Morocco doesn’t deceive. It pleasantly surprises, reaffirms my belief in the fundamental goodness of humankind. It smiles, frequently. Laughs easily. Looks you in the eye when speaking. Is unhurried. Piles on motorbikes and weave through traffic, clad in sandals but not in helmets.
A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is sold for what it’s worth — as little as 30 cents in Marrakesh and just one euro in a mountain hut. Toilets are uncomplicated — generally a pretty clean white hole and a bucket of water. Tea is the national drink. People both rise and go to bed early. This country knows what’s going on.
Discoveries made on this trip:
The town of Moulay Bousselham. Perched on a steep embankment overlooking a gorgeous long sandy beach, the town has one main street and no banks. It’s spitting distance from a lake that’s famous for its flocks of migratory birds, and thus has a handful of places to stay and two campgrounds. We loved its market lane, where we found delicious rolled bread snacks and jackknife clams fresh from the Atlantic at a price unthinkable in Spain.
Refuge du Toubkal (3,207 m / 10,521 ft). My experience in mountain huts is limited since I’m usually carrying a tent. But when you’re planning a significant ascent, huts offer a certain ease of mind. Almanzor’s Refugio Elola had been my most recent hut experience: surly caretaker, some not very nice holes in the ground for toilets, and too many rules. The Refuge du Toubkal was a welcome change. This hut seems to operate on the familiar Moroccan principle of organized chaos. At first glance things appear to be supremely disorganized and unregulated, but then everything sort of falls into place. The bathrooms were clean, rooms were big with lots of natural light, and there was a sort of pervasive good mood about the place, which in no doubt stemmed from the smiley, singing Moroccan staff under the direction of Ibrahim, tall and dark with a killer smile and a firm handshake. When the mountains’ shadows extended across the hut’s roof, the guests (Spanish, Italian, English, German, French …) piled into the dining room to play games, chat, and drink tea. In those very close quarters, people were cordial, climbing stories were exchanged, and pretension dissolved into the thin air.
It’s the simple things in life that are best. On our first evening in Morocco, we sat down in front of a café facing the 15th-century walls of Asilah and ordered mint tea. Deciding we were hungry, one of our group slipped across the street and bought a couple loaves of bread from a vendor and some fresh goat’s cheese from a man with a cart. That impromptu picnic tasted so good that we talked about it for the rest of the week. Now I wonder if it was the food and drink that was so delicious, or the combination of the eating and drinking, the sun setting on the city’s walls, and the feeling of empowerment that accompanies the start of any adventure.
I explain my reasons for posting about Morocco in a blog about Spain in my previous Morocco post.