The 7-Day Escape to Morocco Officially Begins!
Day 1 – Casablanca:
After a 40 minute drive into the City center, we toured the Hassan II Mosque. The largest functioning Mosque in Africa and the 7th largest in the world. In awe at the cedar wood architecture and intricate gold decor. I felt truly blessed to experience 1 out of 2 Mosques in Morocco. Open to non-Muslims outside times of prayer.
With a 4 hour drive to Marrakesh, our time in Casablanca was quick. But not before taking one last look at the Minaret, soaring above the Atlantic Ocean and eating at the mythical gin joint – Rick’s Cafe.
Day 2 – Marrakesh (or Marrakech):
With a two day stay in Marrakesh. The first is spent exploring the Medina (new town) by visiting the Bahia Palace and practicing bargaining skills at the Souk (or marketplace).
Although I enjoyed walking through a maze of interconnected alleys, dark tunnels and streets. Careful to avoid being hit by flying scooters who are trying to squeeze by us within tight spaces. A lot of the shops were closed due to a Holiday.
So for me, the highlight of the day was the palace, the gardens within and … the cats. Yup, you read that correctly. Baby kittens (to be exact), lounging on the patterned marble floors, trying to bask in the slits of sun and shade; seemingly annoyed by the incoming crowd trying to pet them.
Established in the 19th century, I am once again in awe, as I admire the decor of the Bahia Palace. Influenced by Arabic, Islamic and Moorish architecture, said to comprise of 150 richly decorated rooms (only a portion is open to the public). This beautiful and brilliant structure was built over 7 years and contains open courtyards, fountains, a place to take a “bain maure” (or Moorish bath) and more.
Like the Hassan II Mosque, the walls are made with cedar wood from the Atlas Mountains. Mosaics, stained glass, fireplaces and Stucco were also seen throughout, bringing in a minor European flair. Moreover, the colors in the ceilings are made from natural products, such as henna (orange and brown), saffron (yellow), grenade (red), and egg whites.
Let’s Talk About Riads (or Ryads)!
First and foremost, I must admit … before going on this 7-day escape to Morocco, I knew nothing about Riads. Originating from the Arabic term for “garden,” a Riad embodies the heart of a traditional Moroccan dwelling, characterized by its enclosed indoor garden (and/or courtyard). These spaces have undergone a transformation into opulent guest houses, catering to both local and international explorers, while historically serving as abodes for affluent merchants and traders.
A prime example of a Riad is Al Fassia, the luxury boutique hotel we stayed at while in Marrakesh.
Instantly intrigued by this house with high walls, to not only maintain intimacy/privacy. But to potentially keep out heat and street noise. This Riad definitely lived up to its name by displaying a garden in the middle (with a fountain), under an open ceiling and big windows facing the interior of the space.
Surrounding the fountain, there were 4 different squares of flowers, plants and trees. A common theme is also seen in the Bahia Palace. Both gardens exhibit a variation of white oleander, trees of cypress, orange, banana, lemon and herbs of lavender, rosemary, even ginger root. As well as, other exotic or tropical large leaved foliage you would not expect to be there.
Day 3 – Marrakesh continues:
The escape to Morocco continues in New Town on day 3, with an early morning experience to watch the sunrise via a hot air balloon. Afterwards, I take a quick breather with a cat nap, then enjoy a nice cool swim at an empty pool.
Late in the afternoon, I am ready for the next experience, the traditional Moroccan Hammam (which one must do at least once in their lifetime).
For dinner, we head to Comptoir Darna (@comptoirdarna), a highly recommended restaurant/club, with exotic decor and belly dancing shows. Offering global (Mediterranean, European, etc.) and authentic Moroccan cuisine, the food was delicious, the service impeccable and the vibrant ambiance.
Tomorrow, with the sun’s first light, we initiate a 6 hour journey to Old Town (and I am determined to be fully awake for the drive). Therefore, I, alone with my thoughts, am retiring early for the night.
The Escape to Morocco Turns Very Interesting!
Day 4 – Scenic Road Trip:
Traveling Through the Atlas Mountains!
- Very good honey – For baking biscuits and sweetening tea (yummy)
- Culinary Argan oil – To dip hearty bread in and season my cast iron pans
- A Creamy body scrub – With a luscious coffee smell to wake me up in the morning for the dreaded word we all pretty much hate … WORK!
History of the North African Nomads!
