Morocco is one of those places D and I only ever dreamed we'd visit. The colorful souks, eclectic architecture, rich history...I could go on and on about the wonderful reasons why Morocco appealed to us both. But, we never ever had a plan to get us there. The thought of planning a Moroccan solo trip, just the two of us, seemed a little daunting (and not necessarily approved by his particular line of work). So, when the opportunity arose for us to get a taste of Morocco while cruising, we jumped at the chance! It was absolutely one of the major selling points for choosing our particular Spanish cruise sailing. With roughly 13 hours to see what wonders Morocco had to offer, we chose a tour with our cruise ship and got on our way!
The Norwegian Spirit (the amazing cruise ship we sailed on) docked into the port in Casablanca, Morocco, but we had no desire to stay within the confines of Casablanca. From the research we'd done prior to setting sail, we knew Casablanca, while made famous by the namesake film featuring Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman, wasn't the safest or prettiest of cities. In addition, there was another city we'd been lusting after...MARRAKECH! Marrakech, Morocco's 4th largest city, was a whopping 3.5 hour bus ride away from the streets of Casablanca. We knew we might not ever get a chance to go there again, so we mustered up the patience to endure a long bus ride and filed onto the tour bus heading for this elusive city. As we were riding through Casablanca in route to Marrakech, it was safe to say that we'd made a good decision. Casablanca wasn't exactly what I'd pictured in my mind. The city was crowded, very industrial, and a bit unappealing. During the 30 minutes it took us to get out of the Casablanca city limits, I saw packs of locals arguing in the streets (like, really), emaciated dogs sniffing through piles of garbage in alleyways (heartbreaking), and we got caught in some pretty epic (and aggressive) traffic jams. My mind was going a million miles a minute. Where were the colors, the spices, the beautiful mosques and markets? I feel like our bus driver took us through the not so nice area of Casablanca...the area I could have never seen our tour group wandering down the streets of safely. While our first impressions of Casablanca from the view out the window of our 30-passenger van weren't the greatest, Marrakech had never sounded so appealing!
[I must tell you, at the end of our Morocco tour, we drove back into Casablanca for some nighttime sight-seeing and we viewed a totally different part of city...the more tourist-friendly part, as our tour guide revealed. Uhhh where was that 8 hours ago, amiright?! Also, every time I say the word Casablanca I think of Cam on Modern Family. Anyone else?]
Once we were outside of Casablanca, the terrain and overall feel of Morocco completely changed. The droves of cars and traffic dissipated, and the landscape turned from run-down stairwell apartment building on top of apartment building to miles of mountainous desert land. It was absolutely refreshing. While on our drive, our tour guide (a native of Fez, Morocco) gave great detail about Morocco's history and explained the key differences between its major cities. Casablanca slowly started to make more sense to us, although we were still glad to be spending our day touring in Marrakech. As we continued driving, the desolate landscape had me glued to my camera and the window. 20 minutes we'd drive and not see a single sign of life except a few birds perched on rocks...then a random gas station or small clay village would peek out in the distance. When we stopped for a restroom break and to try Moroccan mint tea (so, so delicious and sweet!), we watched a man herd his livestock and slowly lead them across the dusty desert land. Who knows where he was going, but I couldn't take my eyes off the scene. Every so often, rows of palm trees snuck themselves into the landscape as if they popped out of the deserted nowhere. Even though the ride was long, I felt so fortunate to be able to see this side of the country. This is the Morocco I'd pictured. These are the scenes I craved to see. The country was just building up its awesomeness for me, I guess, because the rest of our Moroccan adventure was so incredibly fun and fascinating.
I can't wait to share more with you!