Reflections from Morocco

May 26, 2019 Cilla Utne 2 comments

Sandra (on left) joined the small group of Cross Cultural Journeys travelers on our most recent trip to Morocco, April 26 – May 7th, 2019. 

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful impressions of Morocco with us! 

To join us in Morocco next time around for a similar adventure, please visit our fall Morocco itinerary here.

Our Early Bird Special is available until May 31.

Here is Sandra’s letter from just the other day….

Dear Cilla,

Memories of Morocco run endlessly across my mind during waking and sleeping hours.  YES!  We sure did have fun!  I LOVED the entire trip—every moment from beginning to end.

I hope you are giving yourself a lion’s share of the credit for putting together such a marvelous trip, holding the group’s energy, tending to our needs with your holistic first-aid kit (I will never again travel without digestive enzymes) and for seamlessly melding with the entire group.  Not an easy task and you accomplished it splendidly! 

Thank you for lending me your phone to call my bank that never did succeed in correcting the ATM problem.  After tips, I boarded the plane with a one-cent dirham in my pocket!  I am grateful for all you did…I am also grateful for Abdou and our driver….they provided us the opportunity to experience Morocco from a local perspective. 

Abdou (right) not only shared his love of country and culture—he opened his heart and home to us.  I believe our experience of Morocco was totally unique and I will cherish the memories forever.  It’s a funny thing—the anticipation that builds prior to a trip.  The imaginings of how it might unfold as we flip through travel catalogs and our date of departure grows near.  I recall one day in particular way back in January.  I was reading about the Dades Valley and realized that May was the peak season in the Valley of the Roses. 

Back then, I thought perhaps I might be lucky enough to see some of these roses en-route to Marrakech.  I never imagined that months later I would be traipsing that narrow path through bushes and bushes of pink blossoms and holding the aromatic buds in my hands.  We didn’t just see the Valley of the Roses—we immersed ourselves in it.  How fortunate we were to experience this annual feast for the senses! 

 

Just one of so many memories of our time spent together in Morocco.  An experience chock full of colorful places, people, histories, cultures, languages, styles of architecture, music, museums, medinas, kasbahs, kaftans, intoxicating spices, hand-woven rugs, fanous and fabulous food. I still rue not finishing my tagine chicken in Fez! 

Our “pre-tour” tour of the Hassan mosque in Casablanca.  (Merci beaucoup!)  Lunch with the monkeys—the monkeys stealing our lunch!  Elizabeth’s priceless photo of everyone taking a photo at the restaurant in Rabat!  Your accidental AirDrop of that photo to the Turk at the table next to us which triggered a jolly conversation. 

The delicious pastillas we ate covered in all things yummy!  The wonder of the Roman ruins near Meknes enroute to Fez.  (Wow!)  Fresh squeezed orange juice at breakfast, lunch and dinner!  (Why not?)  The maze of the medina in Fez with our kind and hardy guide who never lost sight of where we were at every turn.  (Bless his heart!

Mint tea served to soothe at every arrival.  The authentic jewel that is Riad El Yacout and the best hamman scrub ever in Fez.  (Ahh…

That dusty, little town on a hill with the upstairs Turkish toilet where we ate those tasty kabobs, fresh bread and oodles of olives.  Observing the changing terrain as we descended into the desert.  (Pass the moisturizer, s’il vous plaît.

Onward to Merzouga and our “Lawrence of Arabia” (okay, Morocco) moment donning our tagelmusts atop our camels.  I still can’t believe that I didn’t fall “arse over tit” as the British say and topple off my camel 🙂  (miracles do happen!).  Watching the weaver create the beauty of a Berber rug (women artists!)  The tranquil peace of the Dades Valley and the gorgeous, monochromatic views from the terrace of our hotel.  (More ahh…). Finding a genuine Berber dancer’s belt on a shopping spree (Rockin!’). 

Our first-ever and fabulous Berber pizza served with coca‑cola in the bottle—never in a can.  (Deeeeeeeelicious!)  The joy of touring the organic farm sampling apricots, figs and oranges—fresh fruit ripened on the vine and the hope that this way of life will survive.  (Just say NO to Agri-business!)  Our visit with the precious children at the Foundation school.  The delicious couscous meal prepared and shared at Abdou and Sharon’s home along with the blessing from the Imam. 

The many mosques we passed and Islamic call to prayer heard in the distance.  The multiple stops for nous‑nous.  (Wake-up, wake-up!)  Panic at possibly driving off the cliff when we were never in danger at all.  (Best driver ever!

Reluctance to return to civilization as we made our way into Marrakech leaving behind the beauty of the Atlas Mountains.  The bright city lights of Marrakech and the whirl of activity in the Square on a Saturday night.  (So glad we did that!

The street food sardines to die for that you, Abdou and I ate that day in Marrakech.  (I want some right now!)  Our “follow the breadcrumbs” stop for wine tasting and yet more olives en-route to the Atlantic coast.  (Magnifique!

The last leg of the journey to Essaouira with its windy salt air and the realization that our trip was winding down. The evening you, Nancy, Elizabeth and I dined in that little shoebox restaurant up those stairs and listened to the haunting Gnawa music.  (A memory to treasure forever!

