Travelling like Bond: Morocco!

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It’s said that one should be a traveller, not a tourist. But what does that mean? And which one is Bond?

Alex Lamas, Agent 00178

It’s said that one should be a traveller, not a tourist. But what does that mean? And which one is Bond?

Compared with tourists, travellers live in the culture they’re visiting, they eat the same foods, stay in local lodgings and try to connect with all the locals they encounter. Tourists stay aloof, take photos, observe but go to familiar restaurants and stay in familiar chain hotels. They stay separate from the culture. 

Think of Bond in different locations, in You Only Live Twice he became a Japanese fisherman, in Moonraker he dressed as a Gaucho, riding a horse in South America. In The Spy Who Loved Me he was in full Arabian dress, on a camel in the Egyptian desert. He knows all the local customs, how to order drinks, from mint juleps to the proper temperature of sake. He knows just what the best Greek dishes are to order on the Island of Corfu and has a preferred cigar in Havana, Cuba. In short, Bond is a traveller, never a tourist and blends in wherever he is. 

I’ve been traveling since I was 18 years old and I always seek out the best the locals have to offer and I avoid familiar anything like the plague. For some reason I’ve not been one to hunt for film locations, this may be due to 25 years in the film business, any hint of a film location might feel like work but for whatever reason it’s just not my priority. Don’t get me wrong, when I stumble upon one, I am delighted. I just don’t think to make it a goal. Like Bond, when I go someplace, it’s my aim to immerse myself into the culture as much a s possible. This time it was Morocco! Bond has been to Morocco twice, first in The Living Daylights and then in Spectre. Both times Tangiers was the main city but my trip did not steer me to that place. I was however in Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech, Merzouga and the Sahara desert. 

Like Bond we had a local to guide us, think Quarrel in Dr. No or Vijay in Octopussy. A local guide is indispensable to find the best of local foods, drinks, lodging and to avoid any cultural faux pas that can make things awkward. Moaatasim (Mo for short) was his name and he was amazing! He was part of a company that offered transportation from city to city but he also was able to give us the best recommendations on restaurants, shops and local tours that gave us the best experiences. We wandered the labyrinthine Medinas (walled shopping districts) and shopped for spices, olives and perfumes, drank copious amounts of tea and soaked in the rich thousand year old history of these great cities. We learned how to cook in tagines, clay conical pots that served lamb, goat, chicken and vegetables in rich sauces. Ate various types of couscous and so many styles of bread and pancakes, I could never keep them straight!

We did visit one location for The Living Daylights, which was ait Benhaddou. An ancient fortress that doubled for the headquarters of the Afghan mujahideen. Wandering through the fortress you could feel the centuries and see why it was such a coveted location for so many films. This place was also used for Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would be King, Game of Thrones and many others. At the nearby Atlas Film Studios, they still had many of the vehicles from TLD Afghan scenes on display as well. 

The culmination of the trip was a luxury camp in the Sahara desert (Talk about a Bond location!). Tents on the dunes with fully functioning baths and showers. On the horizon you could see other travelers arriving on camels to their camps in the distance. At night we were treated to traditional Berber drumming by a fire, the Berbers insisted we get up and dance to the beat! (Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco, the other half of the population are descendants of Arab settlers from centuries ago) The next morning we were taken to a Berber nomadic camp, where we had tea with a lovely hostess. She was a traditional nomad with her goats and sheep wandering outside. We then got on quad bikes for a ride on the dunes. Over a sea of sand we rode up and down kicking up dust and fun in a slow speed chase across the Sahara. We arrived at a camel corral where we then mounted these ships of the desert. They were actually quite gentle and friendly as they carried us across the sand for the next hour. All the while I could hear the sweeping violins of the Lawrence of Arabia overture in my head while looking at my Berber guide leading us back to camp. This was our last day in Morocco and it was the best! 

Note: We landed on September 8th 2023, the day of a major 6.8 earthquake that hit the Atlas Mountains where many died due to old building structures not designed with earthquakes in mind. Marrakech, the nearest city, also had some minor damage but on our arrival, the city had resumed to almost normal. Morocco’s chief income is tourism and they needed us to be there to restore their lives and lifestyle. Under great tragedy the Moroccan people showed us great courage but mostly great generosity and hospitality all the while we were there. With all the amazing experiences it’s the people I will miss the most. Always eat local, drink local and hire a local to take you around. That’s traveling like Bond, James Bond!

Last modified: 3 January 2024