Traveling to unknown horizons fuels the nomad in me. Packing my bags, boarding a flight, sitting in cramped up spaces; every aspect of traveling is therapeutic to me. I am excited from the moment I book a flight, and as D-day approaches I am ecstatic. New places, cultures, food, food and more food- it’s like getting a VIP pass to the hottest party in town.
When we decided on Morocco, it was a financially gratifying decision. Sure, I knew where Morocco was on the map and I had visited many Moroccan restaurants to know the food was good. With no expectation beyond eating some good food, after a six-month waiting period between booking the tickets and the trip, I was on my way to Morocco.
After a long flight from San Francisco to New York and New York to Casablanca, we were in Morocco. From the moment I landed in Morocco, I was enthralled by Morocco. We were welcomed by Ibrahim our tour guide and twelve other people who were to be our family for the next fourteen days. We had people from all walks of life, who were so well traveled that I felt a novice. I had never been in the company of people who were so passionate about traveling like these twelve people. In those fourteen wonderful days, we spent every second of our waking minute together. The interesting stories during breakfasts, lunch and dinner, the funny chatter during our long bus rides, the endless laughter: each moment made this journey all the more special. For fourteen days, we were a family- we had each other’s back through sickness and smiles.
We began our road trip across the streets of Morocco from the airport in Casablanca to Rabat. Rabat, the capital of Morocco was like any other big city. Tall buildings, well laid out streets, and coffee shops at every corner, this place was filled with history among jeans clad youngsters ‘hanging out’ at 8pm. Rabat was a mosaic of old meets new and a perfect start for tourists like me.
After a day in Rabat, we made our way to the old Imperial city of Fez. Fez, with her many palaces and museums that stood true to her name- an Imperial city in Morocco. The air smelled of spices, artisans adored the streets with their hand made pottery, crafts and carpets. Fez, the home of the artisans had something for the shopaholic in you. We spent a day visiting pottery makers, shopping for carpets and spices which could solve your every problem including snoring. For the art lover in me, Fez was music to the soul.
On our journey to Ourazazate, we stopped at Morocco’s own Grand Canyon. Tranquil and serene, standing at the foot of nature in all her grandeur was rejuvenating to the soul. They called her little in comparison to the original Grand Canyon, but there was nothing little about it. Rock climbers, tourists and locals enjoying a stream of water in the middle of nowhere, Morocco’s own little Grand Canyon played perfect host.
Ourazazate, a desert city at the gates of Sahara was our next stop in our road trip. My first trip to a desert and I was overwhelmed to say the very least. We were going to stay at Ourazazate for a night, and the next morning at 5am we were going on a desert hike to see the sun rise on the sand dunes. Being an avid hiker, I figured it would be easy. Little did I know Mother Nature was right there to tame the cockiness in me! It was the hardest hike of my life. Fatigued beyond words, I felt I scaled Mount Everest as my Moroccan prince escorted me up the highest dune. Tranquility set in as we rested up the sand dune waiting for the sunrise. The horizon was painted in hues of orange and red against the brown expanse of desert, and it was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. The serenity of the moment as the world was being painted by the sun- a picture perfect moment captured in the canvas of memory forever. Ourazazate, you will forever be my first desert love!
We bid adieu to Ourazazate and made our way to the magnificent Marrakesh. Marrakesh reeled me in with her magnificence, grandeur and simplicity and instantly evoked nostalgia in me. Suddenly this trip was no longer a vacation, it felt like homecoming as Marrakesh reminded me of home-India. We spent every evening at Jaama El Fna Square enjoying the snake charmer, belly dancers, monkeys doing tricks: the hustle and bustle of the atmosphere was contagious. They had coffee shops on high buildings where you could relax and enjoy the evening. While tourists marveled at the tricks, I relived my childhood in India where a simple event like this at a square was an event. Marrakesh had beautiful architecture, palaces and gardens besides the square. At Marrakesh, we tried tangier, which is a local dish to Marrakesh and absolute must have.
Essaouira, our next destination for a day was a beautiful pristine beach town in Morocco and the argan capital of the world. Serene and blue, it felt like the sky washed down on earth in the form of Essaouira. Argan oil, the magical concoction that can make your hair beautiful and silky was available in abundance in Essaouira. We went to an argan shop owned and operated by women to see how the concoction was made, and went overboard shopping all things argan.
Our final destination in our fourteen-day whirlwind road trip was the charming Casablanca. Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco. Modern architecture adorned the streets of Casablanca. The magnificent Hassan II Mosque rested in the lap of Casablanca was an epitome of the grandeur and elegance of Morocco. Our last night at Casablanca, we had a farewell dinner where we got together as a group to make a few more memories together before we bid adieu.
Morocco, a magically beautiful place that made me hers from the moment I set foot on her soil. The people welcomed me because I was from the land of Shahrukh Khan, an Indian actor. Morocco loves their Shahrukh Khan, and having grown up on his movies and being an ardent fan I was beyond proud. I could never thank Morocco enough for the nostalgic feelings she evoked in me. Thank you for the memories, hospitality and showing me how simple moments in life are the most treasured ones.