Serial Bus

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A Passage To Maroc

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Today is 13th Feb; when this post is published on Saturday the 21st, Nidhi & I will be one day short of flying back from Morocco after a vacation of 9 days. I am not sure if I will be able to blog while in Morocco so I am utilizing WordPress’s cool future-dating to publish this post. We leave aboard Royal Air Maroc this evening at 701pm from JFK. It’s a direct flight that will get us into Casablanca tomorrow early morning. At this time, Nidhi does not know where we are going – I have planned this as a surprise for her. So, she was kept out of the loop on all the planning and I have taken pains to avoid mentioning anything that may help her guess. She has been occasionally restless but has cooperated and has not done any snooping around my email account etc. Maroc (as they say in French, Morocco’s lingua franca) is definitely offbeat, but not known well enough to make it to anyone’s list of dream destinations. By keeping it under wraps, I may have escalated Nidhi’s expectations but I still hope she is pleasantly surprised when she arrives at JFK this evening.

Despite all the exotica that the word ‘Casablanca’ conjures up (thanks to the movie), we are actually hurrying out of the city immediately upon arrival. Casablanca apparently has nothing to offer save a grand mosque and we intend to catch a morning train to Fez, the real gem of Moroccan history and culture. We are in Fez for 2 nights, followed by one night in Marrakech. Then, we cross over the Atlas mountains to reach Ouarzazate. We will rent a car there and drive towards the desert. Last 2 nights, we spend in Merzouga, amidst the Erg Chebbi dunes.

Once we are back from the trip, it would be interesting to compare what I had expected and what we experienced. So, right now, I am going to list here all the things that I am really excited about:

1) Train travel: I am told that Morocco’s rail network, though limited to the northern and central parts of the country, is very efficient and travel is comfortable. We intend to take the train thrice between Casablanca, Fez & Marrakech.

2) Our stay at Dar Seffarine: Its one of the best-rated riads in Fez. A ‘riad’ is a renovated old residence which offers all the conveniences of a hotel in a charming setting.

3) Moroccan food: Overall, there seems to be a consensus that the food is great – I have heard of tajine, couscous, berber pizza so far and i am sure there is a lot more to look forward to.

4) Souks and Medina (old town) at Fez: The city seems to be a well-preserved blast from the past. A maze of markets abuttting wonders of Islamic architecture is confusing and enthralling at the same time. While westerners have written very enthusiastically about souks, we might find them somewhat similar to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk so, may be not that novel
after all.

5) Volubilis & Moulay Idriss: Aside from exploring the Medina, we hope to do a day trip to Volubilis (an ancient Roman ruin) and Moulay Idriss (resting place of Morocco’s founder) that are at close distance in the outskirts. They reveal 2 facets of Morocco’s past – its ancient Roman connection and the later emergence of Islam.

6) Hammams: Public bathing houses which have been traditionally very popular. Honestly, I am somewhat queasy about the idea of bathing in a public hammam but if i am convinced about the hygiene, this might be a wonderful experience. Lets see.

7) Djemaa el Fanaa at Marrakech: This  legendary town square at Marrakech is a beehive of activity through the day and the night. All sorts of knick-knack sellers, food stalls, performers and musicians thrive here through the year..

8) Ait Benhaddou and Atlas Studios: These 2 attractions near Ouarzazate should be pretty interesting. AB is the world’s most famous kasbah (colony built of mud) while Atlas Studio is the most famous outpost of Hollywood in the developing world. Between these 2 places, they have the locales for blockbusters like Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Scorpion King etc. I am
personally interested in seeing the Potala set that seems to have been preserved since Kundun was shot at Atlas.

9) Road trip from Ouarzazate to Merzouga: Driving a car in wilderness of south Morocco should be fun. We are going to take a Renault Clio on the long road to Rissani and then to Merzouga, which is a village in the shadow of the Erg Chebbi dunes.

10) Camel trek at Merzouga and overnight camping on Erg Chebbi: We will leave at about 3pm on a camel each and climb the huge dunes at Merzouga to watch the sun set. Then, we go on to spend a night in Berber camps in the desert where there will be some sort of entertainment in the evening and hot showers next morning.

11) Berber Music and Dances: Least sure of this because this is not the month when most cultural events take place in Morocco. During summers, apparently there are several music festivals, moussems (ceremonies honoring saints) and cultural shows take place. But, i am hopeful that we will still get a peek somewhere.

This is all for now. Lets see what all we end up adding to this list and what all we end up dismissing.


Written by serialbus

February 21, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

One Response

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  1. You have spend your holidays greatly…and described your journey very well….I have never visit any of these places ever…but I would like to be visit these places…..


    March 4, 2009 at 5:43 am

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