Rock the Casbah!

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After a glorious tour to Copenhagen and a week spent traveling in Morocco with a good friend, I feel refreshed and ready to be back at work.  In case you haven’t heard, Copenhagen went off splendidly. We were warmly welcomed by the presenter and the American ambassador, the audiences were very appreciative, and of course, now we can all check “performing in a theme park” off the old bucket list. 

I have to admit that I had no idea Tivoli Gardens was an amusement park.  I was envisioning a historic old theater set in the midst of landscaped gardens; a European version of Stern Grove, if you will.  So, I thought I must be dreaming as I walked under a roller coaster to arrive at the stage door, and went up to my dressing room to see an octopus ride revolving right outside the window.  There was pressure building before the tour as we wanted to make a good impression and the company had not been to Copenhagen in over ten years, but once we were there in such a fun environment, any tension seemed to melt away and we were truly there to entertain our audience.

 After eight days of rehearsing and performing I was ready for a vacation, though the pre-show complementary roller coaster rides did seem to help the fatigue (another kindness bestowed upon us by the great Danes).  Most of the dancers took advantage of being near Europe and took off to visit friends, family, and fellow dancers.  I hatched a plan with my friend Amy to go somewhere off the beaten path.  So, she flew in from San Francisco and I from Copenhagen and we met in Marrakesh, Morocco. 

Our adventurous spirit paid off with a great cultural adventure.  I dusted off my high school French, and faced my fear of snakes, while Amy’s sense of direction was finely honed as we got lost in the winding streets of Morocco’s medinas.  We rented a car and drove into the mountains, and then proceeded to drive along the Atlantic Coast, seeing awe-inspiring scenery.  We stayed in mountain casbahs, riads (a traditional courtyard mansion, a Moroccan version of a bed and breakfast), and a modernized villa. 

The food was marvelous and the mint tea unbeatable.  Our mornings would start with fresh squeezed orange juice, and a sampling of French pastries and dates.  We would set off sight-seeing in the morning but quickly learned to nap during the hottest part of the afternoon and go back out in the evening.  We were there during the holy month of Ramadan, from sun up to sun down the people would fast.  I was amazed at their ability to carry on working without food or water during the heat.  However, when the sun set, a party would begin.  After breaking fast, families would be out strolling in the streets.  Food vendors, entertainers, and merchants would be out selling their goods and all would be eating as much as they could until sunrise.  Ahmed, the manager of our riad in Marrakesh, told us his strategy was to stay up all night so he could sleep for a good portion of the day to forget about his hunger. 

On our last night in Morocco, we were staying in a smaller town on the Atlantic Coast, El Jadida, and we realized we had done everything on our “to do” list except for riding a camel.  After eating dinner, we walked down to check out the beach when fate stepped in.  We looked down from the boardwalk to see a man with three camels, ponies, and a booth for taking pictures set-up on the beach. This was omen: we had to ride a camel.  The funny thing is camels look so docile, but their long curly lashes and regal way of sitting are deceiving.  When the man placed the ladder next to the “sweet” camel for me to climb on, it started braying and showing its massive teeth.  The man smiled and told me to climb on while the camel’s hissy fit reminding me of a dinosaur from Jurassic Park.  But I did it! I climbed on and was soon riding the camel down the beach, laughing the whole time while Amy ran alongside taking pictures. 

Boys were playing soccer all around us on the beach and the older folks sat at cafes watching us, amused by the two American girls who thought camels were such a novelty.  All the Moroccan children only wanted to ride the ponies and horses; they’d seen enough camels in their lifetime.  Anyhow, we had a grand time. Morocco is definitely a feast for the senses and would highly recommend it to anyone–especially the camel rides!

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