Ian Wright and Megan McCormick take a journey through mysterious Morocco, the meeting of Europe and Africa and a land of richly cultured cities, high mountain ranges and inhospitable desert landscapes.
Ian takes a trip through the interior, to the walled city of Fes and the calm mountain village of Tamtachoute. He rides a motorbike through the desert before downgrading his mode of transport to camel for an overnight trek through the dunes. He makes a whistle stop visit to Marrakech before racing off to the coast for some much-needed relaxation by the sea at Essouira.
Meanwhile Megan stops off in Tangier, a long-time magnet of creative-minds, dodgy characters and thrill-seekers. Then she takes to the ocean road, stopping off in the capital Rabat, the heavily French Casablanca and finally winding up in the amazingly vibrant southern market centre Marrakech.
While Ian embarks on a journey inland, Megan takes time to explore Tangier, a city of outside influences that have combined with local culture to create a city that’s quite unlike anywhere else in the country. She shops for textiles at the Berber Sunday morning market, samples the view painted by Matisse from the El Minza Hotel and visits a fabulous seventeenth century palace that used to be the royal Harem.
Meanwhile, Ian makes a pit stop in the small mountain town of Chaouen where he relaxes over a proper cup of Moroccan tea. Then it’s a hitchhike to Fes, the most medieval city in the Arab world, where he explores the fascinating twists and turns of the 30 miles of Medina before a dose of questionable relaxation in a Haman, the Moroccan equivalent of a sauna.
Megan starts her coastal trip along Morocco with a stop in Rabat, Morocco’s sleepy administrative capital. There she visits the ambitious but never completed Hassan Mosque and theMausoleum of King Mohammed V, the father of modern Morocco and ouster of the French colonists. It’s a fabulous building, richly adorned with materials from every corner of the globe.
Ian journeys further into the inhospitable but awesome interior of Morocco, climbing high into the dramatic scenery of the High Atlas Mountains. His route takes him through the Todra Gorge, a stunning 900ft chasm through red rock, and onto to the village of Tamtachoute. There he joins locals for the Id El Kabir, one of Islam’s oldest and most important festivals, in which everyone who can afford it buys a sheep and slaughters it in celebration.
Back on the coast, Megan has arrived in Casablanca – a modern, bustling city that could be in Europe. She takes a wander round the typically Islamic Habous quarter where she samples a local delicacy, camel burger, and then steps into the French Quarter, with its unique architectural mix of art deco and Moroccan motifs. The pinnacle of the city has to be the awe-inspiring Hassan II Mosque, the third largest in the world, constructed on reclaimed land – true to the words of the Koran which says that the throne of God was built on water.
Continuing his journey, Ian heads down the Dades Valley to Zagora with a couple of bikers and walks the last six miles to the tiny hamlet of Tinfou from where he can camel trek into the desert. He stays overnight among the dunes and enjoys a campfire meal.
Nearing the end of their trips, Megan and Ian turn their sights toward Marrkech the vibrant, market centre of the south. Ian joins the crowds at the Jemaa el Fna, the city square that fills with food stalls, artists and performers every afternoon. Megan goes deep into the Medina souk, the centre of life here since the twelfth century and a real assault on the senses; every conceivable craft is practised here including the amazing zellij mosaic craftsmen. She meets a master-craftsmen and learns about the intricate work involved in making these beautiful designs. For her evening’s entertainment she makes her way to the Jemaa el Fna; every July it plays host to the Marrakech Folklore Festival with performers from far and wide.
Ian’s last leg of his journey takes him to the coastal town of Essaouira, a sleepy fishing town that’s a perfect place to unwind after the gruelling but inspiring experience that is Morocco. In a land of such stark contrasts there’s certainly something for everyone.
Ian hires a motorbike and heads down the Dades Valley to Zagora, following the route of a thousand Kasbahs, an ancient caravan trail that runs out to the desert. He embarks on a two day camel trek form the village of Tinfou, but unfortunately a sandstorm is brewing and Ian spends the most of the trip with his head wrapped in a shash to screen out the blasting sand.
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Middle East & North Africa
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