travel diaries: hiking through the todra gorge

There are two choices for the hiker at Todra Gorge. You can either go up, scaling the burnt orange limestone crumbling cliffs of the High Atlas Mountains, higher with every step, or carry on along the canyon floor into its bowels, deeper ahead. Both have their own perks. A bit like life itself.

Since most people tend to climb up, and I like to do things a tad differently, I decided to walk on straight. It was a long walk. Some four-and-a-half-hours long.

I started at the most visited and dramatic section, a 10-meter-wide chasm shared by both river and road, and penned in with towering perpendicular cliffs 160 metres tall. Stretched over a length of 600 metres, the tourist crowds usually do their U-turn here and go back.

But should one venture on, the unfolding of the cliffs into craggy piles of rock up to 400 metres high that line a desolate sun-baked concrete road is surreal and unreal rolled into one. The only sound I could here as I trudged on alone under the ultramarine blue sky was the chirping of birds. They seemed almost glad for my company. Continue reading

photo essay: in search of the sahara desert

A sea of endless, sweeping, sand dunes which change colour in tandem with the sun. A night sky bristling with stars brighter than diamonds. The pin-drop silence that only nature can muster. Aah, the immensity of life and being part of it one-on-one!

Camping under a silver full moon in the Sahara Desert was the reason I travelled to Morocco last November. It was something I had fantasized about since as long as I could remember. It was the reason my heart thumped a little harder and my goose bumps rose a wee bit higher whilst I packed for my three-week trip. Yes, I knew there were going to be lots of other wonderful experiences, but this, this was special.

In my ignorance I expected to simply walk into the bone-dry fringes of the Sahara Desert which fell inside Morocco’s borders, once I left Fes. Wrong.

My journey of 470 kilometres took me through European-styled pristine and chilly hill-stations to 360-million-year-old fossil land choc-o-bloc with ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras. I met proud, independent, solitary Amazigh nomads in their bare tents in the Middle Atlas and broke into giggles with schoolgirls at Rissani, once the ancient gold-trading centre of Sijilmasa. Continue reading

36 hours in essaouira, where europe meets africa

The year is 1765. The place: A windy bay in Western Morocco. Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah, Morocco’s Sultan, has come up with the idea of building a fortified port-city by the sea to strengthen trade ties with Europe and the New World.

But with a difference. He decides to commission a Frenchman, Theodore Cornut to build it, using French military architectural elements. The city is populated with Africans, Amazighs, Arabs, and Europeans. A colony of Moroccan Jews are especially brought in to carry out the trade. And, thus, Essaouira meaning “the beautifully designed” is born. Continue reading

8 reasons why hassan II mosque tops the casablanca travel bucket list

This is what the Hassan II Mosque on the shores of the ice-blue Atlantic Ocean in Morocco’s northern coast looked like when I landed up at its doorstep one wintry morning in November. ❤

Can you blame me if my camera and I went a little berserk with joy!

It had rained the previous day. With the sun now out, it was as if the world had been painted afresh and the sky and the sea truly met at “god’s throne.” Wonder what I am talking about? Do read on. Continue reading

the story behind chefchaouen, the blue pearl of the rif mountains

Me to Google in Marrakech: “How to get from Marrakech to Chefchaouen.”

Google’s response: “3-hour train journey to Casablanca and then a 6-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Chefchaouen.” No airport. No train. Just one daily CTM bus. I knew Chefchaouen was kind of remote. But this sounded over the top. If I missed the bus, shucks, I also missed a travel day.

But being in Morocco and not exploring Chefchaouen would be blasphemy. Originally called Chaouen meaning “peaks,” the town was renamed Chefchaouen in 1975 which means “look at the peaks.” And well, I wanted to look at the peaks.

If neither of the names strike a bell, do have a look at the post’s title picture. In all likelihood you would have come across this scene at least once online. It is the most Instagrammed backstreet in Chefchaouen. Along with it, pictures of igloo-blue homes and lanes would also have sprung out to you from travellers’ social media accounts.

Seems unreal to you? In fact, the real thing is bluer, prettier, and even more magical! Continue reading

global travel shot: uninterrupted storytelling in djemaa el-fna

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Welcome to my blog post series on Morocco. 🙂

I was travelling through Morocco these past three weeks. Exploring its four Imperial cities, camping under the stars in the Sahara Desert, hiking through the Todra Gorge, soaking in the sun, sand and sea in Essaouira, and falling in love with pearl-blue Chefchaouen.

What better way could there be to kick-start my series than by writing a post on Morocco’s most popular city’s most famous site: Djemaa el-Fna. Continue reading