• Essaouira, the pearl of Morocco

    In the 60s Essaouira was the destination of the hippies , thanks to Jimmy Hendrix who is said to have composed “Castle made of sand” thinking in this city; Orson Welles shot us “Othello”. Today Essaouira is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco.

    This small town, with a population of just over 70,000, attracts many tourists every year: from penniless surfers to golfers in extra-luxury resorts .

    But what makes this city so magnetic?

    First of all, it is incredibly beautiful: the first time you set foot in Essaouira you will be fascinated. Certainly I’m biased, because I have maintained an emotional bond with this city, but this pearl deserves a stop on a tour of Morocco.

    But what is really unmissable? To visit Eassaouira it is necessary to consider stopping at least two days; if you want to surf then the stay is prolonged. Many travelers often stop for a long time in Essaouira to savor the tranquility and leave the chaotic Marrakech behind. There are no shortage of places to relax, but pay attention to the existent months: even the Moroccans know the beauty of the beaches and take them by storm!

    Here is the best of Essaouira:

    1- the Medina is rather small but really beautiful: you can find local craft shops , small restaurants with typical cuisine, luxurious boutiques and corners of natural cosmetics.

    The wood craftsmanship is typical of the area, so you will find many stores of objects derived from it. Also the argan is typical of this area: there are in fact numerous cooperatives of women who work this miraculous plant. In this regard, I would like to mention that the argan grows only in the region south of Essaouira so here you find the original oil coveted in Europe (at more than fair prices, which can also go to women’s cooperatives).


  • Sudan on the road

    It took around 7 hours of waiting and flying, but finally the dry African heat of the 18 managed to make itself heard. 
    Indistinguishable voices, different perfumes, bright colors, “scarab” signs, piped prayers from loudspeakers precariously fixed to the walls, businessmen in elegant suits and veiled women with hands adorned with black and necks embellished with showy yellow gold, very calm children (the same ones who cried for hours during the flight). This was my first impact with Khartoum , Sudan .

    It will seem egocentric but as soon as I arrived I felt many eyes focused on me. Then, looking back, it was not so unusual. Diversity attracts much more than everyday life, we know, and skin, hair and clothes so different are highlighted; behind all those looks, however, there was only a great curiosity. They certainly thought what I was doing there since Sudan tourism is not so widespread .

    Along the road that ran to the house that we would use as a base I enjoyed noticing the many battered cars that overtook to the right, their red lights and the green lights of the traffic lights. The rest was dust and had a scent all its own …

    The light of the next morning was too strong and to be able to see the 4 × 4 parked just outside the gate you had to squint. Experienced hands had already loaded it meticulously, given the experience of desert adventures in the past: on the luggage racks, sleeping bags, camping table and chairs, while the back had turned into a restaurant. 
    Our goal was precise but at the same we had not given the limits to be respected. We only knew that we would head north and that we would be in the desert, in the Nubia region, in the pyramids, in the remote villages (which are those where life, as we understand it, is impossible).

    Khartoum was not as I expected it . Probably my expectations corresponded to those of anyone else thinking of Sudan: city, to call them with a euphemism, small and messy. Instead, the first surprises: apart from the size and population of 5 million people, the road that accompanied us to the gates of the city was wide and after all clean. Poverty, however, you could see, this is obvious .. Always from the window I looked out and I took care not to put too much emphasis on my camera, especially near the police.

    For many kilometers, mini-markets have been the master along with many small shops (with their faded signs, their goods mainly based on fresh fruit and dates, exposed with precarious balance, and a few drinks). 
    There was no precise boundary, one could not say where the city ended and nothing started . It was only noticed that the number of machines decreased and that of the goats increased. Then, all of a sudden, only the dunes .


  • Casablanca, big city life

    Casablanca, unlike other cities, will never be love at first sight. Falling in love at first sight of this city is really impossible. I have never heard anyone sustain the overwhelming beauty of this city, I for one. But I can also say that maybe I would not live in any other city in Morocco , because it is so, you love it or hate it , but in any case, it deserves a visit or at least a reading.

    This metropolis has a high number of inhabitants (sometimes read 3 million, sometimes 7, sometimes 12), boasting the primacy of the first city of Morocco. It is the financial and economic capital , and this attracts an ever-increasing number of people, attracted by the possibility of finding work, which are going to fill the suburban neighborhoods of the city that is actually expanding inward. Yes, because there is also to add that Casablanca is the most expensive city in the country , rents are very high, and living near the center is a privilege of few (and Europeans).
    It is a metropolis with long tentacles where you can feel like in many European capitals, shops and cafes are the same, restaurants and bars full of businessmen in aperitif hours, discos for all tastes, and very little tradition and religion . The girls with the veil in Casablanca are few, and it will be easy to find women at the bar that show off clothes worthy of via Montenapoleone.Yet here we find the Hassan II Mosque , the largest mosque in Morocco and among the largest in the Arab world (the first two in the ranking are in Saudi Arabia). An imposing construction, built following the most modern architectural techniques and the sacred scriptures of the Koran. New and ancient to blend in a place that holds up to 25,000 faithful in prayer inside and 80,000 outside. Among other things, we can take a bit of merit because the glass comes from Venice and the marbles from Carrara .

