Larry Grossman 7 at 70: Culture, Cuisine, and Camel Rides in MoroccoNovember 16, 2021 • By THIRDHOME
THIRDHOME member Larry Grossman turns 70 this year.
In celebration of this milestone, he’s hitting all 7 continents with the help of THIRDHOME.
World Traveler, Philanthropist, Friend, & THIRDHOME Member
As Larry travels the globe with THIRDHOME, he’ll be blogging about his experiences as he navigates the post-pandemic world. His planning began in 2019 with THIRDHOME Director of Adventures, Liz Bates, who has assisted him in pivoting to satisfy his travel cravings when COVID-19 restrictions have not allowed him to visit a destination. Keep reading to learn more about Larry’s most recent travel experiences.
Next Stop: Morocco
I didn’t like the camel and the camel didn’t like me! It was a rout, a blowout, a first-round knockout. If there was a scoreboard, it would have read “Camel 70 – Larry 0.” So, after five agonizing minutes aboard this gargantuan dromedary, I accepted the fact that I was a “desert weenie,” and came back down to the Sahara dunes and did two things I felt comfortable doing: walking in the Sahara and taking pictures. Gone forever was my fantasy of reprising the role of Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, and winning the Best Actor Oscar wrongly denied to Peter O’Toole in 1963.
My Morocco adventure started more than two years ago when my “travel muse” and THIRDHOME Director of Adventures, Liz Bates, called me and said, “Don’t miss our Colors of Morocco tour! I’ve been there and the country is spectacular.” I had to confess that I knew little about Morocco beyond the fact that Casablanca, to this day, remains one of my favorite classic movies. I also knew a that an endorsement from Liz had proven to be the closest thing to a guaranteed great travel experience. She got me to the Peruvian Amazon and to the Galapagos, so why not Morocco? Finally, I remembered just enough geography to know that Morocco was in northern Africa, and would therefore move me forward in my 7 at 70 Adventure to visit all 7 continents in the next 18 months. Thus, with the words from “Marrakech Express” (Crosby, Stills, and Nash) and “Midnight at the Oasis” (Maria Muldaur) dancing in my head, my daughter Morgan and I proceeded to meet 10 fellow travelers in Rabat, Morocco to begin our journey.
I’ve learned that a successful tour is dependent on a charismatic leader, and we were lucky enough to have resident Moroccan Berber villager, Abdou Imelouane, guiding us for the 14-day adventure. Abdou was knowledgeable about all things Morocco (culture, food, history, religion, and art) and he patiently answered every question we threw at him, often with a wry sense of humor.
Some of the many interesting factoids about Morocco we learned from Abdou on our adventure:
- Although tourists can visit “Rick’s Café” in Casablanca and listen to live piano music, the movie Casablanca was filmed in its entirety on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California.
- There are massive underground reserves of water under the Sahara Desert, making water easily available to residents. Long hot shower, no problem!
- Morocco has been the site of 37 feature length films including Gladiator, The Mummy, Lawrence of Arabia, Sahara, Hidalgo, Sex and the City 2, and Kingdom of Heaven.
- In 1777, Morocco became the first country to formally recognize the United States as an independent nation.
- The national drink of Morocco is a special green tea drink called atai, a mixture of green tea, mint, and sugar. Guests are offered tea at every meal and it is considered rude to refuse the tea.
- Morocco is the third largest exporter of olives (behind Spain and Tunisia) in the world.
- The Moroccan military has gone deep into the desert to vaccinate the nomad population against COVID-19.
Our tour included visits to Roman ruins, Kasbahs, Royal Palaces, Unesco World Heritage sites, the Sahara Desert, as well as ancient Medinas (walled historic city sections) and Riads (large traditional houses with open areas/gardens in the center) in both Marrakech and Fes. We enjoyed meals in restaurants and villas across the country, and sampled typical Moroccan cuisine including lamb tangine, chicken pastilla, vegetarian couscous, and olives of every shape and color. Our accommodations ranged from funky and colorful Riad residences to luxury hotels. Our group bonded during long rides through the Atlas Mountains with breathtaking scenery and hair-raising curved roads. We witnessed nomads moving across the desert with mules and donkeys while establishing temporary homes held together with wood, blankets, and rugs.
Highlights? There were so many:
Sunrise, sunset, and starry nights over the Sahara were mystical and unforgettable.
Our “back-of-the-bus” discussions during long rides solved no pressing problems, but we covered politics, movies, sports at every level, and established new friendships that are destined to lead to more adventures.
Walking through the Marrakech market at night shopping, haggling, taking photos, and talking to shop owners. Massive crowds everywhere: monkeys with handlers, horse drawn carriages, shop owners selling, drums beating, and the smell of lamb, chicken, and beef wafting over the main square.
Our culinary workshop cooking various versions of Moroccan tangine. Not only was the final product photo worthy, but absolutely delicious and ready for prime time.
Touring the Hassan II Mosque inside and out. This magnificent structure completed in 1993 is the second largest mosque in Africa, and features the tallest minaret in the world.
“Colors of Morocco” offered an exceptional opportunity to experience the African Continent for the first time.
To read more about Larry’s adventures with THIRDHOME, click here. Stay tuned for more of his travels!