“Far places should attract you, unknown people should,
You should burn up with the desire to know all lives, to read all books”
Ataol Behramoğlu says in a poem of his.”
It always excites me to learn about new places and people, to experience new lives there. Morocco is hands down one of the most exotic places on earth. New age and Old age, one within the other. Atlas Mountains on one side, Atlantic Ocean on the other side and gorgeous Sahara. All cities in the country houses one modern town and an old town (medina). Modern town bears the face of modern city life, while medinas brings the life of old ages, which is full of poverty and chaos.
Entering through a door, whether going in or out, changes everything here, almost like bewitching you. Just for that reason, I visited the country twice, in 2011 and 2016. I don’t know how many more times I will visit but there will be one for sure.
Overall Infos on Country;
Morocco, called as El Magribu’l Aksa (The place on the west) by Arabs, is the westernmost country of Islamic world. The country has gained independence at a point in time and is governed with parlimantery monarchy. The king is VI. Muhammad. Morocco is the home of 34 million people. 90 percent of the population speaks Arabic and 30 percent speaks Berber language. Nearly the whole population speaks French, Spanish is spoken on coastal regions. English and other languages are spoken by a smaller proportion. Most of the population is consisted of Arabs and these people are usually the Berber is started to be assimilated in 7th century for 100 years by Arabs. I guess the first thing comes to mind is agriculture on Morocco economy. 40 percent of work force works on that area. Agriculture is followed by underground mining. Petroleum and coal has the smallest share of underground mines. Energy of the country is mostly supplied with hydroelectricity.
The most sight-worthy building of Casablanca is Hasan II Mosque. It’s known as the second biggest mosque of the world, following grand mosque in Macca. Designed by french architect Michel Pinseau, the mosque is built on the shore of Atlantic ocean, the area, once a portion of the ocean, was filled with sand. The mosque can let inside 25000 people and outside 80000 people pray. The minaret is 210 meters long, the longest minaret in the world.
On the skirts of Atlas Mountains, the city was built during the fourth heraldy by Yusuf ibn Tashfin and declared as the capital. Scarlet town Marrakech, is under the domination of sweet orange atmosphere, later during sunset, as the name implies, becomes scarlet. Famous Djemaa El Fena square is almost like a fair with its acrobats competing to draw your attention, illusionists, snake charmers, monkey tamers, girls who can dress hands like laces with henna. Also known as, Mortals’ Square, according to a story, is the place where criminals were executed during the Morabouts era. Today, the fair atmosphere seems to cover the memory bitter past, fortunately. Becoming colorful during sunset, the square until late hours hosts a merrymaking of illusionists, taletellers, Berber musicians and dancers, entertainment with local people, mess tents under a hundred lights. They say snails are not sold in muslim neighbourhoods but boiled snails and snail soups are one of the most popular snacks of buffets in the area.
Legendary bazaars of Marrakech, “Suks” are must-see. Famous for the handcraft and antique shops, illuminated by the lights coming through woods on top of the Semmarin Street. Herbalists market Rahbe Kadime square, also where magic equipments are sold. Old slave bazaar, now the place to buy hand made rugs, Zrabia. Leather-shops, colorers, slipper shops and the alternative face of the archaic country with endless possibilities for travellers.
Ourzazate, the place where no sound is present, in Arabic. Here is the last stop before Sahara wrap you up, here you can watch Sahara in a distance for the last time. The famous Tifoulttoute where Taurirt Kasbahs are located with a lot of to say about Berber culture and lifestyle. Kasbahs are widespread in Sahara. They can be described as the predecessors of today’s small towns. They are simply community of houses built for the purposes of military or create a community of a family. They resemble of the middle age forts. Even though, the low entrances, narrow hallways and windows so small to let a little sunshine in, don’t look very comfortable, they are the only solution to endure harsh conditions of the desert.
Passing through the valleys of green and rivers, roads shaped like snakes, we’re arriving to Merzouga desert with a lot of magnificent images in our minds and cameras. Sahara is a piece of land to celebrate its 2.5 millionth age, with its mostly barren but sometimes the opposite on mountains, valleys, forests, small towns, cities and countries. Almost feels like it reaches out to Red sea from Atlantic Ocean…
As we step on the patterns, the child of sands, that gives the feeling of absence, and winds, we feel the golden sands on our bare feet. In the night of the arrival, we travel on camels for 1.5 hours to finally reach our tents in the depths of the desert. We drink wine as our berber friends sing and play african songs, watching the fire. As the sun rises, we start to move with our shadows in the deserts, on camels. We move with the rhythm camel train and reach our hotel with some stops to take photos.
Fez is a city of three towns. The city that named the country. Biggest Islamic city of Middle age and the capital until 1925. Second most populated city with 1.2 million people. Three towns that were built in different ages creates Fez. Ville Nouvelle, that was built by the French, Fezu’l Cedid built by Merinis in 13th century, and Fezul Bali built by İdrisis in 8th century…
Borj Nord fort offers a golden panoroma of the town. As you enter Medina, you encounter with spiral texture of shops, houses and streets. Narrow linked streets gives the impression of a labyrinth.
