Morocco – climatic dissonance

I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Up to that point in my life, I didn’t know such an experience existed.  Cognitive dissonance.  When we returned home, that day was the one we told everyone about.  It was ten years ago, but four children and many relocations later, I remember it like it was maybe just last month.  Or last Monday.

Maybe it was.

We woke up with fine flecks of Saharan sand dusting our faces.  Pre-dawn, deep blue filled the star-studded sky. Bundled for the desert cold, we emerged from our bedouin rug tent and sipped hot tea before our morning trek.  My husband and I were intent to watch the sunrise from elevation- not down in the valley, but from the ridge of a dune.

Traversing and sliding, bare feet sinking into the sand, the rising sun warmed our backs and illuminated the static rolling waves that extended to the visible reaches of Algeria.  When desert dwellers say they can’t live anywhere else, I understand.  I’ve seen it.  Unmerited beauty in a harsh land of hidden water.

Hours later, experienced camels and two young guides led us back to the Land Rover at the edge of the desert after a picnic breakfast by our tent.  The vehicle bumped across packed earth at high speed, eventually finding a paved road that led to the base of the Atlas mountains.  By early afternoon the desert was far behind and we were weaving through rock canyons and crossing rivers, gaining in elevation.  The rugged terrain was like Utah’s famed barren lands.

But at some point, it was green.  Forest green.  The road took us further up and further in.

At the time we were living in Germany.  This looked like the Black Forest.  Then, wait. . .  Was it snowing?  The highway led us through gray clouds that were dropping heavy flakes and limiting visibility.  My husband and I looked at each other and chuckled in disbelief.  Weren’t we just in the warm Sahara Desert this morning, and now we’re in a blizzard, only a few hours later, in beautiful mountains?

The snow subsided and we approached a university city over five thousand feet above sea level.  Ifrane.  Were those ski chalets?  Houses looked like they had been plucked from the Bavarian countryside, with steep, orange-tiled roofs.  The architecture belied its location in North Africa, though it was completely appropriate for the climate.  This was a ski town! I was not expecting this in Morocco.

As we descended the north-western slopes, the clouds lifted and vineyards began to dot the countryside.  It was not yet dinnertime and we were in wine country.  Then dense orchards emerged.  It was a rich, agricultural scene fit for California’s most famed growing regions.  Then palm trees, and we were back in a solidly Mediterranean climate.  Fes.

I have relived that day many times.  I have yet to experience a place on earth with such climatic diversity.  Until. . . [to be posted next week]

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If you’re already pondering a trip to fabulous Morocco, I can recommend a superb travel company!  I get no financial kick-backs or benefits from recommending them, but this is the kind of company that excites me and is worth sharing about.  They tailored our trip to meet our travel goals and budget.  Some days we wanted to be on our own, others we wanted a guide.  Some days we wanted public transport, others we wanted a driver so we could reach otherwise inaccessible places.  The Moroccan staff, drivers and guides were exemplary professionals with years of experience and not an ounce of pushy-ness.  If you’re pondering Morocco, start with ExperienceIt Tours.  That’s my public service announcement.  Now I’m done.

 

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