Travel Tale: Morocco in Three Steps
Morocco has a legacy of geographic and ethnic diversity, making this western-most representative of the Middle East a fitting gateway for the masses that drift south from Europe each year. Rich in history, with cultural contributions from the Phoenicians and Romans, and more recently the French, Portuguese and Spanish, Morocco has been an ever-changing patchwork of ethnicity, custom and tradition.
The road to Chefchaouen is a long and steady climb. Leaving the densely packed urban landscape of Tangiers behind, a two-lane road weaves quietly by small collections of stone and clay homes. Beaten, brown grasslands turn green as carefully manicured crops scale the hills, abandoning the noise and chaos of Morocco’s northern port. By the time the three-hour journey is over, travelers find themselves looking out over the valley from on high. A tranquil town welcomes visitors without drama or fanfare.
The square is alive through the day, however as night falls across the city, it becomes near manic. Smoke rises from long aisles of open-air stands serving feasts of Moroccan fare, while rural Berber performers play for change. Rattling motor scooters whiz through the dense crowds, narrowly missing the trained monkeys that roam the square dressed in children’s clothing, compounding the overload of activity and movement. Get an excellent view of it all from the rooftop cafes that line the square.
Fortress in Essaouira
The city’s relaxed atmosphere can also be found within its shops and stalls, with many settling on a fixed price, skipping the haggling process altogether. Looking down from the city’s dense white-stained walls, still lined with cannons from a different era, visitors can find a vast open square lined with a collection of cafes on one end and a line of open-air seafood eateries on the other. As fresh as one could possibly hope for, these simple stalls offer the choice of hand-picking your dish, freshly pulled from the flocks of fishing boats docked just meters away.