Morocco: Land of God

0
Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech

I haven’t been this elated about an airline having a route from Nairobi as I am right now. Royal Air Maroc just announced that they’ll have direct flights from Nairobi to Casablanca and vice versa, twice weekly 

Morocco is a land that I fell in love as we made it through another leg of the Tusker Lager Reality show, “Twende Kazi”. We raced through the streets of Marrakech with 4 teams and a Tusker Lager. The name Marrakesh is derived from the Berber combination of the words “Mur N Akush” meaning “Land of God”.

Rose colored buildings of Marakkech
Rose colored buildings of Marakkech

To get to Morocco, we had to fly a torturous route from Addis Ababa, through Istanbul and into Casablanca, then to Marrakech. There were no direct flights from any African country on this side of the Sahara to Morocco, and it was only through the Middle East or Europe that you could make way there.

The first city I fell in love with was Marrakech, with it’s massive Jamaa el Fnaa market, and mosque. The snake charmers in the market spooked me as I almost stepped on one, but the horses and carriages charmed me. Goods of all sorts, new and old, food, clothing and everything you could possibly think of were available and it’s a good thing that I had little money in my pocket, cause I wanted to buy everything.

Watch as Charles and Flavia had to get charmed.


Casablanca is a bustling, modern city that sits on the Atlantic coast. I managed to get a glimpse of the very famous Rick’s Café, which is designed to resemble the similar setting of the same restaurant in the movie ‘Casablanca’. The city also hosts the 7th largest mosque in the world, the Hassan II Mosque, completed in 1993. As with other cities, the local market is a huge attraction, and I was quite pleased with myself with purchases of precious items like Argan oil in huge jars that I lugged everywhere on the rest of my journey (they lasted me a whole year, bargain!). I also had my first ever dish of snails, boiled and spiced in the Moroccan tradition.

Watch as Eve and Kennedy down freshly squeezed camel milk.

 

We made a stop at Fes, one of the oldest cities and is a world heritage site. It’s also known as one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones, i.e. car free. The city is walled in and home to a lot of medieval architecture. We made our way through the maze of walls and streets to a number of ancient leather tanneries, where they produce the softest leather using ancient methods, though a bit backbreaking. You can read more on that here: The Leather Tanneries of Fez, Morocco. I ran into an old man who convinced me to buy a blanket, handmade by his wife. That purchase is my favourite couch snuggle blanket now.

Lucy and Michael got well versed in the smelly, ancient art of tanning.

 

As we made our way through the country, we had a stop at the spell binding city of Chefchaouen. Magically blue, the city’s walls are painted in amazing shades of blue. The name refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town, that look like the two horns (chaoua) of a goat. “Chef Chaouen” derives from the Berber word for horns, Ichawen. The city is popular for items not available elsewhere such as handmade wool garments and blankets, as well as (I hear) some of the best weed in the world.

Nighttime at Tangiers
Nighttime in Tangiers

 

Jacob and Antony got lost in Chefchaouen, and had to eat snails in Tangier.

 

Lastly, we made our way to Tangier, which sits on the tip where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, on the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s proximity to the Spanish coast means there’s lots of traffic within the strait, and a regular ferry service from Tangier to Tarifa (Spain), that takes just under 2 hours, past Gibraltar.

While in Tangiers, you can explore the Caves of Hercules. Legend has it that the Greek god Hercules had to cross the Atlas mountains. Instead of climbing over the mountains, he smashed through with superhuman strength, forming the Strait of Gibraltar.  The cave is partly natural and partly man made, with the Berbers cutting through some of the walls to make millstones. When you look at the cave from the sea, the opening is shaped like Africa, believed to have been cut out by the Phoenicians.

Morocco is truly a magical land that has so much to explore, and I can’t wait to get onto a plane and trace some of my footsteps from previous journeys, or create new paths.

The opening where the Phoenicians mapped Africa onto the Caves of Hercules
The opening where the Phoenicians mapped Africa onto the Caves of Hercules

To get there:

Shortest flight: Nairobi – Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc

Getting around: Transport available includes public buses and trains that can connect you from one point of the country to another, taxis (Petit taxi and Grand Taxi), flights and more.

Places to stay: We stayed in Ibis Hotels through all cities. Clean, comfortable and easily accessible, with affordable prices. Amenities such as WiFi might be charged extra.

Food: You have to try out a Moroccan tagine, which is a casserole made in a clay pot. I also found that there were plenty of orange trees around the city, and plenty of tasty, fresh, orange juice available each morning for breakfast. 🙂

Tip: We found that most gas stations offered free wifi, and they always had food courts and restaurants you could sit in.