The fish market surrounded by cats just waiting to grab their catch of the day.  (Oh, the cats.  My biggest challenge in Morocco!)  The beginning of Ramadan.  Our lovely hosts and participatory home-cooked Moroccan meal that confirmed the food of Morocco is beyond fabulous!  Our dessert of stuffed dates (Long-overdue!)  Our last hurrah on the rooftop hotel that really wasn’t since we extended the hurrah and finally found that French restaurant from your previous visit.  (Qui, qui!)  And more—so much more to remember.  Truly fantastic!

…I departed Essaouira on the 4:00 a.m. bus back to Marrakech along with the Minnesotans who were flying out that morning.  Abdou had called the riad where I made reservations to explain my circumstances and they were gracious enough to allow me an early 6:30 a.m. check-in instead of the customary 3:00 p.m.  A welcoming young man from the riad was waiting outside to swoop up my luggage as I bid adieu to Abdou and our driver.  It was a bittersweet moment as it meant this part of the journey—the Cross Cultural Journeys chapter had come to an end.  How comforting to find the same young man waiting for me inside the riad with a glass of milk and a plate of dates.  He must have noticed my state of date‑deprivation.  (Sweet!)  He escorted me to my lovely room and wished me a pleasant slumber.  When I awoke later that morning I realized the magic of Morocco wasn’t over—it was simply taking another turn. 

This enchanting riad provided for me a haven where I could wind down before heading home.  It also offers a great restaurant and a rooftop lounge that oversees the medina and Marrakech.  Any final thoughts brewing in my mind to venture back into the medina for last minute shopping were quickly abandoned.  I realized I was done.  Done shopping, done haggling, done struggling to find my way in, out, up, down and around the medinas and back from whence I came.  Instead, I rested.  I reflected.  And I had fun playing tourist for the next 72 hours.  I paid a visit to Jardins Majorelle and the newly opened Yves Saint Laurent museum.  (Très chic!)….but the best part was the outstanding Berber Museum—also housed in the complex.  I spent two hours poring over the history and artifacts.  Behold this Berber treasure trove!  It resonated with so much of what we learned from Abdou about the Berber culture and their struggle to survive. 

By late afternoon, it was time for me to return to the peace and quiet of Riad Dar Anika, enjoy a glass of mint tea and listen to the birds chirping in the aviary.  A delightful way to spend the remainder of the day and evening.  The next day I strolled over to the grand hotel, La Mamounia.  Built in 1923 with Arabic-Andalusian décor and surrounded by its magnificent 200-year-old garden—one need not wonder why Winston Churchill called it, “the most lovely spot in the entire world.”  The hotel has hosted a myriad of legendary guests and much has been written of its opulence and splendor.  I strolled the grounds and walked throughout the hotel—sneaking a peek into the beautifully appointed rooms wherever a housekeeper left the door ajar.  I love touring old, grand hotels and this was worth the walk in what turned out to be a very hot day in Marrakech.  I had dinner that evening at the riad and listened to a bit of music over two glasses of wine before turning in for the night.  Abdou arranged for a driver to pick me up the following day. 

A kind, considerate man arrived exactly at high noon and drove me to Casablanca where I spent my final night in Morocco.  No need to recount the remainder of my trip.  Just your standard 21st century ordeal passing through airport security and Customs procedures.  I arrived home about 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 10 ready for a long sleep and the wrath of my six cats.

That weekend blew by and I had to hit the ground running on Monday morning.  I arrived at my job to find documents piled sky-high on my desk.  I took strange comfort in sorting through these stacks of nothingness while my mind remained miles away in memories of Morocco.  I was very jet lagged and remained so for nearly two weeks.  I surrendered to this state—caught somewhere between here and there pretending I hadn’t really come back and would soon discover I was still in Morocco after all.  But the spell was broken one foggy afternoon at the end of the second week.  I ran across the street to pick up the avocado toast that I’d ordered from a familiar kiosk in our Ferry Building food court…..for some reason on this day my order fell through the cracks and the young man behind the counter apologetically assured me he’d have it ready in about ten minutes.  All was well until he turned back around and asked if I would like a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice while I waited.  And suddenly I started to cry.  I’m sure he was baffled as to how a tardy avocado toast could bring a grown woman to tears.  And I didn’t even try to explain that it had nothing to do with the toast and had everything to do with the magic of Morocco where there was fresh squeezed orange juice every day of my journey.  I didn’t burden him with the facts.  I simply accepted his thoughtful offer of the juice, found a wall to lean on while waiting for my lunch and sipped the not-as-tasty-as-made-in-Morocco orange juice seasoned with my salty teardrops. 

At that moment I finally arrived home to the realization that my journey to Morocco was now behind me…….

— Sandra R., San Francisco, May 23, 2019

Sandra joined the small group of Cross Cultural Journeys travelers on our most recent trip to Morocco, April 26 – May 7th, 2019. 

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful impressions of your journey with us! 

To join us in Morocco next time around for a similar adventure, please visit our fall Morocco itinerary here.

Our Early Bird Special is available until May 31.

2 Comments on “Reflections from Morocco

    1. Hi Miriam, thank you for your comment – we would love to have you join us! Please call us if you have any questions 1-800-353-2276….remember our early bird ends tomorrow.

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