Friday, April 17, 2009

Morocco in a flash, part I

As always I simply don't have time to sit down and write the blog post that I'd like to, or indeed that my trip to Morocco deserves. Every day was full of adventures and somehow we managed to pack a huge amount into very few days. I traveled for abour five days with four others from Santiago, and took off for a couple of days on my own, to get lost and meet other travelers and locals, something I find much easier to do as a lone traveler.

After an overnight train ride to Madrid with no sleep, we took the plane to Casablanca. The plan was then to go down the coast to Essaouira but a bus strike thwarted our plans and we ended up on a train to Marrakech, where we were met with the full force of the Medina's nightlife on arrival at about 10 in the evening. The sights, sounds and smells of the central square in Marrakech simply can't be described accurately, but the clamour of street sellers, the smoke of their barbecues and the smell of their tagines, together with people playing instruments and running around after tourists is simply an incredible sight. So much would be lost in a photo without the sound, so I'll try and track down a video of this place.

We spent a couple of days in Marrakech, including one night with a Couchsurfer, who introduced us to his friends and let us stay in one room of his family's home. Normally there are nine of them in a beautiful but relatively small home in the centre of the old quarter of the city. It was a real privelage to be able to stay with a local and his generosity towards us was incredible.

After our time in Marrakech we hired a car and headed South East towards the desert, crossing the high Atlas mountains and winding our way through dusty, but stunningly beautiful countryside. Our aim was to camp out in the desert in a Berber tent but it took us a couple of days to get to the site, on the way passing through villages, markets, mud-brick towns and sampling every tagine and couscous combination we could find.

As I said, time doesn't allow for the many details right now, with the final stages of a paper due next week and work this weekend, so I shall have to offer a rain cheque for when we are next sat, relaxed in pleasent surroundings to fill in the many blanks. I'll also try and write up the next stage of the trip some time this weekend. For now I'll leave you with a few photos from along the way.

My travel companions for the first leg of the journey:

before hitting the desert
Outside our hostel, a woman sat on the corner of the street in the medina, asking for money:
woman begging in the medina of Marrakech
the tourists flock to the school of the Koran in the centre of the city:
School of the Koran in Marrakech
On our way into the desert, from the hill fort overlooking the jagged landscape:
over the desert
and the mighty vista of Ait-benhaddou taken just before the not so mighty river-crossing on a donkey:
Click through for larger sizes and more photos. More to follow

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