Trip Start Apr 16, 2011
2Trip End Apr 23, 2011
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We enjoyed our last breakfast at our beautiful Riad Eden before departing early in the morning with our local guide and his 4x4 jeep just for us! We booked this excursion over the Internet, with Google as our only recommendation and so we were a bit apprehensive but it was more than perfect! Our guide was, just like all Moroccans, so friendly and his CD that we had on repeat fitted perfectly with the beautiful scenery we were about to encounter. Reggae music with soft beats, with lyrics we couldn't understand, amazing.
Tasha and I both sat in the back with a window to peer out of each. The weather was perfect, the sky was bright blue and the sun was constantly shinning during our trip
The scenery soon changes to the High Atlas mountains as we crossed the Tizi N Tichka (2260 m.alt) and from here, our first stop was at the Berber Atlas villages. We stopped off at the side of the road, next to a cliff faced mountain, and we were taken up a path, which you do not even notice at first glance, by some Berber children. They took us to one of the houses, so that we could explore and see how the people of the Berber Atlas villages live. The house was made out of clay and clay alone. No lighting, no glass for windows, no doors, just the straw that was in one of the rooms for the Horse and Donkey. There was also the cutest little puppy asleep in the sun. We were shown around the house, the lounge, their sleeping areas and then the kitchen which was full of silver pots and pans. The woman of the house was in the kitchen happily preparing us the traditional Mint Tea to welcome us, all with her child strapped to her back, a bit like how the Bolivian women I saw last year carried their children. We joined up with other tourists to sit on the low wicker chairs in the lounge as we waited for the Mint Tea. It's custom politeness to at least take a sip, and if you don't like it that's fine. Surprise, surprise, I actually drank it! As well as the bread served with olive oil, if there were less flies jumping from piece to piece I probably would've had more to eat. Really nice to see how the Moroccans, whether they are poor in the Berber village, or in the centre of the Medina in Marrakesh welcome visitors from all over the world with Mint Tea. As a gesture of thanks most of us gave the lady some dirham. Upon exit we were hit by around 10 children all coming up to us, at first we thought it was sweet so we gave them a lot of attention but then it turned out they were begging for money
We then walked a short distance to our next destination, where we saw the Berber women working hard grinding out beauty products, we were taken to a room where we could sample the products. Interesting, especially seeing the picture of the tree with all of the goats standing on the branches, however we did not buy any beauty products.
Our next stop was at a very unstable looking bridge, made out of just rope and planks of old wood, hanging high over a fast flowing river. We were too nervous to walk over it at the same time, and so we took turns to reach the middle and admire the views. We could see snow capped mountains in the distance, between the breaking of the two mountains which surround us and the river. The Sun again, played its part in highlighting this area of natural beauty.
We then reached the bottom of the waterfalls in the Ourika Valley
We ate some fruit at the restaurant and then continued our journey through the Atlas Mountains. We continued to stop off at various view points to enjoy the ever changing sceneries from cacti, to the deep red mountains. Our journey was on a winding road cutting through the mountains and would reach heights high enough to make our ears pop, and this made the views even more spectacular.
We continued across Ouarzazate and checked out it's famous Film Studios where, as we could see from the numerous posters in the building, many popular films had been filmed. The film studios were deserted and we took a quick wander around the set before returning to our 4x4. We stopped off for lunch in front of the Kasbah which was so impressive and went to sit down for our lunch at the local restaurant on the rooftop with amazing panoramic views of the Kasbah. The lunch was incredible! We shared Chicken Skewers served with rice and chips, delicious! From the view we were able to see a lonely market stall selling Berber scarves, and all the way through our lunch I had my eye on the bright red scarf blowing in the gentle breeze. I had to buy it. Our friendly driver helped dress my head with it properly, and I felt so cool.
At our next stop, it looked like the scene from Run Forest, Run, where he is on the deserted road, we were surrounded by never ending dry land
We then took a long break when we reached the Draa Valley, at an unbelievable view point, the name of the location says it all: Oasis de Draa. We sat on the mountain edge overlooking the valley of clear, deep turquoise water gently flowing, and we could've sat there for hours just taking everything in and contemplating life. That was until, Tasha dramatically fell down the cliff, holding on for dear life. So funny, wish I saw, she was laughing it off but had scrapes and bruises to show from her battle. This place really was just like an Oasis you imagine in your dreams, or from story tales, no cars drove past us, and in one direction we could see a beautiful mountain overlooking the striking water, and behind us was the magnificent, flat desert made up of jagged rocks as opposed to sand.
