The Art of Armchair Travel …

Research has proven … that closing our eyes and taking a mental holiday, imagining ourselves on a sunny beach, hiking through the mountains or dancing in a meadow lowers our stress level, increases productivity and generally makes us happier.

The part I love about travel is learning about different cultures and experiencing the things which that culture offers, whether that be the food, music, but most of all the people.

In these days when travel is not accessible to us or for those who don’t like to travel or may not have the financial means to travel. We can stay in our comfortable homes and with a little imagination we can set sail to far away lands. Learn about the penguins in the North Pole, create your own Hawaiian Loa Luau or travel the rain forests of Brazil in our minds eye.

My first arm chair journey was Morocco. A small country in North Africa. I’ve always been attracted by the lure of this exotic place. I decided to take my imagination on a sojourn to Marrakech and visit the Bedouins in the Great Sahara Desert.

I began reading and watching videos of this fascinating country, before I knew it I was engrossed in learning about the country. In my mind I could literary feel the heat and see myself walking through the souk {the bustling market place} filled with vibrant colours and the fragrance of cumin and cinnamon and other spices sold in metal bins and wicker baskets. I can hear the hypnotic melody of the pungi {a sort of flute like instrument} the snake charmers use to coax the cobra to dance, sometimes the charmer joins in, and they dance together.

I can almost hear the vendors shouts trying to catch the attention of the shoppers with hopes of selling their wears as I meander through the imaginary maze of alleys in the Medina {the old city}. Beautiful brightly coloured leathers so soft and subtle produced in ancient tanneries where they use the petals of poppies to create red, indigo for blue and henna for orange to dye the cow, goat and camel hides after soaking them in stone vats in a white liquid mixture made from pigeon feces, cow urine, quicklime, salt and water which makes the leather soft. Never could I resist buying a purse.

Drinking mint tea is deeply rooted in the culture, it sounds yummy, I can’t wait to try it. Pouring the tea with panache high from the glass is important as it allows the tea to breath creating the distinct flavour. It would seem impossible to visit Morocco without converting from coffee to tea. Try making your own at home with this simple recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon gunpowder green tea leaves

1 large handful fresh spearmint leaves (washed)

4 cups water

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

In a medium-size pot, bring the water to a full boil. Swirl a little of the boiling water, about 1/4 cup, in your teapot to rinse it. Discard the water. Add the gunpowder green tea to the teapot, then pour a few tablespoons of boiling water over the leaves. Allow the leaves to soak briefly, then swirl the pot to rinse the leaves and discard the water. Add the mint leaves and sugar and fill the pot with about 2 cups boiling water. Leave the tea to steep for at least five minutes. Gently stir the tea and serve.

Now for my next exciting adventure … Driving through Berber villages and the Atlas mountains on route to the Sahara Desert. Can you believe … me, April Taylor from Stratford Ontario is here watching the sun come up on a camel in the desert. Well at least in my imagination.

Wow! What a spectacular scene! Reddish sand stretching out as far as the eye can see. The dunes can reach as high as 600 feet. Incredible! Guided tours allow us to visit the desert and to sleep under the stars and dining on kabobs and tagine dishes made of chicken, lamb or beef with the Bedouins around a fire.

Food is always an important part of travel, I think to fully absorb yourself in any culture one must try the local cuisine. In Morocco the common dishes are tagine {which is actually a clay cooking pot with a cone shaped lid} kabobs, couscous and makouda a fried potato patty, a favourite street food. Cinnamon, cumin, tumeric, saffron and cayenne are some of the spices that create the flavour of Moroccan food. Can’t you just smell it?

While armchair traveling try making a dish from the country you wish to visit, create some atmosphere with music and decor and enjoy. Cooking isn’t really my thing but I made chicken tagine with couscous. I think it turned out well.

In my morning routine I use Marrakech Oil on my hair, never giving thought to what it is or where it comes from, thinking only that it makes my hair shiny and that it smells nice. Little did I know the oil has quite a story. Only in Morocco near the desert grows a squat tree with gnarled and twisted trunks. These tree produces a nut encased in an a leathery shell, women have always used a rock and a sort of hammer to free the nut from the shell and produce oil for home use as a cooking oil or for cosmetic use. Today there has been increased demand for this oil as the world has discovered this exotic oil. Which is beginning to change the economic situation for women because Morocco still has a male predominant social structure. Companies are now hiring women to help with the labour-intensive job of producing this oil which is still produced mainly by hand. Women are now making money and becoming more independent. Now I understand why that tiny bottle at my hair salon costs so much.

When I travel I like to get up and out early in the morning, to wonder about and watch the city wake up before the droves of tourist descend upon it. In the early hours in Morocco the first of five calls to prayer echoes through the streets coming through speakers from the tower {minaret} reminding the people of Islamic faith to stop and remember their beliefs. Although, the country is predominately Muslim, a Jewish and Christian population exist and welcome Westerners and Europeans. Everyone seems to live harmoniously, and to celebrate their differences.

It’s my belief that there’s no better education than travel {even if it’s armchair travel}. It’s impossible to travel to a county, talk to its people, experience their customs, eat their food and share their land and not realize that people are people … we are all one.

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People are my greatest source of inspiration,. I love to sit in a cafe and observe to world as it passes by. Everyone is interesting in their own way.

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April Taylor

April Taylor

People are my greatest source of inspiration,. I love to sit in a cafe and observe to world as it passes by. Everyone is interesting in their own way.

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