By: Eric Pumilia, Travel Consultant
This year I had the amazing opportunity to visit Morocco on the Best of Morocco with Trafalgar tour, and I was thoroughly impressed. I feel like I got to see things that I never would have had the opportunity to see if I had traveled on my own, and I am absolutely going to cherish my experiences there.
I arrived in Casablanca with my best friend Danae. The city is amazing! There is a wonderful blend of shiny modern-style buildings along with older style brick and mortar buildings. Danae and I had arrived late but our tour director, Amad, came down to meet us personally once we arrived at the hotel so that he could give us our welcome bags and brief us on what we had missed. This thoroughness and consideration on his part continued throughout the entire trip, and I was grateful for his amazing insights and patient kindness. Whenever I had questions about strange sights or local customs he had exactly the answer I needed, and always more fascinating information on top of that.
While we went to many cities and saw many sights, there were three things that stood out the most to me. The first one was the markets in Fez (pronounced “fes” when you’re referring to the city, and “fez” when you’re referring to the awesome hat) and Marrakesh.
While the markets (or medina as they are locally called) in the two cities are vastly different from each other due to relative income disparities, they are both amazing labyrinths of densely packed culture. You can buy food, live animals, hand-made goods and clothing, and all sorts of truly unique bric-a-brac.
I purchased a gorgeous brass box, a hand-made dagger, a light cotton djellaba, and a small wooden toy. After we had haggled for and purchased the djellaba we asked the proprietor if we could have a cup of water and he had his assistant bring us bottled water and a plate of figs to eat, which we ate gratefully as we sat and chatted with him. When we attempted to pay for them he waved us off!
People are extremely helpful and friendly and will often go above and beyond for travelers. Keep in mind that it is customary to tip the locals if they are going above and beyond, such as the local who took about forty-five minutes to walk Danae and I through a local shop that did leather production and showed us close up how their leather bags were produced. I gave him the equivalent of about ten dollars and he was extremely happy with that.
The second thing that I loved was walking around the fish markets in Essaouira. There are dozens of privately owned stalls around where they display the day’s catch on slanted boards and you can point at what you want and they will cook it up for you. Crabs as big as two fists, prawns as big as your hand, bream, mullet, scampi, calamari, lobster, and even more exotic options. We paid about $25 total for enough seafood and tea to leave us stuffed to the gills. Danae, who is a huge seafood aficionado, noted that in our hometown of Houston a similar meal would have cost us upwards of $100, so we were extremely satisfied.
The third thing, and perhaps my favorite, was our opportunity to visit with a nomadic Berber family. They lived in a long-term tent structure in a rural desert area, where they herded and raised sheep and goats.
Amad explained to us that they would live there for about three years before moving the tent and all their belongings to a more fertile area for their flocks to graze. Their hand-woven and hand-sewed tent structure was sturdy and beautiful. Their hand-made clay stove was fascinating. The sheer glee on the children’s faces as one of the members of our tour group gave them a chocolate bar was heart-warming.
They spoke no English so we communicated through gestures and tone of voice, but it was still incredible to be welcomed into their home and to visit with them.
I wish I had the space and time to write about every glorious thing I saw and experienced on this trip, like the tagine we were served in an amazing mansion on the side of a mountain, or the incredible people that we were travelling with, or the hundreds of gorgeous hand-chipped tile mosaics that you could find everywhere, or the workshop where I purchased the most gorgeous wooden marquetry puzzle-box, or the small cheerful child who sang invented songs to Danae, but really there were too many unique experiences to share unless I were to write a book about them.
I will always be grateful for my opportunity to visit this exotic and welcoming country, and I have no doubt in my mind that I will return there again someday to continue my exploring.
If you have any questions about my Morocco With Trafalgar trip you should give me a call! I love talking about my travels and I will be more than happy to share my experiences.
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