by Ron McGinty
The story of Morocco starts over 400 thousand years ago following prehistoric cultures. It flourished through several Berber kingdoms and years under the Vandal regime, Roman rule and subsequently the Arab-Berber identity. This current identity came into being following the Arab conquest of North Africa in the mid-fifth century. Morocco was finally colonized by France and Spain from 1912 until March 1956.
In 1956, the French left Morocco and Morocco became independent. French is the second language of most Moroccans. Today the government is structured after the French rule of law with a strong Muslim emphasis.Morocco’s government is a constitutional monarchy with Mohammed VI as the current king and has three branches of government.
The expedition was diverse, Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez, the Sahara Desert, Aït Ben Haddou/Ouarzazate, Ouarzazate/Boumalne Dades, Erfoud/Rissani/Merzouga, and Merzouga.
My first night upon arriving,the romance of Morocco started by setting foot into a Casablancan bar with a neon light with the famous words of Rick from the movie Casablanca, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world? She walks into mine”. Now, I was anxious to start my adventure of the mystique! Renowned National Geographic photographer Massimo Bassano led the journey.
I found the people of Morocco are very kind and polite. In Casablanca, we were on the move from souks (Arab markets), mosques, to palaces in just the first day. In Marrakesh, we explored the over 10,000 interwoven alleys of the Medina, furrowed with market stalls and craftspeople.
The large Djemma el Fna Square was electrifying with hundreds of people from magicians to musicians to food vendors. Everyone was competing for your attention to sell their unique skills and wares. Beware of the snake charmers; I hate snakes, especially cobras!
You see colorful mounds of spices, olives and tanners soaking skins in vats of dye. We visited the exotic and exquisite Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent.On to Ouarzazate, known for its movie studios where films such as Game of Thrones, Tyrant, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.
This area is home to thousands of movie sets. I was looking around every corner for Russell Crowe.
We rode the legendary “Road of 1,000 Kasbahs” and began to realize the vast diversity of terrains from the flats to high mountains. Experiencing the multiplicity of the country, the dry masa to the lush apple orchards and olive trees was captivating.
Suddenly, we found ourselves in the desert on a camel awestruck by the colorful sunset of the Saharan sand dunes. We slept in the desert with native Berbers in tents made of Berber rugs. Entertainment was an evening of folk music. The stars were out in force with no city lights to blur the sky. To be in the Sahara for sunrise and sunset is a memory to remember for a lifetime. The colors of the sand change by the angle of sunlight before your eyes. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Morocco, take it.
An appropriate end… “Play it again Sam!”