), sometimes called the red town because of the red Kasbah wall surrounding the medina, which was founded in 1062. Youssef bin Tashufin, cousin to the sultan began construction of the city. Under his watch, houses were built and a mosque began. Marrakech was the capital of the Almoravid Empire that covered a vast area from Maghreb to Europe. Now, along with the Berber, the Andalusia influence was born. The city is busy during the day with lots of locals and tourists colliding into this fun interaction. Right in the heart of the city is Jemaa el-Fnaa, a large square where you can find so many different vendors and entertainment including snake charmers! My experience was getting lost in the souk, which is basically corridors and alleys of market sellers of clothing, food, accessories, and everything you can think of. It was so huge, it may take you 40 minutes just to walk in them! What makes it amazing, this place has existed since the 11th century.
One thing I can recommend when you visit Marrakesh is to experience hammam, which is basically a public steam bath. Although the first hammams originated in Arabia, the idea of a hot bath can be traced back to the days of the Roman empire. As the Roman empire expanded to other parts of the world, from Europe to North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, so did their bathing rituals. It is open for men and women although they were separated by gender to allow for modesty. Because of their private nature, their entrances are often discreet and the building’s façade is typically windowless. From the traditional ones to the luxury ones, you will find all kinds of Moroccan hammams in the city based on your preferences. The place that I choose only cost CAD $40 for a complete one-hour traditional bath. Their black soap is truly magic, it makes you a whole new human once you’re done!
Then we’re off to the mountains. The Atlas mountains from the spine of Morocco stretched some 2,400 km (1,500 miles) from close to the Atlantic port of Agadir in the southwest of the country almost as far as the Tunisia capital of Tunis in the northeast. It took 3-4 hours to drive from Marrakesh with treacherous roads and some local police checkpoints we must pass. But I assure you the hours it took were nothing compared to the exquisite view. Accompanied by Berber people’s music played by our beloved DJ/driver, it was an enjoyable trip. Our destination was Ait Ben Haddou which is an ancient city located along the Ouarzazate river. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Morocco is very popular since some episodes from Game of Thrones were filmed here. The Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou in North Africa is over 1000 years old but still stands majestic with all its glory. On the way back, we had a stop at Cinema Museum in Ouarzazate city. They still have some production sets from the movies shot in the country, including information and old cameras they use for film production.
One of the best local cuisines in Morocco is Tajine (or Tagine), a kind of stew cooked in a stew that can be a mixture of meat, poultry or fish, vegetables or fruit and spices and olive oil. Sweet and savoury is the signature flavour profile of Moroccan cuisine and this Chicken Tajine embodies that balance perfectly. I had an absolutely amazing time in Morocco and I advise you to visit at least once to experience it too!