Dear Travel Advisors,
The number 23 has so many connections. Those of you who are sports fans like me, of course 23 is tied to His Airness, Michael Jordan. 23 is the width of the Arecibo message, sent to space in search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The earth’s axis is tilted at approximately 23°. Normal human reproductive cells have 23 chromosomes, other human cells have 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs. My favorite, however, is in numerology, where 23 represents creativity and a sense of freedom. How appropriate since I am soon embarking on my 23rd visit to Morocco and staying in my favorite riad, in a room with 23 in the number. Coincidence? I think not.
Honestly speaking, my first visit there years ago just didn’t draw me in like the subsequent visits did. I don’t know if I was my jaded from having been around Africa so many times, or just an unrealistic expectation. Mind you this was before places like Dar Ahlam and the Royal Mansour existed. For example, on my first visit, hot air balloons were just getting started outside Marrakech, and on a more recent visit, paragliding had surpassed ballooning in popularity. On an earlier visit the southern part of Morocco was just opening up, and on a more recent visit, Taroudant was officially the new Marrakech. I once learned from a friend early on what it took to operate successfully in Morocco. Where others may see challenges, I see opportunity, because this country has transformed through tourism over time.
Now I do need to share a few hidden gems with you. First there is the Henna Art Café, a Lebanese café that I go to every time I’m in Marrakech. Many of you know, my mother is from Sudan, so anytime I can get Lebanese string cheese, ful or even falafel, I am all over it. Another is Espace Lastah in Taroudant, because nothing says Morocco like… tacos. Now this place is not fancy, however this gem was found when I was looking for something simple. No more couscous no more Berber bread, something much simpler, and it was purely by accident. The last, not dealing with food is not so much a gem, rather a must see and must do. About 4 years ago, a friend turned me on to this orphanage for abandoned infants, called project Radhia. The sole purpose of this orphanage is to take in abandoned babies, some as young as 2 months old, and nurse them until the age of 2, where a more long term loving home is found. While gut wrenching, it shows how a loving act like this, in a residential neighborhood in Marrakech can make such a huge impact. I visit this orphanage with every visit and any of our programs in Morocco support this orphanage. The smiles alone are worth an annual visit, especially since you can’t take cameras with you.
Well that was all on visits 1 – 22. Now comes visit 23, and there is no better way to explain Morocco then a sense of freedom, especially when you go beyond Marrakech and Fez to the more remote routes. This program, Morocco South Sahara Discovery, is a perfect example of Morocco at its finest.