We also had orange juice from the market seller. It was lovely and sweet.
We went to Morocco. Our first place that we went to in Morocco was Marrakech. In Marrakech we stayed in a hotel it had beautiful panting on the walls.
It was a two floor hotel. We arrived in the morning and we had breakfast after we got there. We had Moroccan pancakes, jams, hot chocolate and orange juice and yummy bread.
My impression of the old town was that it was old, busy and lots of beggars. What I liked most about Morocco was seeing the horses and donkeys on the roads.
I loved the markets in Morocco – they were kind of pretty – with lots of colours around. We all got some boots at the market because were going to places with snow like my baba’s village, and we’ve worn our sneakers everyday for the last few months.
I have dreamt of going to Morocco ever since I can remember. I’ve been fascinated by the spices, the colours, Moroccan furniture, Moroccan tea and of course the Atlas Mountains. Not sure exactly why though they have always held a sense of fascination for me. Maybe it’s their shear altitude so close to the sea, they’re a very long mountain range that stretches into Algeria. On the opposite side of the mountain range to the Atlantic Ocean is the beginning of the Sahara desert, which, as I’m reminded by Toby who loves statistics, is bigger than all of the USA including Alaska.
Being so close to the southern tip of Spain for our Christmas holidays it was difficult to pass up a short 13km ferry ride to Morocco for a short visit. Our Spanish friend Fran gave us lots of good information about what to do and where to go. It was wonderful going by local knowledge cause it meant we skipped many of the places that were not as worthwhile and decided to take an overnight train to Marakkech which was extraordinarily beautiful. We arrived in Tanger by about 1pm local time and our first encounter reminded me just how long it’s been since we’ve had to haggle. We took two taxis from the ferry port to the station and they were going to be 5 Euro (50 Dirham) each. This we were told by the info man ‘not at all connected to the taxis or anything and he was paid by the government so info is free – ‘I won’t ask you for any money” – he said. As we were disembarking from the taxis we were told it was actually €20 each – oh no you don’t! As long as you’re confident of your information and stand your ground you won’t get ripped off (by too much) but it did remind me of haggling and embracing ‘This is Morocco!’
We had our hearts set on Marakkech and managed to book the very reasonably priced overnight train though we had till 9pm to wait. No left luggage at the station and it is pretty hard traipsing a round a new place with all our luggage – only cabin bags but they do get heavy after a while – so we just stayed at the station and set up camp for 6 hours or so. We didn’t really give Tanger a chance but sometimes you just need to take the easiest option when travelling with kids.
We did split up into groups though and had a walk along the gorgeous Mediterranean side of the coast and I was impressed with the wide beach, the trendy cafés and loads of people out enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The beach did have a distinct long line of rubbish that was washed up by the tide. It started my pondering about how clean the beaches in Greece are. Why is that? Different tides? Does the rubbish get stuck on coral? I’m sure the Greeks throw just as much rubbish away without thinking. Mmmmmmm! Something to ponder on a long bus trip maybe.
Being on an overnight train instantly made me reminisce of our journey across Asia. I just fell in love with long train journeys and this time having my sister Jenny with us and also not having humongous bags made it so much easier to get on and off, which was really the only challenging part of our other train journeys in Asia.
There’s something very inspiring, or romantic, or comforting maybe, of the chug chug sound of a train and watching landscapes change before your eyes. I often day dream of traversing more lands by train.
Marakkech was so busy and exciting. We stayed in the walled Medina, old town, area and were so glad that we arranged a mini bus to pick us up at the station as we would never have found the guest house. It was nothing like the grid streetscapes that I am so used to in places like Australia and America. The map only had areas written in, no street names really. It was like a real life labyrinth. We were greeted with hot mint tea (sweetened which the kids were very excited about – nothing like getting away with sugar consumption because ‘it’s cultural’. Our accommodation in two rooms was so comfortable and traditional – a wonderful place to stay.
Some of our highlights were walking to the centre of the Medina and going to the markets – they were so so busy and colourful. The spice stalls were fascinating, and the dried fruit stalls – yum – they instantly made me think of my brother who makes the best sticky date pudding on earth.
It was quite difficult to keep track of the kids – so so lucky that we had three adults so each child could have a hand to hold. There was one time that were looking for boots for the kids and Toby went off to look at another stall and didn’t tell us (he says he told us but we never heard it) and we couldn’t find him for a couple of minutes – longest few minutes we could imagine, even if there was absolutely no threat of kidnap or anything like that – how would he ever find us or the way back to the hotel. Anyway – he eventually heard our yells and we found him. Scary stuff.
Probably the biggest highlight was our day trip to the Atlas Mountains. Superb scenery and they definitely lived up to my expectations.
Firstly we stopped off at a Berber village and had tea and bread at a local family home. That was quite fascinating. The animals lived downstairs and the family upstairs. The bread was cooked in a traditional small food fired oven.
There was a traditional hamam bath that was again heated by wood and the water brought up from the river in rubber water holders made from old tyres.
The bee hives were fascinating – the honey was collected in a round rescepticle and the bees enter from the outside of the wall on the other side of this round honey hive. When the honey is ready to collect they put smoke near the opening and then the bees leave and presto – the honey is collected. We had bread with honey and their own olive oil which were both delicious and an unusual but yummy combination……..and the Moroccan mint tea is something we all got very fond of.
Before our walk up to a waterfall in the Atlas Mountains we stopped for lunch – and I wish we had ventured for a walk a bit further to the more traditional restaurants that were more than half the cost for the same food and with a much better view along the river. I guess the driver/guide gets a healthy commission so doesn’t give you the option. Its something that really gets up my goat but I guess they’re just looking out for themselves.
The walk up to the waterfall was so fun and at one stage I overheard Yasi saying to a Spanish lady – ‘We’re good at this – we are rock kids! And have done lots of rock climbing’. It was pretty slippery though and at certain points we were very pleased to grab a hand of other hikers or the wonderful Mustafa who was showing us the way. The waterfall was glorious but the journey up there was excellent.
It was really just a small taste of the Atlas Mountains but it whet my appetite for more visits here. We would love to come and do some Sahara camping on the other side of the mountains.
New Year’s Eve was spent in Casablanca – a three hour train ride from Marrakech. We went there because we found 60€ flights to Milan, Italy. It was pretty divey in Casablanca really and not particularly interesting like Marrakech. Maybe we didn’t give it much of a chance though; do you know how sometimes you walk around in the dark and you don’t feel particularly safe? No particular reason just the feel you get. I guess it is the biggest city of Morocco and also the business capital so it caters to that. We were glad that we spent the majority of our time in Marrakech.
We went out to a supermarket and there were crowds of men buying alcohol. Casablanca is the most westerly point of the Muslim/Arabic world. I know there are rules against alcohol consumption but there are obviously some exceptions – it was quite chaotic and crazy but an interesting sight. Each man wanted to have their fair share of the alcohol that was left just a few hours before midnight. There were lots of people out on the streets though we had a quiet New Years Eve. It’s quite hard to have a loud, crazy NYE with lots of young kids cause they’re asleep early and you kind of need child care to be out late.
We did however stay in a lovely cheap hotel with huge rooms and ‘princess beds’ and a brilliant breakfast.
All in all, I felt so grateful to get to Morocco – it was an amazing five days and hopefully the first of many trips to this incredible land of exquisite colours, spices, tea, noise and cous cous.
A short three hour flight away we walked off in Italy and suddenly the world just seemed so so different.
Happy New Year