Welcome to Morocco

Welcome to Morocco

Welcome to Morocco

Snap, crackle, pop- the sound of my back every time I move a muscle, not that I’m moving very many muscles because I am beyond exhuasted. We had been in northern Morocco for about a week, my jet lag had cleared up, my stomach was groovin on the water and food of Tetouan- and then we went south.

*cue suspensful music*

Ouch.

The first leg of the trip was a 2 hour bus ride to the train station. Then we took an 8 hour overnight train trip to the bustling city of Marrakesh.

Marrakesh

From there we took what was supposed to be a 5 hour bus ride over the High Atlas Mountains. The High Atlas are the countryside of countryside. Our drive was such an incredible shift from Moroccan city into tiny villages of people washing clothes in the river, and living without doors, while building grand and beautiful mosques. The faithful spirituality that is prevalent here is rather touching and unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Baited breath, I imagine great endless sand dunes revealing themselves as we cross this great mountain range. I fantasize about how cool it will be to see the transition of high desert mountain to low desert ancient sea, gone sand dune… And then our bus broke down and all I wanted to do was lay down and get rid of the awful stabbing pain I gave myself staring out a window in one position for 5 hours.

 

The Sahara has so much variety in its landscape. There are many seasonal river beds, and lakes that are uncrossable in the wet season, but dry to the touch in summer. There is so much more green than I expected. The Sahara in Morocco looks much more like California than I’d care to admit, and isn’t at all a uniform sea of sand dunes. (though large regions of sand dune obviously do exist)

 

Artsy map from Zagora Hostel

Our hostel in Zagora met us at the bus station and welcomed us with tea and cookies. Their Arabic and french were awesome, and at least a few them speak English well enough for us to understand that our desert excursion would unclude: luxury bivouac, camel, 4×4, and lots of Moroccan food. We arranged our trip on the terrace of this lovely little building with air conditioned rooms. Feeling like a real life desert princess, only more privileged.

After heading off the farthest southern road in this region of Morocco we off roaded for a few hours , stopping here and there to see various awesome things like wells, springs, oasis, and cool plant life. Finally we made it to camp in time to play in the dunes, have dinner and star gaze in an impenetrable desert quiet.

On our excursion we met a nomadic Berber family, who shared tea and a moment of peace with us. They rolled out a carpet for us to sit on, and we all enjoyed their living room- the open space in front of their palm shack. We sipped tea, watched the baby gurgle and squirm on the carpet, and listened to the rooster keep an eyeful watch over their camp. They call the sky their roof, and the earth their floor. I told them it was the most beautiful house I had ever seen, and I wasn’t exaggerating.
Our guide, Mustafa was an incredible resource with darn good english. If you want to see the Moroccan Sahara, check out Karim Sahara and ask for Mustafa to be your guide. Tell him Malac Berber, Brian Adams, and Daoud Mayaoud sent you.

A few words on Morocco

Northern Morocco and southern Morocco may as well be different countries. The northern dialect and southern are quite different, and the north is full of Spanish speakers- whereas the south demands Arabic or French. The north exhibits a diversity of wealth, education, and religious observance. It is common to see a local northern Moroccan woman walking in jeans and a tight top without her head covered. In the South, outside the city, I didn’t see this at all… Literally not one woman in nontraditional dress. Northern Morocco seems run by street cats, and they also seem to be everywhere in the south as well. I haven’t seen very many dogs, but I did hear the cries of one dog that I’m still praying for.
Unemployment is at 20% in Morocco, and literacy at 50%. The Moroccans that I’ve talked to about this say that the Moroccan government is asleep. There is a King, and his pictures are everywhere. The royal guard seems respectful and much more pacifist than I’ve seen the Los Angles Police Department be. (Not that all precincts are alike) I wonder deeply at the ills of Morocco. On one hand I’ve never met such welcoming, kind, and generous people. On the other hand I see far too many blind, and malformed people for 2015. The diet here is absolutely terrible. Bread is served with every meal, and it’s common to put sugar in everything… There was even sugar in my orange juice at times!

Final Thoughts

Now we follow the river valley through the winding High Atlas on our way back to Marrakesh, where we catch a train back north. I’m glad I came to the Sahara, and that I experienced another region of Morocco, and I’m glad to be leaving. The poverty in this part of Morocco leads to edgy encounters with faux-shop owners, unofficial tour guides, and the grand-Prix-du-cabby. (the near fist fight that occurs when a tourist tries to call a cab in Marrakesh) Such an inspiring trip, waking up music, ideas, and desires that I never knew I had. I’ve seen some of this country’s beauty and some of it’s shadow, and am reminded that I am grateful to have been born so lucky.
There’s a lot more pictures from this excursion, check out my facebook album.

A little Prayer:

May our strengths outweigh our weaknesses, our judgements pass as quickly as they were made, and our Compassion awaken to extend its reach to further and further corners of existence.

I'm done with the desert.

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6 Comments

  • Barry June 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Great writing, Angela. Wonderful pictures too. I’m really enjoying following this trip through your eyes and ears.

    • Angela Cross Author June 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks Barry 🙂 I’m glad I can share it with you guys.

  • Carla Capolupo June 23, 2015 at 3:55 am

    You are awesome. I loved reading this. So interesting and entertaining and inspiring. Can’t wait to see you after you’ve been around the world and back! xoxo

    -Car dawg

    • Angela Cross Author June 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks CA CA! Miss you loads, will be great to catch up. Camels rock! If you haven’t met one yet, trust me you’ll love them!

  • Colleen June 24, 2015 at 9:25 am

    great writing that captures my imagination with your imagery and detail. Looking forward to following more of your adventures. Best to D!

  • Samir - KARIMSAHARA ZAGORA - MAROC July 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you so much for all you do to please for this country
    We live on love
    You are not guests but friends
    happy with your knowledge
    ANGELA CROSS. Brian Adams, and Daoud Mayaoud

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