Morocco…one of my unforgettable trips. It’s been almost a year for the memorable time spent in the company of wonderful co-travelers and our guide in Morocco. When in London, I would usually visit middle-eastern/African countries during Easter and Christmas/New Year for the warmer weather and affordable prices compared to Europe. I had once read a blog on Chefchaoun, the prettiest blue Moroccan pearl. From that time, Chefchaoun was on my list of places to visit. While researching, obviously I was looking for a tour that spent few days in Chefchaoun. Intrepid Travel offered 9 days North Morocco trip that included couple of days in Chefchaoun. I went ahead and booked it for Easter of 2016.

So, why I am so much in love with Morocco? This is where I found the peace in the crowd. This is where I met my two musketeers (now we call us The Three Musketeers 🙂 ) This is where getting lost (in medinas) was actually fun. I can go on and on. Morocco has almost everything… People, food, mint tea, music, culture, sea, desert, many cats, and the best of all Chefchaoun,  a photographer’s dream. My trip started with a little disappointment but ended with listening to Marrakesh Express on the Riad’s roof with many great memories.

As my flight from London was delayed, I couldn’t attend the welcome meeting for the group. Next morning, while waiting in longue, I was kinda staring at everyone passing by and thinking if he/she is going to be my co-traveler for next 9 days. However, there was no friendship at first sight. To me, it felt like all the other group members had found their friend for the trip. Little did I know that I will have such a blast with few of them later…

Our trip started with visiting Rabat, the capital of Morocco. We then continued on our way to spend the night at a house stay in Mouly Idriss. Once forbidden to non-Muslims, Moulay Idriss is a small traditional Moroccan town that sits astride between two hills, close to Volubilis. Watching the sun set over the town was the highlight of my first day in Morocco. Back at the home stay,  my first introduction to Moroccan Tagine was exactly as I had imagined it, yummmmmy and satisfying.

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Small town of Moulay Idriss

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Hungry us.. waiting for the homemade food
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Tagine is almost ready

Next morning was spent exploring the archaeological site of Volubilis. Though listed as world heritage site, Volubilis is more of an open museum of roman ruins. I liked the part that you are free to wonder and experience the structures without the barricades.

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Group exploring Volubilis

After the tour, some of our group members tried Camel Burger for the lunch. As I wasn’t feeling so adventurous , I decided to try Harira soup, simple but tasty. Harira soup became the staple part of the meals for rest of my trip 😀 Thinking about it as I am writing this post, brings water to my mouth.

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Why so much smoke… oh yes Camel Burger.. work in progress

Our next stop was Fez. Fez is famous for the medina in the old city. On every turn, you find narrow lanes filled with bazars, craft shop, food stands while people and donkeys and mule trying to find their way through these alleys. We spent another day and half familiarizing ourselves with the never ending maze of medina. Such places remind you that you need to learn to navigate without google maps.

Now the best part of the trip, Chefchaoun. Driving from Fez to Chefchaoun, you know you are close when those pretty blue colored houses start popping up on the skyline. Two days spent here have a special place in my heart. Wondering the medinas with Corinna (one of the Three Musketeers), uncountable camera clicks, listening to the stories of the locals and then the plan for couple of drinks turned into chatting, laughing and dancing till the early morning with Shevon (other Musketeers), Denny, our guide Yahya and Mohamed. Whenever I feel down, all I need to do is think about these memories and it brings a smile to my face.

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Picture Perfect

 

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Wondering the medinas of The Blue Pearl
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Ek Pose Toh Banati Hai

Now time for some sea and beach fun. To me, it felt like Tangier was added to the itinerary just for the Marrakech Express. But it worked out well in my favor. I had a chance to meet, Monica, a friend of my manager at work. After meeting at Cinema Rif, a common meeting point in the town, we had great food at a roof top Stop correcting restaurant. Monica had also travelled across Morocco and middle-eastern countries. Sharing the stories of our travel while enjoying the view of Atlantic ocean was a great way of recovering from the early morning travelling fatigue.

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Seashore of Tangier

After taking a stroll through the bazar, I joined the group for the next exciting adventure, the Marrakech Express, our overnight train journey from Tangier to Marrakech. On our way to the train station, Shevon asked me if I wanted to share the train coach with them. I don’t know why but I felt privileged.  I enjoy travelling solo, but it is cherry on the top when you find a new friend in a group of people that you met few days ago. Such friendships go for a long time.

Shevon, Denny, Kaeden and me, neither one of us was ready to sleep so soon. Shevon was fully prepared with card games and the other Marrakech Express, song by Crosby, Stills & Nash. We played that song numerous times. Here is the youtube link, in case you want to get inspired 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7XIL67QSME

We reached Marrakech around 9AM. Tour bus was waiting for us to take us to the hotel. No activity was planned for the day. I decided to spend the day to get to know my hotel room, specially the bed. Slept for almost all the entire afternoon. In the evening, it was the farewell dinner with the whole group.

For first time, I had decided to take a cookery class while visiting another country. Probably Morocco didn’t know that I was already in love with it, it decided to surprise me with one more gift. Cooking class turned out to be just for me and Shevon with lovely Hind teaching us how to cook chicken tagine. We met Hind around 8am in main square of Marrakech, Djemaa El-Fna. We then followed her to buy all fresh ingredients, from chicken to mint, and everything. Sellers setting up their shops and sorting through produces, aroma of fresh vegetables, Hind buying stuff only from her favorite sellers… all of this was a great way of peeking into local’s life.

The night before, I was thinking of cancelling the cooking class ( as I was feeling lazy to get up early in the morning ). Luckily I changed my mind. Otherwise, I would have been deprived of an awesome experience and tasty tagine. The pictures says it all.

As it was my last evening with Shevon, Corinna and Denny, we decided to explore the night magic of Djemaa El-Fna. Whether its a Day or Night, Djemaa El-Fna is the heart of Marrakech action. By 10am, Djemaa El-Fna turns into an open theatre with many artists, snake charmers, henna tattto artists, water sellers in traditional dresses and many juice and dry fruit stalls. But the main attraction begins after the sunset when hundred’s of food stalls emerge from nowhere. After enjoying scrumptious super in the square, it was time to say good bye to my new friends. We parted our ways with a promise to take a trip to India for Holi. Hopefully we will fulfill the promise in 2018.

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I had booked a room in Riad for myself for one extra day. Riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard or garden. With my sense of directions and no help from google maps, I was lost while finding Riad Konouz. I remembered reading about numerous complains online about local ripping off tourist for helping them find the way. However, for me, it was a completely opposite experience. I asked for help at another Riad’s reception. Not only that guy walked with me and showed me my Riad but when I offered him money on my own, he kindly refused it saying you are a tourist, enjoy your stay in our city. I was overwhelmed by the courtesy and once again in love with Morocco.

My room at Riad Konouz was probably as big as my 1 bedroom flat in New Jersey. Mohamed, the owner of the Riad, and his wife are extremely hospitable and they go way beyond to make you feel at home. It was just the perfect way to spend the last day in Morocco with such lovely people.

My brain and heart were filled with so much love and so many memories that I couldn’t sleep during my early morning flight back to London. When my flight took off from Marrakech airport, I thought about Dr. Seuss’s word. “Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”   Oh Morocco.. I will always smile when I think about you. And soon I will be back to create many more memories in South Morocco.

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Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech
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Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech

 

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