The last morning in Marrakech our guide who we would be spending the next 4 days with met us at our riad and lead us to where he had parked his Landcruiser - which we quickly dubbed our Japanese Camel. Our guide Ibrahim was only a few years older than us, apparently at least (more on this later), and was always ready with a joke which we started dishing out as well when the ice had been broken. Didnt take long until we had given the nickname Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) either.
But I digress, on the first day Zlatan took us on a very long driving day, but luckily it had many stops to keep us entertained and stretch our legs. The day took us through the main mountain range of the country called the Atlas Mountains which took us up and over a 2200 meter pass. Driving through the high alpine with snow patches on the peaks looked very much like being in the Rockies and not nearly as desert like as we had expected. On the other side we had entered the dry arid half of the country and stopped at a UNESCO Kasbah known as Ait Ben Haddou
which is a mud city from nearly a thousand years ago. Carrying on we spent the night in the Dades Gorge which has a few hotels in the bottom and has the craziest switch backs I've ever seen to get up and out when the gorge narrows past the point of having a road on the floor.
Day 2 took us to the desert dunes proper. Along the way we stopped at a market which the locals came from miles around to trade and sell there vegetables, animals, and wares. We were the only white people around and was a great local interaction as we picked up some oranges. We also stopped in the Todra Gorge which has rock walls 300 meters tall and is only 20 or 30 meters wide at the bottom. After driving in a dry wasteland as you approach Merzouga in eastern Morocco the 2nd tallest sand dunes in the world erupt from the desert 150 meters tall. We had a swim at the hotel and then saddled up on a camel to take us out into the dunes to our campsite for the night. It was originally planned for a day later but there
were high winds forecasted for the following night. Riding a camel in the Sahara while kilometers from anything with the sun setting will not be something I will ever forget. It was one of the highlights of the trips. After banging on some drums with our camp hosts we snuggled up into our luxury tent which had a proper bed in it and attempted to sleep in the 36 degree heat.
Morning on day 3 came very early with an anticipation of a desert sunrise but there were some clouds. None the less we saddled back up on our Saharan back to the town for a shower and to carry on with our day. Ibrahim took us out into the desert to meet a Berber family who still live out in the desert living life as they have for generations. We found out that Ibrahims family had actually lived like the Berber nomads we were visiting until 20 years ago. Things like dates, ages, etc are not really recorded or followed so this is why Ibrahim does not know exactly how old he is. It was incredible to see how the people could live so basically and yet still
survive in the harsh conditions. The only water source 5km away and the daytime high being 45 Celcius while we were there but told to expect 10 degrees higher in August. Other than that the day was more about the journey off the beaten path and we spent the rest of the day trying to keep cool by the pool. For lunch that day we had a Berber pizza - which probably has some other name but that's what it had been translated to. The only real similarity was the shape. In fact it was more like an Indian naan bread with spices and vegetables inside - very tasty.
Our last day with Ibrahim brought us a very long driving day again with a 10 hour journey to Fes. There were stops but they were more out of necessity of breaking up the drive than anything else. The highlight of the day was stopping to see some Barbary Apes. They are very comfortable with people around and would take food from your hand, we gave them some bananas and they were all friendly after that. Eventually we made it to Few and after saying goodbye to Zlatan and our
Japanese Camel we weaved our way through a Medina once again to our Riad. 2 full days here and then a long day of sightseeing on our way to Casablanca left. The trip has flown by!
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