On The Marrakech Express
Morocco is a land of wonder, from mysterious Casablanca to the marketplace of Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh, to the dunes of the high Sahara at Merzouga, the labyrinth of the Medina at Fes, the blue pearl of Chefchaouen, high in the Riff mountains, to exotic Tangier.
We did it all. We flew from Phoenix to Madrid and on to Tangier. From there, we took the Jet boat to Gibraltar because the Pillars of Hercules was a bucket list item. From Gibraltar, we flew to Casablanca and to Marrakech, where we spent several days in the Medina and visited the famous Jma al Fnaa, a market and gathering place that has been going nightly for over a thousand years.
Next, we rented a car and drove out of Marrakech over the high Atlas Mountains, where we picked up a stranded Arab motorist who had learned flawless English by listening to the BBC and drove him to Quazarzate, had tea and met his uncle Ali, carpet dealer extraordinaire:
On the way out of town that evening, we stopped for dinner at Restaurant Douyria. Uncle Ali must have called ahead because we were treated like royalty! We were ushered through a long, dimly lit bar, out the back, and upstairs to a private dining room, replete with silk brocade cushions, starched white linen tablecloths, candles, Oudh incense, the works. The space was empty except for a small group engaged in animated conversation in the far corner. We started chatting with them, and it turned out to be Amal Essaqr, a famous Moroccan TV personality with her producer and assistant. We found out that she has over 2 million followers on Instagram and bears a striking resemblance to Mata Hari. They were absolutely charming, and we exchanged stories and lies far into the night.
We pushed on to Skoura, where we spent the night in the middle of the oasis of 10,000 acres of palm trees, pushing east the next day at sunrise to Merzouga and the high Sahara desert at Erg Chebbi, where we began our camelcade into the Sahara.
A Two Camel Caravan
We overnighted in the desert camp of Uncle Ali, enjoying the best tagine in all of Morocco, prepared by our Berber guide, and falling asleep under an inky black sky punctuated by a million blazing stars. The next day, we returned to Uncle Ali's desert outpost, where we said goodbye to our camels and the oasis crew and headed north through Erfoud, Errachidia, and on to Midelt, between the middle and high Atlas Mountains. After a brief overnight, we headed to the walled city of Fez, the second largest city in Morocco, a city of mosques and madrassas. It contains over 10,000 alleys, 400 mosques, and a culture dating from the late 700's.
|The Music Man – Fez
After a lovely stay in the ancient Medina, getting lost dozens of times, waking daily to the Adhan or call to prayer echoing across the rooftops of the Medina, we left Fez and made our way to Sky City, the Blue Pearl, Chefchaouen, high in the Riff mountains. On the way, I got a speeding ticket, photo radar, guilty as hell, paid on the spot, and we were on our way. I framed the ticket, it now hangs on the wall in my office.
In the Backstreets of Chefchaouen
In the Spanish diaspora of 1492, many Jews left Spain, crossing the Straight of Gibraltar and settling in Chefchaouen, in the foothills of the Riff mountains. Almost the entire city is painted in various shades of blue, giving it the moniker the Blue Pearl. We spent several days exploring this charming outpost, reluctantly heading back to Tangier, Madrid, and home.
Here's a link to images from the trip: https://www.patkofahl.com/Morocco/