Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who Says I Don't Look Good in a Fez!?

Dave Spetrino auditions for temporary Moroccan citizenship while in Fez, Maroc.

When (if) I grow up, I want to be a world traveler. Just saying "world traveler" sounds exotic and full of adventure. I want to see the world, every corner. So why not start with Morocco?

My Dad, brother Jon and I wanted to go on a 'guys trip' - no spouses, no kids.

Not that we don't love being with our family but we thought it would be healthy if just the 3 of us went on an adventure and spent some father-sons-brother-time together - you know, for a week or 10 days. This isn't our first 'guys trip' - we spent a long weekend snowmobiling across Yellowstone Park back in the mid-90's. We had a blast and it was great to see a part of America that I hadn't been.

(reminder to future self: 3 days was plenty)

Choosing our next destination was pretty easy, it had to be someplace that wasn't on the top of my wife Kathy's list of places to go. That basically left us to choose from either the North Pole, South Pole or Africa.

Fortunately my father is already a 'full blown' World Traveler. He has been everywhere and when I say "everywhere" I mean it would be easier to tell you where he hasn't been rather than the other way around.

He was the obvious choice to determine not only where we would be going but every detail, arrangement and accommodation. He had every aspect of the trip covered and got us some great deals along the way.

Let me clarify something, this was not a vacation, traveling with my father is not a passive recreation or a time to chill out and unwind but a non-stop adventure to be savored while in constant motion.

With just under 11 days, we had a lot of ground to cover (3 of which would be traveling.)

We flew out of Dulles Thursday evening, through Paris and arrived in Casablanca mid-morning on Friday. Our Moroccan driver (Hamid) and his mini-van were waiting for us as we cleared customs.

Hamid would be our driver for the next 8 days and nights as we traversed the entire country. (in all, we would travel over 2500km).

At each stop Hamid would connect us with a local tour guide (english speaking of course) to show us the highlights of their area. This was a huge benefit of the trip and avoided being "lost in translation" while visiting the various sites and locales.

We spent the afternoon touring Casablanca before heading toward the Capital city of Rabat. We stayed one night in Rabat before heading to Fez via Volubilis (fascinating Roman ruins and the heart of olive country).

While in Fez we spent two nights at a centuries old Riad (think bed and breakfast with an internal open courtyard) situated inside the old city walls.

You know those Indiana Jones movies where they are running through a narrow maze of walls inside the city? Welcome to Fez, pay attention or you will have to follow a donkey or a kid on a moped to find your way out.

Leaving Fez we worked our way across the mid-Atlas Mountains toward the Sahara. Stopping briefly in Efroud (date palm capital of Morocco) in order to swap the mini-van in for a Land Cruiser as we would be heading into the desert for the night to stay at a Kasbah (think walled fort) in the outpost known as Merzouga. (or more commonly known as 'the middle of nowhere') but absolutely fascinating as we climbed the sand dunes at sunset and waited for the full moon to rise over an ocean of sand (as far as you can see in every direction). Surreal.

One night in Merzouga before we traversed what seemed like the entire length of Morocco on our way to a night in Ouarzazate. Any movie you have ever seen that was filmed in a desert was probably based in Ouarzazate - the Hollywood of Africa.

We left Ouarzazate and crossed the High Atlas to Marrakech for two nights. Probably my favorite city (Fez would be my second). Not because Marrakech had the absolute best ice cream but it felt the most European. Easy to get around, unbelievable restaurants, history but a more polished vibe compared to the rest of the country.

Morocco was controlled by the French for the first part of the 20th Century and is the secondary language for its citizens. About a 3 hour flight from Paris, this is a hot spot destination and second home mecca for much of France.

After leaving Marrakech we headed toward the Atlantic Ocean (Essaouira) and worked our way up the Barbary Coast for our last night in Casablanca before flying out the next morning.

Obviously this is an abbreviated version or an extremely eventful and exciting tour of the country. Jon posted all of his photos here.

Keep checking back for more specific experiences from our adventure (like what a picky eater like me eats on a trip like this and why I wouldn't make a good muslim!)

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