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Published: September 16th 2018
I am typing this in our room at the Ksar Kaissar hotel near M’Goun in the Rose Valley. We switched from our crappy small room to a crappy larger room. We passed thousands of kasbahs today (extended family homes) and so we made a joke with our fellow travellers about this subpar hotel and that surely, in this land of 1000 kasbahs, we couldn’t find a better place to stay. Of all the kasbahs in all the world, we had to stay in this one!
Anyway, despite the crappy hotel, we have had a great last few days. After we left Midelt we had a fairly long travel day working our way to our desert camp in the Sahara. We continued travelling through the Mid-Atlas mountains, heading to the desert. We went through hilly terrain where wild rosemary and juniper grows. Pine trees have been planted close to the rosemary to stabilize the soil. We went through a mountain pass with an elevation of 1907 metres. It was a very scenic drive again today. The weather was much improved from yesterday, and was sunny and hot all day.
We stopped at a market in the village of Nazala. It
was a very traditional village market, selling toys for the children to mark an upcoming religious holiday, various spices, produce, grains, and used clothes. I would have loved to have taken photos of the people, but generally rural people in Morocco do not want to have their picture taken, so I didn’t.
We made a quick WC/coffee stop at the town of Rich, then continued through the Zaabal tunnel. Shortly after the tunnel we stopped to take photos at a scenic spot near the river.
For our lunch we decided to pick up some supplies from a supermarket and have a picnic at a scenic spot in the town of Errachidia. I bought a tuna and cheese baguette (which they grilled so it was like a tuna melt) and Susan got some cheese and cold cuts, and made herself a sandwich with the bread we got at the restaurant where we had our picnic (we bought drinks from them, they don’t mind if you bring your own food as long as you purchase drinks). We usually have a large bottle of sparking water with lunch. Today we also got a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The fresh
orange juice here is really delicious. We ate outside in the shade, surrounded by olive trees. I have been eating either vegetarian couscous or vegetarian tagine, so the tuna melt was a nice change! Errachidia is a town of around 100,000.
After Errachidia the landscape flattened out, and we were in a rocky desert. After awhile what looked like rocky hills appeared, but they were actually the towering sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi. We continued on our way, stopping at a roadside shop to pick up scarves for our camel ride to our desert camp. If we wanted we could buy scarves and Abdul would tie them in the Berber way (like he did on me at the weaving shop in Fes). Susan and I were planning to wear the keffiyeh scarves we bought in Jordan (and wore for our camel ride in Wadi Rum), but they are square, and Abdul didn’t know how to tie them in the Berber way, so I purchased a scarf in the shop. I should have used the one I bought in Fes, but it was in the suitcase, and we just had an overnight bag with us for our desert camp.
Susan decided she would either wear her keffiyeh if she could remember how to tie it, or just her hat.
We stopped at the Hotel Yasmina, where we used the WC, and left our luggage. We also enjoyed mint tea and dishes of peanuts. Our overnight bags (and our spiritual drinks) got taken to our camp by 4X4, and we climbed on our camels. We rode for about 1 hr 15 min to our desert camp. It was really beautiful riding through the enormous sand dunes. I didn’t find this camel ride as comfortable as our rides in Jordan and Egypt. The saddles were different and for some reason it wasn’t as comfortable. However, it was amazing riding through the sand dunes of the Sahara. It was still quite hot, but there was a nice breeze. Sometimes the weather can change quickly, and it can be extremely windy, or rainy. So we were lucky with the weather. After all the rain (with thunder and lightning) yesterday, I was really happy with the weather. Abdul walked along beside us and took lots of photos with my phone (and an amazing video he put to music!) 😊
We arrived at
our camp about 7 pm, and were welcomed with mint tea and dishes of peanuts and raisins. After checking out our tents, complete with ensuite bathroom, we headed to a nearby sand dune to watch the sunset. This dune was huge, and climbing it was really hard. Like a stair master from hell. Slippery sandy hell. I made it very close to the top but decided that was enough, and sat on the sand to watch the moon and the first few stars appear. We all headed back down, I emptied my hikers of Sahara sand, and we relaxed with a beer. We were served dinner shortly after (the ubiquitous bread and olives, tasty Berber soup with semolina and vegetables, and vegetable tagine). Susan and I had a bottle of rosé which we shared with Annie. They brought out fruit for desert (I had a delicious small banana) and then they also served us a small piece of a date cake, but I was too full to have more than a bite. I wouldn’t have had the banana if I knew the cake was coming!
