Where the Sun Sets: Morocco Travel

Kongo recently finished a 10-day visit to Morocco. If this country is on your bucket list it might be worthwhile to read on.  Kongo will clue you in on his latest advice for visiting this magical country. Morocco is known as the place where the sun sets.  It’s the west.  In ancient times Morocco was literally the end of the world.  The Romans called it Mauretania and they had a thriving colony here until the middle of the second century.  Before that were the Berber tribes and they’re still here.  Portuguese and Spanish left their influence in the Age of Exploration…

Sir Richard Branson and a Berber Market

On our last full day in Morocco, we left Marrakech and drove north over the High Atlas Mountains toward the coastal plain that would take us back to Casablanca, the airport, and a very, very early flight to Paris the next morning. On the way, about halfway to the mountain pass, we stopped at a weekly Berber market in the village of Ansi. As a village, Ansi pretty much looks like dozens of other villages we passed through: a scattering of adobe homes, a few satellite dishes, hole in the wall shops, and streets filled with donkey carts and scooters….

“Come with me to ze Kasbah …”

Traveling along the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs” in Morocco gives you an opportunity to see a LOT of Kasbahs.  Like there really are thousands of them.  After looking at so many you finally have to visit one so we spent an hour or so exploring the UNESCO preserved Glaoui palace at the Taourirt Kasbah in Ouarzazate. Kasbahs were basically citadels built along caravan routes to protect the flow of trade across the Sahara to the seacoast cities of Casablanca and Rabat. Made of adobe, these structures offer exotic architectural detail and a window into a history pretty much unknown to those…

On Location in Morocco

On location.  As in “on location” making a movie.  Just when you thought you’d pretty much figured out Morocco they take you to Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate and suddenly you’re in Game of Thrones, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, or even Lawrence of Arabia!  That’s right, Hollywood in Morocco. It turns out that dozens and dozens of some of Kongo’s favorite movies were made here.  Atlas Studios, purportedly the largest studio in the world (in land area), isn’t exactly a Universal Studios experience.  No rides.  And it’s pretty freaking hot stuck out there in the middle of the desert. If you’re…

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Traveling west from the Sahara dunes at Erg Chebbi, we drove along “The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.”  A “kasbah” is the Moroccan version of a medieval castle keep in Europe — a large walled structure that provides protection to those that live around it. There are lots of kasbahs in Morocco, especially in the desert waste areas between the High Atlas Mountains and the sandy stretches to the east that form the true Sahara. Over time, the Kasbah became a style of architecture, like the one in the photo above which sits on the outskirts of a Berber village…

Magical Marrakech

Mysterious medinas, magnificent mosques, palaces and squalor, snake charmers and water men.  Marrakech is a magical place that blends incredible sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. It’s sensory overload for western monkeys like Kongo. You have to go there. The monkey spent two days in Marrakech.  It should have been longer.  Actually the monkey succumbed to a bad cold (still recovering) on the second day so he needed a do-over but he saw quite a bit on the day he was healthy. Marrakech is one of the imperial cities of Morocco and was founded sometime in the 10th century.  It’s the…

Roman Morocco

Rising from the fertile plain north of the city of Meknes in Morocco stands the remains of the Roman city of Volubilis.  Volubilis was the capital of the Roman state of Mauretania which passed to Roman control after the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C.  It remained under Roman control until it fell to rebellious Berber tribes in 285 A.D.  Other pressures on the empire prevented Rome from retaking the city and they basically gave up on it.  The town remained occupied until the 11th century when Fez became the predominant center of power in the Islamic dynasty in Morocco. The…