Morocco: The Prelude

I leave on Thursday for the hopefully sunny and warm lands that are known as The Kingdom of Morocco. The north African country has always remained a mysterious place in my mind. Towns riddled with bustling markets, the sights and smells a marvel to someone from such a sterile and docile community. The tight nit streets, interwoven like the rugs and tapestries littering the streets. All this in the constant shadow of unnerving mountain ranges, a single line of defence against the sea of sand in the south, the second largest desert after Antarctica, the Sahara. It’s ever changing landscape, home to Berber tribes that haven’t changed since decades.

It has aways been a dream of mine to untwine the mystery of this beautiful country and I finally get my chance. It’s population soares at around 35 million whilst the landmass covers over 710,000 square kilometers. Rabat is the official capital but Casablanca forms it’s largest city. There are over 6 spoken languages in Morocco and the country’s full Arabic name is al-Mamlakat al-Magribiyyah which translates as The Western Kingdom.

The Kingdom itself dates back to around 110 BC when it was declared an independent state under the name of The Kingdom of Mauretania.  It wasn’t until the 7th Century that Ummayad Muslims conquered the region, spreading their language, government and  most influentially, their religion. The Berber tribesmen eventually converted and the state shifted through lineages of great Berber dynasties. They grew strong, became rulers of southern Spain and Portugal but eventually were pushed back with remnants of the North biting at their heels. In fact it wasn’t until 1956 that they took back independence from France and Spain to create what is now the Kingdom of Morocco.

But it is these influences that I believe make Morocco such a wonder in the modern world. In times where the West seems to be in constant battle with the East, Morocco has a taste of both.

I only have a week which is slightly shorter than my usual trips abroad but I think it is more than plausible to get to grips with the country during this time. The plan is to travel from South to North. Marrakech to Fes. Stopping along the way, briefly, in Tangiers and longer in what I hope to be the true heart of Morocco in the North, the Rif mountains. The choice to stop in the mountains is no coincidence though. It is to unite my friend Rif, with the lands of his name giving. Not that he was actually named after the region, just that there is some inextricable link between him and these ‘Mountains steeped in mystery’ as I first put the idea across to him!

So from conception, the plan has been to get Rif to the Rif mountains, somehow. We still aren’t quite sure exactly how we are pulling it off as yet. Flights are booked. Bags are almost packed and I hope we are ready for this Lord of the Rings-esque trip, traipsing across Morocco.

If I were to write a book...

 I will be posting about the trip once I am back, so for now it is farewell and adieu.

Or beslama as the Moroccans would say.

-U.Mirza

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