Morocco Magic



Morocco is a country that I've wanted to visit for years - I can't put my finger on why, just something about the colours and hustle of the people that has always intrigued me. With places that are top of our 'hit lists', we often build up romantic ideas of them and expect too much. I'm glad to say this trip didn't fall short of expectations.

Tourism is big business now in Morocco and things have undoubtedly changed a great deal, but, that's true everywhere. I really feel that even visiting in 2018, you can get a good handle on what life is really like and was really like.

This Easter, I spent eleven days travelling to Marrakesh, the beach and the mountains. To tell you about it I've decided to report on a few aspects of the trip based on the spelling of the country in French.



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Marrakesh - Nothing can quite prepare you for when you arrive to the Medina of the 'red city'. The covered markets and narrow lanes form a maze, crammed full of shops, people, motorbikes and a whole lot more. Getting lost is inevitable, but part of the fun. Who would want to kids 50 cents to get themselves re-orientated.




"German?" they asked.
"No, English." I replied.
"England good country."
"Is it?" I said. "You're in the vast minority of people in the world if you are in favour of England."
"Not German?" They asked again in hope.

It's noisy, it's crowded and it's stressful, but it's a must see in Morocco. The sunsets against the backdrop of the pink stone buildings were awesome.




Mint tea - Everywhere serves tea, it's the national drink. Offering and accepting a drink is one of the easiest ways to create bonds between strangers, it's very disarming, and a wonder that more cultures don't do it. Sharing a cup and talking to people were some of my favourite experiences - you learn a lot with every refill.

I don't know where they grow all the mint but there's bloody tons of it. Sugar too. The terrible teeth of most people in Morocco is testament to their love of sweet things, although I would have thought they would love toothpaste . . . because it's mint flavoured!




Mountains - The Atlas Mountains were another aspect of this country which I enjoyed, and found just as expected. Snow capped peaks, dry dusty roads, and Berber villages built onto the hillside, with dirt houses and tiny doors. I think this was the first time I have written a story and then visited the location later, so I was pleased to have given a fairly accurate description of the setting.




A


Accommodation - Morocco has a wide range of options for travellers and tourists, from five dollar rooms to five star luxury. The hostels I stayed at in Marrakesh and Essaouira were both relatively new and really well run. As well as a good mix of guests, both places had created an atmosphere that was very relaxed and inclusive, with plenty of music, family style dinners, and activities provided, but with no pressure.




Arabic - I hadn't done much research about Morocco before I visited and was surprised to find there are five different languages in the country (in addition to French). I soon discovered Francais has long since deserted me, although I could understand a little and follow directions. I felt trapped between languages most of the time as some people would try to communicate in German, some in Spanish, some in English, but one phrase at least was universal - 'Salaam alaikum'.




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WRiting - alright, I've cheated here in order to talk about my favourite subject. This holiday was in part a writing one and not just because of the story mentioned earlier. Over my first three days in the country, I took part in the NYC Midnight competition, in which participants have to produce a story in a three days, based on some very specific prompts. I was happy with the way my entry turned out and await the results in early May. Apart from that, I managed to edit two previous stories, plan another and write this blog. Not bad in just over a week.





Repetition - Thankfully I'm not talking about the ill effects of the food or water in Morocco, but about the rhythm of life. It's certainly true that we all experience a lot of repetition in our work and daily lives, but I experienced a matrix level amount here. People stick to their patches, often spending sixteen hours or so outside, selling, greeting, talking, drinking tea, smoking - all day every day. In Morocco, there is no need to vary anything (mint tea and bread with every meal), no need to change from one day to the next, and no reason to do anything in a hurry.




O

Old friends - after almost a week of messaging back and forth, I managed to up with my old boss from my Clear Channel days back in London. Achraf now lives in Rabat and along with several other French friends had rented a house on the outskirts of Marrakesh. My last trip to see Achraf in Cannes around seven years ago, inspired an altogether different story. However short our time together was, it was good to catch up and meet his family in his country of birth.





Odours - Morocco smells . . . of everything. It might sound cliché, but places that are colourful, loud and smelly are just so much more exciting to visit. The souks and main square in Marrakesh are an assault on the nostrils - spices, dust, fruit stand, leather, camel dung, perfumes, hot tea, charcoal smoke, argan oil, fresh pastries, exhaust fumes, burning incense, steam and soap . . . and unidentified spilled liquids. In fact it was probably easier to navigate by smell rather than sight.





Observing - People watching is entertaining everywhere, but in Morocco it was mesmerising. It was easy to lose and hour when sitting down for a drink just watching events unfold around you. I think it was partly due to this matrix idea I mentioned earlier - people seemingly in a whirlwind of activity and repetition at the same time. Also, the population in the region is so varied, that you see all types of people in a tiny area - tall and skinny, toothless and hunched, young and fashionable, traditionally dressed, rich and suited, poor and penniless.


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Cats - They were everywhere, which is great if you like cats. Many houses and hotels take in a cat or two and feed them on leftovers, the rest of the other million or so have to steal the food themselves. It was interesting watching them interact 'in the wild' and felt a little like David Attenborough's Cats of Rome. There were very few stray dogs though; it's like the cats got there first and there wasn't room for both of them.





Chilling - I often say I'm going to take it slow on my trips, but rarely do. Last summer I visited seven countries in three weeks. What can I say? New places are my vice. Well, partly due to the writing competition and Achraf dicking me around, I only visited three places on my trip. I took it slow, I relaxed, I played guitar, I talked to locals and travellers, I watched the people and wrote. There were plenty of things I had in mind that didn't come to fruition (riding a camel, visiting the desert, climbing El Toubkal, kite surfing), but now I have a reason to come back and explore more of Morocco.


Until next time.

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