I catch a breath as I remember the six weeks spent in Morocco upon return to Georgia. Even though each city there arouses a completely different emotion, Morocco is still a single reverie in my mind—a place I had always dreamt of. As you arrive in a Moroccan city—be it tourist-filled Marrakech or tiny Ifrane with its European-style architecture—you get lost in the chaos, thinking that you will never be able to become a part of it. However, reality exceeds expectations here.
Moroccan cities change as you go southward—from western style to the eastern, with varying urbanization levels, Arabic culture and diverse architecture. Locals claim that this is precisely the reason why Marrakech is such a touristic spot, located in the very heart of Morocco—neither too west nor east of the country. However, it took me roughly five minutes to utter instinctively that I was in love with this red city, turning clay-colored as the sun set against the long-legged palm trees.
You must certainly visit the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and Jardin Majorelle botanical gardens in Marrakech during daytime. The museum displays Yves Saint Laurent’s works from various times. Jardin Majorelle, filled with gigantic cacti and breathtaking greenery, is a perfect place to just sit and listen to music in your earphones. The designer’s blue house, the Berber (ancient ethnic group from Northern Africa) and Islamic museums are also nearby. At night, the place to see is the main square, filled with street musicians, various performances and snakes dancing along the music played with all sorts of wind instruments. You will find a variety of traditional restaurants here that serve delicious couscous and tagine. Do not miss a chance to sit at cafés and sip mint tea poured from silver pots either.
Apart from the numerous positive aspects of Marrakech, it is also the city that will lead you to the Moroccan desert. It takes a day to get to Zagora, while visiting Merzouga, which is larger and more beautiful, requires two days. On our way to Merzouga, we stopped by the red castle (Red Khabr) in Ouarzazate, which has been featured in famous films and TV shows, such as the Gladiator, Mary Magdalene, Game of Thrones and many more. The next day, we found ourselves in an open desert. Local Berbers, who are now Bedouins, taught us how to wear headscarves and we even got to ride camels. After an hour-long camel ride, we reached the very heart of the desert, on top of a mountain, where we watched the sunset. We spent the night in the desert in tents. Before going to sleep, locals surprised us with a short performance with traditional instruments and music by the fire.
You may return to Marrakech after seeing the desert and continue your journey southward. However, we ended up preferring to go north instead. After a roughly twelve-hour-long trip, the length of which was the result of lack of punctuality on the locals’ part more than the actual distance, we reached Fez—the cultural capital of Morocco. You are going to find a medina, which is synonymous to an old town, in every city. Their narrow, maze-like streets are now home to hostels and stores.
To me, the medina in Fez is unlike any other I have seen. Leather items with natural coloring are made here and then distributed in the rest of the country. For example, the blue color here is obtained with indigo, while saffron is the source of yellow that you will find on almost every carpet. In fact, saffron threads are used to protect products from moths here.
Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famous blue city, is only three hours away by bus. Nestled in the Rif mountains, it is painted in almost every shade of blue and will certainly take up a day to see. Of course, you are going to walk through narrow streets and an endless number of stairs here as well. Main streets are extremely crowded, while the real city that thousands of people dream of seeing is hidden in the very corners that nobody visits during the day.
Those who love Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch, must certainly visit Tangier—Adam’s and Eve’s city of love. Even though the coast here is not so swimmer-friendly, you may stumble upon the main characters from the movie at local cafés, located on narrow streets and verandas of the lit medina after sunset.
After visiting Tangier, Fez and Chefchaouen, you can be certain that you have been to every major city in northern Morocco. However, you must move southward and travel to Casablanca through Rabat, Morocco’s capital city. Locals warned us that we would feel bored in Rabat, so we booked a room at a local hostel for a single night only. But I don’t think it would be fair to say that Rabat is boring.
The Kasbah of the Udayas is located on a small hill on the coast of the ocean and surrounded with an ivory-colored wall. You are going to discover a tiny blue town with colorful doors, breathtaking plants, delicious food and hospitable locals here. The opposite end of this town, or even district, connects to a small beach, where you could easily try to hire a surfing instructor or even surf alone, if you’d like. We spent only two days in Rabat, which ended up being more than enough to see all the sights.
The last city I got to visit in Morocco was the white Casablanca. It is only one hour away from Rabat by train. Here, a local family invited me and my friends over for dinner, and we ended up spending the remainder of our trip with them. Moroccan families are fully devoted to making sure you feel comfortable and are very much like Georgians in that sense. There is nothing more memorable for me in Casablance than the time spent with this family—with the exception of the Hassan II Mosque, the largest most in Africa and the third-largest mosque on the planet.
This quality family time marked the end of our trip to Morocco. This land of colors, which I had considered unsafe prior to arrival, turned out to be extremely open to foreigners that respect their culture and rules. And, finally, a small tip for those travelling through Morocco—always look to the sides as you walk through the streets, as real Morocco is hidden in those very tiny turns that are often left unseen in the midst of the noise of the crowded streets.
Author: Keto Shurghaia