Meet the adventurer: Alice Morrison

BBC2 presenter Alice Morrison was the first woman to walk the length of Morocco’s longest river, the Draa, from source to sea to discover what happens when the nature’s water supply runs out. We find out what her idea of adventure isTuesday, 25 June 2019

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)

First up, aisle or window seat?

Aisle

Favourite place?

The grand Saharan dunes of Morocco. It’s just the sheer majesty of the golden sand, the blue sky and the wildness of it all.

Biggest travel fail?

I was saying a very passionate goodbye to a new boyfriend and didn’t realise the clocks had changed, so I missed a flight to catch a liveaboard for a week of diving. I lost out on the flight, the holiday and had to spend the week with the new boyfriend. The relationship didn’t survive the week. It was a disaster, the most expensive sex I’ve ever had.

Worst piece of travel advice?

“Go to Koh Samui in Thailand. You’ll love it!” It’s a beautiful place, but when I went it wasn’t really set up for a solo female traveller. The people that I met were lovely, and it is gorgeous, but I didn’t want sun, sea and sand — I wanted to explore the country. 

Most interesting person you’ve met…

Brahim Ahalfi. He’s a desert expedition leader. He taught me how to hunt for snake’s eggs, how to track a desert fox and how to find a well in the desert. There are lots of different ways to find a well, but you can look for animal tracks. For example, if there are a lot of goat tracks going in one direction, the chances are they’ll lead you to water.

The one place you keep going back to?

I keep returning to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco for the welcome I get from the Amazigh people and because you can get off the beaten track extremely quickly.

First thing you do in a new city?

Try to work out the local transport system. I often fail, but that’s what I try to do. It’s wise as a solo female traveller to at least look like you know where you’re going. If you have to ask people, you can look clueless, which can put you in a vulnerable position.

Oddest circumstance you’ve found yourself in?

The embarrassing ones, I’d say, are when you’re grabbed. When I was in Syria, I was in Damascus and I’d been invited to a family gathering. The women immediately dragged me off into a back room and took all my clothes off. They were very interested in my white body and fair hair. They dressed me up in a belly dancing outfit and made me dance with them in front of all their male cousins and uncles. That was odd.

Most looking forward to eating on your next adventure?

These little parcels from goat’s lung, cut into strips, stuffed with goat trachea and belly fat. You tie it in place with a piece of cleaned out long intestine. It’s a little like beef olive [a Scottish dish]. It’s celebration food for a North African nomad — I’ll get to eat it again when I visit my friends in the next couple of months. Those lung parcels are calling to me.

Favourite adventurers?

Freya Stark. She was of a generation of incredibly tough and resilient Victorian women. She travelled all over the Middle East. She was completely fearless and her books are full of information that’s still relevant today. But I just love the fact that she had so much grit and determination. She seemed to let nothing phase her. It was so against the social norms, where women were supposed to be well-behaved. She was totally awesome.

Adventure is…

The very essence of life.

Alice Morrison’s second book, My 1001 Nights, was released in April this year.  

Interview by Tamsin Wressell

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