I was somewhat skeptical of Morocco, even as others raved. One of my best friends honeymooned here and fell in love with bustling Marrakech, Essaouira’s boho beach vibes, and the scenic sights of the High Atlas Mountains. The country topped my girlfriend’s travel wishlist and still, I resisted, favoring trips to France, Japan, or Peru. Then I came to Morocco for a wedding.
Like me, my cousin Todd grew up in a Jewish family in Montreal. Unlike me, he’s now a practicing Sufi, lives in Fez, and most often goes by Husayn -- and now he was set to marry a Moroccan woman. We grew up spending every winter break together in our grandparents’ house in North Miami Beach. I inherited both his clothes and his love of tennis. I wanted to be at the wedding. My girlfriend considered it a win.
I can be stubborn, but sometimes everyone else is right: Morocco is beautiful. All those vibrant tile mosaics adorning centuries-old mosques, renovated riads, and public fountains are as advertised. Ditto the desert oasis palm groves that produce the most tender and delicious dates. The snow-capped mountains, the craggy canyons, and especially the surreal red sands of the Sahara are true wonders of nature. And even if you’re not invited to a wedding, Fez is worth visiting for historical and religious sites, exemplary traditional cooking (from spicy flatbread to rich and complex lamb tajine in restaurants), classic pottery, and fine leather goods straight from the tannery.
The wedding itself started slow; we waited over an hour past the designated start time for the bride’s arrival. But when she came, she made quite the entrance, hoisted on the shoulders of four men atop a gilded platform, wearing a matching embroidered gold dress. After she was paraded around the room, we hungrily feasted on crispy seafood bastilla and smoky, spit-roasted lamb méchoui, digesting as the bride changed into another bright green dress and had henna applied on a sofa set center-stage.
My concerns about the trip began to fade -- Morocco had my attention. I began to look forward to exploring more of Fez and to our tour through the middle of the country with Sahara Desert Crew -- one of many companies that offer similar services -- with stops in the desert, the gorges, and the mountains that local wedding guests kept suggesting we visit. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Marrakech was as animated as advertised.
But just as my skeptical side began to reassert itself, the bride changed once again. This time, both bride and groom had their own platforms, but her outfit was the true star. Wearing a traditional -- and enormous -- gold and beige Fassi headdress, she sat with her legs tucked under cover of gold fabric tucked into her temporary throne. And as she spun around the room looking part princess, part pyramid, dancing in mid-air with my cousin as they both sat on their platforms, I knew Morocco would continue to surprise and delight.