Food is a huge part of the travel experience and Morocco hasn’t disappointed us! Traditional Moroccan delights that we’ve enjoyed include:
- Tanjine – this meal is named after the clay pot it’s cooked in, which looks like a birthday party hat but functions like a slow cooker. Typically the dish includes meat surrounded by a variety of vegetables and even fruit like dates or nectarines.
- Dates – they’re a popular and available choice. Sold most everywhere you’d expect and wouldn’t (eg. roadside on a mountain pass)
- Brochette (French for skewers) – available with various types of meats (ie. chicken, beef, mixed). This is a go-to item on any restaurant menu.
- Couscous -they know how to cook this right! We had a number of deliciously fluffy and light couscous dishes.
- Mint Tea – you wouldn’t be eating Moroccan without heavily sugared mint tea, poured into a small glass cup from a metal kettle at a height that gives it bubbles. Sometimes delicious, and sometimes all you taste is the sugar.
Lunch time while treking in the desert
Lamb Tajine with couscous
Fun cake … with pomegrante from the garden!
Breakfast with delicious breads
Laughing Cow … it’s a thing in Morocco
Think of a hot desert animal and you’re likely to think of camels. Prior to coming to Morocco, we’d been told they’re cranky animals that spit and bite. Thankfully that wasn’t our experience. We appreciated the efforts of our Arabian Camels (aka dromedary) treking through the Sahara.
We started our trek from Mhamid with a 2 hour camel ride. That’s about all you need to understand what it’s like. Their awkward gait makes for a bumpy and swaying ride. The key is to be loose and go with it. The more your fight, the more uncomfortable it is. There is a saddle of sorts – it provides a u-shaped cushion around the hump to sit on and a metal structure to hang onto (and strap loads to). Want to know how comfortable the saddle is? Ride a bike for a few hours straight after you haven’t done it in years – the bike seat hits thus same tender spots on your butt. You definiately want the handle when getting on/off the camel. They bend front legs first, thus lean back and hold on or you’d noise dive over them!
Due to what may have been a communication error, day one was the only time we rode. The next three days we walked along with the wonderful beasts carrying our baggage, water, food and camp set up. The camels are guided by a rope attached to either a nose ring (camel at the front of the line) or their mouth (rope located similar to the bit on a horse bridale). During that time we noticed:
- all the work camels are male (aljamal). The ladies (naqa) are left to make more baby camels
- they are trained to follow the instructions provided by the rope and camel dudes. One of the ropes came untied thus allowing a camel to be free from the set. He ended up stepping on the rope, and just patiently waited to be attended to.
- nylon rope are the camel dudes best friend. They use it to tie the camels together, afix the saddle to the camel, tie their legs when at camp, etc.
- to prevent the camels from wandering too far they tie their legs. Over night they tied their front legs together, about a foot apart. The camels can shuffle around. During our windy lunch break they tied the camels front feet to its upper leg. They could awkwardly get up and three-legged hop, however they tended to sit and stay put. Only one did the hop – to be able to eat from the tree
- camels eat most anything, including any food leftovers and fruit rinds.
Drive off the end of the road in M’hamid Morocco and your into to the top of the Sahara Desert (the world’s largest hot desert). A simply amazing places to spend 4 nights/5 days taking in the natural beauty and Moroccan way of life (aka lots of tea).
Sky – the horizon in the desert is vast. I’ve never seen so clearly the multitude of stars in the night sky as in the desert. Certainly the stars would be essential to aiding travel over long distances with very few visible landmarks on the ground. With almost 12 hour days and nights we’d see the moon high in the sky as the sun rose.
Camels walking along with our gear
Scarfs – we all learned how to tie our scarfs on day one. Besides being a local fashion accessory their functionally is exceptional. They’re great for sun and sand protection. The locals use much longer scarfs that could double as rope for all sorts of practical applications: strapping goods on a camel, putting a bucket into a well for water, etc.
Sand – yep, there’s a lot of sand in the desert! It’s so soft and fine (like flour) compared to the nicest beaches I’ve been too! When it blows it gets in every orifice you have and you just deal with it. Our guides were superb at managing to avoid getting sand in our omelettes (full props to them!).
Sun – our days were reasonable, at par with very hot summer days back home in Canada (a dry plus 30-35 celsius). A light breeze and scarf helped keep the temperate comfortable during our 2-3 hour desert treks. We walked; the camels carried our gear.
Stones – the compliment to all the sand are the many stones of all shapes and sizes. Like most things in the desert they served a purpose; piles were used as markers. On the highways piles serve as pylons or warning signs for road issues. Stones include fossils from days gone by!
Silence – the most striking thing about the desert was how quiet it was. Laying out on a sand dune to watch the stars you heard nothing but the beating of your own heart. It was amazing in a way I can’t capture in words! However, this also means that you hear every noise when it’s made.