October 23, 2019 | Stories from the road
Embracing Chaos in Morocco
By Damaris V.
Damaris, who blogs about travel as Miss Latin Avocado, recently returned from our new Highlights of Morocco trip. Read on to learn more about the trip, her favorite moments, and how Morocco was a life-changing experience.
Who are you?
¡Hola! My name is Damaris Vazquez. I’m a 27-year-old adventurous Puerto Rican. I was born in Chicago, then moved to Florida when I was 4 and have lived here ever since.
What are your passions?
Traveling, learning new cultures, trying new foods, and promoting confidence and positive body image for women.
Damaris and her fellow travelers in Morocco
What do you do for work?
I work full-time culinary at Disney’s World Epcot theme park. I’m currently working Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
Where else have you traveled?
Outside of the US, I have been to Greece, Paris, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
Why did you choose Morocco?
I chose Morocco for its beautiful scenery, tasty food, hospitable people and a simplicity of life that is rare in these crazy times.
Once stepping off of the plane in Marrakesh, I knew right away that this was going to be an adventurous and magical trip.
What did you love about Morocco?
Morocco is a feast for the senses with a lovely balance of culture shock and comfort. I got to stuff my face with delicious couscous and chicken tagine (cooked with meat, dates, nuts, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and/or saffron in a clay pot) and drink my body weight in mint tea while absorbing the sights and sounds of each different city we visited. Morocco definitely exceeded my expectations.
Jemaa el-fnaa square by Damaris V.
Damaris soaking in architecture porn
Tell us about the trip.
When you hear people talk about Morocco, what you’ll hear is that Marrakech IS Morocco. In different languages the name Morocco is just “Marrakech,” which is known as the red city because of its buildings and ramparts of beaten clay.
Marrakech is a chaotic place filled with so much life. The famous medina Jemaa el-fnaa square is just like how everyone describes it. Tons of people at night shopping, eating, getting Henna tattoos, listening to live performers, snake charmers, and so much more. It’s crazy hectic but so fascinating to people watch in this place. We got to visit the Koutoubia Mosque, which is the largest in Marrakech, and it is over 800 years old! We also ended up soaking in a lot of architecture porn from the Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs, which left me starstruck.
On our bus ride we drove through the Atlas Mountains. What a beauty they were! We saw the deep rich red and brown rock formations. I felt like it was very similar to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I have such a love for mountain views that these made my heart grow bigger. We got to Ait-Ben-Haddoa, which is a series of Saharan mud huts built into a hillside. This town is known as the Hollywood of Morocco and has been featured in Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and many more. The town is so picturesque that it’s not hard to understand why many shows and movies like to film here.
Now, when I found that Mint tea is Morocco’s official drink, the tea lover inside me was over the moon in awe. The tea is a combination of green tea and mint leaves, and serving it is a form of welcome and respect. There is even an art to pouring it: the higher the teapot, the better! You can get it with or without sugar, and this stuff was so addictive, even in the 100-degree weather.
While en route to the city of Fez, we stopped in Ifrane, which is a European-inspired city built by the French in the high oil Pine Forest Plateaus of the Atlas Mountains. It very much felt like I wasn’t in Morocco anymore: everything was very modern and the apartment buildings looked like they were from New York.
A stop at Cedar Forest in Ifrane brought me face to face with the Barbary Monkeys who roam freely. They were so cute and so sweet.
Fez is home to over 1 million people and 1,200 years old. It is the oldest Imperial city and referred to as the country’s cultural capital. We went into the well-known Fez El Bali Walled medina, which had an old-world atmosphere. You saw donkeys carrying loads of cargo and fresh cuts of meat, fish, and produce for sale. While in the Medina, we stopped at Tanneric Chauara which is one of the largest and most famous tanneries in the Medina of Fez. Once inside, you are given a handful of mint leaves to combat the smell of the different leathers. The tanners use various products to clean the animal skins from lime, salt and even pigeon droppings! The work conditions are hard and only the strongest will last.
Morocco was an incredible travel destination. It is a country where I definitely felt out of my comfort zone, and truly was something new and different for me. It was a feeling that I very much loved and a feeling that everyone should experience the next time they travel.
Fez, Morocco by Damaris V.
Tell us more about getting out of your comfort zone.
Getting out of your comfort zone is such an essential part of growing as a human being. Being in Morocco, which was a new country for me, with 36 strangers, the new culture was a little scary but so worth it and super amazing. Traveling solo and making new friends with other fellow travelers has allowed me to gain confidence and security in myself. Leaving your comfort zone allows you to find new opportunities and skills, and a new perspective on life.