Funky Moroccan Medina

Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
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16
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Trip End Jul 04, 2012


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Monday, April 16, 2012

Another unpleasant ferry journey (see Egypt blog for a tale of genuine woe) saw us arriving late but in one piece into Tangiers.

Tangiers is not the most beautiful of Moroccan cities, but there is still plenty to see. We had a wander around its medina (scenes from Inception are filmed here) and headed out of town to check out Hercules' Grotto, a really spectacular cave opening up on to crashing Mediterranean waves. Unfortunately the weather was against us again but we did get to watch a brilliant thunder and lightening storm rage over the coastline from the safety of our hotel room.

Heading inland and through the Rif mountains, we arrived in sparkling blue Chefchaouen and were definitely on the hippy trail. The town is gorgeous - windy, small enough to explore on foot and surrounded by hills that were capped by snow. Residents outdo each other by choosing the most vibrant blues with which to paint their houses, turning each footstep into a postcard. We had a particularly wonderful morning as mountain goats, exploring the hills above the town and enjoying some awesome views.

Meknes was a quick overnight stop, but we had plenty of time to explore the old medina (and UNESCO listed... of course, is there anything they won't list?) of the town.

Next stop, Fes. Note: the town is Fes, the hat is a  fez. And is Turkish. But the Ottoman Empire never controlled Morocco, so how it became a must have tourist souvenir... go figure).
Fes is home to Morroco's largest medina and it's an impossible labyrinth to negotiate. Visitors need to be on their toes as donkeys and carts come crashing through narrow laneways with little notice. As well as old madrassas, mosques and thousands of shops, the medina is famous for its tanneries. In the centre of the old town, families still spend their lives in the smelliest of occupations imaginable. It's a site to behold, but a clogged nose is definitely an asset.

Onwards to Marrakech. By this time I was really unwell with a head cold, so Sam headed out to explore this amazing city. We were lucky to be staying close by to the main square, so everything was accessible on foot. Marrakech is a fascinating blend of just about everything, and things really kick off in the evening. It's wonderful to stand back and watch the snake charmers, storytellers and vendors draw in the crowds.

We had a great day trip to Essaouira, a beach town about 2 hours south of Marrakech. It has a very different vibe to other places we'd visited with its annual music festival and kite surfing. We enjoyed sitting up on the sea walls, and wandering the lanes, and I loved the Argan oil commune.

Morocco was a great destination, one that we enjoyed and would happily recommend. We noticed a large percentage of female travelers and it makes sense. While it is a little exotic, it is very safe and a great introduction into both the Middle East and Africa. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain their relaxed policies to tourism as much of the region pushes towards a more conservative application of Islam.
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