After thoroughly taking in the breathtaking views of the palm groves and Jbel Kissane Mountain, we depart for another 4 hour drive to the desert. Not even 2 hours into the ride, I noticed the landscape change from dirt with areas of green, to what appeared to be gravel and big rocks. And then, just sand. I get excited when we stop for a camel crossing.
However, prior to succumbing to the allure of the Sahara. We embark on a tour of Morbit Fossils and Marble, offering the opportunity to acquire authentic stones such as crystals. Even an ancient fossilized Ammonite, Trilobite and/or shark tooth.
We then eat Berber Pizza (more like an Italian calzone) at a trading post. Hearing the history of the North African Nomads, also known as the Tuareg, or the Blue Men of the Sahara Desert.
A name originally derived from the indigo dyed daraa and cloth veil (used as a turban). Rubbing off onto their skin, while being under the hot Sahara sun.
“They never settle in one place because their entire life knows no stability.”
A way of living, amplified by the vast collection of tea pots, jewelry, swords/knives and rugs. The notion of these nomads has captivated me, transporting me to an era devoid of modern conveniences, like shipping. It is hardly surprising that many of these items serve as props in period piece films.
Day 5 – the Sahara Desert:
The road trip ends by hopping into a Toyota 4Runner (4×4) and off-road into the Erg Chebbi dunes. Located near Merzouga and just a short distance from the border with Algeria. To experience “Glamping” or desert luxury camping.
To acclimate myself to the sweltering dry heat. I jump into the tented swimming pool and quickly dry-off by frolicking around camp like a wild child. Sand boarding down dunes.
As the sun starts to set, a refreshing breeze is present and I find a quiet place to sit alone. Looking off into the distance of nothing but light orange/pinkish sand. Until a half moon and one star clearly appear in the dream colored sky.
Dinner is at 8:30PM. But this pure moment of complete silence brings me so much Joy and peace that I feel frozen. Unable to remove myself from this surreal scene.
Post indulging in a delightful eggplant tagine with cheese (recipe in tow). Guests are warmly welcomed to settle beside the fire pit. Where we can immerse ourselves in the enchanting rhythms of drum music and gracefully sway to its beats.
Before heading off to relax in my air conditioned tent, named Libra after the constellation of the zodiac. I take the opportunity to gaze at the stars (the best time for this activity is in September/October).
Beetles are symbolic of spiritual transformation & Good Luck!
Ready to relax and settle in for the night, I find a beetle crawling along the rug. Politely returning it to the outdoors, I proceed to take a nice warm shower. Ready to be up at 4:40AM, for a camel ride to meet the sunrise.
Day 6 – Ifrane:
Back at camp, we eat breakfast and prepare for another road trip to Fez. Continuing further up North, I once again can’t help but notice the quick change in landscape.
This time, from desert orange to dirt, rock and gravel. Then, small areas of palm trees, with turquoise blue water; an oasis. And eventually, shaded by the green of the cedar forest of Ifrane. Sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Morocco,” where we encounter farm land with sheep, goats, horses, stray dogs and … monkeys.
This whole area is famous for apple , apricot, plum and walnut trees!
Yup, you read that right. Let’s also remember the adorable Barbary Macaques, perched in the center or side of the road. Their patience unwavering as they awaited the tempting offer of a grape tomato (or perhaps two).
With less than a couple of days left on this escape to Morocco, I start to become a bit sad. Not quite ready to leave a country that has so much to experience and explore.
For a sneak peak of what I felt and experienced while in Morocco, please check-out this video by Maximillian Kempe:
Day 7 – Fez (the Old Medina):
Spending our last full day in this historical city, described as mystical and rich in history. The group heads out early to “step back into time,” and thoroughly explore the wonders of this imperial city.
With the old Medina being one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world. Demonstrated by the overly crowded narrow streets and dark alleyways we wrestled with the night before (with luggage), to get to our last accommodation – Riad Palais Bahia Fez (if you are able to get to the rooftop, you will encounter a breathtaking view of the gem city).@artnaji).
Bismillah, Shukran & Yalla!
As I bid farewell to this 7 day escape to Morocco, I carry with me, not only photographs, souvenirs and videos. But also a deep appreciation for the tapestry of life that I have had the privilege to become a part of. Until we meet again, Morocco, may your colors continue to paint our dreams, your flavors linger on our taste buds and your echoes resonate in our hearts.
Have you had the opportunity to escape into the allure of Morocco? Whether that is a YES or NO, please share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments below. Likewise, if you enjoyed this post then definitely subscribe to our email list/newsletter for more soulo escapes.