Though only 6 hours (460 km) separate Marrakech from the oasis town of M’Hamid I could have dedicated six days between the two place names. The villages that scatter Ourika Valley hold their own against the more popular Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat) and it’s out here in the wilderness of the High Atlas Mountains that I come across the Cafe Tajine.
An hour outside Marrakech the Cafe Tajine emerges from an icy riverbed along the narrow road that parallels the River Ourika. Makeshift bridges of repurposed woods and carpets reach across the river at many points along the route, leading to mud-brick villages, markets, and, in this case, one of the finest dining experiences i’ve had to date.
Here, for a few dollars (it’s truly a steal), you can feast like royalty. A spread of three tajines, salads, breads, mint tea…
It’s about time I bring you up to speed. Excuse the short entry but I felt an update was in order. Within 48 hours, this happened…
Austin, Texas to Casablanca, Morocco
Waving goodbye to my loved ones I embarked on a 21 hour multi-flight jaunt over the Atlantic Ocean; Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois, then the great airport of Heathrow in England for the short leap to Casablanca, Morocco. Whew! Luckily I had plenty of reading material between beefing up my Arabic vocabulary and maintaining, at the very least, a coherent understanding of my coursework.
Before long Morocco broke through the clouds emerging from the Atlantic. I had to snap a photo to capture the memory. Though it doesn’t show well, the materialization of Africa out of the deep blue is something of an emotional experience. Let the adventure begin!
Casablanca to Marrakech
Meeting an old friend in Casablanca we caught the first train to Marrakech. There, we would hook up with a group of French backpackers to begin a week of exploration, and long-term partying.
We hit our destination late in the cool spring evening. While the mudbrick structures were holding onto the warmth of the day.
In minutes we were in the great square of Jemaa el-Fnaa. Where the fragrance of saffron dances in the air which can sweeten the toughest brute while a few steps away you can be slapped in the face by the putrid aroma of livestock and the trill siren-esque call of the North African ‘Rhaita’ (a double reed flute) which is both haunting and poetic. Attempting to criss-cross the streets of metal and beast feels suicidal though becomes effortless and the locals are more than ready to accomodate your awkward swagger. Monkey’s, snake charmers, fire breathers, medicine men, and acrobats, vie for your attention as you’re swept away by a refreshing, cool glass of camels milk or freshly squeezed orange juice. This is going to be wild.
Down one of the fingerling souks we found a riad to drop of our gear before hitting the markets… or should we start with the “bastilla”? I’m bordering starvation and the impulse to move at 1,000 mph… or is it 1,000 km? With my camera, a handful of “dirhams”, and an open attitude i’m heading into one of the greatest cities this world has had the pleasure to concoct.
Marrakech is somewhat of a Genie. The embodiment of an alien world while welcoming and warm.
I’m more than ready to begin exploring the legendary city and i’ve come to conquer… myself that is. Let’s find out what this world offers while getting to know ourselves through adventure travel, history, and our brothers/sisters on the other side of the world, that’s my plan! So long as I make it to Amman, Jordan before my classes begin in April, i’m basically going with the flow here.
Don’t pic the oranges! The Garden of the Koutoubia.