Route of "1001 Kasbahs" and Movies

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January 17th 2014
Published: January 17th 2014
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Today as we continued on journey south and west we made a stop at Dades Gorge and continued along the route of 1001 Kasbahs. This was the old caravan route from the Atlantic to the Sahara, although the ones further south were used most often. Along this route are the remains and restorations of the most surviving kasbahs.

We stopped at one called Kasbah Taourit, now a UNESCO site. Built in 1764 and used mainly for administraton of the area and was a center point in the rebellion of the Berbers against the Sultan in 1912.

We finally made our way to Ouazazate, pronounced "whereizit". This area has been used for many movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Ten Commandments, The Mummy and many others. The hotel we stayed in even had some of the props from those movies decorating the hallways. There are 2 movie studios there taking advantage of the very dry area and vast open spaces of desert land.

I've learned a lot about Morocco in the past few days. There is definitely a major distinction between those living in the four largest cities and those living in the majority of the country. While Morocco experienced some very wealthy times in the past, there is great poverty in the rural countryside. The unemployment rate is extremely high and the education system ranks below that of Iraq. The new king is trying to improve the status of women in the country and now women have more jobs than men.

We made a quick stop at Tichka Pass, the highest peaks in North Africa and continued on to a women's co-op that extracts Argan Oil. This is from a fruit of a wild tree that grows only in SW Morocco. We watched while the women took the dry nut, break open the for the seed and then mash that into paste. The send is inedible unless it is roasted and we were able to taste a peanut butter mix and honey mix that were wonderful. Of course afterward we had to see all the products made from the oil and get a chance to make sure we stay beautiful forever by buying some.

We finally reach Marrakesh in mid-afternoon, the 3rd largest city in Morocco. We visited a 16th century Necropolis with burial chambers for the Sultan, one for his wives and one for the children. All surrounded a beautifully peaceful garden.

We made our way to the main attraction in town, the market square. This is a place of a thousand little shops or souks surrounding a vast open space with fruit vendors, cafes, snake charmers and other performers. This was crazy. We spent a couple of hours there and Ernest talked me into trying some new things with animals.

Tomorrow is a free day with our farewell dinner tomorrow night and flights out Sunday. I've really had a great time here and I know I'll enjoy the memories for decades.

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