I just spent the last 10 days gorging myself on feta cheese, olives, and lots of hugs from mom. Can anyone say best vacation ever? We met up in Morocco with two other Peace Corps friends and a set of parents and toured around the Northern cities – so. many. medinas.
Here’s a rundown of our awesome trip, more photos than not (cause I know what you like). And if anyone is wondering, we booked with an Intrepid Tour, and I would HIGHLY recommend them.
We arrived in Casablanca one day early to acclimate ourselves, and recover from a 10 hour layover in Dubai. Went to the Hassan II Mosque, ate a delicious lunch a Rick’s Cafe (hey, we’re American), and wandered through the old part of the city (called the Medina) before meeting up with our tour.
Took an early train to Rabat and spent a half day walking around the Kasbah, which is the old part of the city. They were also filming an action movie where motocycles ride up stairs into the tiny Kasbah alleyways – pretty cool. Then we headed to the Hassan II tower (he’s a popular guy) where there was a mausoleum for some ancient kings (because I paid attention).
A small village nestled in the mountains near Meknes, Moulay Idriss just opened to non-Muslim visitors a few years ago. Many people treat this village as a pilgrimage to see the tomb of Moulay Idriss, and it is said tha 5 times here is the same as 1 time to Mecca… We stayed in a family’s home, converted to a hotel and ate a traditional Moroccan family meal with kefta tagine (meatballs), Moroccan salad, lots of olives, and fresh melon. OM NOM NOM.
The next morning we drove to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. A well preserved city, it was the Southernmost point of the empire. It was inhabited until the 1700s where an earthquake destroyed most of the city. Considering I had never heard of it before this trip, it was pretty amazing, and I would even say gives Pompeii a run for its money on how much was preserved.
The fourth largest city in Morocco, we stopped by Meknes for an afternoon of sightseeing and meat eating. Meknes is known for its silver metal work, where they inlay silver thread into iron. We also stopped for a camel burger – pretty delicious!
We spent two nights in Fes. The first night we had dinner at a family’s home in the Medina, good thing we had a guide! You could get lost in there for years. Fes is known for a sweet chicken pastry called pastilla. It was sooooo goooood. Have I mentioned how good the food was? I was a little bit in heaven over this trip. The next day we wandered the Medina (with a guide-necessary) and saw artisans making pottery, carpets, scarves, and leather. I splurged and bought myself a good quality leather jacket. I mean, I need something to go home in when it’s December!
The little town of Chefchouen is nestled in the Riff Moutains, but what it is really know for are its blue doors. Well, blue doors, windows, walls, streets and stairs. Everything was blue! This was one of my favorite stops on the tour. Here Lora and I went to a public Hamam (Moroccan bath) and got our henna done. The bath is styled like a Roman bath (not Turkish) where there are three rooms: hot, medium, and cold. You spend most of your time in the hot room, where neighborhood ladies will scrub you down, whether you asked them too or not.
We also went on an early morning hike into the Riff mountains, and got a little lost on our way down. But we ended up in a random village and skimmed down on our butts to get off the mountain. I couldn’t get out of Peace Corps if I tried.
We spent the morning in Tangiers, walking around the old city and staring at the ocean – you can see Spain! Not much to report here, though a lot of European tourists come through on the day ferry. I did learn that Morocco was the first nation to recognize America’s independence though!
Our last stop on the tour, we started with a walk through the medina and spice shop demonstration. Saffron here is very cheap, if you’re interested. We saw the Saddien tombs, and the Bahia Palace. That afternoon we walked to the Majorelle Gardens (a lot of cactus) then had a last night dinner with the group (lamb, yum). The next morning we had a cooking class where we went through the market buying ingredients, then learned to make chicken lemon tagine at a local home. That evening we went back to the main square (Jemma al Fna) where the market comes to life at night (it was 43+ degrees Celsius in the day!). The open area is covered with food tents and juice carts, and snake charmers, lantern sellers, acrobats, and drummers. The energy was contagious.