"That’s what the brother said on our three hour drive to hike the Ouzud Falls in Morocco. At that point, we had been in Morocco for a few days. But, it never dawned on me that I, me, was at home. He’s right!" - Sarai Butler
The continent of Africa is and will always be MY home. I suddenly felt a newly discovered sense of pride. I’ll never forget that moment.
At the Ouzud Falls, you start at the top, you hike your way down to the bottom, you cross a small river and then you walk up almost 1,000 steps to return to your starting place. I thought that was cool. Probably because I’m not a hiker. It went against my idea of climbing up a mountain to jump up and down with excitement at the top. I watch too many movies. Anyway, at the top of the waterfall, there is an ever present rainbow. It’s so beautiful and welcoming.
That March day, it was perfect weather. Not too hot and no rain. Side note: I was told that women are supposed to be cover their bodies in the country and not wear luxury brands or sneakers. I should have done my own research. That wasn’t all the way true. Hence, I hiked the waterfall in some slip on sneakers with no laces that I have not worn again since that day. Not the best choice of footwear. The tour guide we had was great. He pointed out all different types of plants along the hike. We passed an area with a bunch of monkeys. I’m not an animal lover so I wasn’t moved to buy any snacks to feed them. They weren’t jumping all over people, like they do in some other countries. They were respectful and just allowed you to pass through and continue on your way.
Almost like they were our spectators. We passed a campsite where people pay to live out on the wilderness. It was very minimalistic. I can see people becoming one with nature at the waterfall. Not me though. I'm not a nature kind of girl. At the bottom of the hike, there was a Jamaican Restaurant. Although, we didn’t eat there, we did make a pit stop for fresh pressed orange juice. The glass was $10. I gladly paid because first, I was thirsty. And second, because I have a good idea of how many oranges it takes to make a whole glass of juice. Here is your $10. Please and thank you. It was the coldest most delicious glass of orange juice I've ever had.
So remember, this is a waterfall and not a mountain. So you have to reach a destination where the water actually falls. We had to cross the waterfall. The apparatus to cross the waterfall looked like wood logs held together by glue and kitchen table chairs nailed into the wood logs. No seatbelts. And frankly, just no protection. If you didn’t know how to swim, you may be up sh*ts creek literally. Speaking of sh*ts creek, the water was particularly brown that day. We asked what happened to the beautiful blue waterfall we had drooled over in the pictures.
It had rained for three days before we got there. So all the dirt from the top of the waterfall had mixed with the water and turned it brown. Crossing the waterfall was actually a fun and scary experience on this log/chair flotation device. It was a system that had of transporting people from one side to the other. It was a great system though because we saw the flotation devices crashing into each other a few times. But, we made it to the other side unscathed. We start our ascension up the stairs to get back to our starting place. We come across a Moroccan restaurant nestled into the side of the waterfall. We were hungry. Why not?
I was so scared of eating lamb because I had never had it before. My previous thoughts were of a little precious lamb that I would be devouring. But, on this day and the way my appetite was set up, I said forget it. That little lamb may have to get in my belly today. I ordered the lamb tangine. At first, I thought tangine was a sauce. Nope. Tangine is a clay pot used for cooking. That lamb was amazing. I would have never imagined that it would have tasted like it did. So tender and flavorful. I don’t know if it was the actual tangine or the spices, but it came together so well. In fact, it has been on my list of meats that I will eat since I came back from Morocco.
During the trip, I had a hammam at my hotel spa, Raddison Blu Marrakech. It’s basically a fully body scrub to exfoliate your skin. Sounds relaxing to me. It wasn’t. I laid flat on a hot slab of tiles in this tiny room with barely any light. There was a lady in the room ready to get to scrubbing. She had enough space to move around the slab but that’s about it.
That room was extremely steamy and hot. I had no issue with the scrubbing. It was nothing sexual about it although she scrubbed every crack and crevice. It was when she threw the bucket of hot water on me, including my face while laying flat, and I thought I was drowning that things got questionable. I sprung up into a seated position and was gasping for air through my mouth. She thought it was funny. She let out a chuckle. I thought it was cruel. Difference of opinion, I guess.
Going to Djemaa El Fna was an interesting shopping experience. To get to the shopping, you had to walk past 100 horse and carriages ready to take you on a ride through the area. We saw people with monkeys on their shoulders, snake charmers and various other street shows. We saw tourist being hustled out of money by children claiming they were hungry. It was so much going on. And I just wanted to buy a couple of spices, some Argon oil and a few trinkets. We went into this one shop.
The Souk tried to sell us everything such as silver handmade vases and area rugs that turn colors depending on the position of the sun. I guess he didn’t care that I only had my luggage and I wasn’t a fan of vases or rugs. We finally get to the spices. Heaven. There were so many spices. Of course, spices I had never heard of before. But, I fell in love with the 35 spice Moroccan blend.
Omg. It smelled like it could make anything taste good. So I requested a lot of that particular spice blend. And then he demonstrated how argon oil was made. I requested quite a few bottles of that. We get to the register and he says it’s 3,500 dirham. That’s almost $1000 US dollars! Not for some spices and oil. He thought I would just hand over the money. Nope. Bargaining is a national sport there. I talked him down to 1,500 dirham. I still paid too much for the products but I factored in the experience. I saw that as a win.
Some honorable mentions were riding camels and going to eat dinner at a couple places called, Al Fassia and Lotus Privilege. The camels were ornery and not thrilled about giving us rides. I would skip that next time. Al Fassia is an all Women-owned Moroccan restaurant. And Lotus Privilege was just so beautiful and complete with a belly dancer. This trip was my first time to Africa. I could write a book about what I experienced and felt while there. I have other African countries on my list of places to visit. But, Morocco was definitely a perfect gateway into my “home”.