- Myra Yatco
The Girl Who Talks to Herself - Morocco
I'm proud to announce that I finally overcame my fear of video blogging. It's about time since I couldn't rely on descriptive blog updates alone to illustrate how freaking fabulous this world is. There's only so much I can convey via the written form, so I went a tad crazy capturing oodles of on-screen footage ranging from tree-climbing goats to sand dune bobsledding in the Sahara Desert. Squeal!
Since I tried to narrate as many clips as I could, I was quickly dubbed by fellow Gate1
companions as "the girl who talks to herself". Quite fitting since I must have recorded
dozens of video selfies while rattling off tidbits about kasbahs, medinas, and mosques. Did my travel companions look at me with confusion every time I darted off to film these clips? Yes. But it was worth the scrutiny since I would not have produced a whopping 22 vignettes if I hadn't pressed record every chance I got.
Don't worry. I won't overwhelm you with my video barrage. Instead, you can cherry pick from my streamlined Moroccan a la carte menu. Edited segments cover Rabat, Volubilis, Fez, Erfoud, Casablanca, Essaouira, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, and other travel blogger highlights from this unforgettable journey.
Ready. Set. Press Play.
Spotlight: Rabat City Tour
Kicked off my 12-day journey in Rabat, Morocco's "political and administrative" capital since 1912. The first segment includes footage of the Royal Palace, Hassan Tower, Chellah Ruins, Oudaya Kasbah, Mohammed V Mausoleum, and other landmarks that reflect Morocco's French and Islamic heritage. Voted CNN's #2 Top Travel Destination in 2013.
Spotlight: Lost in Rabat
I'm a seasoned world traveler and rarely get lost. Rabat was the exception. Since street signs were mostly non-existent, my internal guidance system went into overdrive as I blindly navigated towards the Rabat Medina.
Toured the ancient town of Volubilis, which house Roman ruins, bath facilities, a basilica, and beautifully preserved mosaics. Pardon me as I butcher the town name repeatedly. Oops!
Fez is Morocco's 2nd largest city and home to the University of Al Quaraouiyine, the world's oldest university. Majority of the footage was captured inside the 9th century medina with 250,000 inhabitants. Includes images from the Attarine Medersa, Moulay Idriss mausoleum, tannery, and the Royal Palace. There are 54,000 artisans inside this UNESCO World Heritage site, so hire a guide to avoid getting completely lost inside this maze.
Spotlight: Ifrane and the Mid-Atlas Mountains
The initial scene takes place in Ifrane, Morocco's "Little Switzerland", where Moroccans often go to escape the heat. Afterwards, we continued through the Tunnel du Légionnaire towards Zis Valley, a picturesque spot along the Mid-Atlas mountains.
Spotlight: My Favorite Moroccan Hotel
Xaluca in Erfoud is the quintessential Moroccan hotel. The ambiance and decor scream
Moroccan desert oasis. I couldn't be more pleased. The staff made us feel at home with a musical welcome and Moroccan mint tea to kick off our 2-night stay.
Located at the edge of the Sahara Desert, Rissani was a vital trade hub in The Middle Ages. Today, it is known for its large souk (outdoor market), where I purchased my very first Moroccan shesh. Final clip features the Moulay Ali Cherif Mausoleum.
The Macro Fossiles Kasbah in Erfoud is perfect for anyone interested in handling or purchasing trilobites dating as far back as 500 million years. Quite cool since part of the Sahara Desert was once an ocean, where these marine arthropods roamed.
Spotlight: Sahara Desert - Hanging with the Nomads
Did you know that 25% of Morocco's nomads are less than 30 years old? Some get married as early as 15 and must sign a marriage contract on wood. I off-roaded into the Sahara Desert and mingled with several nomads, including Fatima, who graciously prepared tea for our cozy group of 36.
Spotlight: Sahara Desert - Giddy Up, Camel
If I had to cite my FAVORITE excursion EVER, this would be it! Watch as I ride off into the Sahara sunset on my dromedary, a one-humped camel. And yes, I brought a purse to the Sahara Desert. Silly Myra!
Spotlight: Todgha Canyons and Dedes Valley
We stopped by the "Grand Canyon" of Morocco on our way to Dedes Valley, where annual rose festivals are held. I fell in love with the towering 800 foot canyons - the highest in Morocco and a playground for rock climbers.
