St Augustin

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A - Z Challenge - M is for Morocco

This is the post where I get to say, "Take me to the casbah!" Well, I had no choice but to do Morocco, as I'm going there on my next overseas jaunt in June/July. I hit Casablanca on July 1, so look out. It's going to be awesome. First time to Africa (and it has nothing to do with Sex and the City, although that market scene set in Fez was pretty fantastic.)

So you may as well see what I've gleaned from my research. My pics will come when I return. For those interested, I'm flying to Paris, TGVing to Bordeaux, driving around the Dordogne (France) into Andorra, up to San Sebastien in Spain, then back to Bordeaus to fly to Casablanca. Return to Paris and a week walking around Paris in case I've missed something, then home again.

One of my favourite travel narratives is 'A Year in the World' by Frances Mayes of 'Under the Tuscan Sun' fame. I followed her to Tuscany, followed her through parts of France and Spain, now I'm following her to Fez. Her chapter on Inside the Color Spectrum - Fez is full of exotic descriptions, but unfortunately Ed, her husband, becomes violently ill after eating a home-cooked meal lovingly described by Mayes - "Fatima...sweltering in her heavy pink djellaba...improvises a kitchen on the roof, drawing a bucket of water...for rinsing...spreading an oilcloth for her work surface." Strangely, Mayes herself remains chipper after the meal and spends most of her visit to Morocco discovering the sites sans poor Ed.


Morocco is in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and the Western Sahara.

Land Boundaries:
Algeria 1,559 km, Western Sahara 443 km, Spain (Ceuta) 6.3 km, and Spain (Melilla) 9.6 km.

I remember the Moroccan influences in Spanish buildings when I visited the Costa del Sol in 2004. I gazed wistfully across the Mediterranean. Couldn't quite see Africa, but it was calling me.

The Costa del Sol, Spain. Africa is just across the sea.

For centuries, Morocco has enticed travellers and I've heard it calling for some time now. To me, it means the souks and spice odours of Marrakech and Fez and the sea breezes of wonderful cities like Casablanca, Asilah, and Rabat. Both remote and familiar. From the pictures I've seen the architecture is amazing, rising from the desert. I'm expecting Morocco to be sensory overload at its most intoxicating, from the scents and sounds that permeate the medinas of Fez and Marrakesh to the astonishing sights of the landscape; the Rif and High Atlas. Can't wait to see the mystical Sahara Desert. Oh wow!

Isn't this the shot of Morocco we feel encapsulates this country?

A good mix of medieval and modern society.

A quick snapshot of some facts and figures:


Size 446,550 sq km, slightly larger than California, US. Morocco enjoys a Mediterranean climate, becoming more extreme in the interior. The northern coast and interior are mountainous with large areas of bordering plateaus. The rest of the country consists of inter-montane valleys, and rich coastal plains. Its lowest point is at Sebkha Tah -55 m; its highest point is Jbel Toubkal 4,165 m in the High Atlas mountains.


Just over 32 million people live in Morocco. Life expectancy is around 70 years. Birth rate is on average 2.8 per woman. Literacy rate is 64% for males and 39% for females. A way to go here.


Arabic (official), Berber dialects, and French which is often the language of business, government, and diplomacy. If I get lost I should be able to talk my way home.

Ethnic Groups:

Arab-Berber 99.1%, other 0.7%, Jewish 0.2%.


Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%.

Brief Political History:

Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier (I'm not going there) was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Oh, please, no reforms while I'm over there! Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997. Parliamentary elections were held for the second time in September 2002 and municipal elections were held in September 2003. So it's still pretty new.

Economic Overview:

Morocco faces the problems typical of developing countries - restraining government spending, reducing constraints on private activity and foreign trade, and achieving sustainable economic growth. Despite structural adjustment programs supported by the IMF, the World Bank, and the Paris Club, the dirham is only fully convertible for current account transactions. Reforms of the financial sector are being contemplated. Droughts depressed activity in the key agricultural sector and contributed to a stagnant economy in 2002. Morocco reported large foreign exchange inflows from the sale of a mobile telephone license, and partial privatization of the state-owned telecommunications company and the state tobacco company. Favorable rainfall in 2003 led to a growth of 6%. Formidable long-term challenges include: preparing the economy for freer trade with the EU and US, improving education, and attracting foreign investment to boost living standards and job prospects for Morocco's youth.