Fezul Cedid Street is a place where everyone, whether native of foreigner, bargaining on something. With the sounds the make, we move forward and reach a square where people gathers during evening and spend time, then old Fez’s entrance and then Babul Celud gate. As you enter through the gate, you find yourself in a life protected for a thousand years. Streets like webs all over the town, streets full of crowds, local clothes cellabes resembling of Jesuits and us strangers 1000 years from future.
Bazaars with mixed smells of olive, sour cheese and spice. The chickens and rabbits looking at the customers with no hope. On the benches, camel heads with their tongue out waiting for the purchasers.
In coppersmith market, craftsmen’s rhythm creates a resemblance of orchestra. It’s a place to see with bronze trays and craftsmen that decorate cauldrons and pottery with patterns in minutes.
A smell from Fez River, that vibrates on our noses, takes us from the bazaar to bring to itself. You are now in Currier’s neighbourhood.
We go on the rooftop of one of the leathershops in the neighbourhood, to see the source of the smell. In different colours, in tens of wells, young half naked workers processing the leather. The image of it affects as much as the smell, or even more. They still work with the methods of middle ages. It’s a must see despite its heavy smell.
As we move forward to Atlas mountains, people and permanent life changes too. You encounter the settlements called Kasbahs. People here build their houses with fibers of palm trees and bole. Villagers are mostly settled in valleys and mountains. During the golden ages, ruling Titans was confronted by Olympian gods. Titan king Lapetos’ son Atlas, joins in the Titan war against Zeus with his brother. While his brother is punished with zeus’ thunderbolts, Atlas is obliged to carry the heavens on his shoulders. It’s unknown if the mountains are the stoned form of Titan Atlas, that divides African Mediterranean shore and Sahara with its peaks high as the sky, but Morocco joins the Greek Mythology as a setting to this story.
On the skirts of the Rif Mountains, very near to Tanca and Tatvan, Chefchaouen is a very cute town fully painted in blue. If only it was near the sea, it’d be a place you’d call a holiday destination. A mix of Moroccon and Andalus architecture, was built in 1470 with the population of Jewish people. Later in 1920 was taken in possesion of the Spanish, until 1960. Today the life goes on with a more religionist population here.
Being in 1-2 hours away from Gibraltar, the town is a destionation for European tourists, especially Spanish. After this point we realize that the popularity of French in streets leaves its position to Spanish. Welcome to all new and different North Morocco with its different architecture.
Being the production center of opium poppy in Europe, finding poppy is very easy on the street. On the contrary, beer is rarely found in this town.
Northest of Africa, the place where Europe watches Africa, Tangeria. Settled right in front of Gibraltar, the town experienced a life full of history.
With the colony of Phoenicians, history of the town started. After that it became respectively a Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Moroccan, Spanish, Portuguese and English for a short while.
A cosmopolitan town which has the elements of Spanish and Portuguese architecture. Almost everyone in the streets speaks Spanish. With its uncanny streets at night, it’s the first stop of European travellers who wish to see Morocco.
Classic city structure of Morocco is also applied here. Ville Nouvelle (the new town) and Old town with walls (medine)
French Square, Pasteur Boulevard with gorgeous landscape of Spanish mainland, Grand Bazaar, Tangeria Museum of Modern Arts are some of the destinations for the visitors.
Brilliant town with the colors of white and blue. On a windy day, location of the town makes it possible to feel the anger of Atlantic Ocean. Splendid howl of the ocean is always with as long as you are in town. Built in walls by Portuguese in 1400. You feel like you’re in a Portuguese fishing town with its white and blue houses. With a sound of a woman shouting in Arabic or an Arabic radio broadcast from an open window or maybe with the sound of azan, you awake and remember you’re in Morocco.
Every year in July, mural artists from all around the world participates in a festival here. Colorful murals and the streets with the soul they brought worth wandering around, taking photos or just chilling. With its houses in the walls, antique and handcraft shops, ocean landscape from the walls and the fort of 20th century infamous bandit Resuli, the small town of Asillah will leave a mark on your memory.
Beginning in Casablanca airport, my Morocco trip ends again in this airport. The only thing as I enter the plane, is to visit this country again.
Captivating side of Morocco is that in hours you see totally different things than you’ve seen until that moment. Geography, climate, nature, culture, race, language and architecture wear a different costume everyday and welcomes the visitors.
It’s not arriving, it’s going. That was what I wanted. Whichever direction I go, I always see it as a journey to my inner self. Sometimes you have to get out of the line to find your way. With the desire of new roads to go…
Note: For his guide on both of my Morocco trips, I want to thank to H. Fazıl Yıldırım for his contributions, who visited the country tens of times and who is an expert of Morocco now.