Welcome to North Morocco
When you’re traveling through north Morocco, undoubtedly, you will see colorful Moroccan reed hats dotting the landscape. These are the “sheshia” (also: chichia) hats traditionally worn by the men, women and children of the north.
They are the Moroccan reeds hats of the people that inhabit the mountainous regions, known in Moroccan as Jbala. This stems from the Arabic word, Jbel, meaning mountain. So… Jbala means mountain people. The Jbala inhabit the areas around Rif Mountains as you head southward from the Mediterranean, around Tangier, before meeting the Middle Atlas Mountains a bit north of Fez. It is in this region you will see the traditional sheshias coloring the countryside and the local souks, covering the heads of jbeli (mountain men) and jbeliya (mountain women) as they have for centuries.
The Sahara Desert
Mesmerizing sand dunes, fuzzy camels, starry skies, and incredible Berber hospitality. Visiting the Sahara Desert in Morocco was one of my all-time favorite travel experiences. And I almost left without doing it!
I worried about cost and time. Maloney had to convince me to squeeze the three-day excursion from Marrakech to Merzouga into our round-the-world itinerary. (Note: This almost makes up for her tossing around in the bottom bunk of every single hostel we stayed in. The struggle, guys.) To save you the hassle of bringing along a Maloney to convince you to do fun things, I’m just going to tell you right now: Absolutely, under no circumstances leave the country without visiting the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Yes, Erg Chebbi‘s singular scenery is the jaw-dropping sort that Instagram eats up. But a Sahara trip is much more than the ultimate photo op. We got a crash course in the culture of the Berber people — indigenous desert dwellers, herders and nomads who the pre-date Arab colonization of North Africa. Fun fact: (The name they call themselves is “Amazigh,” and they definitely live up to the title.
There was so much to see, we could have easily added a fourth day. I’ll tell you how we did it at the bottom, but first! here are some highlights: