On The Road To Marrakech: Part I of III

Carla Nelson of Maritime Travel takes us with her to the sultry climes of the Kingdom of Morocco

  • Jan. 10, 2017 4:00 p.m.
A beach near Casablanca

A beach near Casablanca

Carla Nelson

Salem Alikoom! Last fall, I travelled to Morocco for the first time, but I don’t think it will be the last.

I didn’t know what to expect — Northern Africa, Muslim country. Was it safe? Were women welcome?

Well, my expectations were exceeded and as usual for me, I thoroughly loved the new country I was visiting.

Morocco is a kingdom, characterized by rugged mountains, a large desert, and both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. It’s just a short trip across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain and Portugal. You could combine these countries with a trip to Morocco, or just visit the country on its own. There are nonstop flights from Montreal to Casablanca daily.

The population of Morocco is 34 million, mainly contained in the north, with the largest city and important port being Casablanca.

The beaches of Casablanca are beautiful, wide, easily accessible and utilized by joggers, dog walkers, soccer players and sunbathers.

The Hassan II Mosque is located in Casablanca, the only one open to non-Muslims, and the third largest in the world, next to Mecca and Medina.

My visit to Casablanca was short, but enjoyable. In the evening, we visited the very crowded but famous Rick’s Café of the film ‘Casablanca’ fame. A historic building. Felt like you were back in time.

Pictured: Carla Nelson in Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

Morocco was ruled by many dynasties over the centuries, but gained their independence in 1956. The current King Mohammed IV is modern and well liked. The people are Arab, Berber (indigenous people), sub-Saharan African and European. The official language is Arabic, but French is taught in school and widely spoken, as is Spanish. The religion is Islam, with Sunni Muslim the largest component. I learned a lot about Islam and Muslim people. More on that later.

The climate of northern Morocco is wonderful, similar to southern California – sunny and warm. However, it is a diverse country, with extreme hot in the Sahara Desert, and below freezing in the Atlas Mountains.

Leaving Casablanca, we headed south towards Essaouira, a fortified city on the Atlantic coast. Narrow cobblestone lanes, a fishing and ship building port, broad sandy beach, and a charming medina make up this small city of 70,000. No big name stores, hotels or coffee shops here! Just a few small locally owned riads (bed & breakfast hotels), quaint restaurants and a lively souk (market). At night, the warm breeze blowing through my open window and the sound of the waves crashing ashore lulled me to sleep. At sunrise, a run on the beach, watching the school boys play soccer, was magical.

From Essaouira, it is just a two hour drive to Marrakech, which makes it very easy to transport goods from the port to market. Essaouira provides fish and seafood to most of the country. This city is known for silver jewelry, brightly coloured textiles, and ‘inlay’ wood products. Very reasonable prices in the souk. Lots of fun bartering!

Next week: Atlas Mountains, Berbers and trekking!

For more information about Morocco, talk to Carla Nelson, Branch Manager, Maritime Travel Cranbrook 250.489.4788. Maritime Travel – We Know Travel Best!