Mary’s Travel Blog

It has been a very busy spring and summer for the Greens in Europe.  We have had 2.5 months of company “chez nous” in France and Spain, and because we decided to stay abroad into the summer when all the festivals and tourism occur, we are now entertaining more heat than a body can bear. I am writing this from Robion, a small village in Provence where we are actually taking a vacation. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

The best part of the last few months, other than exposing friends to the delights of Seville, Jerez, Cadiz and our pueblo blanco Vejer de la Frontera, was time spent in magical Morocco, the most competitive economy in North Africa. Its growing GDP is based on an economy dependent on agriculture, phosphates, tourism, fish, mining, and industry and textiles.

Tangier, the sparkling gem of this North African country, is only an hour and a half from our home in Southern Spain by car and ferry. I often hop over with friends for a day of fabulous shopping in the souk, tramping the historic kasbah, and experiencing the enchanting medina. There is a former palace that has been turned into a museum that depicts the illustrious history of “Tingin” its Greek name, where the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, English, French, Spanish, Americans and combinations thereof, have had a go at governing this strategic port city where the Atlantic and Mediterranean merge.

King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s monarch, has proven to be a pro-active developer: he has invested heavily to modernize the city and exploit its strategic potential for tourism. The string of 5-star hotels along the coastline attests to this successful endeavor, a part of his Plan Azur tourism initiative, which is meant to internationalize Morocco. The plan provides for creating six coastal resorts for holiday-home owners and tourists: five on the Atlantic Coast and one on the Mediterranean. The plan also includes other large-scale development projects such as upgrading regional airports to attract budget airlines, and building new train and road links.

All of this investment and economic development has succeeded in transforming Tangier into a vibrant world-class city with diverse ethnic influences, yet with an authentically Moroccan medina. From the fabulous food (artisanal baked breads, tasty tagines, fresh vegetable salads, steaming couscous’s and baked sweets to the amazing crafts (lamps, tea services, woven textiles, rugs, pottery, jewellery and crafts), Morocco is a Mecca for anyone who appreciates the dolce vita as well as art, creativity and authentic culture. The street costumes of the people who live in and/or are drawn to the country are incredible.

So due to my constant laudation of Morocco and its hospitable people, I have been repetitively asked  by friends and family to take them over, resulting in seven lovely visits in the last couple of years. In the latest journey last June, I escorted a small group of friends from California on a sweeping eight-day sojourn starting in Tangier. We covered about 1200km, including stays in Chefchaoen (the enchanting blue city in the Atlas Mountains), Fez (with its renowned labyrinth souk of 5600 streets), marvelous Marrakech (the red clay city on the northern edge of the Sahara), Essaoira (the vibrant seaside trading town), Safi (where pottery reigns), Casablanca (the cosmopolitan economic capital), and Assilah (the art village just south of Tangier).  Voila, a country-wide sweep.

In that I am feeling very strong these days in my growing knowledge of Morocco and honed market bargaining skills, my next quest there will be to go up into the remote Berber villages of the High Atlas close to the Algerian border. I want to take photos documenting the Berber tribes’ simple, nomadic lifestyle and their characterful personnae for future watercolor paintings. Photography and painting are passions I actively pursue during our sojourns abroad.