I came from one of those families whose children grew up dreaming of getting a decent job. If you are lucky, you would earn a bit more than your parents did. If luck wasn’t enough like in my case, you’d have to work hard. But nobody told me what would happen after you’ve achieved your dream. I have a good job and a loving husband, yet, the satisfactory feeling that I was promised was nowhere to be found.
Perhaps it was time to seek change.
When I went and bought a plane ticket to a rural part of Morocco, my husband was surprised, to say the least. I had never gone on a holiday by myself, much less a walking holiday in a strange country. Still, I arranged my holiday to the Oasis of Saghro and Dades Valley with the One Foot Abroad and packed my luggage, with some sort of hope in my heart.
From here on, I will tell you about this story of mine where I went beyond my limit and found myself changed walking through Morocco.
Arrival in Marrakech
The first day of my holiday, or mission, whatever it was, I was still wondering if coming here was the right thing to do.
I arrived quite early in the afternoon, so I had some time to explore the area. I have travelled to many cities before; ones with skyscrapers and grand bridges and others with high mountains and seas. Man-made or natural constitutions, I found little fascination in either of those.
Marrakech in comparison also fell short in many areas. It probably isn’t the dirtiest city in the world, but it could do with some cleaning. The map I was provided with was confusing to look at and meandering streets packed with little markets didn’t help.
But at the same time, these very markets were the most interesting part of the city. You can find all sorts of things here, from colourful spices, perfumes to old artefacts. There were monkeys and snakes doing performances.
After about two hours, I decided to go back to my hotel because I didn’t want to get lost in these crowded streets or to get hit by scooters and cars. I had a light dinner back in my hotel and spent the rest of the evening reading on the balcony, answering to work emails and talking to my husband.
Driving through Moroccan villages
It was hard to believe it was the middle of April. It was well over 20 degree Celsius, which is a great day in Irish summer.
Together with the agency guide and a few other travellers, we started our bus trip. A young girl, Lisa, who stayed at the same hotel as me sat beside me and we quickly became friends. She was also travelling alone.
The lively city of Makarech went out of sight soon after and we were driving on a long narrow road; surrounded by nothing else made by humans. From inside the bus, all we could see was distant mountains and barren land, except for our occasional drive through villages.
We took a break at Ouarzazate. The buildings there looked ancient and worn like it has been under the blazing sun for far too long to count. The reddish-pink walls were definitely unique to the desert.
The native people seemed used to seeing tourists and catered for us very well. I was pleasantly surprised by the selections of food the restaurants offered, ranging from camel and pigeon to American chips. I had chicken nuggets and it was delicious. The restaurant had wifi, so I could talk to my family and coworkers which was lovely.
On our way to Tifrit, we saw a number of oases. When you are driving through the dry lands for hours, you get quite excited to run into lakes, rivers and anything watery really. How Lisa stayed positive and excited is beyond me. I was getting tired sitting in a comfortable bus, so how did I think I was going to be able to walk in a desert?
Walking in Morocco: The locals
From then on, there was no more long bus ride. After all, a Moroccan walking holiday was what I signed up for. I was little wary at first but trust me when I say this, “the human body is way more capable than you expect”. We walked for 5 to 6 hours each day. Some roads were easier than others.
On the first day of our walk, despite all the beautiful scenery, I was too tired to take in the views. I was too busy sweating, even though the weather wasn’t that hot by desert standards. Being in a comfy hotel, running a bath and lying on a soft bed sounded like a distant memory.
We came across Berbers and nomads too, whose way of living is completely different from ours. All they owned was probably these dried up buildings and some livestock.
As the days passed, I got used to the routine and stopped searching for any wifi spot, which by the way was a complete waste of time. Just like with Lisa, I made acquaintances with the people around me. Two couples from the States and the majority of the rest from Europe, they were here for one reason or the other.
Something that really amazed us was the locals. On our journey, we received more than we offered from these “poor” people. Only then, I realized how conceited I was to judge them by my strange materialistic standards.
All my life, I worked to afford things that I don’t necessarily need. If I think about it, our family grew up eating “chicken”, which was really some rabbits our father caught. Mother cooked it like chicken, you see. Our childhood wasn’t any less happy. In reality, just like us, these people didn’t lack anything. They had a roof over their heads, food on their table and families to share their days with. They were living just fine. My views were starting to change. What was my dream again?
Walking in Morocco: The scenery
Morocco had numerous beautiful places and it was absolutely a unique experience. Its gorges, valleys and trees were worth putting my phone or book down for. It wasn’t something I could afford to miss. As a wise man once said, “first-hand experience is always better”. We ran into camel herders too.
Kouaouch was one of my favourite places. From the summit, we could see the entirety of the desert area we were in. In the desert, the earth is red but everything else is blue – the sky and distant mountains.
The night before our departure, we reached Marrakech one more time. I, and a few others who were staying in the same hotel, decided to go out together. And as you can guess, I absolutely loved everything. The strange smells of the streets and the spirit of the vendors were mesmerizing.
We had an amazing dinner in a fine dining restaurant. We exchanged contacts and said our goodbyes.
In conclusion, this wasn’t a holiday but a journey and adventure.
It was far from sunbathing on a Spanish beach and hopping from one expensive restaurant to another. And I cannot imagine my journey without the people I met. Both the companions I travelled with and the locals I ran into. They gave soul to these lands. Speaking of people, Morroco made me miss my mother. How strange that I can feel nostalgic in a place I have never been to before.
If you do not mind me saying this, I found many European countries can be pretty similar to each other or maybe my way of thinking was just wrong. Nevertheless, I hope places such as Morocco keep their colour to themselves.
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Communications Manager working in all things media, based in Dublin’s fair city with a passion for travel and an ear for languages. Having lived in Spain, Geraldine speaks fluent Spanish so is happy to grab the opportunity to skip along the Camino de Santiago at the drop of a hat.