After having journeyed through Europe for approximately 19 months, it is time for our next venture into unknown (to us) territory : Africa!
After the chilly celebrations of the holiday season, we were anxious to make our way south, to warm days, cool nights, and the most intricate architecture. Marrakech has both the bustling, tightly woven maze of streets in the central bazaar, and wide open avenues with designer shops and posh cafes. The people are generally friendly and helpful, especially outside the Old Town. Inside the bazaar, you get the touts and hustlers, but since it's so intermixed with gorgeous lamps and handmade leather goods, it's easy to ignore them and simply admire their wares. We visited the Jardin Majorelle, which is a colorful haven in the New Town, and the Saadian Tombs, which reflected all the gorgeous Moorish architecture I have become obsessed with.
We took a day trip to Essaouira, where we tasted some wine and explored the coastal city. Pristine white buildings against sandstone and blue waters, rusting fishing boats and workers prepping their daily catch, Essaouira was both relaxing and fascinating. Also, the wine's not terrible either.
The real highlight of our time in Morocco was our venture into the first tour group we've ever done, where we went on a 3-day desert tour to the Sahara. I'll be honest, I completely forgot about the Atlas Mountains! They are GORGEOUS. Red and green and orange, speckled with snow and winding roads, we made our way to the desert and historical town of Ait-Ben-Haddou. I think we've have FINALLY finished unintentionally stumbling upon every. single. filming. location. of Game of Thrones. I truly cannot think of another location that we haven't been. We stayed overnight in the Valley of Roses, and woke early to continue our way to the Sahara.
Riding a camel caravan into the Sahara, we stayed at a desert camp, ate classically cooked Bedouin food, listen to traditional Berber music and slept in tents with 4 layers of blankets (Shocking news, the desert is FREEZING in January). I can't really put into words what this experience was like. It's so surreal, I constantly found myself telling myself, "You are in THE SAHARA. On a camel. Right. Now." It is completely immense, desolate and beautiful. I thought I knew what it's like to feel small (looking at you, Swiss Alps), but if you get lost in the Sahara, you have NO way of getting out. You would have to pick a direction and hope that's it. Suddenly, being guided by the stars not only made sense, but would be your only lifeline. It was stunning, and something that will always live with me.
Our time in Morocco made me realize that it is SO much more than riads and bazaars. The landscape is overwhelming in a way I hadn't anticipated. Yes, the cities are exciting and captivating, but the mountains and flora and DESERT are the true star of Morocco.