We were getting closer to Zagora, our destination point, and the views that we had seen so far from the Mountains were completely memorizing and the pictures do not do it justice
We arrived in Zagora, and were welcomed with some more mint tea, this time it wasn't so pleasant. We were taken to our camels, not only our camels but a whole bunch of camels! Around 30-40 camels! Wow! They were all sat down though, but with the reputation of being nasty animals that spit, I was a little bit nervous as we were told to come closer to them haha! Our two camels had been prepared and were tied together one behind the other so that we could walk in a line behind our Berber guide. He was lovely and friendly just like our driver, who left us once we made our first steps on the camels. First we needed to get on them. They tied our bags to the camels, and I ended up being assigned the camel at the back. We were told their names, but they were in Arabic and so there was no chance of us remembering their names, although we enjoyed the name we gave Tasha's: Wezza. Short for his true Arabic name. The Berber men did not speak any English and so we were communicating by smiles, laughter and finger pointing. I cautiously lifted one leg over the camel and sat down on the saddle, then held on tight as I had no idea what was going to happen. Straight away the camel lifted its backside, throwing me forward, and then it lifted up its front feet, throwing me back, and then it evened itself out straightening out its back legs
Anyone who has read my previous travel blogs in Bolivia about my terrible first horse ride, will be as thankful as I was at the fact that camel riding was nothing like horse riding. We had nothing to worry about, the speed was slow and steady and we were able to let go of both our hands and just soak up the sun and feel the breeze as we took in our unbelievable surrounding. We also didn't have to worry about being in control of the Camel as they followed the direction of our Berber guide in front of us, who held onto the rope that tied us all together. The ride started through a Palm Tree plantation which was awesome. Then they started to dwindle and we were suddenly surrounded by the sandy desert. It was awesome to see the sun slowly setting and our shadows on the sand.
As we got deeper into the desert, and the sand dunes got bigger and bigger, we could see our traditional Berber tents waiting for us in the distance
After passing the guard circling the area, we arrived at the circle of traditional Berber tents and were greeted again by Mint Tea. This time in the main Berber tent where we were to have dinner later on. This tent was truly remarkable! The floors, walls and ceilings of the tents were decorated completely with traditional and stunning Moroccan rugs. One of the men spoke broken English and his voice matched our situation, he spoke so quietly and peacefully- we really were so lucky to be here! We left the tent and were shown to our own private tent which was equally as beautiful. Truly incredible! Everything was so calm as we walked up the sand dunes to watch the sunset, and to take some brilliant photos. Again, this feeling of serenity, being surrounded by nothing but beautiful grains of sand, with the sun, directly in front of you, slowly setting over the sand dunes, is something that should be experienced by everyone more than once in your life. Unbelievable.
Nightfall in the desert was almost as beautiful, with a fire made in the middle of the tents and the Berber men entertaining a handful of tourists with drums and other instruments creating a beautiful Moroccan music, in an astonishing, beautiful Moroccan setting
The sun was rising when we jumped on our horses again to make our last journey back to Zagora. Such an incredible couple of the days.
We were met by our driver and we drove back through Ouarzazate on our way back to Marrakesh and stopped off at some more incredible places. I can't even begin to describe what a wonderful trip this was. We saw so much, and the views were absolutely breath taking! We visited the Taourirt Kasbah and had lunch, and this was another awesome trek up many steps, and an incredible view to admire from the top. I have run out of words, and ways to describe just how beautiful and incredible the sights of natural beauty we saw on our trip.
Something you all have to do. The Atlas and Sahara Trip.
We spent out last day in Marrakesh, this time in a cheap hotel right next to the Djemaa el Fna Square, even closer than last time, and we could've spent even more days there just walking around the square and the souqs. It was also our first attempt at the night market stalls, and I don't know what we were afraid of, little risk of food poisoning and the food was delicious as usual. We picked up some last souvenirs and that was it for our incredible one week visit to Morocco. Thoroughly recommend.