Tag Archives: morocco
February 22, 2013

Getting lost in Morocco’s medinas

Getting lost in Morocco’s medinas

Any seasoned traveller will tell you that Morocco is famous for its confusing medinas (the older area of a city) and even the most confident of visitors are likely to get lost wandering around these wonderfully perplexing places.

Tangier Medina, Morocco

Have no fear though, losing your way is all part of the fun on a trip to Morocco and with a number of ways to get yourself back on track again, why not embrace the unknown and take the opportunity to really immerse yourself in North African life?

Here are some top tips from Audley Travel for finding your way if you get lost in one of Morocco’s medinas:

1.  In each city, make sure you know how to get back to your hotel from a main tourist site, then ask for directions to this area if you get lost. In Marrakesh, for example, ask for directions back to the Djemaa El Fna.

2.  Take a photo of easily identifiable landmarks near to your hotel and use these as a guide if you get lost. Taller buildings that can be clearly spotted throughout the city are best.

Carpets in medina - Morocco

3.  Keep your hotel address handy when out and about. As Arabic is the official language of Morocco, ask your hotel to write the address in Arabic for you before you leave. It is also worth writing it down in French as this too is widely spoken.

4.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are always plenty of friendly people around. But perhaps ask a stall owner – someone behind a counter is less likely to accompany you on your onward journey!

Fez Medina, Morocco

5.  Don’t panic!  The sprawling alleyways and seemingly endless twists and turns of Morocco’s medinas can seem a bit intimidating and overwhelming if you do find yourself lost, but never fear, we haven’t heard of anyone not making it back to their hotel yet!

Moroccan medina house

If you use these tips, you will get back on track eventually and, in the meantime, enjoy your surroundings –  it’s all part of a trip to Morocco!

Audley logoThis post is brought to you by Audley Travel, an award–winning tour operator specialising in tailor-made trips and small group tours for the discerning traveller, to over 80 countries around the world.

June 13, 2011

“The world is a dangerous place … or is it?”

“The world is a dangerous place … or is it?”

“The world is a dangerous place.”  We hear this most frequently from those who don’t travel for fear of what lies beyond the comfort and familiarity of home. But isn’t it those moments when we take a risk, especially in trusting a stranger, that open our eyes to a destination and provide us with our greatest experiences?  Here’s an example to illustrate this from a Middle East trip a couple of years ago…

Window view

We were driving a hire car along a remote desert road in eastern Syria and saw two men, faces covered, flagging us down. I quickly worked out that their motorbike had broken down and they needed a ride. I had a quick choice to make. Do I pick up a mysterious stranger in this desolate place and accept the risks that go with it or do I drive on, knowing that we hadn’t passed a car for over an hour on this dust-covered road?

I pulled over, he jumped in without a word and sat behind my wife in silence as we continued through the barren landscape. Eventually as we entered a small village he tapped me on the shoulder and I stopped to let him out. He smiled and with a cheery ‘Shukran!’ he was off in the direction of a group of men by a general store.

The story should end there, but by that point I’d realised that we had absolutely no idea where we were. I followed the man into the shop and was greeted by his three friends. No-one spoke English but with my Lonely Planet sketch map and a little pointing we eventually worked out that we were around 200km off our intended course! There were 3 hours till sunset and still 350km to travel.

Desert ruins

The owner of the shop gave me detailed directions (a series of place names I should head for) and I stocked up with supplies (there was now no time for lunch). Lots of smiles, hand shakes and we were off for a mad chase across the desert to reach Palmyra by nightfall.

Palmyra ruins

The situation required an element of blind trust. If we had followed the many ‘stay safe’ tips that insurers, government advisers and many websites provide we would have acted differently and not picked up this stranger.

But maybe if we take a step back, helping strangers on our travels is perhaps an essential part of what we should be doing. After all, if we look at ourselves travelling through another land, aren’t we the strangers often looking for help from others? Don’t we expect others to place that blind trust in us, in order to give us directions, help or unexpected hospitality?

