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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Morocco

My experience of Morocco took place at the age of 13. Although this was a few years ago I can still recall clearly my journey of (what seemed at the time) epic proportions. I travelled from the surprisingly fertile and green north of the country surrounding Marrakesh to the dry and desolate Saharan south.

North of the Atlas Mountain

Northern Morocco wasn't what I expected. It felt like a mix between Mediterranean Europe, with lots of green fruit farms, and the Arab world, with mosques and sandy coloured buildings. What i saw of the north was all through a minibus window, but we came across countless rivers, winding through fertile valleys and flood plains, giving life to huge fields of crops and long narrow valley forests. As we ascended I was caught off guard by the presence of snow, not realising that the Atlas mountains were as high as they were.

Above: North Morocco
Below: South Morocco
Source: Me

 South of the Atlas Mountains


Pretty much everything below the Atlas mountains is as i imagined all of Morrocco to be like, dry, dusty and rugged. Despite the inhospitable nature of the landscape, it was truly breath taking. Huge dry rock valleys intertwine where previously river may have ran. The occasional fertile oasis.  Caves inhabited by the nomadic tribes dotted across the land. It was a truly ancient place, and as we trekked through it felt as if we had travelled back to a time before civilisation, thousands of years ago.

The Sahara

The Sahara suddenly appears out of nowhere, with no warning, and stretches on forever. As well as being probably the place within which it is most easy to lose your direction, it is also the most fun. Spectacular sights can be found at the top of any large sand dune, and spectacular fun can be found rolling down them. The Sahara desert does leave you feeling quite small and insignificant, but also leaves you impressed at its beauty. It is a true must see of this planet.





Some of the journey was undertaken on camels
Source: Me
                                                    Maybe slightly clich├ęd. Source: Me

Marrakesh


The Souks of Marrakesh present themselves as an intricate network of covered passages, lined with everything you could imagine, from multi-coloured cloths to jars of brightly coloured spice stacked high. The mystical setting of the market, with light drifting through the makeshift roof adds to the sensory overload of the smells and sights that the souks have to offer. Allowing yourself to get lost via tiny passages and bustling squares allows you to find you're own favourite spot, but don't be disappointed if you can never find it again.


The Souks. Source: The internet


Langkawi and Penang, Ying and Yang, Malaysia

The neighbouring islands of Penang and Langkawi couldn't be more different, like Yin and Yang. Both are Malaysian islands, located in the Strait of Malacca, and are just a 15 minute plane journey from each other. Langkawi is what many people would picture as paradise: long white sandy beaches, seemingly abandoned by humans and inundated with palm trees. The waters are calm and the skies clear. Most of the island is covered in untouched rainforest and the people are genuinely friendly and happy, a rare phenomenon that I have encountered in very few places. It almost seems too good to be true and luckily it isn't, at least for now. Unfortunately this Yin island does contain some Yang: along the main roads (of which there are few) and by the main roundabout (of which there is only one on the island) i was disappointed to find billboards advertising new hotels and apartments being built in the near future. I can only hope that commercialism and property tycoons don't destroy this true island paradise.

Langkawi. For more pictures see bottom of page

The nearby island of Penang is a completely different story. In my eyes it represents a worst case scenario for the future of Langkawi. It is a heavily urbanised, overpopulated and polluted island which comes from a similar background as that of present day Langkawi, as a friend of mine informed me. This once tropical paradise was exploited to the point of no return. Grey tower blocks dominate the skyline and litter is the not so pleasant focal point of the beaches. However, like Yang, Penang may hold some good. It will hopefully act as a good example of what can happen when tourism gets out of control, acting to dissuade the government from allowing over development on Langkawi. I hope that at the time of writing this, several years after my visit to Malaysia, Langkawi remains the tropical paradise that i remember, and i hope to revisit sometime soon.
Penang

 Rising through the clouds on Langkawi
 A view of Thailand from Langkawi
 A sunset on Langkawi
 Just offshore from one of Langkawi's neighbouring islands
Rainforest