Ten Things I Loved About Morocco

And why it should be your next des­ti­na­tion

Red Magazine - - Explored - WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MANNY DEL ROSARIO

1. The land­scape

Tak­ing what I thought would be a gru­el­ing eighthour bus ride to the Sa­hara Desert turned out to be a breath­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Much of Morocco’s land­scape is moun­tain­ous, with slopes that grad­u­ally tran­si­tion into val­leys and plateaus. I’ve never seen any­thing like it be­fore, so stop­ping for pho­tos and tak­ing it all in are a must.

2. Souk shop­ping

I sur­pris­ingly en­joyed what most peo­ple have told me is a pain in the ass. An ad­ver­tis­ing chum even warned me about the hor­rors of hag­gling. He found it “stress­ful and a den full of scum and vil­lainy.” I don’t agree with him at all be­cause hag­gling is part of the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. If agree­ing on a price isn’t work­ing out, just leave; the sales­per­son will come run­ning af­ter you. Just make sure you en­ter a souk with a proper guide be­cause one wrong turn and be­fore you know it, you’re lost in that labyrinth.

3. Stay­ing in a riad

A riad is a tra­di­tional Moroc­can house or palace with an in­te­rior gar­den of mostly orange trees and with a foun­tain in the mid­dle. A good num­ber of them have been con­verted into small and in­ti­mate bou­tique-type ho­tels with stylish rooms and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice. Re­sist book­ing at a touristy ho­tel chain and go for a riad in­stead, be­cause find­ing the per­fect place can be a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I stayed at the Palais Riad Lam­rani in Mar­rakech and the Palais Faraj Suites in Fes.

4. Camp­ing in the Sa­hara Desert

A must if you have the time to do so, as it is an ex­pe­ri­ence you won’t soon for­get. Tem­per­a­tures vary from day to night: dry heat dur­ing the day

and freez­ing cold dur­ing the even­ing. Spend time get­ting to know the staff, espe­cially when they play mu­sic around a rag­ing bon­fire. Chances are you’ll barely un­der­stand each other, but it’s a trippy ex­pe­ri­ence un­der the right cir­cum­stances. Also, make sure you get up early to see the sun­rise be­cause the colors are breath­tak­ing and all of it is In­sta­gram gold.

5. Rid­ing a camel

If mem­ory serves me right, most of my com­pan­ions weren’t too ex­cited with the idea of a camel ride in the Sa­hara, but we quickly changed our minds once we laid eyes on those an­i­mals. We took a 30minute ride into the desert, had tea in the mid­dle of nowhere, and pro­ceeded to take pho­tos of each other for an hour un­der the bak­ing sun. And if you haven’t guessed it, this too is In­sta­gram gold.

6. That bright clear blue sky

I’ve never seen any­thing like it.

7. Food

While the va­ri­ety of tagines and ke­babs were de­li­cious, one dish stands out from the rest. Book a table at Ruined Gar­den in Fes and or­der the Roasted Chicken Vol­u­bilis. A hot, sweet and sour dish mar­i­nated in whole grain mus­tard, fish sauce, grape juice, and fresh mint, this Ro­man recipe dates back to 2500 BC and is served by their charm­ing staff with­out the for­mal­ity. This dish de­serves to be world-fa­mous.

8. Colors

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to take a bad photo any­where in Morocco. I’ll bet even Ste­vie Won­der could point a cam­era phone any­where and take a good photo. The sheer amount of color vis­ually bom­bards you the mo­ment you step into this sun­bathed coun­try. You see it in their art, tex­tiles, spices, pot­tery, and in the mis­matched clothes worn by the women who pre­fer con­trast and gai­ety over drab sim­plic­ity.

9. Ham­mam mas­sage

This is worth try­ing if you have no is­sues be­ing naked in front of a com­plete stranger. Up­mar­ket ho­tels and ri­ads of­fer pri­vate ham­mams to their guests. There are also public ham­mams scat­tered through­out the cities, but I rec­om­mend us­ing the ho­tel fa­cil­i­ties in­stead, as they’re prob­a­bly more san­i­tary and will save you from the hor­ror of be­ing massaged by a big hairy man.

10. My trav­el­ing com­pan­ions

Th­ese are the se­cret in­gre­di­ents to a good trip. I was lucky to be with 14 other peo­ple who were fun to be with and game for just about any­thing. That alone helped make this trip worth­while.

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