Morocco Weekend Excursion!

chefchaouen

A weekend in Morocco is a truly memorable experience characterized by diversity and new sights, smells and sounds. With the food, a beautiful hotel, and transportation expenses all included in the trip price, we do our best to keep every experience as authentic as possible, with the help of our wonderful friends and guides who are native to Morocco. The weekend trip to Morocco is designed to give our customers an authentic Moroccan cultural experience. All too often, Morocco is mistaken for a place that is unwelcoming to travelers, but you will find that the opposite is true. Tourism is an important industry in Morocco, and our goal is to give you not only an experience that you will enjoy, but also to leave you feeling both comfortable and educated. On the trip we take our travelers on two day trips. First is the “blue city” of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains, and the other is to the beautiful, quiet beach city of Asilah. Along with these two cities, we also travel in and out of Morocco through the port city of Tangier. During travel time we cross the Moroccan countryside, giving everyone the opportunity to observe the beautiful landscapes and small towns we pass through. In addition, in each city, travelers get to test out their bargaining skills in the many markets and street shops, as well as enjoying a walking tour with a native guide. Perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend is the opportunity to ride camels near a beautiful sandy beach (and sneak in a few camel selfies along the way)! All in all, this trip will leave you with a new cultural outlook on Morocco and hopefully a few beautiful Moroccan souvenirs as well!

You will quickly learn that the real Morocco is much different than you may have heard or expected. Morocco is a place with a rich ancient culture, wonderful hospitality and diverse natural landscapes ranging from beautiful Atlantic beaches to the Sahara desert.  The people of Morocco value their families above all else, and as a community they take care of the elderly, the homeless, and the handicapped. This journey is an opportunity for you to observe the many faces of Morocco and we hope that you look beyond what you may have heard about Morocco to form your own ideas and opinions based on the beautiful sights and sounds you experience throughout the weekend.

The Blue City of Chefchaouen

This city, situated in the Rif mountains, is famous for its buildings which are all painted in different shades of blue. The city was founded in 1471 as a small fortress to combat the Portuguese invasions of Northern Morocco. Along with the native Moroccan people of the region, many Jews settled in the city after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times. In 1920, the Spanish seized Chefchaouen to form part of Spanish Morocco, but fortunately for the Moroccan people, Spain returned the city after the independence of Morocco in 1956. The name of the city, Chefchaouen, refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town. The mountaintops look like two horns of a goat and “Chef Chaouen” derives from the berber word for horns, “Ichawen.” In addition, although there is little indication of the exact origins of the beautiful blue colors of the city, it is actually a medieval remnant of a population long lost in the area. During the late 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition forced Muslims and Jews out of Europe. Beginning in 1471, Chefchaouen was founded essentially as a refugee camp with a prominent Jewish influence. Following in Jewish traditions, the refugees painted their buildings blue as a reminder of God’s power above. Eventually the Jewish population in the area gave way to a stronger Muslim presence, but the tradition of blue buildings still continued. Today residents of Chefchaouen still regularly paint their houses, adding a fresh coat at least 3 times a year, keeping the blue city vibrant and the lost tradition alive. The blue color also helps to keep the homes cool during the warm summer months, and in addition to repelling mosquitoes and other pests.

The Beach City of Asilah

Asilah, or Azila, as pronounced in its authenticity, is a fortified town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco and is considered the jewel of the northern coastline of Africa. Its ramparts and gate works remain fully intact from the settlement of the Portuguese in the 15th century. Its history dates back to 1500 B.C. when the Phoenicians used it as a base for trade. The Portuguese conquered the city in 1471, but later, as decided by the Portuguese King John III, decided to abandon it because of an economic crisis in 1549. In 1692, the town was inhabited by the Moroccans to serve as a base for pirates and in 1829, the Austrians punitively bombarded the city due to Moroccan piracy. After this incident, in 1912 the city was taken over as a part of Spanish Morocco. Later on, in 1978 after Morocco had gained its independence, the town went through a major restorative period. Now the city is a popular seaside city where many Moroccans and other international travelers come to escape the heat of the summer and enjoy the beach. Known as an an artist’s town due to its Annual Asilah Cultural Festival, artists compete to have their murals chosen to be displayed on the city walls for the whole year until the festival the following year. When touring the medina, you can see the many murals painted all over the walls and buildings.

The Scenic Cape Spartel

Cape Spartel is the most Northwestern point of Africa and it is also the place where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. Many military historical events took place at the Cape; during the American War of Independence on October 20, 1782 there was an inconclusive battle between British and French Spanish fleets about 18 miles of the coast, known as the battle of Cape Spartel. This battle was required to maintain British supplies to the besieged Rock of Gibraltar. Additionally, the Battle of Cape Spartel was a naval battle on September 29, 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. The battle took place in an effort to break the blockade of the Strait of Gibraltar, securing the naval supply route to Spanish Morocco for the nationalist party. Today, the cape serves as a rest stop and beautiful lookout point over the ocean where you can stop for a drink or bite to eat, as well as for some vendor shopping.

Ethnicity, Language and A Few Helpful Arabic Words

The majority of the Moroccan population is made up of indigenous people, known as Berbers, and Arabs. So much mixing has taken place over the centuries that separate identities are not always apparent. This is especially true in larger cities. The combination of Berber and Arab ethnicities combined with a history as a French protectorate and a proximity to Spain makes Morocco a truly multi-lingual country. The local language is Arabic, with both the Moroccan dialect and the traditional dialect of Islam. There are three dialects of the Berber language as well. French is the most common second language, and Spanish and English are widely spoken as well.  Consequently, it is not uncommon to find people who speak five or six languages. For practical purposes, the following Arabic words and phrases will help you get by in Morocco.

Na’am – yes   ●   La – no   ●   Waha – ok   ●   Afak – Please   ●   Yalah – Lets go

Salam – Hello    ●   Salam walaykoom – Hello (formal when addressing a group)

Shukran (bezzef) – Thank you (very much)   ●   La shukran – No, thank you

Labas? – How are you      M’a ssalama – Goodbye

Labas, hamdulah – Fine, praise God (This is the standard response to, “how are you?”)