    The Hassan II mosque was built for the will of King Hassan II (father of the current king), and two-thirds of his structure is on the water ; we find here two aspects of religion: in fact in the Qur’an it is said that God’s throne is built on water and whoever in life has built a place for God, will have a better place in paradise.Although not the most tourist attraction of Casablanca, it is worth visiting too because it is the only mosque in which non-Muslims can enter; in fact, in Morocco entry into any mosque is forbidden to anyone who is not a Muslim. The fact remains that to enter the mosque there are precise times, can not be visited during prayer hours, and during Ramadan the hours are even more limited. And obviously there are limits in clothing, being forbidden to enter with skimpy clothes (even if common sense would be sufficient without the need for rules.)

    Once you visit the mosque, you can go to the second most visited place in the city, the Habous district : it certainly recalls the ancient medes of Fes or Marrakech , but was conceived by a French architect in 1917. Unfortunately the maladministration has meant that this neighborhood is rather decayed, without prejudice to the possibility of finding Moroccan crafts and small pastries with typical products , which is rather difficult in the rest of the city.


  • The Okavango, the delta that flows into the desert

    In the heart of the arid lands of Botswana it is an enchanted place, a place characterized by calm waters, reeds and landscapes spotted with bright green: This is the Okavango Delta,which is the largest inland river delta in the world .

    The Okavango River, the third largest river in Africa, travels over 1000 km without ever finding the way of the sea and therefore its waters end their journey here, absorbed by the saltworks located in the central part of Botswana. This river, which disperses its waters on the border with the desert lands of the Kalahari, creates a landscape of rare beauty and a perfect environment for the sustenance of a myriad of animals .

    The delta contracts and expands according to the seasonal rhythm of the rains . Starting in March, the abundant rains that fall in Angola, start to swell the river. During the following months the rains gradually moved westwards, following the course of the river. Between June and July the delta reaches the greatest water flow so as to get to earn up to 3 km a day . In August the flow of the river decreases and the labyrinthine canals start to back away. The major dry period is from November to March.

    The truck of our group of Adventures In the World leaves us in Maun, in front of a small airport where we get on board a Cessna plane . The small size of the aircraft makes it much more sensitive to air currents and the young rider’s acrobatics driving us in this sensational panoramic flight do not help the weak of the stomach. Despite this the eyes, or the part of the body that, in this situation, can claim the right to say the last word, thank you for being here.

    In fact, from above, the complex grid of canals, lagoons and islands and the colors of the earth mixed with the green of the vegetation and the iridescent blue of the water, give the vision of a lunar landscape . Small dark dots move slowly on these strips of land emerged, and only when the aircraft is lowered I can decode them: they are large herds of elephants, buffaloes and zebras .

    It is as if it were a large mosaic that only observed closely reveals the pieces that compose it. A mosaic created by animals, lagoons, islands, canals, forests and forests of aquatic plants .

    The flight lasts more than half an hour and allows you to enjoy views very different from each other since this type of landscape changes its appearance depending on the amount of water present in each area.

    As wonderful as this Delta seen from above, in my opinion, you can not go away from here without having experienced the unique experience of navigating its waters with the typical mokoro , a traditional boat made from an ebony trunk .

    In fact, the mokoro in ebony are increasingly rare because they are replaced by the more “eco friendly” glass fiber mokoro, but I admit they do not have the same charm. Whether they are made of ebony or fiberglass, what does not change is the first impression of instability that they transmit, certainly due to the very low, narrow and elongated shape. But unlike what you can think of, mokoro are perfect boats for sliding quickly over the shallow waters of the Delta .

    There are two seats, while at the stern a boatman pushes the boat with a ngashi , that is, more simply, a long wooden perch that sinks on the soft backdrop acts as a lever.

    There are things that this excursion is right to expect, others not.

    For example, you do not expect huge packs of animals on the banks. To spot elephants, zebras and lions it is advisable to get off the mokoro and take a guided tour by land.

    But if you expect that peace and serenity that only the silence is broken by genuine, genuine sounds, such as the light rubbing of the boat on the water and the rustling that it creates making its way through the reeds, then you are in the right place.

    Just as you are in the right place if you can not resist the magnetism of calm and transparent water because, following carefully the instructions of the boatmen who can indicate suitable areas, you can immerse yourself in the cool waters in a unique environment in the world .