• Mesmerising Morocco

Mesmerising Morocco by Charlotte Ainslie

The first thing that hit me, as I got off the plane, was the heat. I was driven from the airport, and bustled through the busy side streets of Marrakesh to my first hotel where I collapsed, sweating, in the lobby, fanning myself with any paper I could find.

I spent the next few days in the gorges of the High Atlas Mountains. Here I had a chance to trek through Todra Gorge which, although very tiring, was worth it for the incredible view I had at the end. The valley floor was vegetated in shrubs and trees creating a snaking green belt through the steep, clay-coloured gorge walls. As I climbed higher, the snake grew longer and longer and the box like houses below grew smaller and smaller. Here, surrounded by breathtaking views and with the natural world seeming so powerful, I felt so small and insignificant. That night I decided to sleep on the hotel roof. I gathered up blankets and pillows from my hotel room and laid them down onto the concrete floor. My complaints about lack of comfort stopped as soon as I lay on my back and looked up. I fell asleep counting the stars above the rocky gorge face above my head.

Whilst at Todra Gorge I visited a Moroccan rug shop. I was taken up to the top of the building via some creaking wooden stairs and served Moroccan mint tea whilst the owner piled rug upon rug onto me. After being convinced to spend much more than originally intended he took me to his turban shop, a small hut on the side of a river where headscarves in every colour of the rainbow hung from washing lines, blowing in the wind. I bought a turban here as I would need one for my trip to the Sahara the next day.

On my fourth day I was driven towards the Sahara desert. As I got nearer, the stone coloured rocky roads merged into orange sands until, before long, I felt I was part of a Windows desktop background! I left my driver and transferred to camel which would take me deeper into the desert. As I trekked closer to the Berber camp where I would be staying the night, the sun began to set behind the dunes turning the sand an even deeper and amazing orange.

I spent the rest of the evening listening to Moroccan drummers and singing songs round the campfire. Sleeping in the middle of the desert was one of the most amazing nights of my life, despite a slight nagging fear that a camel, or some other desert creature, might come and nibble my toes!

The next morning I woke before it was light to find myself completely covered in sand! I climbed a dune and watched the African sun rise over the Sahara. I packed up before breakfast and travelled back by camel to avoid the full heat of the day.

On the morning of my last day I had a guided tour of Marrakesh. This was followed by an afternoon in the souks where I explored the tangle of winding streets full of noisy traders that make up Marrakesh. My haggling skills were put to the test as I bought bargain souvenirs of tagine dishes, Moroccan shoes and genie lamps.

However, I didn’t fully see Marrakesh until we returned to the main square, the Djemâa-el-Fna, in the evening for dinner. The square was over flowing with vivid colours and spicy aromas: henna artists, snake charmers, monkey tamers and food stalls; the whole place felt magical. After taking all this in; I reluctantly walked back to my hotel to pack my bag for the flight home. With every step, the sounds and smells of Morocco seemed to fade and I became more aware that my trip had been a once in a lifetime experience.

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