Never let it be said that we let the grass grow under our feet. No sooner have we explored one new area, then we are looking for the next adventure. Our next epic trip will see us follow Bob & Bing and hopefully find Dorothy as we traipse around magical Morocco with Peregrine Adventures. Looking forward to seeing the Sahara, as Turkey Jackson (Bob Hope) said: “This must be the place where they empty all the old hourglasses.”
We will embark on our trip in Casablanca, who know’s maybe a cocktail or two at Rick’s Bar while listening to a Sam play a little piano music. We can ask “Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.” Well we can at least try.. While is Casablanca we will visit the imposing Mosque of Hassan II, second only in size to the great mosque at Mecca and able to accommodate 25 000 worshippers at one time.
Then it’s on to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, home to many fine Arab monuments from to 10th to 15th centuries, nothing that old in Perth. Then it’s a walk though Sala and it’s medina and souks, followed by exploring the Kasbah des Oudaias and of course time for a well earned drink. From here it’s off to Meknes for our evening stay. While in Meknes we get time time to wander it’s charming streets and immerse ourselves in as much local culture as we can. Our visit includes a stop at Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, resting place of Sultan Moulay Ismail and one of only a handful of sacred sites open to non-Muslims.
Next up its on to to ancient Roman ruins at Volubilis before reaching our accommodation in Fes, our home for there next two nights. I might even find myself a hat here.. Fes is known as the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco; vibrant, noisy, fascinating and at times overwhelming. In medieval times Fes was one of the great centres of learning for both Islamic and Jewish peoples. The streets are twisty and narrow and still laden with bygone ways of life, donkeys piled high with goods being transported and ancient kilns still in operation. We’re looking forward to the eclectic markets that will assault our senses with pungent aromas of spices and tanneries, bright colours of fabric and spices and the noise of life.
From Fes we head to the High Atlas Mountains and the small town of Midelt, our gateway to the majestic Sahara in a day or two’s time. The contrast of snow in the mountains and the sand of the Sahara must be amazing and we can’t wait to take it all in. In the morning following a hearty breakfast it will be off to the shifting sand and a date will a camel or two. The Erg Chebbi dunes are said to be some of the most stunning in the country and a photographer’s dream come true, I just hope it can live up too the hype. Camp will be under the stars, traditional style, with local cuisine and open fires. mmm, we hope there is some element of glamping, at least proper toilets! Morning brings a real Lawrence of Arabia moment with a sunrise camel ride across the desert.
As we leave the Sahara behind we head for Todra Gorge, a 250m deep canyon and apparently one of the most spectacular natural sites in Morocco. Continuing on we pass through the Dade Valley and it’s sprawling green valleys, a welcome change I’m sure from sand dunes. Next stop is M’Goun, home for a few nights amongst the Berber people of the area. Trekking through the valley we do get a rest stop for lunch and tea with a Berber family as we learn how tea is made in this part of the world, I’m guessing no Lipton’s tea bags.
From here we travel the fabled Road of 1000 Kasbahs on our journey to Ait Benhaddou. Apparently we should recognise the place as it’s been in quite a few films including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator as well as Game of Thrones. Hopefully no dragons flying around! After time to explore this 11th century site we head into the Old Town and a lesson in crafting local tea and cookies, what better way to end a day.
The Atlas Mountains form our backdrop as we meander our way to our next stop at Ourigane, a rural town and commune in Al Haouz Province. Apparently another photographers dream with amazing scenery and great birdlife. There are hiking trails for the keen or great places to sit and take it all in, that sounds more like it to us. Then as our travels come to close we head to Marrakech and the hustle and bustle of its great square of Djemaa el-Fna. Relatively quiet by day we’re told it comes alive at night with food stall, entertainment, henna painters and all manner of other life.
Our stop in Marrakech includes a walking tour of the markets for some shopping, good job Qatar Airways have a 30kg baggage allowance, we might need it. Hopefully we will pick up a few phrases to help with the haggling, don’t want to get ripped off. The organised tour finishes here, but we’ve tacked a few days on at the end to relax and soak up the culture before driving back to Casablanca and our flights home. With only a 9 months until we go, we can’t wait for this trip…