Then drums were brought out and the men who work at the camp played
and sang for us, and we danced to the music. We then headed off to our tents to bed. It was still quite warm; it didn’t markedly cool down with the sunset like it did in Wadi Rum. Our tents were not air conditioned, but there were lights and a power outlet. The electricity is run by solar power (there is a large solar panel by one of the tents). Morocco is quite a leader in solar and wind power.
Susan and I both had a shower in the tent before bed, to wash off the sand and sweat of the day. There was very little water pressure but it was sufficient to wash off, and we felt so much nicer and cooler after showering. It was such a treat to have our own bathrooms in our tents. I slept well in the tent with our windows open for the breeze. It had got quite windy by this time. I read for awhile, then, after the lights outside the tents had been turned off, went outside to look at the stars. It was wonderfully peaceful and felt quite magical being out in the Sahara, standing in the sand in
my bare feet, in the dark. There weren’t as many stars as we had hoped as it was a partially cloudy night. The next morning I got up early and went outside to check out the stars, and I laid down on the carpets to look up at the night sky just starting to lighten up.
We got up about 6:30 and headed to a nearby dune (much smaller than the one we climbed yesterday) to watch the sunrise. The light on the dunes as the sun rose was quite beautiful. We then had breakfast at the camp (hard boiled eggs, bread and olives, yogurt, various cakes, nice strong coffee and orange juice), and got on the camels for our ride back to the Hotel Yasmina. We went a more direct route this time and it took about 45 minutes. It was another awesome camel ride. We bought a necklace with the Berber symbol, a stone camel carving, and a little decorative jar of Sahara sand (we will use it as a Christmas ornament I think) from the cameleers after our ride.
After leaving Merzouga we headed to the town of Erfoud, which is known for its fossils.
The terrain was now rocky desert. We stopped at a place where they cut and polish the stones the fossils are found in, called Macro Fossils Kasbah. They get the stones from the hills about 20 km away, and turn them into various items like countertops, sinks, and lots of smaller items. We bought a few small fossils (one is a pendant).
We continued through the Anti-Atlas mountains, characterized by black volcanic rock. Occasionally the hillsides would be a greenish colour, indicating the presence of copper. Nomads live in this area, and they are often seen searching for minerals.
We drove higher, into the High Atlas Mountains, eventually arriving at the town of Tinghir for lunch at the Chez L’habitant, where Susan and I had excellent Berber omelettes. Berber omelettes are cooked with tomatoes and other vegetables, and various spices. It was really flavourful (but as usual here it was way too much food). We started with bread and olives, and they also brought a special Berber dish made to welcome guests, of steamed angel hair pasta, with sugar and cinnamon. It was delicious.
We continued on our way, making several scenic/photo stops (they don’t call this
the land of 1000 kasbahs for nothing!) including the Todra Gorge where we had a short walk. We passed a giant silver mine, which unfortunately doesn’t employ local people, who suffer from high unemployment. The mines are all owed by the royal family.
The roads have all been in good condition, but there has been a lot of rain lately and flash flooding, and the roads have been washed out in several places. We made it through all right, but at one point, we realized something was wrong. We had flat tire! Lahssan had it changed in no time, and we were soon on our way.
We finally made it to the Ksar Kaissar, located in the Rose Valley, which is also an almond and fig growing area. None of our group is very happy about the hotel and our rooms, and several of us have changed rooms for one reason or another. We had no hot water, other rooms would not lock, etc. We have a large room now with hot water, but there is no wifi in the rooms. I will have to go to reception to add photos and post the blog. But the hotel
Lori and Susan at scenic stop
With a boy selling woven trinkets
does serve alcohol, so we had a beer before dinner, and Susan and I shared a small bottle of rosé with dinner (harira soup and bread, vegetable tagine, melon and grapes). Tomorrow we have a hike through the Rose Valley, and have lunch at a Berber home. Hopefully we’ll have another Berber omelette! (Please excuse any typos, I don’t have time to check over the blog tonight before publishing).
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