Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jamaa el-Fna

The main square of Marrakesh, tucked into the maze of its nearly thousand year old medina. A feast for the senses, crowded and chaotic and overwhelming. By day, home to orange juice stalls, snake charmers, storytellers, monkeys on leashes, musicians, men selling leather, lanterns, lotions and potions. As night falls, host to dozens of food stalls, air thick with smoke, narrow lanes a frenzy of families and couples and cooks.

Declared a "World Heritage Masterpiece" by UNESCO in 2001. A must-see spot to soak in the character of this country. We visited just about daily while in Marrakesh, to people watch and 'window' shop and catch a glimpse of something that we were too distracted to notice the day before. It's utter mayhem, complete craziness, and so very Moroccan.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


You hear that phrase a lot here. Loosely translated: God willing. But not the kind of “God willing” we say at home, with a tinge of “I doubt it” or “Good luck” rolled in. Here, it’s sincere. If Allah wills it, it shall be. Our fate, truly, is in God’s hands.

Ask if dinner will be served on the rooftop terrace. Insha’Allah. If the bus is running to Marrakesh this week. Insha’Allah. Heck, even a "See you in the morning” is answered with an Insha’Allah.

I’ve learned that Muslims believe everything is maktub, or “written”, so whatever you wish will only come to fruition if it’s within God’s plan. Using the phrase acknowledges submission to a higher power, and a desire to achieve only what is intended for the greater good.

I find it to be a really nice sentiment. A daily reminder that our future doesn’t lie in each small decision we make. An affirmation there is something bigger than ourselves looking after us, always. A continuous commitment to follow where our instincts lead and trust in the universe, without hesitation.
So many of the notions we must always remind ourselves, especially while traveling. And I hope to take a little more of it away with me from Morocco. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014


If you’ve ever seen a movie set in Africa, Asia, India or the Middle East, there is a good chance at least part of it was shot at Atlas Studios. The biggest studio in the world, it was a fun little stopover for two folks who work in production.

Seeing all of the crumbled, decaying old movie sets out in the middle of the Moroccan desert was a bit of a surreal experience. Egyptian relics made of Styrofoam. Paint chipped hieroglyphics adorned with years of pigeon poop. Grand, ornate and hollow doors inviting you into age-old ruins that are, literally, nothing but a façade. 

We harassed them endlessly about gaining access to the areas where Game of Thrones was recently shot, but the exact location is was unclear. We may or may not have done some trespassing to find it. You'll never know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Views from the Top

It’s funny the things you think about when you’re scaling the side of a mountain.

I’ll never forget the words of wisdom I repeated to myself as we were hiking the hardest day of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, way back in 2010. Feeling like we may never reach the 14,000-foot peak affectionately known as Dead Woman’s Pass, I decided it didn’t matter if I could make it to the top. All that mattered was that I could take one more step.

This mantra effectively got me to the top, and through many of life’s hurdles in the years that followed. A particularly stressful project. A really difficult workout. Whatever the challenge, I'd encourage myself not to worry about making it to the end. Just focus on taking one more step. As cliché as it sounds, the analogy for life has stuck with me.

Yesterday, while hiking in the mountains of Morocco’s Todra Gorge, I drew another comparison between hiking and life that I found meaningful…

Reece and I were on our own this time, working our way towards a summit where views of the sunset and surrounding mountains were reputed to be stunning. Problem was, there’s no clear trail or signs or anything to guide our way beyond the very subtle path left by nomads and donkeys that follow it into neighboring villages. If we scanned the distance, we could just make it out enough to keep going. But keep our heads down, wary of stumbling on rocks or stepping in donkey poop, and before long we’d find ourselves way off track. Several times I’d look up and realize “Dammit, we were supposed to go THAT WAY!”

Much like life. It’s easy to become consumed with what’s right in front of you, at the expense of your greater goals. Keep your head down and your eyes fixed on your immediate wants/needs/problems/fears, and you could easily lose sight of the path you intend to be on. So every once in a while, look up! Take stock of the world around you. Don’t neglect the big picture. Cause if you’re too caught up in a little pile donkey poop, you may never reach the summit.

Reece taking a detour. (Tiny, top right.)

Me trying to find our way. (Tiny, bottom right.)

It's windy at the top!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Sahara

One night.

Two camels.

Three Berber guides.

A million stars.

A warm fire.

A full moon, to a sunrise.

And us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kinda gives new meaning to the term "road kill"

When your bus pulls over to the side of the road and you are greeted by this:

Right alongside this:

Grab some meat from the butcher, walk it over to the griller, and he'll toss it back at you with a pile of bread and some sweet mint tea.

And yes, it was delicious.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


We went to Chefchaouen to see the beautiful blue city of Morocco.

Everyone else goes to Chefchaouen to get high.

We didn’t realize before we arrived in this stunning little town, that it’s basically the birthplace of hash in Africa. Or kif, as they like to call it. We were the only two people in our entire hostel who weren’t off our rockers. And we couldn’t walk five feet without someone very aggressively trying to sell it to us. They were incredulous at our lack of interest. In shock that two white folks with backpacks on their backs weren't there to get high. Wait, you don't want any? Like, at all??

We had offers to visit a local farm… To go to the village and watch them make it… The fun is seemingly never ending for folks who like doing illegal drugs in foreign countries. Call me an old lady, but I’ve seen enough episodes of Locked Up Abroad to take a pass. And lets just say when you live in California, Morocco is the last place you need to be smoking pot. Frankly, the never-ending sales pitch got pretty irritating.

Still, Chefchaouen was in fact beautifully blue.

But if we were to ever return, I'd go prepared.