A Marvellous Journey Through Morocco
I quickly plan to trip when the Moroccan authorities announced visa-free travel for Malaysian citizens starting December 2017. This francophone country has always been on my bucket list, I was really looking forward to Morocco because of its exotic souks, the blue-washed buildings in a hill town, the leather tannery, and the starry night sky in Sahara Dessert.
In June 2019, I embarked on the trip to Morocco with high hopes. This journey was filled with adventures and eye-opening experiences and it is undoubtedly one of my best travel memories. In the 2 week-trip, every day I discover something new in this bewitching land. Here are my best bits throughout the journey:
1. The enchanting Jemaa el-Fna
Jemaa el-Fna is a souk (an Arabic outdoor marketplace) located in Marrakesh. Every day when the sun sets, you can see the vendors push their carts from far and near to the plaza. In no time, the empty square was bustling with vendors selling food, fresh fruit juices, local products etc. The vendors set up stalls with fluorescent lights and it illuminate the night sky. Jemaa el-Fna turned into a hive that glows brightly in the dark. In the square, within the crowd browsing and buying the merchandise, I can hear some music playing. It is the snake charmer playing flute to hypnotise the snakes. The Jemaa el-Fna becomes lively.
2. The fine sand in the Sahara Desert
The Berber people whose ancestors are merchants and nomads of the Sahara lives in Merzouga, the entrance to the Sahara Desert. They carved a niche for themselves in tourism business – camel treks and desert tours in Sahara. This is my first time riding a camel, and it was a pleasant experience. The Berber man put a metal seat on the back of camel for the passengers to sit on. I imagine myself as one of the Trans-Saharan traders in the olden days as the camel gallops across the hills in the desert. We need to wrap our face with a shawl as a layer of protection against the wind in the desert. Despite this layer of fabric, I can sometimes feel some fine sand that penetrates through my mouth. I spent a night in a tent under the countless star night sky in Sahara.
3. The Chouara Tannery
You can lost your way easily in Fes. This city is like a medieval labyrinth with more than 8000 alleyways. The passageways in the medina are narrow and no car can enter, the habitants use pushcarts, mules or donkeys as their means of transport. There was this one time I was wandering through the alleyway and an old man passed by me with his donkey. I immediately smell a pungent and penetrating odour. The donkey was carrying a pile of ripped animal skins on its back; I can tell that these skins were freshly flayed as the blood is still dripping. I know I am not far from the Chouara Tannery. Pigeon poop and urine were utilised to enhance the dyeing so that the colours on the leather are vibrant and long lasting. But the smell on the leather bag I bought remains very long too.
4. Chefchouan, the blue city
The bus trip from Fez to Chefchouan takes about 3 hours. Like the scenes in an action film, the bus driver drives recklessly on the mountain road and it gives me a serious motion sickness. After a long rest in the riad, I can finally roam in the fascinating city of all blue-washed buildings.
Living in Malaysia with a large population of Muslim adherents, the Azan sound is not a new thing to me. Nevertheless, in Chefchaouen, when it is about time for prayer, you will hear Azan rising in succession from a few mosques nearby. The residents will slowly walk towards the mosques for the prayer.
The journey in Morocco is filled with adventures and it gives me adrenaline rush as a solo female traveler. Walking on the streets, I was always greeted with “nihao”, “konichiwa”, “China”, “Japan”, “Korea” by the Moroccan men which is quite distracting. However it is relatively safe to travel solo. Afterall, this country has its charm and attraction that I would love to return!