The wonders of Morocco

The wonders of Morocco

by Elizabeth Jones
Stripes Europe

Morocco is a country that carries lifestyle and cultural differences between its inhabitants and those who travel to it. For the best experience, visit with an open mind and heart to embrace the unfamiliarity you may encounter. The country has a different atmosphere that is both humbling and memorable. From exploring the country’s most popular cities to taking an unforgettable camel ride into the Sahara Desert and meeting wonderful locals, Morocco will excite your wanderlust like never before. 

Cities to Visit 

Chefchaouen is also known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco due to the deep royal blue hues featured throughout the village’s houses, shops and various buildings. It is arguably the most picturesque Moroccan town. 

Essaouira is a coastal town that boasts a lovely beach scene. Not a heavily visited city, it’s an ideal location for anyone looking for a more intimate and low-key trip. Fun fact for Game of Thrones fans: Essaouira is where Daenerys met her faithful Unsullied Army for the first time. 

Fez is an impressive city housing the world’s largest medina and is home to many of the country’s scholars, artists and culinary enthusiasts. Take the time to shop for local goods here, especially beautiful Moroccan rugs! Don’t be afraid to haggle those prices down over a few cups of mint tea and walk away with the rug of your dreams. 

Marrakesh, the most well-known and visited city of Morocco, buzzes with an abundance of sights to see with architectural masterpieces, gardens and plenty of souks (markets) to satisfy every shopper’s needs while in Morocco. Here is where many people choose to start their journey towards the Sahara, in order to bask in the amazing scenery of Dades Gorge, Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate and the Kelaa Mgouna (Rose Valley). 

No matter which city you choose, be sure to stay in a lovely riad, explore the quaint alleys of the medina, indulge in fine delicacies such as tajines, couscous and mint tea and master the various markets showcasing Moroccan rugs, ceramics, lanterns and more. 

Spending the Night in the Sahara Desert 

My experience in the Sahara Desert was an unforgettable one. We met our tour guide at our riad bright and early and drove six hours from Fez to the base of the desert. He showed us the finest sights along the way, to include the towns of Ifrane and Midlet, the Middle Atlas Mountains, beautiful forests, springs, jagged rock faces and Berber villages. 

We arrived in the small town of Merzouga in the early afternoon. We had a chance to relax in a sparkling blue pool, shower and get ready for our camel trek deeper into the desert later that evening. We hopped on the backs of our camels and were guided into the Sahara just around sunset. The sun’s golden hues glistened above the red sand dunes, slowly sinking as it turned in for the night. The only thing surrounding us was our shadows, allowing us to soak up the peaceful environment we were all so unfamiliar with. 

When we arrived at the desert camp, we buddied up with other travelers and took the snowboards provided by our guides and wandered off to sand surf down the massive dunes of the Sahara. We shared stories, laughs and far too many bets on who could go down the largest dunes without falling. It was an unforgettable moment in time, where total strangers became friends due to their shared love for adventure and life. 

As it started to get dark, we made our way back to the camp for dinner, mint tea and learning traditional Berber songs to sing around the campfire. To end our night, we stargazed under the night sky that was lit up with most spectacular twinkling stars. Shooting star after shooting star went by, impressing everyone as we all voiced “ooh” and “aah” in what would have been a soundless atmosphere. For a moment, it felt like time stood still and we were the only people in the world. 

The people of Morocco 

Although Morocco is making economic and financial improvements, the country is still impoverished. Despite the hardships Moroccans experience, they truly are the greatest lovers of life. You’ll find children dressed in worn clothing playing in the streets with a tattered soccer ball, yet having what looks like the time of their lives. You’ll find elderly people working from sunup to sundown with a smile on their faces. 

I met an abundance of wonderful humans including the welcoming riad owners, helpful and humble tour guides, children strolling through the alleys (one of whom returned a couple of euro coins I dropped) and the animated and very kind Moroccan rug salesmen. The vast majority of people throughout the entire country are classified poor on an international level, and yet, they seem happier than even the richest of people in the wealthiest of countries. While the bucket list experiences I had here will always be near and dear to my heart, they would not have been possible without the people of Morocco expressing nothing short of pure kindness and willingness to show us their culture and beautiful country. 

When it’s your turn to travel to Morocco, be more than just a tourist—get to know the locals and arrive with no expectations. Morocco has a way of making every traveler more spontaneous, and a change of plans will only leave room for an even better adventure.

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