Road Trip! The thing about spending the night in the desert is that you have to get there first. From Marrakesh it’s quite a trek and there’s just the company for the job. Sahara 4X4 tours. Rashid our tour guide was awesome! He spoke very good English and was able to answer all the questions we had even taking us to a couple of extra places upon request. The tour cost 140 euros per person for the 2 days we were gone, which I think is worth it.
Since it’s my very first review on trip advisor, why not!
The scenery was always colorful with browns, reds, and greens melding together to create a breathtaking landscape.
Then there’s the matter of the Atlas mountains. Morocco is not the only country that gets to take in the beauty of the Atlas mountains, they extend through Algeria and Tunisia as well, they’re that vast. As Rashid told us, in Morocco there are different names for the Atlas mountains starting with the Rif (a crescent moon series of mountains) which turns into the the Tell Atlas, The Middle Atlas, and the High Atlas. The tallest peak of the High Atlas mountains sits at 13,665 feet (4,165 metres) and the name is Mount Toubkal. Wanna know more, Britannica’s got you covered.
The beauty of the drive is the diversity. One minute its the desert landscape scattered with foliage, meshing with greens, and the next its a small village where the people that live up in the high mountains come to get supplies. Grocery stores aren’t readily available out here. Hot commodities are donkey’s and camels. You can get a donkey for approx. $250 where as a camel costs a couple grand, like a used car, but that is what they use as their car.
Coming from foot trails carved into the mountain, bringing the donkey’s they laden them with the supplies before starting the trek back up into the hills. This could be a multi day journey to come down and get all the way back up.
On the sign in between the 2 towers it tells you our altitude at this moment, 2260 meters. A little over halfway to the tallest point of the Atlas mountains. SPOILER ALERT: We never make it to the tippy top. It has a lot to do with ice, snow, and no available roads.
CLA studios. Movies filmed here: Lawrence of Arabia, Tea in Sahara, Black Hawk Down, Kundum, Gladiator, Cleopatra, The Mummy 1 and 2, Alexander the Great, Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Troy, Hidalgo, Babel.
Drove right by the studios on the way to the desert.
Then came the date trees. We were just in time for date harvesting. Trees upon trees laden with figs ripe for the picking. With the dates came the insects. The area was teaming with them. Hard to keep the windows down if the car was at a stand still because the bugs would swarm the area.
In one town, date harvesters bring boxes filled with dates to the local market and sell them by the boat load. When dates are in season the prices are cheap and it’s like a stock exchange in the small square.
Like a bus, the van stops to pick people and goods up along the road as they head from place to place. Since most people use camels or donkey’s to get around, its very common to catch rides or hitch hike from a neighbor heading the same way you are.
A couple of hours later, we found ourselves at our destination but the last leg of the journey would be done by camel. We loaded up and road out just as the sun started setting.
First time on a camel. I’m convinced that you don’t ride a camel the same way you do a horse. I believe this because I saw how the locals road the camels and it was with both their legs on one side on a saddle that sits back, whereas we did the whole horse thing. Not very comfortable, probably too much information, but I didn’t walk straight for about a week after that camel ride.
Inside of the dining all.
In the last dying light of the sun, I walked up on a hill of sand and watched it set. It was as dark out here as it is at night when you are at sea. The stars were illuminated brightly in the sky, It’s so refreshing to look up at them without the hindrance of city lights.
I didn’t have much to eat this night. My stomach was in turmoil. Tied in knots and hurting, it was a typical bacterial situation, same thing that happened in both Tanzania and Senegal. Will saved my life with some Pepto tablets and I was in bed before dinner even finished trying to survive the night. Luckily in the morning, I felt much better.
As excited as I am to catch a sunset, I’m just as excited to catch a sunrise. The next morning they came by and woke everyone at camp up just in time for us to walk up the hill for a few shots.
In Zagora, Rashid told us of the saying “52 to Tombouctou” He explained it saying that once a year camel caravans set out to Tombouctou from Zagora (the road where this sign is specifically) and it takes 52 days to get there at which point they sell and trade and then head back. Now I know where Tombouctou is, Mali!
Road work. No hard hats, no safety equipment, and we drove right by that pile of dust!
AIT BEN HADDOU
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, Ait Ben Haddou is a ksar (fortified city) located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco.
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