Morocco was amazing in so many ways - the natural environment, the people, the habits, the food, the variety to be experienced......
We had total culture shock when we arrived - walking the streets was the strangest - the little lanes near our riad were filled with tooting motorbikes laden with upto 4 people, babies hanging off handlebars, gas cylinders between legs, crates of eggs on the back...... all tooting but none slowing as they approached - if you are on two legs, you move yourself out of their way....FAST.... The mess, dirt, smells of cooking on the street, piles of fruit everywhere to be sold, old men fixing bikes or sewing, women covered and carrying trays of bread on their heads...... etc etc. And this was just going down our street.
When we reached the main square of Marrakesh we were in for a new shock....
snakes charmed into a dance, tables of false teeth, ladies selling crocheted hats, vendors selling food, smoke, people calling to us, please buy my hats, buy my lamps, buy my henna, very cheap, good price for you, where you from? hola!!
phew...... we stopped for a meal and watched with wide, newly- arrived- tourist eyes! We fell to bed exhausted.
The next day, Christmas day, was only different in that we saw all this craziness in daylight - we tackled the bustling souks, too overwhelmed to buy anything, all of is is so lovely - i wanted one of everything ;-)
Our riad, a converted old house in the centre was our respite, and our host, Khalil made us mint tea, breakfast and lit a fire in the afternoon, where we sat and chatted - us to offload some of this new information and for him, to practice his english. We had a beautiful terrace outside our room, and we could see the magnificent mountains just outside the city and the many mosque minarets spiking all over the city. After 3 days we ventured out of Marrakesh!
We left watches and phones behind and soon kept time with the sun and the 5 calls for prayer everyday from the mosques. Our first night bus took us to Oarzazate then on to Zagora, a town fueled by tourists going to the desert....us included. Overwhelmed with offers from people for taxis, camels, camps etc..... every man had a camel, everyone had an "office" and we were invited for tea..... We joined forces with two Irish, Kenn and Cindy, from the bus, thinking we would be stronger with numbers, but we were still total suckers and got "took" straight away.
Despite wanting to go independently we signed up for a tour and it turned out to be the best option as its not so easy to get to the big dunes alone. We crammed into a "grand taxi" - all 10 of us!! 8 adults, a toddler and a baby in a sedan!!
The scenery was breathtaking..... collected our 4X4 and chased the sun west. After a long bumpy ride we caught the sunset from our isolated camp site amongst the bigger dunes. Spectactular!!! All alone with the stars was an experience..... My neck was sore from staring.....
Strangely, it was a postcard “romance” moment but it was too big to be romantic..... the sky was so huge and so full of sparkly lights, that it was enough for each of us to concentrate on – Im glad we could be there together, but it was a beautiful, powerful, private moment.
Our desert time was really specail because we all felt so removed from “normal” life – we were fed and watered, taken on camel rides at sunset, climbed dunes, slept in burlap tents, and generally let time pass in a very gentle, unhurried way.
Our arrival back in Zagora, although a small town, was a shock after this quiet time. Cindy and Kenn left and we stayed on until we could think of something better to do. Without really discussing it, we fell into a great rhythm of taking everything as it came – neither of us operated with more urgentcy than the other and we could be totally relaxed.
One overwhelming menory of this day was how totally dirty we were......we STUNK! I hunted down the town hammam for a scrub and we pooled our only remained clean clothes and washed the rest. The laundry lady used to travel a lot and completely understood the importance of cleann clothes to a backpacker and stayed open half an hour longer to make sure we didnt have to spend another night dirty!! A sweetheart!
My trip to the hammam was amazing – but perhaps a story fpr another time. The whole muslim experience was incredible for me..... but later, i think – I will go into more detail.
Our next friends on this journey were three guys we met in the ATM line when the town seemed to run out of cash...... Morad, Imad and Hassan – three school friends who had come to town for the Extreme Marathon in the desert. After the first chance encounter we ended up in the same camp ground and shared coke and cakes for NYE, laughing a lot, askiung lots of questions about Muslim life and generally cracking each other up. We stayed up til 4am being silly.
We said goodbye and Ruben and I ventured off inour aim to get to the coast....... Its longerthan it seems on the map and was quite a painful journey, but we survived.....
But thats another story.....