Source: CIA World Factbook

This post is longer than most have been. You can see I've been doing my homework.


Duncan D. Horne said...

Sounds like quite a journey you'll be undertaking!

have a great one!

Duncan In Kuantan

baygirl32 said...

can't wait to see all those great pics you're going to take on that excursion

Laura Eno said...

I laughed at your activity in Costa Del Sol. That's exactly what I did too. I haven't gotten to Morocco yet though. Take lots of pictures!

Ellie said...

Of all the blogs, in all the blogger places. . .

Loved it!

Ellie Garratt

Dawn Embers said...

2 in a row, doubt I can beat that in the polls for the rest of the month. lol

I have seen a couple of travel channel shows on Morocco and it looks like an amazing place. All the markets, spices, the surroundings, everything. I'm so envious that you get to go there soon. I really should try to travel more.

Bob Sanchez said...

Gasp...I am so envious!

nutschell said...

I would love to go to Morocco! You are so lucky to be able to travel everywhere! One of these days, when I am not bound by finances or time, I'm going to do what you're doing. have a great trip!

Ciara said...

I'm envious and nervous for you. I'm a little unsure about travel anywhere over there since my parents were stuck during the Egyptian Riots. It was terrifying.

Grandpa said...

Look like you're having a swell time Denise, and I envy you with all those travel - and Paris Oh la la!

I'm off to Auckland for a couple of weeks in June.

I used to follow a blog called A House in Marrakesh, until the blogger moved.

Great to know Morocco better - thanks Denise.

Life on The Farm

Ann Best said...

It will be an incredible journey for you!

What an exotic place, as these photographs attest. Glad I didn't miss this post. The perfect M word!
Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

Charmaine Clancy said...

No wonder it was such a good setting for that amazing film (one of my all-time favourites for characters). Perfect M location for a writer!
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

L'Aussie said...

Ah, sounds like you all think it's pretty exotic which it will be and it'll be the first time we'll feel the heat whilst travelling. Usually go in our summer/northern winter.

Don't worry Clara. When it's your time, you go. I don't believe in worrying too much about the dangers of travel - more people die at home! I can imagine the Egyptian protest was terryifying for you and your folks. I'm hoping Morocco stays on a level keel.


Lynda R Young said...

Oh take me with you!
I love to go there. It's so different and interesting there.

VR Barkowski said...

Sounds absolutely glorious! Hope you come back with a detailed trip report and lots of photos. I love vicarious travel - and the real kind, too. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise .. love the photos you've displayed here .. along with the facts and fiction .. ie the story telling that goes with it. I can smell the spices and arabic mixes .. too gorgeous - gippy tummy .. not so sure! Sounds a glorious trip - San Sebastien I loved .. it is stunningly beautiful .. swim to the rock island if you can across the bay .. and the Crab was delicious!! Not sure if you can get inland to Pamplona - there's rope making there and it was so interesting ... the rustic scenery in the mountains is stunning too .. but I can see why Africa draws you over the water ...

Lovely mulling time before you go .. enjoy - you will I know! Cheers Hilary

L'Aussie said...

Thanks for the good wishes for my next trip. Thank you Hilary for the advice. If I get to Pamploma I'll ve retracing Ernest H and the bulls!


Michael Di Gesu said...

Ah, the call of Morocco. I was there years ago on my first trip through europe. We were in the Costa Del Sol, drove to Gibraltar and hopped on a ferry over to Cueta and then traveled over to Tangiers. Very exciting time. I'd like to go back and explore much more.

Amie Kaufman said...

I adore Morocco--spent weeks heading around in a tiny, beat-up car with a friend, fielding proposals from the locals and feasting.

Talei said...

Take me to the Casbah with you!! ;-) Wonderful!

I almost ended up there for Easter but had last minute changes. Have a lovely trip! And I loved the market scene in SATC too... oh and Sam and the architect was pretty hot too.

Trisha said...

I've never been to Morocco! but it does sound fabulous! :)