I had no idea what to expect from Morocco. I could never have imagined the warmness of the people or the beauty of the country. I flew into Casablanca, but immediately caught a flight to Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate is located in south-central Morocco and is the Hollywood of Morocco. Many films including Star Wars and Gladiator were shot in the area. I arrived not too long after September 11th. It was very gratifying to see the signs roughly translated to Terrorists Keep Your Hands Off Our Country. Morocco is very serious about being anti-terrorism.
From Ouarzazate it was a two hour drive to the village where I would be staying. My first oh-my-gosh moment occurred during the drive when I saw camels roaming the sides of the road. Being from Texas all I could think was that they were like huge jack rabbits.
The most amazing thing about Morocco was the people. I have never met any group of people that were so welcoming. Every person I met invited me into their home for VERY sweet mint tea and snacks. No matter what they economic situation, I was welcome to anything they had. While I was there the country experience the worst flooding since the 1960s. The devastation was amazing but so was the spirit of the people. I saw those with nothing sharing what little they had with others. Stranded goat herders were given food and shelter. People pitched in to get vehicles through the flooding and make sure everyone was safe.
The ancient kasbahs began to soak up the water and crumble at the bottom. Their mud brick construction, perfect for the normally arid climate was completely unfit for the torrential rains. As soon as the rain ceased, repairs were being made to ensure that the kasbahs would survive so that their amazing structure could be enjoyed for decades to come. Some of the kasbahs were enormous and being used as apartments. It was shocking to see such ancient palaces with satellite dishes and laundry hung from the balconies.
Eating in Morocco was a little bit of a challenge for me as a vegetarian. Typically Moroccan food is cooked in an earthenware pot called a tagine. A tagine, which is also the name given to the dish, cooks similarly to a crock pot. The dish will include meat, vegetables and possibly fruit such as prunes.
Bread is utilized instead of utensils. The meal is served family style with everyone sharing one tagine. I became very proficient at picking out potatoes, carrots and prunes with my bread “spoon” and leaving the meat for the others in my group. One bonus on the eating front was that pomegranates and mandarins grew everywhere. I was able to often pick them on the side of the road. It was absolutely the best fruit I have every eaten.
One thing you should make every effort to experience is a local bath house or hammam. The hammam consists of several rooms where you steam, scrub, rinse and refresh yourself along with a group of your closest friends and complete strangers. The soap provided appears and smells to be a mixture of tar and lard. It proved to be a wonderful exfoliant. For obvious reasons, there will be no photos of this activity.
All in all, Morocco was a wonderful place to visit. Leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city and arriving in a country village was somewhat of a culture shock. However, being able to slow down and relax was an amazing addition to the trip.
- Paula Whatley Photography
- I am a frustrated travel buff stuck in the life of an auditor. I was lucky enough to be born to a family that valued travel and adventure. As a teenager I took a trip around the world and my love of travel was undeniable after that trip. I have a job that allows me to travel often and I take photos wherever I go. With my limited amount of sightseeing time I have become something of an expert in the art of Power Sightseeing. I have learned to make the most of my limited time and will gladly share those tips with you. I will add stories and photos to my blog after each trip so please check back often. I never know what wonderful thing I will see next and I would hate for you to miss the adventure. Thank you for enjoying my travel stories and photographs. Please visit my website at www.paulawhatleyphotography.com for more of my photos.