mamaafrica #2: Morocco

Welcome to Europe’s quick escape to the African continent: just a 4 hour flight away from London, a warm breeze invites sun-hungry travellers to Agadir even in mid December. Not far from Agadir is Taghazout, this trip’s destination, located.

The former fisher’s village seems unremarkable with its small streets which are home to countless stray dogs and cats at first. Rusty cars are making their way through the village on a dusty road , on its sides merchants are trying to sell jewellery and clothes. The shops in the Moroccan- style houses selling boards and wetsuits reveal what Taghazout is famous for: strong waves which attract surfers all year round; just a few weeks ago the European Junior championships of surfing were held in Taghazout.

The drive to Panorama Beach leads through constructions for new hotel complexes and a golf course; the ‘Panorama’ in the name doesn’t quite fit anymore. The waves have attracted lots of surf schools, allowing even beginners to stand up on their boards after a few tries. The water is crisp, I get some surprised comments for not wearing a wetsuit at this time of the year, but I need to feel the sun and the saltwater on my skin.  When soaking up the sun on the long sandy beach locals pass by selling nuts, fresh mint tea, blankets and strawberries; others offer camel or horse rides along the beach which is littered with with plastic bags, empty bottles and cans. It’s not only the beach that is affected: The scenic drive to Paradise Valley enchants with the view of dusty brown mountains in the distance, but when you look down you’ll see tons of trash bedsides the road. On the way to the valley lies a small garden  filled with herbs and trees to produce natural oils and treatments; a lady outside grinds argan nuts to produce Morocco’s famous argan oil. No matter if you suffer from insomnia, sunburn, skin problems or just a cold, in a Moroccan ‘pharmacy’ you’ll find the right oil, cream or powder for your needs. But even though the country is known for its natural medicine and spices, the environment is surprisingly little taken care of.

Paradise Valley, however, truly lives up to its name: palm trees rise in the middle of nowhere along an icy stream which winds through the orange rocks. Make sure to bring enough water and a waterproof camera for the hike through the valley which leads to cliffs to jump off and little waterfalls within the stream.

Back in Taghazout, a traditional Tagine consisting of potatoes, carrots and chickpeas served with rice and salad, is waiting. The Moroccan cuisine often causes stomach aches and sickness to travellers in the first few days. For only a few Dirham beans and lentils, another typical meal, can be bought everywhere in the streets of Marrakech and is usually served with a round loaf of bread. Morocco’s capital is heaven to all food lovers: freshly pressed juice from ripe fruit, tea and coffee houses and bakeries selling bread, pastries and msemmen, a Moroccan pancake, for as much as a few cents provide energy for bargaining in the countless shops and stalls of the souk. The souk, a huge market, is the economic centre of oriental cities and is located in the Medina close to the main mosque. It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleys; there are hardly any windows facing the streets to secure the family’s privacy, but once you enter the buildings, which are not allowed to be higher than two stories, you’ll find yourself in a gorgeous Riad, a traditional house with a central courtyard and a beautiful rooftop. Often riads have been converted into hotels, mostly cheaper than hostels or commercial hotels.

There’s always something new to discover in the streets of Marrakech, in between the camel leather bags and carpets you can find people wearing traditional Djellebas with a pointed hood selling turtles and chameleons, snake charmers or people with tamed monkeys on leashes. Most people will ride motorbikes through the alleys, sometimes you’ll see donkeys with carriages bringing goods to the different stalls. After a long day of bargaining you can relax in a traditional hammam, an oriental bath offering traditional massages and treatments.

-Cari

Read more of from the #mamaafrica series here 

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