Driving through the Atlas Mountains was phenomenal. In some ways it looked like The American Southwest or Australia’s Red Centre. In other ways, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It had a unique character, belonging only to Morocco.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Merzouga, located in the Moroccan desert about 30 miles from the Algerian border. The small village is at the edge of incredible sand dunes, thus it is frequented by travelers and truly makes you aware that you are in the Sahara desert.
Our desert inn was quaint and adorable. A live local band, Moroccan feast, bonfires in the court yard, and celebrating with our new friends made it one of the best new year parties I’ve ever experienced! (And I totally admit I was sound asleep by 11:30).
As we traveled north, we explored the imperial cities of Meknes and Fez, which are known for their medinas (the old quarter of an Arab city in North Africa).
I enjoyed the Meknes medina more than the one in Fez because it was open and inviting with large stands full of spices, dates, figs, and olives. The Fez medina was a narrow labyrinth full of people, donkeys, horses, and wares. Look to your right, and see a camel head hanging in front of a butcher. To your left is a shop selling almond and honey sweets. Further into the maze, you’ll find jewelry, clothing, and even a university library.
Our stop at the tannery was an interesting moment, with a stench that lingered in our clothes and nostrils for too long after!
Meknes to Fez
We arrived to a cold and rainy Casablanca, but it cleared up long enough to take a walk along the beach. Our hotel was situated on the ocean amidst many beach front restaurants that I would imagine are very lively when the weather is warm. The Atlantic Ocean was incredibly more powerful and majestic than it is on the east coast of the United States.
The feel of Casablanca was more western than other cities. Women in track suits and headscarves power walked along the ocean walkways. Restaurants offered a variety of French, Italian, Mediterranean, and Moroccan dishes.
We stopped by the beautiful Hassan II Mosque before heading north to Meknes and Fez.