I recently returned to Las Vegas after six weeks of traveling for poker. I went from Vancouver to Germany, then made my way south through Switzerland to France, Italy, and eventually Morocco. With the constant need to adjust sleeping patterns and the stresses of living out of a suitcase (or two in my case), traveling can take a lot out of you. However, being able to see the world definitely makes it worth it! I counted the stamps in my passport recently and counted 106--I owe a lot of my travel to poker and remind myself regularly to be thankful for the amazing life experiences this profession has afforded me!
For the end of my six weeks of travel, I went to the French Poker Series event in Mazagan, which is just outside of Casablanca in Morocco. I didn't know this until I saw it on the FPS schedule, but French is spoken alongside Arabic in Morocco. Because I speak French, it made a lot of sense for me to travel there. Plus, when I'm making my schedule, I always like to find locations that I've never been to before. It's one of the things that helps me balance out the strains of traveling.
The Mazagan resort is a fantastically beautiful place, five-star all the way. The food was delicious, the service was top-notch, and it's on this unbelievable beach that has to be one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to. I've traveled all around the world and the Mazagan resort was one of the best resorts I've ever stayed in. The staff were awesome and upgraded me to a massive suite. I could look out at the ocean every day, go walking on the beach, collect seashells... the whole experience was very invigorating and refreshing.
The resort is located about an hour outside of Casablanca, which is reputed to be a fairly liberal city. Women are not expected to wear the strict coverings that are commonplace elsewhere--although many do still wear a scarf of sorts over their head.
There are traditional markets where haggling is not just expected, it's required. It's strange. I found it very amusing to watch my guide have a fake argument with a vendor and by the end of it they'd set the price and walk away smiling and laughing. In between the resort and Casablanca are country towns that are very, very, very conservative. In those towns the women are completely covered and people use mules and horse-drawn carriages for transport. It was amazing to witness these things firsthand--it was almost like being in another time! I didn't know a lot about the Muslim culture prior to this trip. I asked a lot of questions when I was there. Our tour guide was a really nice guy. He took the time to explain to me a lot about what the culture is all about, why people dress the way they do, and things like that. It was really an eye-opening experience.
I think there's a lot that many in the U.S. misunderstand about Muslim culture, especially after 9/11. The trip to Mazagan really helped me to appreciate a lifestyle that is very different from my own but still beautiful. Ultimately, this trip highlighted for me that there are a variety of ways to enjoy life on this planet. I had a fantastic time on my trip but I sure am glad to get a little break from traveling. There really is no place like home!