Morocco - a country that travels within you

Travel tale

A place where visitors and residents are mesmerised by the colours of the city, a place where artists come from all over the world to sketch its vivid beauty and writers tell the tales of the city, Morocco truly is “a country that travels within you”. 

In fact, it has captured the imagination of several travellers and writers alike since ages. Nature is never far away in Morocco. Deserts, mountains, valleys and sea — the country has plenty to offer to travellers and hikers of all levels, who will love walking the Moroccan mountains.

My trip began in Casablanca which is Morocco’s largest city and commercial capital now and Africa’s fourth largest port. The residential areas of Anfa district, Ain Diab, the famous Boulevard de la Corniche, Atlantic boardwalk lined by restaurants are truly amazing. Further, a visit to United Nations Place, Mohammed V Square with its central fountain and of course, visit to the gorgeous mosque of Hassan II, which is the largest religious monument in the Muslim world outside of Mecca, is spell binding. As I travelled further, I entered Meknes through the large monumental gate Bab Mansour. It took 50 years for the palace and massive ramparts to be built, but not much remains today. The old walls to the Ag Dal Basin once used to water the royal gardens and the Sultans’ immense stable of 12, 000 horses. Within the city, the Mosque and Mausoleum of the Moulay Ismail, one of the most impressive buildings in the city, and its decorative tombs impressed me.

My next destination was Fes. The cultural capital is one of the most medieval Islamic cities in the world. Passing through the gates and walls in the alleyways beyond transports you back in time. The streets are just as they were when they were built in the eighth century, with high walls that protect the courtyards inside from the heat of the midday sun. Enormous theosophical colleges, beautiful mosques and fascinating souks spilling their goods onto the pavement are all part of the beautiful scene. The place Nejjarine, where the ancient caravanserai overlooks a fountain; wander outside the great Qayawan mosque, passing the 14th century merchant’s shops, is simply fascinating.The enticing experience made me ask for more and I headed straight to the famous South of Morocco. The forested hillside city of Ifrane built in the 1930s is a popular ski resort today. Azrou, the famous town for woodwork and gorgeous red carpets appealed to me as I love exploring unique products and was awed with the craftsmanship. One will also encounter many colonies of Barbary apes in the cedar forests that will be amusing. Towards Midlet, travelling through the spectacular Ziz Valley and passing through palm groves and green valley was captivating. Then further South, the scenery changes into the dry dunes with Merzouga for a great desert adventure where we saddled our camels and began exploring. The great “sand sea” of Merzouga, a beautiful area of fine, apricot — coloured sand stretches as far as the eye can see is enthralling while we  headed off into the vastness of the dunes on a camel caravan accompanied by camelteers. The sturdy camel has been a mainstay of desert life over the centuries, being used to ship the precious cargoes from Sub Saharan African to the trading ports of the Mediterranean coast. You can ride or walk alongside as you slip into the pace of the caravan led by Berber guides and marvel at the awesome spectacle of the desert and the solitude that comes with it.

My temptation knew no bounds exploring this beautiful place and as I travelled further, the breathtaking views of the Dades Gorge, Dades River, the striking colours of the red and mauve rock that towers above the road made me feel wonderful. We then passed the Rose Valley, known for producing roses. The products made of the rose petals are famous all over the world. The palm oasis of Skoura where I visited Kasbah Amerhidil, featured on the Moroccan bank notes and further a short drive to Ouarzazate, and Ait Ben Haddou, the best-preserved Kasbah was exciting. With its dramatic walls of red earth, slit windows and crumbling towers, it is a magnificent example of a traditional stronghold. Chosen as location for Hollywood films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of Nile and Gladiator, AIt Ben Haddou sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. A dramatic drive to the High Atlas Mountains, the views get more and more impressive and then further, the village of Imlil on the feet of Tobkal mountains is remarkable.

Next morning, after a scrumptious breakfast, we started hiking in the mountains which continued for two nights and two and a half days. A caution for all readers is that depending on the weather, you may climb to the highest peak of Tobkal but sometimes it gets too difficult to do that with much of snow. So please note that it will be cold in the mountains and the trek can be done with a local guide and a mule to carry the luggage.

This fascinating journey came to an end with the return to Imlil around the noon of the eighth day. Then we headed to Marrakech, and Casablanca. As a travel enthusiast, I had an enriching experience, never to be forgotten!

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