The Atlas Mountains linger like snow-capped clouds in the sky above Marrakech, an ancient city that unfolds in subtle, clay red architecture and buzzing streets lined with orange trees. Inside the red walls of the city, built in the 12th century during its imperial age, lies the most popular square—Jamaa el Fna—filled with rows and rows of stalls brimming with fresh citrus fruit—from oranges to grapefruits to lemons—all ready to be juiced and savored. Everything in Morocco has this sense of being fresh and made by hand—available right from the source. The souks, winding streets of small markets and shops, form a maze just off the square, offering everything from adorable miniature tagines to intricately patterned punctured metal lamps and luminaries to hand-woven Berber rugs. In the rug markets, the attendants unroll beautiful rug after rug after stunning rug, each bursting with a unique and colorful design. As you chat, they'll bring you the pleasantry of Morocco—thé à la menthe—fresh mint tea served sweet and hot in a gracefully patterned tea glass.
On the south side of the Atlas Mountains, the landscape quickly changes from the sometimes lush vibrancy of a Mediterranean climate to the stark, stunning dryness of the approaching desert. The landscape and architecture transforms in color from the deep red of Marrakech to the warm, baked sandstone shade of the Sahara. After the last city south, commonly known as the Gate to the Desert, the desert truly begins in a somewhat unexpected fashion—dotted with twisting acacia trees, purple bursts of flowering thyme and fields of succulent shrub-like greens, adorned with delicate yellow flowers and edible leaves (which were surprisingly crisp and moist—and tasted strong and peppery). As we wound deeper and deeper into the heart of the Sahara, the moisture of the landscape quickly dissipated, and the Dunes of Chegaga appeared. These ever-changing, ever-moving dunes create a field of soft, curving spines and fluid peaks, an endless mountain range of silky sand blown into place along the horizon. The desert is calm, quiet—bright. There is an unsullied blue sky above and a smooth carpet of sand below.
The Kingdom of Morocco most certainly impressed us with its overwhelming sense of vibrancy. From the friendliness of the locals—who are truly welcoming and helpful and always ready to share tea—to the warm and budding colors of the landscape to the unmistakable freshness of the flavors of life here, Morocco most certainly offers a lifestyle and a experience to be savored and remembered.