Where does the time go?? Like, really! I have been home two weeks already. Haven’t done much in that time other than work. I was sick the last couple days but I think I have whipped it. Finally am mostly unpacked. Though I have to repack to a trip to my sisters the end of the month.
So we left off where I was leaving the Gorge. Such lovely, peaceful country. We head back to the main highway and work our way west, toward the coast. Beautiful mountains surround the Road of 1000 Kasbahs. Our drive follows a low river. You see green surrounded all around by dry, craggy hills. At one place we stop at a Berber village. Here mud houses are build into the hillside with their goat and sheep herds high on the slopes. It was wonderful place to see this traditional village. A local even invited us in for tea. It was fantastic. You could really see how these people live and had lived for many, many years. We stop at only a few of the 1000 Kasbahs and marvel at the architecture. There are little bit of history in each of them. Low doorways give you easy access to your enemies’ necks and high stairs keep the animals on the first floor. At Ait Benhaddou, we learn that they started putting the granary at the top of the hillside fortified city (as you can see in the picture). This was to keep the crops safe from bandits. Ait Benhaddou is also known for the many movies that were filmed there such as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. Many of the Middle Eastern movies have scenes from this area in Morocco. We continue to Marrakesh, the heart of Southern Morocco. We cross the 3rd highest mountain top in Africa. There was still snow on its slopes. In the lower levels of the mountain you see herds grazing and crops growing. Even here in the middle of nowhere people are making a livelihood. The colors are amazing.
Marrakesh is a huge city that all of a sudden pops up. We drove, for what felt like forever, then here we are! It is busy; lots of cars, horse, mules, bikes, and scooters. All moving in some coordinated rhythm that I can’t see. Our driver drops us off for the last time and we make the short walk to our Riad. A riad is like a mansion that has been turned into a hotel. The front door is flush with the alleyway and we have a bell boy who greats us at the door. We are shown to our room, which opens to an open-air square. The details and design are overwhelming as always. We take a guided walk through the medina and if we didn’t have this guide I know we all would be lost. There are venders everywhere and people pushing and vying for the best view. It is a little overwhelming but the excitement of it all makes it fun. We eat in the square that night. People trying to convince you to eat at their restaurant is a little foreign from the way it is in the states. The food, as always, is fantastic. The next two days we are left on our own. I, of course, spend this time shopping and wondering around the area. The day before I leave, though, I wanted to spend in Essaouria. This is the coastal town about three hours west of Marrakesh. One of my fellow travel companions join me and we begin the trip that morning. Our driver was a little crazy. He was older and just not completely there. I was worried that my fellow companion, a tiny women, was going to kick him out of the vehicle and take over. However, in due time, we made it there. Essaouria is a lovely coastal town with the normal, slower, Island Time. Everything works a little slower on the coast–any coast. We walk through their medina and then out to the pier. There are battlements with canons around the docks and we are able to walk around the top of the walls. We, well she, eat seafood that I am sure was fresh caught that day. Then we stroll along the beach and put our toes in the ocean and wander until we need to meet our driver. A great way to end a most wonderful trip.
The next morning the lovely bell boy, who I do not think sleeps, helps me to meet my driver for the airport. My flights are easy and on time. I make it into Amsterdam ready to explore but, of course, this is where my good luck starts to fail. I get off the plane to clear customs and people are pushing and touching and way up in my bubble. It makes me anxious. If you move that extra 3 inches (into my space) you will not get through customs quicker. I make it through and then inquire with an airline agent if I can check my bag now (16 hours early) and they say I should be able to. Well, Amsterdam has a wonderful automated bag checking system. Wonderful if you are not over weight or checking in early. It took me 45 mins to find out that I couldn’t check my bag that early. So, frustrated, I go to look for my hotel ride only to not find one. So I take a taxi, the most expensive taxi ever, to my hotel. There I am told they don’t have an airport shuttle. I showed him the website that said the hotel did. “I’m Sorry,” was my reward. After I got into my room I take a moment to recollect myself then go hunt for food. Here too, there were people trying to get you to eat at their restaurant and I was to negotiate a pasta dinner with a beer. Yummy. I wander around some more and find the bus stop for my morning ride to the airport. Much more relaxed and rested I take my last flight home. It was so nice to see my kitties and sleep in my bed but I would go back in a heartbeat. Morocco was, and is, worth seeing. These people, shunned because of the world’s conflict right now, are the most kind and welcoming people you will meet. I had many offers to come back and visit their homes and be personally guided through their world. It is something I will miss. Their hospitality, I will try to copy in my own life. And one day make my way back to Morocco.