Morocco presents a succession of sublime scenery from the seaside town of Essaouria, to the rugged Atlas Mountains, the dunes of Erg Chebbi in Merzouga, the blue town of Chefchaouen and the four imperial cities of Marrakech, Fez, Meknes and Rabat.
The country is over 99% Muslim with around 41,755 mosques. Your wake up call before sunrise will be the call to prayer, which occurs five times a day. The mosque is a cultural meeting place. Only Muslims are permitted into a mosque except for the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, which has the tallest minaret in the world.
Moroccans are noted for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. They greet strangers and friends with mint tea throughout the day. Tea is considered a relaxing start to every encounter and to decline it is a sign of disrespect.
Over the month I traveled through Morocco each day was a new adventure. The kasbah mud brick castles in the desert protect the inhabitants from the sun and heat but they are also fragile wearing away with any heavy rains. A good example of ruins is the Skoura Kasbah.
Ait Benhaddou is an historic ighrem or ksar (fortified village) along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. It is considered a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Over twenty movies have used the location for filming desert epics.
Founded in 789, Fez has the richest history in Morocco and boasts the oldest university in the world. It is known as the “Mecca of the West.” The Dar al-Makhzen or Royal Place is the home of the King of Morocco. Its historic medina is a World Heritage Site and includes the Choura Tannery, which dates back to the 9th century. An excellent example of Zellij tilework and stucco decorations with Arabic calligraphy can be found at Bou Inania Madras.
Marrakesh founded almost 1,000 years ago is a maze of souqs. Djemma El-Fna, the city’s main square, is full of snake charmers, water sellers in fringed red hats, henna tattoo artists, musicians, con artists and a cacophony of sounds. As evening nears hundreds of food stalls teem with locals and tourists sampling local dishes.
Near the end of my trip I awoke at 4:15 am. I felt like a somnambulist caught between sleep and awaking. Suddenly, three voices from different minarets merged creating a sense of elation. Then the roosters crowed.
Morocco is modern and ancient at the same time. The temperament of the voice under the veil is the warmth of the heart.