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 “The 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. Desert, mountains, valleys and sea — the country has plenty to offer fans of the outdoors, and hikers of all levels will love walking theMoroccan 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 all truly amazing. Further, a visit to United Nations Place, Mohammed V. Square with its central fountain and of a course, a visit to the gorgeous mosque of Hassan II, which is the largest religious monument in the Muslim world outside of Mecca, is spellbinding. As I travelled further, I entered Meknes through the large monumental gate Bab Mansour. It took fifty 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 lies the mosque and mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, one of the most impressive buildings in the city, and its decorative tombs impressed me.
My next destination, 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 8th century, with high walls that protect the courtyards inside from the heat of the midday sun.
My next destination 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 8th 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 scenery. The Place Nejjarine, where the ancient caravanserai overlooks a fountain, and the great Qayawan mosque, which stands on the way as you pass the 14th century merchant’s shops, are 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 town known for its woodwork and gorgeous red carpets, appealed to me as I love exploring unique products and was awed with the craftsmanship. One also encounters many colonies of Barbary apes in the cedar forests round these parts, which is amusing. Towards Midlet, travelling through the spectacular Ziz Valley, passing palm groves and green valleys is captivating. Then heading further south, the scenery changes with the dry and arid-looking Merzouga. This is where the great desert adventure began, where we saddled our camels and started 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 Africa 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, carved by centuries by the Dades River, the striking colors 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 and products made of rose petals. The palm oasis of Skoura, which I visited in Kasbah Amerhidil, featured on the Moroccan bank notes. A short drive to Ouarzazate, and Ait Ben Haddou, the best-preserved Kasbah, was quite exciting too. 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 more recently Gladiator, Aït Ben Haddou sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. With 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: depending on the weather, you may climb to the highest peak of Tobkal but sometimes it gets too difficult to do that with all that snow around. So please note that it will be quite cold in the mountains and the trek is best done with some local guide and mule to carry the luggage.
As a travel enthusiast, I had an enriching experience in Morocco, never to be forgotten.
The writer is an entrepreneur and founder of The Furniture Republic