A pleasant surprise.
My love for Africa is no secret but that love has always been exclusively for the south of the Sahara. Previous trips to Egypt and Tunisia had not filled me with a massive amount of confidence about traveling to Morocco but I was determined to use up my holiday this year and a eight day tour of the country ticked all the boxes. A new place, cheap, sunny and, close. Within minutes of heading away from the airport into Marrakesh I was both in love and, hated the place at the same time. I was loving it because the roads were mad, not quite Nairobi or Hanoi mad but mad enough to make me remember why I loved traveling so much. I was hating it because after nearly three years of trying to be settled my want to go traveling the world again was as great as ever.
So why did Morocco stand out against my previous trips to North Africa? Simples. My first two trips were beach package holidays. Granted they were very much appreciated at the time, sometimes a week on the beach is needed. My mistake was that I had judged several countries without actually properly having a look around which is a rooky error. Morocco on the other hand was back to business, a group travel adventure tour which took us away from the main tourist areas for a while and out into the countryside. We also had a local guide who was fantastic. Our first day involved crossing the Atlas mountains which was simply brilliant. I don’t think there can be a number one mountain range on the planet. Everyone I’ve been to has been awesome in its own unique way and the Atlas mountains with its winding roads and exciting overtaking didn’t disappoint.
Another thing that became quickly apparent was that the food was going to be amazeballs. I had learnt the word ‘tagine’ from the hairy bikers on Saturday Kitchen and I thought it was a great idea. As soon as we landed I was looking for a tagine and it didn’t let me down once I had found one which, was great because we would be eating at least one or two every day. If tagine was off the menu than skewers, soups and salads were on. Most of the time it was a combination of the lot. Rarely did we sit down to anything less than a three course meal. And what could make that concept even better? Bread, lots of bread not to mention olive oil. What could make it even better!? Lifting the lid off the tagine to find eggs cooking away in a rich meaty sauce.
It doesn’t matter what country you go to, as soon as you get out of the touristy areas one will get very little hassle from anyone and you truly get to see what a country is about. A lion in the zoo is nothing like a lion on the plains of Africa. Being on a tour there will always be stops to shops that are routinely visited by the same tour bus but whether I am becoming immune to this or, Moroccans are just rubbish at making a sell, I never felt pushed into buying anything. We visited a carpet shop and they made us tea and gave us a demonstration in how to make carpets and were generally a nice bunch. But of course the whole purpose is to sell a carpet which luckily they did to a lucky Australian couple which I suspect made the rest of us feel better. It never fails to amuse me that as we sat in the middle of this village made from mud and straw walls I pulled out my mobile phone and checked for wifi out of curiosity. It picked up four separate networks.
Incidentally Moroccan tea is awesome. During the above carpet demonstration they also gave us a tea making demonstration. When they asked if we would like sweet tea we had all been in the country long enough to know that yes we did want sweet tea. With a smile, our tea maker opened a box and pulled out a chunk of sugar cane the size of a babies head and dropped it into the tea pot. I will miss Moroccan tea. On our road trip rest breaks it became standard practice to grab a small coffee and some fairy cakes, another Moroccan delicacy. Probably. Like many non-western countries Morocco serves small cups of tea and coffee, they don’t seem to see any need on extra large anything, just small tasty things. I’m no expert but there may be a link between their diet and size and the Wests diet and size!
Next up, adventure!