I’ve made a decision, I’m gonna live in Morocco for one year. I need a new crowd. Do you wanna come? – Penny Lane, Almost Famous (2000)
Ah Morocco… I have always wanted to visit this country. It was one of the top “must visit country” on my list and when I was planning my sabbatical, I knew I had to include Morocco somehow. A few weeks ago, I made that dream happen and I had the most amazing time and the craziest stories/adventures to tell.
From London, we flew to Casablanca via Royal Air Maroc arriving in Casablanca airport around 9.30 PM. I said my goodbyes to Emma at the airport as she was doing a different Morocco tour and then waited patiently for my tour guide company to pick me up. After an hour of waiting I started to panic. I had no idea which hotel I was supposed to go to and could not contact my tour company because there were no wi-fi connections available. I tried to keep calm and started asking security people where I could get wi-fi connections and having some major ‘lost in translations’ moments because they didn’t know how to speak English. So after going back and forth level 1 and level 2 of Casablanca airport, with my heavy luggages in tow, I finally got wi-fi connections but realised it’s past 10 PM and my tour provider who are based in London were probably off to dreamland already.
There were a few shops still open inside the airport but no one spoke English so I knew they were not much help. Luckily, I saw a small office that says “chief of airport security” and made my way inside. There were a couple of guys talking but the guy sitting on the chair, who was smoking cigarette had his arms opened asking me to come in and I basically bursted out “I need help”. He asked what happened and I told him that I didn’t know where to go because no one picked me up. I’m proud to say that I didn’t cry and was quite composed throughout the whole ordeal, but I was pretty close to crying. The next hour was basically Bachir (the head of security guy) trying to contact the emergency number of the tour people in Casablanca, as well as in London without much success. We were about to call the nearest hotel available to book an overnight accommodation so I can rest already when he got a call back from the tour guide and was told that they will pick me up from his office in half an hour. While waiting, Bachir talked about his Berbere heritage and touched on Berbere history which was quite fascinating. After almost an hour, I found myself still waiting for the driver so Bachir called the tour guide again and asked what’s happening. They were talking in Arabic so I had no idea what was going on and then Bachir gave me the phone because the tour guide wanted to talk to me. My tour guide said he couldn’t contact his driver so I have to get a taxi to the hotel and the tour company will reimburse me. This was past midnight. I don’t even take a taxi in Perth on my own at night time, and now am going to take one, in Morocco of all places. Anyway, I decided to just go with the flow. I took a taxi and it was quite a big taxi but there were no seat belts available and the driver doesn’t speak English, so I couldn’t even talk to him. I sat in silence for over 30 minutes ,which felt like the longest 30 minutes of my life. I sat there not really knowing where I was going. When the taxi driver stopped me in front of this beautiful hotel, I wanted to hug him. I knew right then that everything’s going to be okay.
So grateful for this man, for going out of his way to help me throughout my ordeal at the airport.
In the morning, I met the rest of the group I was travelling with. I was surprised to hear that some had similar issues with not getting picked up from the airport but I think drama aside, we were all just glad we’re there and we’re all just excited to explore Morocco.
In front of the most beautiful mosque I’ve been, Hassan II Mosque found in Casablanca
My beautiful roomie Robyn and I getting mobbed by other tourists. We asked one guy to take our picture and then all of a sudden other groups wanted to join in. They were going to a football match and were wearing these colourful hats and carrying a flag which we thought was something symbolic but upon closer look, I realised it says ‘marijiuana’ hahaha
Morocco is a country of contradiction. It’s almost hard to believe that it was once a happening place, it’s like time stood still at its peak back then and it decided to just stay the way it is. You almost feel like you’re back somewhere in time. Back when things were simple and yet practical. It’s backwardness becomes part of it’s charm and you find yourself getting sucked in.
Exploring the historic Kasbah of the Oudayas in Rabat
At one of the oldest leather tanneries in the world. Located inside the old Medina in Fes (one of the oldest imperial city of Morocco). I will never forget the smell or the imagery of this place. Nor the amount of hard work the tanners put in to produce these quality goods. To this day they still use natural vegetable dyes to work the leather. A practice that’s over a thousand years old. Pretty amazing right? The owner of the factory joked that if I stay with him, all the girls in my tour will get the leather bags they want for free. Skin for skin?
This beautiful door belongs to the one of oldest universities in Morocco, the Bou Inania Madrasa, found in the old Medina of Fes. The oldest university in the world is also found in Fes, the University of Al-Karaouine built in 9th century, both universities are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites.
Our guided tour took us to a pottery shop in Fes. The artisans in the shops made all sorts of different types of pottery. I stopped myself from buying plates (until I reach Istanbul) but made just one small purchase. I’d be mad not to.
After hours and hours of walking, we would all look forward to going back to the hotel where we can all relax and chill by the pool.
One of the things that I was looking forward in my Morocco trip the most was the jeep and camel ride, and it was indeed the highlight of my trip. The camel ride more so than the jeep ride actually.
The long and winding roads up above the High Atlas Mountains. Got some serious motion sickness but well worth it for this amazing view.
More pictures to follow…