When you think about Morocco - most probably, one of the first things that come to mind are endless, golden sand dunes of Sahara Desert, oriental cities and picturesque Berber towns that consist of houses built with clay and mud. I'd had similar assumptions before traveling to this northern African country. In this article, however, I want to show that there's so much more to Morocco - how much this exciting country surprised me. Besides the barren, desert-like landscapes, you can admire red rock formations, lush green cedar forests, beautiful lakes, snowy peaks of Atlas Mountains and villages with temperate climate and European architecture. That's the beauty of travel - you always encounter something unexpected!
800 km (500 miles) Through Morocco
Our 3-day tour in southern Morocco, after visiting the amazing Atlas Mountains, Berber Towns, Dades valley and gorges as well as the capital - Marrakesh (I'll describe them all in the future) ended in Merzouga - a little settlement in Sahara Desert (see my post about Sahara here). The tour that included a driver, accommodation and dinner everyday cost less than 100 USD per person! If you search carefully, you can find a really great deal. But be careful, especially online - where most of such tours are horribly overpriced.
During the amazing Sahara adventure, we met some great people and decided to travel on together all the way through Morocco. Initially, we had intended to go back to Marrakesh and then take a bus or train up to Fez and then to the famous blue town of Chefchaoeun. However, as it turned out, a taxi from Merzouga all the way to Tangier (coastal city) would work out not only much faster but also cheaper (less than 80 USD per person) as there were 6 of us.
If you love luxurious things, easy, peaceful travel, this kind of trip is definitely not for you! You might think that it was crazy but we were all up for a great adventure so we jumped into an old car - 4 people in the back seat, two in the front seat plus the driver. Seven persons in an ordinary taxi. No one in western country would agree for something like this. But in Morocco it was possible!
From Sahara to Atlas Mountains
On the first day, we went all the way up to Fez. It took around 7 hours with a few steps along the way. The landscapes, at first were typical for Morocco - the dunes gave way to the barren, red colored rocky hills and mountains with a few lakes and damaged, abandoned Berber towns on the way. Nothing we hadn't seen before.
Our first stop was at the gas station. As everywhere, you could see the photo of the president in the little local grocery store on the side. The next stop was for lunch - at first, the driver stopped at some boring, 5 star hotel full of western tourists. When we saw that, we protested and demanded that he take us to some local village to experience the real local food. We didn't come to Morocco to stay and eat in western-style hotels!
And it was the best decision we could have made. The food in a local restaurant was so delicious that I must admit, was the greatest of all I've tried in Morocco. The tajine - meat/vegetable casserole baked in a clay dish was of superb quality.
After the break, we headed on towards Fez. Before entering the Atlas Mountains range, the landscape had changed dramatically. It became much greener, more humid and it even started to rain. The cedar forests looked spectacular, it felt as if we'd been just teleported to a different world.
Close to Fez, there is a village called Ifrane, within Atlas Mountains. When we were passing it, I thought that we suddenly reached Switzerland. Typical European trees - like ash tree, pine tree or sycamore were growing everywhere, it was lush green and the houses had typical of Europe steep roofs - not flat ones like in the Middle East. What's more, Ifrane was spotlessly clean - it was like a piece of Europe that has been cut out and pasted onto the north African mountains. There is even a lot of snow in winter there and a ski center! Not what you'd expect from Morocco!
Descending from Atlas Mountains we reached Fez. Now, the scenery looked like the south of Europe - with gentle slopes covered in olive and orange groves. But when we entered the city of Fez we realized that we're not in Europe but indeed - back in Morocco. The city was beautiful, full of oriental architecture, but the locals were not too nice to the foreigners - especially during the visit to the most famous attraction - tanneries. I'll write about Fez soon.
From Fez to Tangier
The next day, we left Fez and went on a journey all the way up to Tangier - the coastal city. The main purpose of the trip was the stop in one of the world's most unique and original little cozy towns - the blue Chefchaoeun. Have a look at my post about it here.
The town of Chefchaoeun, besides the "biblical" Ait Benhaddou, was my absolute favorite in Morocco. Cozy streets, blue houses and oriental cafes - all that made it very unique.
After Chefchaoeun, along the way, we also saw some beautiful lakes, hills and mountains (which reminded me of Crimean Ai-Petri peak so much - have a look at my article about Ai-Petri here). What's more, we've noticed some stork nestles on the chimneys - a sight so popular in central Europe!
We arrived in Tangier late in the evening. All the trip was so unreal and amazing that, although many may say that we lost our minds to do something like this, for me - it will be one of the most surprising and memorable journeys ever.
We remember all the exciting and challenging things much better after all and the memories - is something no one can take away and also no one can buy for no amount of money and material things. And that's what counts in life, I think!
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