Camel & ruins

We will all meet scammers from time to time, and the ability to detect them is not an exact science. We will inevitably dismiss some honest folk with the mark of trickery while succumbing to an occasional trickster. But to close our eyes to each and every person’s requests for help for fear of deception misses the very essence of what our travels should be about; and can deprive us of some of the most meaningful rewards to go with those new passport stamps.


Andy JaroszAndy Jarosz is a lifelong traveller and freelance writer. He writes on his own 501 Places website and also for adventure travel company Tourdust, who specialise in desert adventures and trekking in Morocco. You can follow Andy on Twitter.

 

May 22, 2011

Weird places to travel around the world …

Weird places to travel around the world …

If you’re looking for a holiday with bragging rights, HostelBookers FIVE weirdest places to travel should give you some ideas. From an island full of cats to wandering the haunted streets of Singapore these destinations will give you a holiday to remember and the unique photos to prove it. Singapore Singapore is said to be Asia’s most haunted country. Visitors to the popular Changi Beach have reported sightings of headless bodies lying on the beach, heads floating in the air and ghostly executions complete with blood stains. They’re believed to be the ghosts of executed Chinese people during the Japanese occupation.

Changi Beach Singapore

Singapore’s St John Island has many deserted buildings, causing tales of the supernatural. Island dwellers have heard unidentified shouts, thumping and the sound of running, others have seen a white figure roaming around the forests. If you’re planning on checking out the ghostly sightings for yourself you’ll need a Singapore hostel to run away screaming to.

While you’re there check out the uninhabited white houses dotted around the city, also believed to be haunted. Well-known as places of adventure and horror with tragic pasts, some have been denounced as evil and so demolished. And don’t even go near the old hospitals and cemeteries…

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen

Photo by Brian Tomlinson

Blue houses, blue-tinted streets and blue people, well almost. Founded by Moorish exiles Chefchaouen in Morocco is certainly a weird but wonderful place to spend a holiday. Founded as a small fortress in 1471 the small mountain town became one of the largest refuge sites for Moriscos and Jews and they left their blue mark on the town. The inspiration came from the Bible commandment to dye the threads in their tallit (prayer shawl) blue, with tekhelel. So when they look at this blue they’ll think of the blue sky and God above.  The Jewish population in Chefchoauen is no longer what it was, but the city still follows the old tradition and keeps their blue-rinsed homes up to scratch.

Siauliai, Lithuania

The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania has become an international pilgrimage sight for both Christians and anyone looking for a unique destination. The hill is covered with over 100,000 crosses of different sizes. The idea dates back to the 14th century when people placed crosses to symbolise the fight for independence. The sentiment behind the crosses has evolved through the years and the mount has gained in popularity.

Hill of Crosses Lithuania

During World War II the site suffered significant damage with attempts to level the hill and the repeated removal and burning of the crosses. But the determined Lithuanians took the hill as a symbol of nationalism and after each desecration pilgrims returned with more crosses, even risking their lives to pass armed guards.

Galleta Meadows, San Diego, US

Set in the depths of the Anza Borrego Desert, Galleta Meadows is a unique sculpture park owned by multimillionaire Dennis Avery. His personal exhibition is filled with replicas of the creatures that inhabited the area millions of years ago. Of course, you must prove yourself in getting there, the unforgivable heat of the desert means only the keenest will make the journey.

Galleta San Diego

He created the park to entice tourists to his resort, country club and golf course located deep in the desert. Galleta Meadows is now home to 4-metre-high metal sculptures of all kinds of animals from mammoths to sabre-toothed tiger to wild horses and dinosaurs. Mexican artist Ricardo Arroyo Breceda sculpted the creatures from scrap metal and wire welded into shape with hammers and sledgehammers.

Tashirojima, Japan

Better-known as ‘Cat Island’ Tashirojima, just off the coast of Japan, is the holy mecca for all cats. The native humans believe their moggys bring them luck and protection from harm – proven, so they believe, by the island rising unharmed from the Japanese tsunami.

Cat building Japan

The cats were originally brought in years ago to put an end to the rodent population which was damaging their silk worm export. Local affection grew for the cats and the people of the island started studying their behaviour and based their weather predictions and fish patterns on it. Now Tashirojima has more cats than humans and there’s even a cat shrine and a cat-shaped building. Meoow…

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