Anyway, those are unrelated so let's get started on Morocco, the most non-Western country I've ever been to. Also note it's Ramadan in a Muslim country - fasting and prayer would be paramount.
Your trip to Morocco begins the moment you get on the plane (especially if you take Royal Air Maroc). As you get on, you are joined by Moroccans, Americans and several people from other African countries since Casablanca is an access hub. What's wonderful is many of the people traveling have never been on an airplane and don't understand the touch screens, bathroom doors, or seatbelts. Of course I helped, but it's intriguing to think about differences in exposure to technology, which would continue into Morocco.
As I landed from Casablanca to Marrakech, my French would begin to increase skill rapidly as my mind knew what to do even though I hadn't spoken French since Paris 7 years before. However, as much as I attempted and learned some Arabic, my reacquisition of French astonished me in how it became as good as my Portuguese & Spanish. As my ride took me in, another guy quickly led me to my hot Riad hostel where I would boil for a bit until I feel asleep every night. They limit AC and fans to conserve energy due to occasional blackouts. Thus, the usage of electricity here can be limited like Peru was during its blackout.
The next day I would explore the busy Jemaa el-Fnaa, the souks, look at Koutoubia Mosque, and just explore the lack of safety, fresh food, and craze of bargaining. It was quite hot the whole day at about 105 F or 41-42 C; however, it was a dry heat which was a lot easier to deal with overall. The Red City of Marrakech was lively and a sight to behold as donkeys, carts, people, and ove, brloaded motorcycles zoomed by in a mass of movement. I would enjoy a pastilla with chicken (baklava and chicken) before I would meet up with a couple of Americans to find a happy hour bar from 4:30pm to midnight every day!
After that, I would travel to Essaouira, the Portuguese beach city. Along the way there were plenty of Argan oil co-ops, goats on trees, and a cheap non-AC bus that was rough. However, I did like Essaouira since it was calmer, the merchants didn't hassle you as much, and it was wonderful to see Muslims cooling off in the beach. I highly recommend it since most people will be thinking the square in Marrakech or the Sahara instead. Plus, it's where Game of Thrones shot Astapor
Finally, I would begin my trip to Zagoura near the smaller Sahara dunes with my guide Omar. Omar would educate me on Islam, Berber culture, and being a Moroccan. I had some deep, intellectual conversations on this trip and spending around 12 hours in a car with someone can lead to that. We would check out the High Atlas Mountains, Berber Villages, Argan oil co-ops, Ouarzazate (where Game of Thrones shot Yunkai), and Ait Ben Haddou (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and more) while rocking my Djellabah and later on Indigo turban. It was an informative and intriguing experience as we went into Zagoura.
From Zagoura, my camel guide/true Berber from the desert, Youseff would lead me solo to collect my thoughts as we entered the dunes of the Sahara desert. This experience was other wordly; the sunset and sunrise dunes, the hot camp, playing jambe with Berbers, and just feeling miles away from the world. Honestly, whether you come from Fes or Marrakech the Sahara will inhabit your soul and I really can't explain it, you'll just have to see.
After my return, I would get ready for my train ride to Fes.
Next up: Trains and hanging out in Funky Fes.