A Sensory Journey Through Morocco, Africa

morocco Morocco is a country in northern Africa that features unique sights and experiences for all travel styles. When I visited, I was amazed at how much there was to explore – the lively sounds of the markets, the tastes of flavorful spices, the feel of gentle hands during a neck massage and the spiritually felt at a sacred mosque.

More than just your average tourism trip, Morocco takes you on a journey of the mind, body and senses. Your eyes will be opened to a new culture and you will get the chance to visit beautiful and enlightening places that will transform your outlook on life.

Smell

Designed in the 1920s by French furniture maker Jacques Majorelle and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 1980s, the Majorelle Garden (pictured) is a 12-acre botanical garden in Marrakech. The site is brimming with unusual tropical flowers, cacti and shocking displays of Yves Klein blue. Stroll through this exotic and vibrant garden, take in the unique aromas and visit Yves Saint Laurent’s resting place.Taste

Originated from the Berber people, the native inhabitants of Morocco, tagine is Morocco’s unofficial national dish. Cooked in a conical clay pot of the same name, tagine is comparable to a slow-cooked stew with different tender meats, vegetables and sauces.

A typical Moroccan tagine is made of chicken, preserved lemons, onions and potatoes. Learn to make them in a cooking class like the one at La Maison Bleue in Fez.

Touch

Relax in a traditional Moroccan hammam, which begins with a steam bath and is followed by an exfoliating body scrub and polish with black soap made from argan nuts. The experience ends with a relaxing argan oil massage. Visiting a hammam is part of the daily life in Morocco and is used to de-stress, cleanse and relax the body. Visitors can find hammams in almost every town in Morocco and in many hotels and riads.

Experience

Visit an argan oil cooperative near the coastal city of Essaouira and experience how all-women cooperatives make argan oil from argan nuts using the same technique that has been passed down for centuries. Argan oil is used in a wide range of beauty products for skin and hair, and for cooking. This area of Morocco is the only place in the world where the argan tree grows.

Pray

Make a trip to the majestic Mosque Hassan II set on the Atlantic shore of Casablanca. The seventh largest mosque in the world, Mosque Hassan II is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are permitted to enter. The mosque can hold up to 105,000 worshippers at once and guided tours are offered to non-Muslim visitors in several different languages throughout the day.

Wonder

Enjoy the mysticism and magic of Marrakech’s famed square, Djemaa el-Fna. Djemaa el-Fna comes alive in the evening with music, cobra charmers, acrobats and merchants selling dates, dried figs, almonds, walnuts and other foods. As dusk falls, the square becomes an open-air dining area packed with stalls lit by gas lanterns and the air is filled with wonderful smells of Moroccan spices and plumes of cooking smoke spiraling up into the night.

Browse

Stroll the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of the souk in Marrakech, the largest in Morocco. Visitors can buy traditional Moroccan clothing and crafts from artisanal vendors selling from stalls and small shops. The most popular items – many handcrafted on site in the souk – include Berber carpets, hammered-metal lanterns and traditional Moroccan pottery.

Stay

While in Morocco, rest your head in a guest room at a Riad – a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard and fountain. Hidden behind an unassuming door in the Medina (old city) of Marrakech, Dar Les Cigognes is an example of a traditional riad-turned guesthouse. It features 11 guest rooms off a sunny courtyard with orange trees and a gurgling fountain. Marrakech is brimming with hundreds of riads that provide peaceful hideaways from the bustling souk.


See

Witness traditional male craftsman producing one-of-a-kind leather goods from start to finish. These artisans employ techniques dating back to the medieval times in the world’s oldest leather tannery in the Imperial city of Fez. Tour the famous tanneries and dye pits, bursting with vibrant color, in Fez’s ancient Medina, which date back to the eleventh century.

Move

Morocco provides some of the most diverse options for outdoor adventures and sports – ski the Atlas Mountains in Oukaimeden, surf the Atlantic waves in Agadir or sand board the dunes of the Sahara Desert near Ouarzarzate. Due to Morocco’s unique location and terrain, travelers can visit a ski resort in the Atlas Mountains by morning and end their day soaking up the sun on the beaches of Agadir. Visitors to Morocco also have the option to golf, kite surf, horseback ride and more.

For a visual idea of this sensory and spiritual journey through Morocco, check out the gallery blow.

[image via Jessie on a Journey]

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Julia Roberts angers villagers in India during a Hindu holiday

When Julia Roberts and her film crew took over a temple in Pataudi, a small town south of New Delhi, India last week, the locals weren’t too happy about it. Perhaps if the timing of the temple’s film shoot for “Eat, Pray, Love” had been better planned there wouldn’t have been an issue.

Instead, it seems that the folks who scouted out the temple as a location didn’t do their homework about when taking over the temple would be less problematic for the people who use the temple for it’s original purpose–praying and worship. Navaratri, an important nine-day religious festival was happening at the same time of the filming of Robert’s latest project.

This snafu created a mess of bad feelings.

Coinciding with the beginning of autumn, Navaratri’s purpose is for people to worship manifestations of the Divine Mother. It’s one of the most important Hindu holidays. Because Julia and her gang had taken the temple over, no one was allowed in, thus the villagers weren’t able to worship there–something they’ve done every Navaratri, I’m sure, ever since the temple was built.

Navaratri is centered on three Hindu goddesses: Durga, the warrior goddess; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. If they had been able to access the temple, the villagers would have been offering prayers for the protection of health and prosperity.

Ironically, it seems as if Roberts has been able to access the power of two of those goddesses–Durga and Lakshmi just fine which possibly has led the villagers to wonder if she is making a movie that ought to be called “Eat, Pray, Love–but Not Here.”

The goddess that Robert’s and gang should have spent a little more time accessing is Saraswati. Knowledge about a culture goes a long way when traversing holy ground.

Hopefully, Roberts and the producers have figured out some way to make amends. At the time of this BBC article, the people in charge of filming weren’t talking about the issue. The villagers certainly were.

Yesterday, Navaratri ended with Dussera which celebrates the victory of good over evil and the motherhood of God.

In case any location folks want to film in a Hindu temple, here’s a link to the BBC resource, “Religion and Ethics tools.” It tells when the Hindu holidays will occur through 2013.

Praying bus driver kicks passengers off bus

This must have been an entertaining scene.

A London bus driver told his passengers to get off his bus because he has to pray. He rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca, The Sun reports. Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant. Some passengers took out their phones and starting taking pictures and video.

After a few minutes the driver calmly got up, opened the doors and asked everyone back on board. But passengers saw a backpack lying on the floor of the red single-decker and feared he might be a fanatic. So they all refused.
The driver apparently looked “English” but it turned out he was a Muslim convert. Is there such a thing as “looking English” anymore?