— Morocco, Africa
For as long as I can remember, Morocco was at the top of my list of travel destinations/bucket-list/wish-list/dream list… every other list basically. I don’t know how my obsession for all things Moroccan began or how a short-lived fantasy turned into a such a strong vision and need to make this dream come true. Before I knew it, images of vivid, patterned Moroccan walls and bold Zellij flooded my mind and I’d catch myself day-dreaming and scrolling through Instagram photos of the exact places that I wanted to visit in Morocco and things I wanted to do. So, in January this year – an opportunity for me to travel to Europe over the summer presented itself and I immediately loaded up the map and started looking at flight tickets to and from Morocco. I started to rigorously plan this whole trip and do everything in my power to make things work in terms of time and resources. Eventually, I had enough money saved up in the span of 6 months from January to June to spend 10 days in Morocco; from flights and accommodation to food and shopping.
Casablanca (14th – 16th June)
I decided to start my journey in Morocco with three days in Casablanca – a city that has achieved the perfect balance between culture and commerce. Since Morocco is a Muslim country, I didn’t realise how much of an impact traveling during the religious month of Ramadhan would have on the city. I got extremely lucky in terms of my AirBNB location and the convenience, because it was in the ‘Ain Diab’ district of La Corniche – which is right on the Boulevard de l’Ocean Atlantique; the promenade facing the Atlantic Ocean. Since Casablanca is not as strong in its ‘tourism game’ compared to the other Moroccan cities such as Fes and Marrakech, in my opinion, there really isn’t much to see and do other than a couple things such as visit the infamous Hassan Mosque and spend time at the popular beaches specifically, Ain Diab beach. As an individual with a love for the ocean and beaches, this was perfect for me. As aforementioned, since it was Ramadhan, most shops, cafes and restaurants would be closed until about 8pm… but this wasn’t problematic for me because I had no interest in shopping and thankfully the beach clubs lined up on the promenade were open (although, mostly empty) for holidaymakers such as myself. These first few days were highly enjoyable because even though it was June, it felt like off-peak season due to Ramadhan, where the city was serene and peaceful throughout the day and lively and awakened by night.
Fes (17th – 18th June)
Fez (sometimes spelt as Fes) is the second largest city in Morocco, home to over a million inhabitants. It is often referred to as the country’s traditional capital, as it is a city with an invaluable cultural heritage – which is why it faces a heavy influx of tourists each season. Fes will surprise you, especially with its walled Fes El Bali medina, known as the largest medina in the world. This ancient labyrinth is a medieval gold mine of traditional souks, workshops of tireless artisans carving Arabic verses of the Koran into wood, potters creating beautiful ceramic and porcelain items, streets bustling with aromatic food stalls, sketchy nooks and turns leading to dusty yet aesthetic lilac and rose walls, and charming doors serving as entrances to mosques and Madarsa’s with some of the most fascinating zellij (mosaic) work. Not to mention, the medina is also famous for being home to the world’s oldetst university – the Qarawiyyin University and the Chaouwara Tanneries; where animal skins are tanned and turned into all things leather.
Marrakesh (19th – 21st June)
Here it is, the city you all have probably been anticipating to hear about. Marrakech, the economic centre and gateway to Moroccan culture is home to numerous mosques, traditional riads, enchanting palaces and magical gardens. This city known as the ‘Jewel of the South’, is the most popular destination of the Moroccan Kingdom and will intoxicate you and attack all your senses at once (in an alluring and exciting manner). “Marrakesh’s heady sights and sounds will dazzle, hazzle and enchant” (Lee, 2016). It shimmers under the North African sun and draws each and every individual in, with its Jemaa el Fna medina manic – a mayhem of souks and endless streets brimming with unfathomable energy. If you don’t get lost in the medina at least once or get followed by ‘friendly’ locals on your way back to your riad, you haven’t lived up to the experience well enough. I can’t even put it into words, but i’m extremely glad Marrakesh wasn’t my first stop in Morocco and I had a good head start into the Moroccan life. Enjoy the infinite twists and turns of the medina streets, fresh iced orange juices that cost USD 0.20 per glass, traditional Moroccan meals such as Tagines and Cous Cous at Atay Cafe or NOMAD, riad terraces from where you can see a sea of bricked roofs and minarets, and the picturesque Le Jardin Majorelle.
Many times during my 9 days spent in Morocco, I had gotten teary-eyed at all the magnificent beauty I was able to witness, especially in the beginning where I just couldn’t believe that i’d actually made it to Morocco all by myself, to travel and explore this beautiful country. Most of the sights were just so surreal and indescribable, my photos do not do justice. Morocco brought my fascination and love for Zellij to life, my personal aesthetic had never felt so alive than the times when I was surrounded by the riot of bold colors, intricate patterns, rich textiles, exquisite designs and strong scents and tastes. Morocco felt like the epitome of my existence. The highlight of traveling solo was definitely all the people I met along the way and friends I made everywhere I went, from bus stops and train stations to beaches and restaurants, i’ll never forget their pure generosity and hospitality towards me and the genuine conversations we had. I can’t place any further emphasis on how important this trip was for me and how absolutely blessed/grateful/lucky I feel to have been able to experience such wonders! Thank you, Morocco. I’ll definitely be back for more.