Staying in the Riad Fantasia in Marrakech had several advantages: It was close to the Souq and to the Square; It had a nice meeting area where travellers from around the world met for breakfast, work on the internet, smoke hash, whatever.
I wanted to go on a 4 day safari to the desert and stay amongst sand dunes, see a couple of gorges, and in general, see what Morocco looks like. Lucky me. There was a group of ten British students who were traveling together and as they were talking to the “tour director”, I mentioned to Abdullah that I would like to go. He mentioned to the tour director and badda-bing, I had found my group. For the record, they are: begining in the back row - Bob, Michael, Johnny, James the tall, and Raz in a red shirt. benging over is Rose, behind her is Lauren, the Jess in the middle, Sarah-the au pair in Toulon, France, and Phoebe.
The Brits had never been in a desert before and so everything was interesting and fun for them. It was a good group to be with. Little things like dates were cause for a photo shoot!
The cost was 900dirhams or $100, for four days. It included 3 breakfasts, 3 dinners, 1 hotel, 2 nights in the desert, a beautiful van, a guide, and camels. Little did I know how wonderful the trip would be. I thought that for $100, I’d be eating gruel, slamming down brown water, and picking bed bugs out of ... well, you get the picture. O contrare!
The ride to the far south east corner of Morocco was amazing. The landscape was a dream for a geologist, of which two of the Brits were. (Raz and Rose). Raz was originally from Romania but had been to school in Manchester for several years. They were all students at Manchester U...or the Unee, as they said. Some of Morocco reminded me of Arizona.
We went through two gorges - Dades Gorges and Tondrah Gorge. Both had cold water swooshing through and steep walls that people from all over the world came to climb.
I really liked how some Moroccan teenagers at Dades Gorge brought their instruments, waded across the river, and had a jam session in a cut out in the canyon. No, they did not ask for money and frankly couldn’t care less who was there. They’d each take turns singing and I was envious of how uninhibited they were. Good for them!
We’d be driving in the middle of nowhere and pull over to take a picture and WHOSH, someone would pop out from behind a rock with... a handmade basket of peaches.
Our van was a brand new, smooth riding, air-conditioned, big windowed, and spacious . Some of the best times during the four days were when everyone was tired and quiet and we listened to Moroccan music while gazing at the amazing landscape.
Lush green valleys and oasis after oasis filled with palm groves and olive groves. Cities that were built around the turn of the century... the 10th century, looking like something out of a movie, were around every corner.
Atlas Studios, has built a movie city but we weren’t allowed inside because they were filming a movie.... I think it was Rocky LXVIII - It’s where Rocky’s descendents survive a nuclear holocaust and shock, make a living by boxing.
Some things probably haven’t changed in the past 1000 years. Donkeys/mules are still used as a means of transport. This old guy was probably the descendent of a mule who carried his fodder on the same path 10 centuries ago!
Our guide, Mohammed, told me that the wheat in the picture is what makes the cous cous. He pointed out that the shed was where the wheat was separated from the husk. Same practice, same shed, same families for a 1000 years.
At one of our stops, Phoebe posed next to scarves showing the Berber symbol for freedom. I wanted one but they all had tears, runs, or had ragged ends.
It's suppose to symbolize a man standing with his arms spread eagle as if to say, "I'm free".
It had to happen. Mohammed took us to a tiny village and turned us over to another guide named, “Creepy”. Not really, I can’t remember his name, but he gave the girls creeps because he would joke about marrying them and having babies, and wouldn’t let it go.
The village that Creepy took us to was a Berber Outlet Home. Basically, the Berber women in the surrounding mountain villages wove rugs and brought them to the lady’s house to sell. To get to it, we walked through a couple of miles of fields growing peaches, figs, and various vegetables. When we reached the village, the town was dusty and other than the electric wires hadn’t changed too much.
Inside the house we were given the standard spiel and several of the Brits bought rugs. It was all interesting, I just don’t like being a captive audience.
After we left the Rug Heist Factory, we went to another Cooperative, this one making Argan oil which made from squeezing the oil from the nut. Supposedly, it is more expensive than olive oil and has a richer taste. It's also used to fight wrinkling.
When we reached the desert, we decided that we’d need to go native, at least get a face mask to guard against the blowing sand while on a camel. So like a bunch of GeekMeisters, we all dropped 50 dirham for a piece of cloth that Mohammed, (who I’m sure got a cut) showed us how to tie as the locals do. It turned out to be a good buy!
Life ... is what happens when you are busy making plans
- John Lennon -