part 1: spain + morocco • winter 2017

welcome to my first ever blog post! i’m really excited to share my adventures and musings with you. this blog will inevitably have many iterations and i hope you join me through all of them. enjoy!

I was a voracious reader from the age of 3 and that didn’t let up until the pressures of high school hit me. One of the first things we ever discussed in my family, was the history of Muslims throughout the world. The Islamic Golden Age was rip-roaringly alive for over five centuries, a period of unprecedented advances in science, mathematics, philosophy, social sciences and so much more. The names of Muslim figures like engineer Al-Jazari, doctor Ibn Sina, philosopher Ibn Rushd, astronomer Maryam Al-Asturlabi, among many others, were (and still are) frequent topics of conversation. One of the cradles of this drive for knowledge and learning was Al-Andalus, the southern part of Spain.

So when we went on vacation to Spain and Morocco, every single one of us was excitedly sharing trivia or staring wide-eyed at historical artifacts and buildings that we had only seen in books or documentaries.

We were travelling for a little over two weeks, and boy-oh-boy was our itinerary packed. Even though this trip was almost six months ago, it has become one of my favourite memories and I’d like to share that with you.

It went a little like this:

Madrid – Seville – Tangiers – Marrakech – Fes – Tangiers – Seville – Granada – Cordoba – Madrid

I’m going to break this post into a couple parts, so you can fully enjoy my chronicles of the trip. I don’t want to drown you in paragraphs!

Seville

sville day 1
Walking through the historical center of Seville

Seville was our home base for the trip, as we basically went on a road trip through Spain. We drove straight from Madrid to Seville as soon as we landed. By the end of the trip, I had determined that Seville is the city that I want to retire to. The warmth of the winter sun may have gotten to my head a little bit but the city made me feel at home. The small winding alleyways of Barrio de Santa Cruz, the contrast of the contemporary geometry of the Metropol Parasol just minutes away from the Real Alcazar and Cathedral of Seville and the smiling faces of literally anyone passing by really proved to me the beauty of a city at the crossroads of history and modernity.

IMG_2627
Metropol Parasol, Seville
cathedral
Catedral de Sevilla

There was a sense of calm in Seville—days wouldn’t start until the late afternoon (I’m sure you’ve heard of the the Spanish culture of the siesta). People strolled leisurely through parks and town squares. The lack of skyscrapers or other signs of typical metropolitan life made the city feel more accessible and welcoming.

A couple days in Seville led to a drive several hours south to the port city of Tarifa. There we took a ferry to Tangiers and began our Moroccan adventure. (I’ll get back to Seville, don’t you worry. Since we initially only spent two days there at the beginning of trip, more of the exciting will come later.)

Marrakech

One six-hour drive from Tangiers later, we reached Marrakech to find that that the hotel we’d booked was in too small a street to access by car AND they had cancelled our booking because we had arrived after midnight. At this point, we were all exhausted out of our minds and scrambled to find a temporary hotel. After the hullabaloo of the first night, though, our stay in Marrakech went smoothly.

bahia
Bahia Palace, Marrakech

To me, Marrakech was a city reminiscent of many in India—a place where globalization and consumerism is making its mark, creeping across the ancient architecture and traditions. We took a horse buggy tour of the city, which although was a very random decision, really helped create a mental map of where we should explore next.

The Koutoubia Mosque is the central building of the city and its interior surprised me. I am used to famous mosques being wide, expansive works of art but the simplicity was its resplendence. The clean white walls, low ceilings, traditional blue-white-and-green-tiled courtyard and arches upon arches were the highlight of the city. (see: this post’s featured image) Later, we visited Jemaa al-Fna, the city’s main square and incredible souk at night.

Marrakech is small city—once we had all the main tourist destinations like Bahia Palace, the mosques and the markets, we walked around the landmarks again to explore the more hidden corners. Although, you’ll be able to understand the city’s magic no matter how much time you spend there and how many times you retrace your steps. One of my favorite aspects of the culture were the street-facing cafes. The food culture combined with people-watching was both amusing and heartening, reinforcing the importance of community and togetherness in Morocco.

atlas
Amazigh homes in the Atlas Mountains

On our last day in Marrakech, we drove out to the Atlas Mountains where the Amazigh (ethnic group in Morocco) people traditionally live. We hiked past the woven handicrafts and stonework the locals were selling. We walked through the homes they had made in the mountains. And we sat at a riverside cafe and I ate the best damn kofta tajine of the whole trip.

atlas blankets
Blankets and rugs handwoven by local Amazigh people

explore

| ikˈsplôr |

verb [with object] travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn about or familiarize oneself with it

  • [no object] (explore for) search for resources such as mineral deposits
  • inquire into or discuss (a subject or issue) in detail
  • examine or evaluate (an option or possibility)
  • examine by touch

That’s it for this week’s post! Stay tuned for next week’s part 2 of the Spain + Morocco trip where I’ll definitely be more rambly and hope fully get the hang of this blogging thing!

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