Bustling city streets with cars, motorbikes and people all competing for the same space. Bags of spices fill the air with exotic fragrances. People shouting and vying for your attention so they can show you their latest wares. Smoke billowing from makeshift kitchens fills the air as people pour by. Old men and women in vibrant clothing wander through the streets of the old souks. The sun sets on Marrakech, lighting everywhere with reds and blues as the lights cast from lamps glow in the streets. These are some of the experiences of Marrakech.
A week in Morocco is an experience in imersing yourself in life. The country offers so much diversity. I flew into Marrakech with little idea of the country or people.
Me and my girlfriend Magda spent a couple of days in the whirlwind of the Medina in the centre of the city. It is so easy to get lost in the souks and find yourself back where you were twenty minutes ago. We were taken out to the leather tanneries by an old guy for a crazy tour of the area. The sights and smells overwhelming as vats of chemicals are used to process the leather. Mess everywhere and some hard looking men point their hands in my direction for money as I take a photo.
Next we headed to the South and the Atlas Mountains. We travelled over the Tizi N'Tichka pass, reaching the snowline at 2260 metres, before plunging down into the valleys in the South.
We travelled down to the old ruin of the town of Ait Benhaddou before heading East through the Dades Valley. We ended the day, as the sun set, at the top of the Dades Gorge surrounded by its massive red walls.
The next day, the Sahara. After bumping along in the bus for hundreds of Kilometres through barren landscapes, we finally glimpsed the edge of the Sahara on the horizon, above the black stony ground inbetween. The sun was low, lighting up the dunes to an almost red glow. We grabbed an overnight bag then went to meet our camels. The camel train was assembled, we got onboard and headed off, led by one of the local Tuareg guides. Half an hour later we were out in the desert, leaving behind the noise of the small town of Mergouza that was in the midst of an invasion of 1000 French men in four by fours who were tearing about on the edge of the desert and getting stuck in the dunes. Silence, apart from the movement of our packs and footsteps of the camels. The sun set behind us turning everything but the sky red. Red and blue. Sensory deprivation.
We arrived at our camp, a few tents hidden in a dip in the dunes as the last light of day dissapeared. The Tuaregs busied themselves with preparing the food as eveyone gazed up at the dome of stars that was appearing above us. The faint glow of the Milky Way created a band through the night sky surrounded by bright stars. We ate in a large communal tent with both the floor and walls covered in colourful patterned rugs then sat listening to the Tuaregs as they sang and beat some songs out on the drums, before we turned in for the night.
Next day started before dawn. Breakfast as the sun rose and lit up the world around us, then back onto the camels for the trip out of the desert. As we moved on, massive shadows were cast across dunes as the world warmed up around us. Civilisation loomed back into view and simplicity was left behind. Although the experience was short-lived, the memories will stay with me for a long time. I think I might be back out their some day again.
A day of travelling took us past the oases, back through the desolate plains and valleys and over the Atlas mountains to the bustle of Marrakech. Next day, early in the morning we headed for the coastal town of Essaouira. On the mid-journey stop we got off the bus for a breather only for Izzy, a friend that I travelled with through Australia, to suddenly appear! She happened to catch the same bus to Essauoira on a short break from Madrid. An almost overwhelmingly bizzare coincidence.
Essaouira is a beautiful town of white and blue. After inland Morocco, the sea breeze came as a refreshing change. The people are more laid back and the atmosphere was relaxed. On the coast the waves crashed against the rocks as people stared out over the battlement walls. In the harbour, the road was lined with people selling all sorts of sea life. Both old and new boats sat within the harbour walls, all painted with the distinctive blue of the town.
Morocco is a land of contrast. Snowcapped mountain peaks hang as a backdrop over the desert valleys. The old wear traditional clothes whereas the young have started following western tastes. The noise of the streets of Marrakech create a greater peace once back in the quiet of the Riads. Coastal towns create a refreshing splash of colour after the dusty inland cities.
A week is not long enough in a place like this.
Check out my photos from this trip here:
I hope they have captured some of the magic of the Morocco.