Visiting Morocco had always been in my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I have forever dreamt about the beautiful architectures and experiencing the mix of African-Arabian culture. When I finally had the chance to travel the country, I was in complete disbelief and it easily became my most dreamy, memorable and surreal trip so far. I fell in love with Morocco the moment I hopped off the plane at Casablanca and by the end of my 2 weeks venture, this country left me in awe with heaps of experiences I am forever grateful for. Out of all the magical memories, here are the quintessential and enchanting Moroccan bits that stole my heart!
1. Beautiful Architectures
I just had to begin with this. Zellige, what they call the mozaic-geometric tiles adorn the traditional Moroccan brick-red buildings and turns the whole architectures a whole lot prettier! Not just for flooring, Zelliges are also used in fountains, baths and tombs. Moroccan architectures are just so distinct and full of characters. Gazing at all those zellige tiles was very satisfying to my eyes. I was amazed at how precise and perfectly done those tiles were. I wonder how patient,steady and delicate those hand-crafters were. Yes, most of those tile-works are still done by hands even today!
2. Stunning Landscapes
When you hear about Morocco, what first pops in your mind? If not the wonderful architecture, it must be the magnificent Sahara desert, is it not? You don’t hear much about the mountains, the scenic drives, palm trees plantation, the amazing view of the Straits of Gibraltar nor the beaches on the outskirts of metropolitan cities. It also never crossed my mind to witness one of the most beautiful sunset at a Moroccan beach. I must say that the landscape I saw during my camel ride across the desert was truly something special. BUT! There were so much more to this, and having discovered the nature of Morocco exceeded every bit of my expectations – I will leave you to your own judgments from pictures below.
3. Refreshing Thé à la Menthe or Mint Tea
As a lover of tea, I was very pleased with the amount of tea I got to indulge throughout the trip. Since the country’s predominant religion is Islam, instead of pubs or bars, you will find tea salons in Morocco. How cute is this? There wasn’t a day passed without locals having offered me delicious and refreshing mint tea. Whether it was from shopkeepers or simply from an exchange of eye contact with a local. Moroccans love sharing their tea with others as it signifies hospitality and friendship in their tradition. They love their tea extremely sweet and I learnt that 15 sugar cubes per tiny pot is normal! I get diabetes just thinking about this hah!
During my overnight stay at the Sahara camp (away from all civilization) there were literally no drinkable water available. All we could drink was the mint-tea served by our hosts. It was very puzzling! For all I know, you need to boil water to make any sort of tea.. Perhaps all the drinkable water available was entirely used up to boil tea. I remember the first thing we did at the camp was having a super long tea time with a Berber man, who truly loved pouring tea for all the 17 of us. He seemed genuinely excited whenever someone would ask for another cup. He said “Bismillah”, the Arabic for “In the name of God”, each time he poured tea whilst putting on the biggest smile ever.
4. Warm Hospitality
If all the tea invitations and pouring traditions above haven’t given you a clear picture of how hospitable Moroccans are, then please take me to wherever you think have more accommodating and hospitable people! :p Seriously though, I felt that the locals are very generous, especially when sharing food and making sure you are comfortable where you are. Spot the kind stranger in the picture below who offered me watermelons for free in the middle of a very humid and hot day, Ahmed who drove me around for the whole 14 days tirelessly and the Berber man who voluntarily posed for the best sunset-desert photo I took from a camel!
Although Morocco has become a popular holiday destination, I am sure you still read or heard some bits here and there regarding Morocco’s safety concerns. I was well aware of all this pre-departure and I am not going to completely ignore the fact that throughout my two-weeks journey, I witnessed robbery twice at the market and a car accident just 10 steps away from me. Fortunately both did not do me any harm. Weirdly, I feel that those criminals don’t target tourists unlike other touristy cities. I took these as self-reminder to remain vigilant. I mean, things like these could happen in any other part of the world too, right?
5. Awesome Shopping at Souks or Cultural Bazaar
Morocco is a shopping paradise. There was always some very special vibes the Moroccan markets gave me. Since I traveled with a bunch of shopaholics, souk shopping was always in the itinerary for each town we visited. Each markets had their own unique artisan offerings and very diverse handmade products, unlike most other countries where they typically sell the same generic (mass-produced) souvenirs at all their touristy markets. It was exciting to see all the colorful carpets, pottery, slippers, smelling the scents of spices and watching the locals shuffling about. Spare some time to hunt for the best items which are typically found way deep in the market alleys and be prepared to get lost inside the maze of thousands of vendors!
6. Rich Culture & History
The blend of Morocco’s years of foreign influence and ruling have created a rich melting pot of cultures in the country. The Romans, Carthaginians, Amazigh, Portuguese, Turks, Moors, Arabs, Spanish and French have all had a presence in Morocco, as well as a host of other races having followed the trade routes through Morocco from one continent to the other. While some parts of the countries have been modernized, I love how they still preserve the old towns like Fes and Marrakesh, where you can still find camels or donkeys still being used as the mode of transportation in the farmlands and dessert landscapes. Morocco is also home to the world’s oldest university, University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez and there is a huge ancient Roman Empire ruins site called Volubilis, in the city of Meknes which is worth a visit!
7. Delicious Tagine
#1 Moroccan signature dish. The word Tagine refers to both the braised dish as well as the glazed clay pot used to prepare the dish. What’s special about tagine is the slow-cooking process involved, 2 hours for poultry and up to 4 hours for beef and lamb. And what makes this meal super tasty is the vibrant spices used (typically cumin, saffron, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne paper). Oh my, thinking about how rich the flavors from all the spices perfectly soaked up in the tender meat makes my mouth waters as I write this.
Hope you enjoy this entry, you lovely readers! More Moroccan-related posts coming your way. Let me know your thoughts and feel free to reach out and shoot me your Qs! 🙂