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Published: August 11th 2007
I finally arrived in Marrakesh after spending 3 days at the airports in Buenos Aires and Madrid! I was utterly frustrated and disappointed that 3 days had been wasted. But my anger soon began to fade as I was taken to the riad and offered mint tea and a hot shower. That first night, I spent some time in Jamaa El Fna square, which is the main bazaar (and tourist destination) in Marrakesh. It’s a chaotic and mesmerizing mix of artisans, musicians, snake charmers, fortune tellers, shops, fruit vendors, henna stands, jewelry stalls, and restaurants. The square is packed all through the day and night with Moroccans on vacation, foreigners soaking in the mystical ambiance, nomadic Berberans selling their wares, as well as the local Marrakeshis enjoying a night out. The souks (Moroccan markets) are just next to Jamaa El Fna Square and are a magnificent sight with brightly colored scarves, carpets, necklaces, lamps, tea pots, leather goods, and, of course, food.
Over the next few days, I explored the surrounding cities and the Sahara Desert. I joined a tour group with 6 other people who were lovely traveling companions. It was really great spending the next 3 days with
the three other couples - one from Holland, one from Germany, and the other from the UK. It makes such a tremendous difference when you like the people and the guide in your group.
We drove through the High Atlas Mountains to our first stop - Ait Ben Hadou Kasbah. This is the location for many Hollywood movies such as The Mummy and Gladiator. It’s a stunning Kasbah full of caves and tiny alleys rich in architecture and history. We stopped in Ourzazat for a delicious meal and continued on to Klat Mgouna (Valley of Roses). This town, as you probably guessed, is famous for anything to do with roses: soaps, lotions, shampoos, perfumes, rose water, etc. We spent the night in a lovely riad nestled in the Dades Gourge next to a river. The view was incredible and the night sky was filled with shimmering streams of stars towering above us. We could even see the Milky Way and shooting stars! I have never seen so many stars - it was absolutely breathtaking!
Our first stop on the second day was the Toudgha Gorge. This sight is perfect for rock climbing (Diego - you would love it!)
and the stream in between the canyon walls was perfect for escaping the desert heat. After several hours in the van, we finally arrived in Merzouga. After a much appreciated swim in the pool, we headed out for the 2-hour camel trek through the Sahara. The sand dunes were astonishing - shimmering golden sand as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, we got caught in a sand storm and my eyes didn’t get to see much of anything that night. At first, it was just a bit windy but as the wind became stronger, the bits of sand were like little needles poking through my face, arms, and legs. We arrived at the camping spot just before sunset. The storm died down just long enough for dinner and a bit of dancing. The plan was to sleep out under the stars, which would have been amazing, but Mother Nature had other things in mind. The storm picked up again and we were forced to sleep in the sweltering heat of the tents.
We awoke before dawn hoping to get a glimpse of the sunrise, but the sun was hiding behind the clouds. At least the wind had stopped
so we were able to take some pictures and truly appreciate our magnificent surroundings.
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