Morocco, north Africa. I cannot even describe all the emotions I went through as I was landing for the first time at the African continent. Excitement rushing through my veins without having the minimum idea of how it was gonna be. The first thought I had when I went out the menara airport in Marrakesh was: -where the fuck are the taxis and the buses?-. There was only people picking up other people, no taxi signs, no bus coming soon. Plenty of luck I had when I found two lads that were going to the same hostel I booked, so off we went to the old city center of Marrakesh or Medina. The hostal called “Kif Kif” is located right in the heart of the city. The hostal crew received me with a delicious chi red tea and some biscuits, the place has a lovely and cozy lounge full of cushions, shishas and colours. Just brilliant, I highly recommend it. It was already late in the evening but I took a walk to get familiar with the area; all the locals of the main market were closed, and to be honest at first sight the area looks quite creepy and spooky, with wild cats hunting, but despite the looks, it’s fairly safe to walk anytime and for some reason I thought -I think like this place-.
The mission of day two was to go to the capital city Casablanca, go to the senegalese consulate and get a pre-visa to enter the country. Oh Internet what an epic fail you did this time. According to bloody Wikipedia and other websites, it was possible for Mexicans to process electronically a pre-form, arrive at the airport in Dakar and enter the country. This website was down for several weeks before and according to some Dakar airport information exchange, the instruction was to go to Casablanca to do such “fast and easy” process. Wrong. As I arrived to the consulate, a tall and fancy dressed senegalese guy in charge said to me that the only way to enter was by official confirmation directly from Senegal, and to do so, my passport and other stuff had to be sent to Senegal and I had to wait at least 3 months to maybe obtain an answer. -Do you have your yellow fever vaccine? Did you book your tickets already?- he asked. To what the answer was -yes, I’m flying in 3 days to Dakar-…-well I don’t think you are, I’m sorry, we cannot do anything-. I was a bit sad, yes, a bit pissed, yes, but I didn’t argue or anything, I’m a guy who likes to think that life always gives us signals, that sometimes it’s a “feck yeah go for it!” But sometimes it’s a “nope, sorry mate, knock on the next door!” And that’s exactly what I did. As I was telling my story with a totally rusty French to the taxi driver, he said in French-don’t worry Mexico! Morocco will make you smile- and he drove me around the main avenues of the city before going back to Marrakesh. Fairly cool city I must say.
With limited communication with the staff of momondo due to the Xmas break, I did have a tiny panic attack on the train back to Marrakesh, but my head cooled down and the worse that could happen was to book a flight to Spain (since it was cheap) and then find the way back home, but as said, life is wise and I found a 48 hrs flight to Tanzania with two 12 hrs lay overs (including Spain). The momondo team responded effectively to my Mexican S.O.S. call and my trip was on again, with some extra days to enjoy Morocco. Wise indeed.
I spent the 3rd day wandering around the market, the main square Jemaa el-Fnaa, the mosques, parks and gardens of the city, like the famous Jardin Morelle, which by the way is infested of Mexican vegetation. And of course, discovering the local moroccan cuisine like the tagine, some brouchette and an orgasmical avocado + banana milkshake. I must add that there are zillions of tiny motorcycles used to move around the market and the center. I honestly felt the muppets so close that I thought once or twice my Sir William Wonka was gone for good. All good fortunately.
I must add that as I was walking back to the hostel, I was on a big avenue, then thousands of police men blocked the street and were standing as if the president would cross by. Black BMWs and Mercedes-Benz and police cars driving on the street and people gathering on the sides. -what the hell is going on?- I thought. The king of Morocco, smiling and waving to the people as the people clap and smile. No pictures though cuz a police guy looked at me strangely when I wanted to take out my phone, better not to take the risk.
At the hostal I met very cool people from all over the world that actually advised me a thing or two of how to spend my renaming days in Morocco.
An excursion to the Sahara passing through the Atlas mountains and other spots of the desert was facilitated by the hostel and as an Australian lad showed me his photos of the stars while at the desert, I didn’t even hesitate. Three days of adventures through authentic Berber villages, Ait Ben Hadou, Ait Audinar, Tudra Gorges and Merzouga at the Sahara, including exotic mint tea, food, camels and a night at a beduine camp. And off I went, with a big smile and hoping I wouldn’t freeze my ass off at the desert.
Imagine the Atlas mountains pass as all the curves your intestine has. Now picture a moroccan old guy with a kind of Gandalf the white cloth and a grumpy face driving a 16 people van with the same skills of bloody Fitipaldi. Fun indeed, provided you don’t get sick with such curvy adrenaline. Many houses of the villages in this area are built with a special clay mixture so they have the same colour of the desert, which is kind of red or terracotta. Even the ones made of concrete are painted with the same tone. Kasbahs and ancient villages, traditional turbans and people yelling “yala!” Which means “let’s go”. Even snow at the mountains and then red rocks that eventually turned into sand. Do you reckon desert movies and TV scenes of game of thrones, gladiator or Lawrence of Arabia? All in this area too. Plus, the good company of people in the van coming from Spain, Germany, la France, USA and the always present China. I will let the pictures do the job.
And then the magical Sahara. I honestly felt as if I just landed in bloody mars. Absolute magic. The colour of the sand, the dusk, the sunrise, the camels, the dunes, the wind, the silence, the fire, eight shooting stars. The bloody stars. Damn, it is the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen in my entire life. All the constellations, the milky way and even other galaxies were possible to see. In such moment I was laying down at the top of a dune, totally thrilled by the effect of our amazing universe and a “special” beduine cigarette. Revelations and statements start running in my head. -I will bloody finish the aeromechanics master, I will live intensely every moment as if it was the last, I will smile and be kind everyday, I will learn, give and I will not let anyone stop me, woooh shooting star! oh shit that’s a big ass star- are just some of the thoughts wandering in my head and my heart. A moment that will remain forever. Thanks for that life.
After exhausting 12 hrs way back to Marrakesh, I spent my last day walking around the city, drinking mint tea and enjoying the African sounds the main square offers. Exotic monkeys like Abu, dancing cobras, crazy dancers, spices for cooking, for health, for aphrodisiac purposes, and a trillion items to buy at the market. I must add that oh these bloody Moroccans know how to sell you things… and to bargain…and to take all your money…graciously. But even so, this city and the surroundings became an staggering and highly recommended experience.
Despite my solitude moment at the desert I will finish this post saying yes, the colours, the sounds, the smells and the food granted an unforgettable amount of emotions. But it is the people of the city who made me actually embrace the identity of Morocco and understand a bit of what it means to be moroccan. I met incredible people in this trip, locals and internationals; and it is the people again the one responsible of me wanting to come back and of taking Morocco in my heart, and as I take off the Menara airport, I say to myself:-until the next time Morocco.
In the mean time…Tanzania, here I come.
Traveling around and not knowing other people is not traveling; it’s just moving.