A magical weekend in Morocco: A photo diary
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
This week's post is all about the time that I went to Morocco with my best friend Holly. It's kind of surreal that we ended up going, we'd been trying to go for months and months but our timetables never matched up. Luckily we were able to go together during the last weekend of May and it was one of my favourite trips of the year.
I'd never visited the African continent before yet I've always had a desire to see Morocco. I have a friend who is from there and the way that she describes it to me, makes it seem otherworldly and enticing; not to fetishise or orientalise Northern Africa but in way that the culture seems so different and inviting.
This trip superseded my expectations, I was heading to a new continent on a group travel trip with my best friend. It was the end of May and I was coming towards the end of my time in Valencia. This trip was the final stepping stone in a somewhat transformative year- I'd had a lot of experiencing travelling on my own and I knew what I liked and the activities that I enjoyed partaking in. Group travel is new territory for me, however I would 100% endorse it to anyone who is even considering doing a travel tour.
So our Morocco trip consisted of visiting four different cities over the space of three days- sounds like a lot right? It was a little tiring, but that was due to the relentless heat and the crisp dry Moroccan air. We were on a coach for the best part of the first day, travelling from Algeciras and then taking the ferry to Ceuta. As I've previously mentioned, boats are not for me and I felt an overwhelming sense of seasickness which wasn't the best start to the trip. After making it through the somewhat facile immigration process, we were on the road to our first destination: Assilah.
I had never heard of this town, yet calling it a town was quite a stretch. It was a very small community, confined to the Medina (Old Town). One of the main reasons that we visited was to see the beautiful blue streets and alleys, as well as take a well needed repose by the beach. Our wonderful tour guide explained to us the significance of the colour blue in the community and we were able to amble freely around the main square. It was easy to find yourself lost amongst the labyrinth alleyways and crooked back streets. One thing that the town didn't lack, after blue street art, was its abundance of cats. Now I am not a cat person- I think I've had this dislike subconsciously drilled into me from my mother, who for some reason has taken a strong disliking to these feline creatures. I, too am the same. However I couldn't help but coo (from afar) over the tiny kittens which paraded through the cobbled streets, asserting their presence and cuteness. The first night we settled into our hotel and enjoyed a somewhat bland meal of what was supposed to be rice and and omelette- which was in fact just rice and vegetables. Nonetheless Holly and I struck up conversation with some of the girls who we had met that day; bonding over our common interest in Spanish and our Erasmus experiences.
The following day was quite a busy one, we were on the road again but before we made our stop to our main destination Chefchaoune, we took a detour to Tangiers to head to the beach. It was a very bright and early morning- yet my spirits were lifted when I saw the pack of camels waiting for us on the beach. At first I did have ambivalent feelings about riding them; I didn't want to be connected (even indirectly) to any mistreatment or animal abuse. Yet, I soon saw that despite being roped together these camels were headstrong and their owners treated them with care as they dillegnetly tended to them. After seeing someone be thrown off their camel and another girl slide down the neck of hers, I was (understandably) a little apprehensive to join in. However after a well needed pep talk from Holly I decided that it was worth taking the chance and having a go.
I didn't regret it. Camel's are a lot taller than I thought they were. I have the slight stature of 5ft 3 and my camel towered over me. The hardest part was hoisting myself up- all grace went out of the window as I scramble up onto the large back of the dromedary. Riding a camel has been on my bucket list for years- I genuinely don't know how or why it made it to the list, but as we tentatively moseyed down the beachfront I felt more and more comfortable and accomplished. It really was a huge deal for me at the time- I think you could tell by my facial expression that I was a little anxious but on the inside an eddy of nausea flurried within me. Yet I glad I silenced the demons and didn't back out.
We also took a trip to the lighthouse where we could see the point where the atlantic and the meditarrean sea meet. Though there isn't a definitive line, it felt nice to observe the waves. We also saw a tiny little donkey too, which made both mine and Holly's hearts melt.
Our next stop was Chaouen- the main event. Months prior to this trip I kept on seeing images of this elusive blue city on my Instagram feed. Each photo strengthened a desire to visit this somewhat ethereal city. Chaouen was even more breathtaking in real life- the images certainly didn't do it justice. The Medina was truly maze like- which we found out much later on. During this segment of the trip we had a different tour guide, who reminded me of a cross between Yoda and my Grandad. His husky voice made ut difficult to understand at times but he was so friendly and knew the city like the back of his hand. He took us through all of the amazing back streets, seeing the hidden alcoves and rooftops where we had a great view of the whole Medina. We even visited a co-opeative weaving workshop where was saw a range of textiles and rugs as well as handcrafted jewellery made by local women. The market place itself was busy with both tourists and locals- the air was permeated with spices and fresh fruits. We dined at this beautiful restaurant which overlooks the city. I felt really bad that we are eating such exquisite food when the staff were all fasting for Ramadan. The food was flavoursome and bounty; couscous, rice, fish, vegetables, a variety of fresh fruits and pastries for dessert. We were truly spoiled.
As a group we all went back to the Medina to explore and I enjoyed being in this hub of activity. That was until we were given an hour of free time to do some shopping. Myself, Holly and another girl from our group decided to explore together- we laughed and joked, taking photos and buying mini trinkets. We were so caught up in our excitement that we forgot to keep a track of where we were. We had a reached a road which looked like we'd been there before, yet all of them looked the same- blue. As we tried to avert a crisis we dashed around the Medina looking for anyone we knew in our group- as time was running out we were trying to keep a calm and focused head. We couldn't use google maps because we couldn't use our mobile data without being charged a fortune. We were all on the verge of a panic before we saw Mr Yoda again, this time with another tour group. We asked him for help and he said that he would tell our other tour guide where we were so that he could collect us. Now for some reason, we didn't quite trust that to be the case. Our main fear was that the bus would leave without us and that we'd be stuck inside this never-ending Median forever! We decided to put our heads together and see if we could again retrace our steps. After a lot of wrong turns and a few tense moments we found our way back. Just as we reached our start point we saw our tour guide- who was on his way to find us! It was a close shave, I haven't been that stressed since I did my A levels!
We headed to our hotel for the evening and Holly and I had an amazing room with a beautiful balcony and view of the beach. We sat along the beach front before dinner, winding down after our adventures of the day.
Our thrid and final day consisted of a trip to the city of Tetuan. This isn't a blue city but it is renowned for its market. We walked through the town and saw one of the King's residence. We also visited a local apothecary and had demonstrations of Moroccan health and beauty products- as well as being treated to a relaxing neck massage. I bought a homemade lip balm as well as some essential oils which aid travel sickness ( I was definitely going to use it on the ferry back). We then visited the Medina an had the opportunity to do a bit more shopping. By this time I was ready for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised when we reached the banquet hall. It was ornately decorate dead we were told that the venue was normally used to host wedding receptions.
The food was again extraordinary and we were treated to entertainment by dancers and live musicians who played classical Moroccan music- it was a great way to end the the trip. We certainly had packed in quite a lot in the three days. I was also happy to have been able to spend time with Holly; despite us both being in Spain I was in the north and she was in the south. It was great to share this experience with her as well as meet new people along the way.
Whilst advocate for solo travel and living your best life- group travel also has a lot of benefits :) Either way, oui sí yes and go travelling (especially with your best friend)!