Best Trip Evah

gypsy shoesMy grandmother said that the women in our family were born with gypsy shoes, meaning that we all love to travel. It’s absolutely true, and I appreciate her recognition of and encouragement of the impulse that compels my mother, my aunts, and my cousins to join me in wandering the world.

In my own travels, oddly, I have been to the northernmost spot in Africa, and the southernmost, but I haven’t spent any time at all visiting the rest of the gigantic African continent. In our extended journey this year, we plan to head for Cape Town, and then work our way north to Madagascar and Ethiopia on the east coast.  Tanzania is located right between these two destinations – excellent.

You see, part of our plan includes the goal of winning a contest.  Yes, this piece that is masquerading as a blog entry is also a contest entry, which I am hoping will get me a trip to Tanzania.  And not just any trip, but a luxury safari adventure with Yellow Zebra Safaris.  Go check out the Yellow Zebra Travel site. You can read the terrific story of how they got their name, and you can drool over the fabulous trips.  In fact, follow this link to the safari in Tanzania, so that if I win, you can plan to come with Craig and me!

My travel partner Craig and I take great delight in planning our trips, spending hours discussing destinations, and researching options for flights, lodging, and activities.  We decided upon Morocco a couple of years ago for sentimental reasons – at the start of our romance, when we pledged to one another that we would travel the world together, I gave Craig a photo book on Morocco.  The seed was planted that day, and now it was time for the promise to be fulfilled.

Arriving in Morocco felt like being transported to another plane of existence. Nothing was familiar; the people, the smell in the air, the language – I was completely off balance. It was wonderful.

He made them all himself.
A cheerful Berber shepherd.

Clearly, I could prattle on at great length about Morocco. Here are just a few of the exploits in which we participated, that made this trip so phenomenal.

Rode a camel.  Do you know how tall a camel is? Once you climb on his back, and he stands up, you are very far from the ground. Plus, you don’t have reins. Either your camel handler leads the way, or the camel does.

See how long these camels’ legs are?!

Slept in a tent, under seven blankets, in the Sahara Desert.  No explanation needed, as long as you understand how cold a desert is in January.

Got mugged by a henna hustler.  By the time I got my hand back from Fatima, I had a very cool design trailing up my arm. She wanted $40 for the un-asked for art.  I gave her two; she gave me an evil look and disappeared.

Slept in a cave.  Hotel, that is.  All the rooms were dug into the side of a hill. No windows, but we were snug as a bug. In the Todra Gorge area, the views are spectacular. Look for décor items made from Jurassic era fossils.

Nearly slept in a car in a snowstorm in the Atlas Mountains. Perhaps a miscalculation on the part of our guide, we ended up high in the mountains when it started to snow.  The plow didn’t create a path wide enough for the large vehicles headed in both directions, so there we sat. Thank goodness for well prepared local travelers with shovels.

Saw snake handlers in Marrakesh, in Jemma el Fina Square.  Mostly from the safe distance of a rooftop café, because although it’s fascinating, who wants to walk around with cobras?

Slept in a kasbah, underneath a stork’s nest. When we went to bed in the ancient structure, the nest was empty.  By the time we awoke the next morning, the storks had returned to Aït Benhaddou. (Fun fact: storks communicate by clacking their beaks together.)

A stork’s nest is a large, messy pile of sticks.

Had a huge riad all to ourselves. “You are the king and queen, and this is your palace,” our host said as he welcomed us. The royal treatment in a breath-taking restored mansion.

Met the last comb-maker in Fez. When he dies or retires, the souk will no longer be named after his profession.

The combmaker was very pleased that we brought him the NY Times article published about him a few years ago.  He remembered the interview, but he never knew if it was printed.

Stood out as the only foreigners in Essaouira.  This small seaside community is not a big tourist draw, at least in January, but it is captivating in its own right. Ladies, remember to cover your heads – it will make life easier.

Fishing boats in the harbor.

Sat for hours in the rooftop café called Aladdin, staring at the Blue City.  Chefchaouen pulled us in with its stunning paint job – no one is quite sure why everyone favors cobalt blue, although there are various theories. It really doesn’t matter, though. The sense of serenity the color imparts is reason enough.

The beautiful blue of Chefchouen.

Bought a pair of handmade shoes, in bright yellow leather with pointy toes. The shoemaker just happened to be working on a large order of said yellow shoes, for the cabinet ministers’ traditional outfits.  And he just happened to have a pair in my size.  What else could I do but buy them? It was fate.

The shoemaker uses two needles at a time for his shoes, that he sells for $20.

There is so much to say about this enthralling country. So many wonderful sights, so many lovely people. But don’t take my word for it – you need to go yourself and encounter the character and spirit of The Daughter of the Desert.  It’s a big wonderful world out there, and life is too short to stay in one place.  Pack a bag, get those gypsy shoes on, and get going!

gypsy shoes mine
My gypsy shoes.

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