In photos: A journey through Morocco

Posted by Matt Sterne on 23 October 2019

Morocco is considered by many Europeans to be the ‘Gateway to Africa’, while in ancient times it was called Al Magreb, The Land of the West, and was considered the end of the world where the sun would set at the end of each day.

Originally home to Berber tribes who roamed the Atlas Mountains as well as the Sahara Desert beyond those snow-capped peaks, it was the Romans who ventured into the area as outsiders around 2,000 years ago and established outposts for their sprawling empire.

Next, in the 7th century, came the Arabs who established sultanates, imperial cities and Islam. The world’s oldest university sprung up in Fes in the 9th century, along with many of the trades visitors can still see in its streets today practised by those such as leather tanners, coppersmiths and spice merchants.

Visiting Morocco can feel like stepping back in time but this land of mint tea, tagines and olives is also a land of contrasts where snake charmers rub shoulders with cellphone-entranced teenagers and each day presents unexpected discoveries and tantalising photo opportunities.

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca juts over the ocean with a 210m-tall minaret that serves as the city’s major landmark. It’s a showcase of the very best Moroccan artisanship: hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble flooring and inlay, gilded cedar ceilings and exquisite mosaics. The mosque is the largest in Africa and can accommodate 105,000 worshippers.

Whether it’s a cockerel or a camel, animals are a part of daily life in Morocco.

Fes is known for its stray cats and tourists particularly love them – it’s a common sight to travellers on all fours trying to get a good shot.

A naib sits in the cool shade of the desert garden outside the village of Merzouga in the Sahara. Fed by an underwater canal that springs four kilometres away, this garden of palms, sunflowers, apricots and figs was one of the most amazing things we found on our eight-day tour of Morocco. Each family in the town has their own plot with crops, which is fed in turns by the canal that’s controlled by the naib.

The Hassan II Avenue in Fes is a place to relax and congregate at the end of a hot summer’s day and is a welcome contrast to the confines of the walled medina where tourists spend most of their time.

The Al-Attarine Madrasa, an Islamic place of learning in the middle of a spice and perfume market in Fes, was built in the 14th century. It’s exquisitely decorated un the traditional patterns of Marinid craftmanship.

On the edge of the Sahara, a Gnawa band with Sudanese roots plays a song while one of their younger contingents gets carried off by a daydream.

All kinds of smells, sights and sounds confront visitors to the Fes medina, the oldest walled city in the world with 9,400 alleys and 350 mosques.

Juice sellers in the Djemaa El Fna Square in Marrakech spend as much time joking among themselves as selling juice.

River snails for sale in Marrakech. To eat these, you need to really come out of your shell.

Street musicians are a common sight in Marrakech.

Our Tuareg guide in the Sahara who took us on a very special sunset ride into the desert. This was the experience many people I spoke to especially came for.

This doesn’t look too hard to do. I think he’s milking it a bit.

It’s dry and arid south of the Atlas Mountains, as the landscape slowly melds into the world’s biggest desert, but there are occasional patches of green palms and crops that follow the course of rivers.

This was the second G Adventures trip I’ve been on and was once again impressed. Their tours are never more than 14 people, which creates a good atmosphere in the van and allows for a certain amount of freedom. They set up small businesses to uplift local communities in every country they operate. On our trip, we had lunch at an enterprise created to help local women.

Our guide, Abdul El Ghali, was an impressive and knowledgeable man who ensured every step of our way was comfortable and enjoyable. My trip was the eight-day Morocco Kasbahs and Deserts trip, which starts from R9,439. 

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