Spotlight: Ouarzazate - Kasbahs and Copper
The Kasbah Taourirt was home to the Pasha Glaoui and is considered the most beautiful kasbah in South Morocco. Afterwards, we stopped by an artisan shop showcasing intricate copper craftsmanship that this "quiet city" is known for.
Spotlight: Ouarzazate - The "Hollywood" of Morocco
Over 500 movies used Ouarzazate as a cinematic backdrop, which is why it is often referred to as "Ouarzwood". Movies such as Jewel of the Nile, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Hills Have Eyes, and others were filmed at Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its panoramic beauty.
Spotlight: The High Atlas Mountains
The road to Marrakech was quite curvy as we crossed the highest point along the High Atlas Mountains, the Tichka Pass.
Spotlight: Marrakech Medina
Try speed- walking with a sprained ankle through the Marrakech Medina - home to 14,000 stores. We barely covered a fraction of this massive UNESCO World Heritage site, where merchants hawk countless souvenirs, spices, tagines, fabric, and rugs.
Spotlight: Marrakech Minaret, Tombs, and the Bahia Palace
Our excursion kicked off with a tour of the Koutoubia Minaret and the adjacent gardens. We continued onto the 16th Century Saadian Tombs, which house members of the Saadian Dynasty. Final clip features interior/exterior views of the Bahia Palace with intricate cedar ceilings throughout the premises.
Spotlight: Marrakech Couscous Demonstration
I couldn't pass up this optional Moroccan couscous demonstration and the sumptuous meal that followed. This feast was one of the most flavor-packed meals I had during my visit. Check out our culinary spread in this 0:54 second, mouth-watering clip.
Spotlight: Marrakech - Jardin Majorelle and YSL Gardens
This segment is dedicated to my nephew, an up and coming fashion designer, who would have loved exploring Yves Saint Laurent's bucolic gardens. What inspired a french painter to create these gardens decades ago? Watch this clip to find out.
Spotlight: A Night in Marrakech
A horse carriage ride through Marrakech was the BEST way to see this "joyful city", especially at night when the Medina was bustling with hundreds of people. We capped off our evening with Moroccan fine-dining, belly dancing, and music at Lotus Privilege - a 5-star Moroccan experience.
Spotlight: Essaouira - Goats, Trees, and Argan Oil
What did I just see? This brief clip begins with tree-climbing goats and ends with
behind-the-scenes clips featuring the Argan oil production process.
Spotlight: Essaouira - My 2nd favorite city in Morocco
Essaouira, a very important commercial port city, was the backdrop for Orson Well's Othello. My tour began at the fishing dock and ended inside my favorite medina. This "windy city" took my breath away as I walked past the skala, marina gate, and souks within these fortified walls.
Casablanca, the financial hub of Morocco, was the final stop on our cross-country jaunt. We spent our final moments touring Hassan II mosque (the 3rd largest mosque in the world), Notre Dame de Lourdes, Habous Quarter, and the Royal Palace, which was built for the Pasha in 1944.
Now that you've seen these vignettes, I hope they inspired you to trek across the Moroccan countryside. If you are considering Morocco for your next trip, it is definitely worth booking a group package with Gate1 since it would have been a logistical nightmare if I planned this journey on my own.
Here are a few resources that may help during the planning phase:
- Click here to view my detailed Gate1 itinerary.
- Click here to access Moroccan photo highlights.
A few things you should know...
- Women should not expose their shoulders and knees. Pack long sleeve shirts, pants, and scarves.
- Women should not travel on their own since I heard about several unfortunate incidents from those who have done so.
- Packing essentials include hand sanitizer, wipes, toilet paper, snacks, and medication (anti-diarrhea, ibuprofen, etc.).
- Water in not potable, so exercise caution. Be careful of eating fruit or vegetables that may have been washed with tap water. As careful as we were, 90% of our group was sick at one point during our 12-day excursion.
- If you purchase a Moroccan tagine, you have to pack it inside your checked luggage. Tagines can be used as weapons on planes (e.g. Man used a tagine to knock down a fellow passenger. True story.)
- Keep plenty of dirham coins on hand since you'll need them to access most public restrooms.
- Flies LOVED me and used my face as their favorite landing pad. With that in mind, avoid using scented hair products or lotion.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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