You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet on the sweetest digs this past week, and that’s because Dan-the-man and I jetted off to Morocco for 7 days! I had my ‘reading week’ break (do they actually expect you to ever use that time for academic reading?) and D had some holiday time to use up, so we found some el cheapo plane tickets ($250 total, round trip!) and were off. We wanted somewhere warm, exciting and not as pricey as European cities, so Morocco fit the ticket perfectly. It was spectacular. Since we only had 7 days, we didn’t try to pack too much in. On our itinerary: the ancient city of Fes and a desert trek.
First up was Fes. Fes, once the capital of Morocco, is most well-known for it’s old city (known as the ‘medina’). This is where we stayed and spent most of our time. It was amazing — the thousands of narrow streets are car-free, filled to the brim with little shops and market stalls, and people and donkeys are abundant.
Below are the tanneries where the leather items that Fes is famous for are produced. They take the hide and put it through a system of softening, curing and colouring. You can see the vats of different liquids and dyes, and the pieces hanging out to dry. Although very cool to see, you don’t want to stand around too long to watch cause the smell is something else. One of the main ingredients in the white vats is pigeon s**t. My highly sensitive nose (seriously, I have a very keen sense of smell) was not pleased.
This is the doorway to the local hammam, around the corner from where we were staying. Many men and women go here daily (different times for the sexes) to bathe, sit in the steam rooms and scrub. We saw lineups of Moroccans here everyday — waiting to get in, clean up and gossip with their neighbours.
Oh, and the food? Seriously yummy. We had great couscous, falafels, mint tea, pastilles, pastries, and tagines of different varieties. The fruit and vegetables were so fresh and delicious. Probably the best freshly squeezed orange juice I’ve ever had (and I’m usually not a pulp person).
Next up was our trip to the Sahara. The journey there and back was long — 500km each way — but completely breath-taking. We hired a tour guide to drive us, which was brilliant because he would stop at key points of interest and give us some of the history and details of each place we drove through. It was amazing – we started in the hustle and bustle of Fes, went through a forested area, then through snow capped mountains and a very Swiss-looking “ski town”, on to huge valleys, turquoise lakes, and finally into the arid desert. The whole journey was dotted with small villages — usually only a couple of hundred people in each. Getting a glimpse into the rural life was just as neat as any of the scenery. Neither of us wanted doze off in fear of missing what was around the bend!
Our final destination was a small desert town called Merzouga. The town sits right on the border of the huge Sahara sand dunes and has a mixed population of Arabs and Indigenous Berber Peoples.
Our host, Amar, was very proud to show us around his village. They have an amazing community garden system where each family has its own plot. Since water is scarce, there are rules about how long each plot gets water — once your turn is up, you plug up the drain with mud and open it on the other side for the next family.
The wells that serve the village are located right in the dunes. Women from each household go usually twice a day to collect water.
After spending our first night in a hotel drinking Moroccan tea with Amar and learning about the desert and its people, we rode off on dromedaries (ie. camels with one hump) into the dunes. We spent the night in a traditional Berber tent with a different guide, who made us laugh trying to teach us Arabic words that we couldn’t pronounce. We watched the sunset and got up for sunrise — both amazing in the middle of the Sahara. Easily some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.
Oh, hello there!
See that tent nestled into the dunes? That’s where we spent the night!
During the beginning of our journey, I decided to name the camels Sandy and Candy (Sandy for obvious reasons, Candy because it rhymed). I was on Candy and was chatting away to her during the first hour or so. Then our guide, Said, lets us know that their names are actually Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Poor Jimi — I don’t think he took to being called Candy much. Here is D riding Bob:
A week of beautiful places and people — we’re feeling very lucky to have had the experience!
Oh, and don’t think I didn’t get completely inspired by the design and arts and crafts in Morocco. I’m saving that for a whole other post. Stay tuned!