By Marisa Fernandez - Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Marisa Fernandez – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Although choosing an attractive destination for the holiday of a lifetime has always been on my mind, it is not an easy task.
For me, travelling is not just a brief stay somewhere to relax; it is a true connection with a special place, people and culture. Visiting should be like really living there, enjoying all aspects of the special place you choose.
After wandering through an array of agencies and getting involved in endless discussions, the chosen destination was Morocco!
I devoted myself to preparing for the trip of my dreams, including the titanic task of getting enough information to be well-acquainted with the situation. However, in all the pre-travel fuss, I never realized the trip would be a turning point in my life.
No sooner had I set a foot in the Kingdom than I fell totally in love with the country. Moroccans -Arab or Berber- are fascinating people. They are open, friendly and with an obvious desire to please their guests. And after you become trusted, you are part of their family. I felt pampered and spoiled, especially after I became enthusiastically involved in their traditions and respectful of their religion.
Morocco in an unparalleled place where the ancient can mingle with the modern and coexist side-by-side without trouble. Thus, a variety of people with different cultures, traditions and social class live side by side. For the traveler, this means eating food with three fingers from the same dish as a local, or getting comfortable diving into a rose bath in a luxurious hammam. It also means sharing a taxi with a Berber woman in her black “lognaa” and a girl in blue jeans. You can enjoy shopping in a modern mall or bargaining in a souk for some small gifts.
The key to a great holiday is not only to avoid routine or stressing days, but to know the ins and outs that reveal the mystery of this country.
On my outstanding trip, I visited not only the sites mentioned in guidebooks, but also places off the beaten track where I enjoyed new experiences, such as riding a camel, sleeping in a jaima, dancing Ahidous in a berber wedding, lying on the sand waiting for sunrise or sunset, learning to bake “agharom” (a flat bread), listening to Gnawa music live, or diving in a swimming pool after a desert ride.
After leaving Menara Airport in Marrakech, I was shocked and delighted by the chaotic mess of its traffic, where pedestrians, cars, cabs, donkeys, wheelchairs and every other conceivable vehicle struggle to reach their destination.
Marrakesh is an astonishing city where Djam El Fnáa offers a globalized pulse, especially at night. The admired Koutuobia with its ancient tower, the men dressed in red offering water, musicians, snake charmers, fortune tellers, and fruit sellers mingle with tourists from all over the world who come to eat exotic food in a joyful climate, among food stands where you can eat the best fish or variety of soups.
Casablanca is well-known for the romantic film of the same name, but a visit to the city is full of other surprises, not least of which is the Great Mosque Hassan II. It is a cosmopolitan place where you can see the European trace in its lavish mansions, but there is not an ordinary closet in the bus terminal. Tall skyscrapers host financial businesses while crippled persons in the street beg for a few dirhams, everything is possible there.
Driving through the winding roads of the Middle Atlas is a fantastic adventure, especially in the summer when you get onto an old bus with open windows. I could not stop smiling, what a different world! Until now all was funny, amazing, surprising… but only after arriving at a small village near Erg Chebbi, did I really feel the impact of the culture of the original Berber people there. And I did not know yet that it would be a turning point in my holidays.
Time seemed to have stopped. There were habits and traditions of different times, houses were three storied with very peculiar toilets, sleeping on the terrace was usual, weddings lasted three days, and internet was easy to find while fast food was unheard of.
And what to say about the desert? Astonishing! I could only judge the passing of time when the voice of my host softly called me for meals. Overwhelmed at the sight of that endless sea of sand going from yellow to pink, I felt like a tiny creature in the immense solitude of that powerful landscape. All was huge, peaceful, and perfect. It completely filled my spirit. I truly thought of many problems in my life that could have been solved more easily and living with the desert people taught me to take things not tragically but in a real way…I had the time! The Sahara was the unanimous highlight of my travel!
Morocco is like a planet of its own with its diverse idiosyncrasy, beautiful landscapes, ancient traditions, incredible friendly people, wonderful views and a combination of traditional and modern practices, a country not only to visit but to praise most highly.
Edited by Manon McGuigan
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