Situated only 19kms from the southern-most tip of Spain the African country of Morocco is about as close to the relative familiarity of Europe as you are going to get, but only in distance. In terms of cultural difference it might as well be a million miles away and this is what makes visiting Morocco a real treat.
As soon as you enter the country you are hit full force with the amazing technicolor that tells you that you have indeed arrived on the African continent. You are assaulted by a sensory overload of sights, sounds and smells that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, ranging from the heady scents of saffron and cinnamon, to the sounds of Islam calling from the mosques, welcome to Morocco.
From the bustling port of Tangiers, make your way south towards the vibrant city of Marrakesh. Here you will find a truly amazing place backed by what only can be described as the awe inspiring Atlas mountains. The old city of Marrakesh sits in the Medina which is a labyrinth of alley ways and back streets that defy any sense of direction. Smack in the center of the Medina lies the Djemma El Fnaa which is the main square. This is where the real hub of the action lies. During the day you will see people trading freshly squeezed orange juice, water sellers wearing rich colored clothes, youths with Barbary apes, touting for a photo opportunity and of course the beguiling snake charmers. As the day goes on the snake charmers depart and the acrobats come in, along with storytellers and potion sellers. However as darkness falls the square is filled with a myriad of food stalls and the aroma is almost intoxicating. This is when the crowds gather, looking to sample some of the amazing street food on offer, it really has to be seen to be believed. In essence Marrakesh is like an ice cold plunge pool on a scorching hot day. You know it’s coming, but you’re never really prepared for it. When you can’t possibly take anymore and need to seek refuse, head back to your Riad, a typical house within the old city with inner courtyards. Close the door and you’ll find yourself in an oasis of peace and tranquillity, complete with shady palms and trickling water.
If you want to explore more of this country and feel like you simply have to escape from the craziness of Marrakesh, then head south west towards the seaside town of Essasouira. Here you will experience a totally different kind of Morocco. Seen from its harbor it appears magical and mystical. The 18th century town is enclosed by battlements that could be mistaken for medieval. These face a beautiful beach that arches gently in a sweeping curve. Dominating the skyline is the pristine white washed town in which you will find a plethora of tradesmen and craftsmen who are connected in one way or another with the sea. Boat builders, sardine fishermen and net menders all work side by side as they earn their livelihoods from the sea. Stop in a pavement cafe as you drink a refreshing mint tea and feel the strong winds of the “alizee’ blow over you. Or alternatively, take a walk down by the harbor and sample some of the freshest seafood being cooked right before your eyes. Here you can chill out in the relaxing vibe that the town gives off and unwind.
This is only a fraction of what this stunning country has to offer and once visited you are sure to want to return again and again. It is a place where you should expect the unexpected and visit without any preconceptions and if you do this, then it will enthral you, just like it has done to countless many others along the years.