Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Dream List: Morocco

Morocco is not only a place we want to visit “someday,” but a place we are actually in the process of planning a trip to in the near future. (I’m hoping for early spring, but that is still very much up in the air.)

So, why do we want to go to Morocco? Well, it sounds exotic and Casablanca is one of my favorite movies and my husband really wants to go there, but like a lot of other places that have captured my imagination, I didn’t really know that much about it. Now I know that there is far more to see than I’ll be able to squeeze into my two-three week vacation.

A few priorities for my trip:
    Jardin Majorelle  by Cate91 via Wikimedia Commons
  • A night (or two) in the dunes, where I want a taste of what life in the Sahara is like for the nomadic people who have learned to survive in this harsh climate. Tours via four-wheel-drive and camels take visitors into the dunes where lodging in Berber-style tents is provided. (I swore after my Egypt trip that I’d never ride a camel again, but hey, when in the Sahara, one should do what the Berbers do.) Most people only go out for one evening, but I’m hoping for two to get at least a little sense of the flow of time here. 
  • Traditional oasis villages and Kasbahs, including Aït Benhaddou. The challenge will be deciding which routes to take to see the best of Morocco’s traditional architecture.  
  • Marrakech, with its shop-filled medina, action-filled square of Jemaa el Fna, and the magical Majorelle gardens
  • Fez,  where the old part of the city comprises the largest intact medieval city in the world. As such, it is a maze of ancient buildings and narrow, twisting streets calling out for exploration. 
  • Silver jewelry is always on my list and Morocco should be a treasure-trove of Berber and   Bedouin baubles! 
  • Chafchaouen, a picture-perfect village in the northern Rif Mountains seems worth at least a quick stop. 
  • The drive between Ouarzazate and Zagora, with desolate-sounding mountain scenery and the oases of the Dra Valley sounds awe inspiring.  
  • Tafraoute is listed as “an artist’s dream” in every guidebook, so I am hoping to get to this traditional village and the surrounding cliffs, but it is a long ways south.
A few things I’d like to see, but will probably end up missing because I can’t see everything:
  • The Atlantic coast from Agadir to the south, where golden dunes meet the sea.
  • Casablanca, though I’m still struggling with this one – how can I go to Morocco and NOT visit Casablanca? Not only does Casablanca (a Casablanca that doesn’t exist and probably never did) symbolize Morocco in my mind, but it also had a significant collection of Art Deco buildings and the over-the-top Hassan II Mosque (one of a very few mosques in Morocco that a non-Muslim visitor like me can enter). 
  • The Roman ruins at Volubilis look lovely, but - having seen great Roman ruins in Portugal, Turkey, Croatia, and Rome (among other places) – just aren’t a priority.

Of course, there is a lot more available. The real challenge will be choosing between all the options!

Fortunately there are a few things I can skip without much regret:
  • Tangier is an ancient city and has begun to see re-investment and restoration. As a city that attracted many famous writers in its heyday, it has some allure – but not enough to feel too bad about not getting there. 
  • Ifrane, the French-build mountain resort, seems to show up on a lot of itineraries. I can’t imagine why. I’d rather go to the Alps for Alpine architecture.
At this point we are planning to work with a travel company to arrange travel within Morocco (including a driver for much or all of the trip), lodging, and guides. We want to be able to focus on what we are seeing and experiencing during our shot time here and hope that having guides in most places can help us do that more efficiently than we could on our own. But again, this trip is still in the early planning stages, so everything is still up in the air.

If you’ve been to Morocco I’d love to hear your suggestions, otherwise you are all free to join me in dreaming a bit about where you will go when you visit Morocco!
Ait_Bougmez by *pascal*  (Uploaded by PDTillman) via Wikimedia Commons
 Morocco photos from National Geographic

The Travel Dream List 

3 comments:

  1. We were in Morocco this year. The Jemaa El Fna was fantastic. A three day trip from Marrakech to Merzouga which includes one night in the desert (arriving and departing by camel) was excellent. The scenery is fantastic and it will take you through the High Atlas, Anti Atlas and to Ait Benhaddou and lots more. I would recommend adding Essaouira to your list as well. I did not go to the other places you mention but would have loved to.

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  2. Thanks for the suggestions. I've been going back and forth over Essaouira - your pictures do make it look enticing.

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  3. Lest December, we have our Morocco travel adventure there and we were amazed the beauty of it. It is rich in history, they have delicious food ever, and most especially they have clourful architectures. I so loved it.

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