Today we are off on our "Real Morocco Private Tour" that takes us from Fes to the Sahara Dessert, back through the High Atlas Mountains and ends in Marrakech. Mohammed (every third person you meet is named Mohammed) our driver and guide is waiting for us and of we set for the next leg of our journey.
The scenery is quite stunning with the Atlas Mountains off in the distance and we notice some snow covered peaks (who would have thought snow in Morocco). We round a bend and suddenly find ourselves in Switzerland! A town called Ifrane was constructed by the King as he wanted a little piece of Switzerland in Morocco. It's good to be the King! Cedar trees and chalets abound and it apparently is quite the ski resort in Winter.
We stop for a coffee then continue on and the landscape changes again to resemble more like the Arizona Desert. We break for lunch in a sizable hotel in the middle of nowhere which has a fossil/meteorite museum attached. This will be the norm for the next couple of hundred kilometres.
Leanne decides to order the Chameau Tagine not really knowing what it was
as all the menu's are in French. She decides at the last minute to check on her translator and was horrified to find she had nearly ordered Camel! She switches to the Spag Bol and Mick orders the mixed grill which ironically consists of Turkey, Beef and you guessed it... Camel. Quite tasty really, a bit like Kangaroo. Leanne gets the runs and Mick is fine :-)
Through the considerable miles we start learning some Arabic from our guide Shookram is thankyou and Rally is too expensive which should hold us in good stead as the Berber way is based on bargaining every time you buy something.
Onward we travel covering about 800 k's today much to Leannes disgust! Along the way the landscape changes from fully flat desolate desert conditions (interspersed with Hotels in the Middle of Nowhere and the obligatory fossil museum attached) to stretches of forest complete with monkeys.
We come across our first Oasis at a place called Taffee Le Let in the Zis Valley. No small pond with a few palms, this place is massive. It's really quite amazing seeing the brown desolate landscape butting up against this lush green vegetation. The Moroccans take good advantage and squeeze just about every food producing plant and grain into the area they can.
The hours pass and we Find ourselves 120 k's from the Algerian border. Due to the tension between Morocco and Algeria the Gendarme's (military police) are much more prevalent and the whole area abounds with fortified positions and military barracks. We are stopped countless times and asked to show ID again and again and again .
We finally reach our destination at Riad Mamouche which nestles right on the edge of the High Dunes of the Sahara. Our rooftop terrace gives us a good view of the massive dunes and we start getting that itch of nervous excitement knowing we will be venturing into it aback camels the next day.
We eat dinner and tuck into a few glasses of Jack sitting out the front of the Riad. Leanne starts to get a bit spooked in the darkness and starts screaming "What's that Mick! It's a baby Monkey!" which turns out to be a mid sized frog. A feather blowing across the ground brings further horror in the shape of a perceived Scorpion. She may be a nervous wreck in the desert...
We are increasingly aware that Leanne is starting to draw considerable attention due to her obvious "assets". One guy nearly falls off his bike he whips his head around so quickly and we hear remarks like "How many camels for your wife?" It's not like she is wearing anything provocative it's just that when 80%!o(MISSING)f women are dressed in Kaftan's her shapeliness is going to draw admiring stares! With the price of Camel's set at about 40,000 Dirham's Mick starts to do some math ;-)
We still have all day before our trek into the desert so we decide on some general sightseeing. We take a close up look through a smaller Oasis which is carved up into small parcels of land for the Moroccan people. It was good to get in amongst the greenery.
We also get a handle on the difference between the Berber's and the Bedouin from our guide which is mainly in their dress. Just like the Hells Angels and the The Finks really, everyone wears their colours.
We venture back out into the desert and visit a Berber village who are one of the only Black African villages and see the kids tiny classroom with them holding up the answers to the teacher's questions on equally tiny blackboards. Very cute.
This village's only income is through music so we are ushered in to a room to witness their finest. A cool sounding native guitar strikes up a melody only to be immediately drowned out by local drums and their version of what we think are Berber castanets. Made of metal. What a bloody racket!
Of course they try and get the tourists up for a dance and when we are the only other two people in the room and Leanne politely declines to get up it falls to Mick who finds himself holding hands with two men and dancing in a circle. Everyone is feeling mildly uncomfortable by now so we compliment them on their artistry, buy a couple of CD's and get the hell outta there!
Next stop Berber Nomad's. Instead of a Hotel in the Middle of nowhere it's a tent, and the only fossil around is a LOVELY old Berber lady who proceeds to ply us with Mint Tea (which Mick has taken to like Bourbon) and peanuts.
We have heard this is where Henna tattoo originates from so we voice our interest. The LOVELY old lady brings out her daughter, who proceeds to dress Leanne in Berber clothing and draws the most appalling design which then bleeds all over her hand to the point to it is just one big brown patch. Once again we compliment them on their artistry and get the hell outta there.
This blog is getting way too long so will leave our desert adventure till nek time . Can't believe we missed The D !
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