As a child I remember watching the infamous movie “Casablanca” and dreaming that one day I would visit this magical destination filled with mystery, intrigue and old world charm. My wish came true when we took a trip to the far off land called Morocco.
Our first stop was the ancient city of Casablanca. One would think that with how famous the city of Casablanca is, it would live up to its reputation of charm. The easiest way to describe Casablanca would be that it is a hustling and bustling city, constantly on the move. This was a mecca of constant confusion. If you Think that New York City never sleeps, than you haven’t been to Casablanca.
It’s a City where the ancient walls and buildings still stand among the new generation of Youth, with smartphones, iPads, laptops and some electronic gadgets we have never seen before. Everyone is on the move from sunrise to sunset. The streets are narrow and congested with traffic, masses of pedestrians and meshed Arabic cultures and religious sects all co-existing together. The fastest way for anyone to get around is by moped, motorcycle or bicycle. As we drove through the city we couldn’t help but notice all the designated moped, motorcycle parking areas. We decided to continue our exploration and venture out to the ancient city of Marrakech.
The ancient city of Marrakech was a beautiful scenic drive, three hours outside of the city of Casablanca. On the way, we witnessed the history and changes of time, as we left the big city of Casablanca passing through lush green fields and open farmlands. We saw firsthand how the old meets the new on the way to the ancient city. Midway through our trip we stopped off at local roadside bakery and tasted Moroccan bread, commonly known as khobz or khubz. This round shaped, flattish bread has lots of crust and is popular among the locals for its unique taste, which is a pleasant combination of savory and sweet.
Upon our arrival to the entrance of the ancient city of Marrakech, we took in the breathtaking views of the outskirt suburb streets lined with palm trees and impeccable landscaping. It was obvious that this area was the Beverly Hills of Morocco, as everything looked picture perfect and nothing was out of place.
As we drove into the gates of the Ancient city of Marrakech, we saw firsthand the ominous walls that enveloped the ancient city and you could not help the feeling that you were being transported back to a mythical time when life was simple and not complicated by cellphones and the Internet and before advanced technologies existed in our society. This city is much different from Casablanca, as this is a city of charm, class and unique culture all rolled into one.
Once we made it through the gates of the ancient city of Marrakech, Our local hosts greeted us, sporting their traditional Moroccan robes referred to as a Djellaba. Next, we were escorted immediately to the Mosque. Generally, anyone that is not of their faith is not permitted to enter the premises, but was honored that we were granted special permission to enter, allowing us to experience the Muslim’s faith, religion, prayer and solitude firsthand.
After our visit to the Mosque, we had feast in an authentic Moroccan restaurant, complete with traditional belly dancers that balanced a lit candelabra on their heads accompanied by a live band playing folk songs.
Once we had our fill of Moroccan food and wine we took a tour of the ancient tombs and palaces. Our first stop was the El Bahia Palace. A beautiful building sits as an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century that represents trends and standards of the wealthy that lived at that time.
No trip to Marrakech would be complete with a visit to the Souk, or as we call it the ancient marketplace. It is here where anything goes and everything is for sale. Thousands of local vendors set up shop within the walls of the city and sell their wares. Within these walls you can find whatever you are looking for and things that you thought you would never want or didn’t know to look for. Vendors include, Snake Charmers, Psychics, Gypsies, housewares, individual carts with authentic Moroccan foods of every kind, fruit stands, wine and unique spirits, clothing, monkey pet trainers and camel rides. We spent our trip absorbing local culture, being a part of ancient history and living out our dream of being able to experience and explore this country. A mystical and magical place that we recommend to everyone who wants to take a journey back in time. We will definitely return.
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[Submitted by Tammy Forchion]