The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
– St. Augustine
With every trip we take, my world expands. I see remarkable places, talk to people whose perspectives are different than mine, taste spices and foods that are foreign to my tongue, even occasionally sleep in beds strewn with rose petals. My mind reels; my world expands.
On our most recent trip to Morocco, I woke at 5 a.m. to loudspeakers calling all Muslims to morning prayer, ate lamb hoisted up from a roasting pit in the busy marketplace, got lost in a maze of souks every single time we ventured out of our Riad, drank mint tea with a Berber toddler, and experienced a hammam (Turkish bath).
The days and nights we spent in Casablanca, Marrakech, Ourika, Fez, Chefchaouen and Rabat are etched in that part of my brain that is determined to hold on to special memories. Our trip followed directly on our 11 days in Portugal and, by the end of it, as much as I wanted to get back to Farm Dover, I was sad to leave this extraordinary country and its people who welcomed us with such warmth and respect.
We travelled by train from Casablanca to Marrakech, and then again from Fes to Rabat. First-class tickets were inexpensive, the train stations were centrally located and well organized, and finding our train and getting settled was easy. We packed light, so only had to handle our small suitcases (plus a rug and a wool blanket that we bought along the way).
Our friends Debbie and Bashar Masri got us started on our trip planning with some good advice on finding places to stay. We were pleased with all our selections.
Casablanca: Hotel Le Doge
Marrakech: Riad Camila
High Atlas Mountains: Kasbah Bab Ourika
Fes: Algila Fes Medina Hotel
Rabat: Riad Darzen
Kasbah Bab Ourika
I would be remiss if I didn't call out this resort in the High Atlas Mountains where we stayed for three days. On Day 2, we took a 6-mile trek through three Berber villages and over a swinging bridge. Our guide lived in one of the small villages and seemed to know everyone we met along the path. At one of the villages, he asked a young mother of a toddler if we could come inside and see her Berber home. Next thing we knew, we were having mint tea with her toddler. That afternoon, I was treated to a hammam: an hour-long spa bath where I was bathed, exfoliated and oiled. Cannot recommend it enough!
While in Fes, we took a day trip to a beautiful town named Chefchaouen, known as the "blue city." Most of buildings and many of the streets in the old medina are whitewashed blue. It's a hidden treasure, well worth the three-hour drive. So glad we went.
We had a great tour guide in Marrakech who walked us through some "off-the-beaten-path" places, explaining the history and culture of the city. He showed us where the women of the town bring their bread each day to be baked in a community wood-fired oven, explained how the riads (fancy houses) are hidden down non-descript alleys using "blind architecture," took us to his favorite street vendor for freshly roasted lamb and carried our lunch across the street to a tiny coffeehouse (former hangout of Jimi Hendrix) that only served mint tea, and even took us to a reputable rug dealer (La Porte d'Or) and waited while I looked at rug after rug -- finally choosing one. I think the price for the entire day was $35 plus lunch. Guide: Serrakh Adelhafid, email@example.com.
We also lucked into a wonderful guide in Chefchaouen (see above) who walked us all around the medina, took us to a authentic Moroccan roof-top lunch place (Bab Ssour) and then introduced us to a rug/blanket vendor: Machkour Mohamed. (We left with a wool blanket tucked under our arms). Guide: Mouden Abdeslam, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flying home from Morocco required an overnight stay in Madrid. We spent the afternoon people-watching while eating a plate of Jamon Serrano (Spanish air-cured ham), took a quick tour of the Prado Museum (it closed early that evening), walked around the Royal Botanical Garden and then ate a very-late-by-our-standards dinner at Casa Lucas where we had amazingly delicious calamari with squid ink mousse. The next morning we checked out of our centrally located and very affordable Hotel Regina and headed for the airport. We were going home...