Tangier. Walked to our hostel straight off the ferry from Tarifa, Spain. A boat ride so quick we didn't even sit down after going through "customs," which happens on the boat, next to the snack bar. A lot of excitement and constant uncertainty. (should I cover my hair? can my ankles be exposed? does anyone here speak English? what if we can't find the hostel? why didn't I learn the Arabic translation for "directions, please"?) We made it to the hostel in one piece, and only a few minor mishaps, just in time for the evening call to prayer which I listened to from a rooftop as the sun set, it gave me chills and calmed my worry.
Chefchaouen, the dreamiest, magical blue city. A much appreciated calming place in a country as bustling as Morocco. I compared Chefchaouen to Morocco as Pushkar is to India. A welcome retreat - the same liveliness and culture but a little more reserved (and a whole lot beautiful).
Nearly every wall of the medina is painted blue. Nearly every shop keeper with chat you up and thank you genuinely. The streets are lined with flower pots and cats. People are sweet. Travelers can meet each other easily. Food is cheap and good and mint tea is a staple. The prayer call reverberates against the mountains and through the small winding medina. We loved our time here, and extended our stay an extra night.
An immense amount of hassle - and the silliest, most annoying and likely most memorable in-transit day of any trip ever - finally brought us to Marrakesh via Chefchaouen, via Rabat, via a bus that we missed one of but the second took us 4+ extra hours to reach the outskirts of Rabat, with two never-explained passport checks mid bus ride (if someone takes your passport out of your hands and sight in a third world country... yes, be worried!) finally dropping us (and just us! the confused non-Moroccans) off on the side of the highway without an explanation (that we could understand) but with a huge multi-hour delay (and without any, not one during a 10 hr bus ride, bathroom break. yikes!) We were angry, confused, frustrated, a little afraid but really - and it took some reminding each other - we were okay. We worried so much that it made us giggle. Wait a minute, we are in Morocco. This rules. So what if we haven't seen a bathroom in 10 hours, and we don't know on earth we will get to a city 325 kilometers away by tonight? We are in Morocco, fulfilling a dream.
So we carried on, finally ate our first and only meal of the day in a train station (still-half-frozen pizza and leftover 1 euro muesli from Spain), found a bathroom (!), bought ourselves a first-class (fancy! but really, it was $7) train ticket, and boarded a train to Marrakesh ... only to get stuck in second class, literally STUCK because of our backpacks and it being packed with unseated people. STUCK! At this point it was all we could do to laugh until we cried at our exhausting and hilarious day. I don't think I could have done this and kept this high of spirits with anyone but Alex. For this among so many other things, this chick is a brilliant travel partner. If you aren't sobbing by the end of an awfully hectic and tiring day like that... you are a keeper in my book. Alas, we were on a train to Marrakesh, hours later than expected, but we were on our way.
Below: the brilliant cobalt blue art studio and home of Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh.
Leaving Marrakesh and driving to the desert. Rapidly changing scenery and temperature through the Atlas Mountains.
A bus took us into the Sahara. I can't believe I am typing these words. The Sahara! A dream, fulfilled.
We begun in Zagora, a desert region and also town, where we made camel friends + hopped up for a ride (which, confirmed for a second time, is undoubtedly the most uncomfortable type of transportation. camel rash. ouch.)
Our accommodations: a sweet cloth tent, which we did not sleep in, but instead took all the blankets from and slept outside under the desert stars (in nearly below freezing desert night temperatures, but the view was most definitely worth the cold.)
The sun rose, we drank mint tea and kissed the desert masalamah (goodbye!) and between camels + a bus, made our way back to Marrakesh, and for me, to the airport to fly to Lisbon, Portugal (meu amor!) the very next morning.
Visit Morocco! What a magical, beautiful, and rewarding, albeit challenging, place to travel.
Shukran for reading + viewing, all my love, + photos from Portugal etc soon.
P.S. my soul sis and favorite travel partner Alex has a travel blog, and she knows a lot more about this backpacking and travel stuff than I do. She's also beautiful, and a beautiful person, and I can nearly guarantee you will find yourself living vicariously through her magical traveler life.