Backpacking in Morocco

Written by: Monica Stott

Exploring Southern Morocco

It was our final evening in Morocco when I really had the chance to sit back and think about what an epic, manic, adventurous, incredible week I’d had. We’d been travelling continuously through southern Morocco for a week, moving from one place to the next, and each destination was better than the last.

Every evening I’d get into bed thinking, ‘This was my favourite place’, but each day was more beautiful and action packed. How was that even possible when I was bowled over by Morocco as soon as I stepped off the plane?

I was sat with my Intrepid group on a rooftop terrace overlooking the crazy Medina in Marrakech. It was dinner time and we were tucking into our final tagine as the spicy smells of the city rose up to meet us. The twangs of Moroccan music blared from a market stall below and we laughed with every new song as it brought back memories of our road trips through the High Atlas Mountains when our guide, Tahar, had introduced us to his favourite Moroccan band.

The inevitable question finally came up in conversation: “What was the highlight from your trip?” Then the friendly debate began and kept us entertained for the rest of the evening.

Moroccan Tagines

What makes a favourite place?

Could it be the food? We indulged in steaming tagines of couscous and tender pieces of lamb night after night yet still craved more. Or was the best food the feast we cooked on a street-side barbeque with mountains of fresh fish that we’d picked out at the markets in Essaouira?

Or was it visiting the biggest oasis in Morocco and exploring the narrow alleyways that ran between the lush fields filled with fresh produce? Watching the local potters make the tagines we’d become so fond of was also a strong candidate.

Snowy peaks on the High Atlas Mountains

I thought about our drive through the High Atlas Mountains where we saw the first snow of the season. From the safety of our bus we watched the snow transform the landscape from dry, brown hills to an epic scene of snow-capped mountains, it was beautiful.

From mountains to desert

Maybe it was riding camels into the Sahara desert?

It could have been camping in the Sahara where we huddled together in our sleeping bags to keep warm as we lay in the sand and watched countless shooting stars zooming over our heads. We spent the evening sipping tea and listening to our guide tell stories by candlelight. He told us about growing up as a nomad in the desert and that it wasn’t until he was eight-years-old that he realised there was a whole world out there. I suddenly realised how lucky we were.

Sunrise in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

The following morning we raced up the sand dunes to be the first to see the sunrise over the sandy peaks. I sat in happy silence to take in the view.

Visiting an Intrepid Foundation Project that helps disabled people learn new skills and earn a living was another highlight. As was visiting Ait Benhaddou and waking up to the incredible panorama.

Staying in Aroumd – a tiny village in the mountains that overlooks Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa – also came to mind. We trekked up to the village while a mule followed with our backpacks and we were greeted with mint tea, incredible views and a roaring fire which we huddled in front of and told stories well into the night.

Boats in Essaouira, Morocco

By the seaside

Was it our visit to the seaside port of Essaouria where we explored the markets and marveled at the narrow winding streets and beautifully crumbled doorways that had really made the trip? We’d made the most of our new found haggling skills and stocked up on gifts and souvenirs to help us remember every detail from our week in Morocco.

Or was it simply enjoying all of this with new great friends? This moment, talking about all the highlights from our trip, was one of the best moments of all. Sipping on steaming glasses of sweet mint tea, laughing about all the good memories and soaking up our final buzz of life in Morocco may just have been the highlight of the trip.

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