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Published: October 6th 2010
As I am writing this we are en route to Ait Benhaddou, driving between the Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas mountains. I’ll recap what has happened over the last 2 amazing days.
After our visit to the embroidery co-operative we made our way through the atlas to the desert. Along the way we stopped at a fossil museum. The first fossil was uncovered in 1970 and date back to 600 million years ago. Large quantities of fossils were Ammonite, a relative of the calamari family and the fossils had been embedded in stone over time and now are uncovered, cut, buffed and polished. Amazingly they sell the fossils there in everything from pendants to water fountains. We bought a couple of souvenirs and headed to the town of Merzouga to one of the many Auberge’s and packed a small pack to take with us. Riding on a camel for 1.5 hrs. isn’t the most comfortable thing - but an amazing experience. We arrived at our camp during nightfall and had a lovely tagine dinner before climbing one of the many sand dunes. It was a really hot evening so we slept under the stars in amongst cute cats darting back and forth all night (and the little drops of rain once we had all settled down for the night). We woke up shortly before sunrise and climbed the massive sand dune (well some got all the way up, I gave up halfway; Bill went all the way to the top). The sunrise was just breathtaking. Then we herded up our camels for the 1.5 hr. trek back to the Auberge. It was such an amazing experience and different in many ways to Wadi Rum in Jordan. For one the nomadic way of life in the Sahara is still very common and Wadi Rum, for most of the part the people in the desert are just business men with their mobiles booking the net tour group. I really loved the Sahara for the short time we were there - we hadn’t had a shower since the morning before and arrived to our camp all sweaty and were about to embark on a 5 hour trip that day. Phooey!!! And using nature’s toilet was fun too!
We then headed to our next destination Todra Gorge. We stopped a few times en route. The small town is nestled in amongst the mountains with palms and oasis vegetation surrounding the bottom of the mountains. The next day half of the group went on a short walk, while the rest went on the long walk. I chose the shorter 7km walk which seemed much more scenic walking through the palmeries and vegetation and ending at the gorge itself. There is a Todra Gorge in Turkey which I had been previously with Intrepid and that gorge began knee deep and then deeper where you could swim in the (gentle) torrent of water. This Todra Gorge was more of a gentle creek nestled in between 2 massive rock formations to make a gorge. It was a lovely walk and we then went to a local family home/restaurant to have a lovely Berber lunch and met the rest of the group there.
Afterwards we were taken downstairs to view carpets made locally by women of the village. These carpets made locally are supported by the Moroccan government and do not attract heft taxes so the money goes to the women who produced these masterpieces. As Bill and I have bought carpets in Turkey a couple of years ago (a 50- year old nomadic Persian and a rich red Turkmen carpet) it was refreshing to see the differences associated with these Moroccan Berber carpets. Firstly the weave was more like a Kilm one would come across in Turkey, secondly the Berber patterns - bold geometric designs. As carpets came out, everyone oohed and ahhed (so much for poker face). One of the girls purchased a couple of carpets as gifts, while the majority of the group purchased carpets for personal use. There were a couple of carpets produced for weddings - which is used in local Berber culture as a sort of wedding contract, geometric designs such as edgy squiggles, camels, lines etc. symbolising promise, children etc. These carpets were amazing in the work that went into it but not my style (I much prefer the intricate designs and a thick woollen pile, but one did catch my eye was a sticking yellow and black carpet made out of sheep and camel wool and the centre piece were intricate Persian designs. As the larger one was 1000 dirhams more and larger, after some comparing, photo taking we opted for the smaller one. Even though there is only one of the designs it stands out and it was small enough that Bill has it in his backpack. This carpet most likely will be used as a wall hanging on a feature wall that will be a terracotta red in our house, which we don’t have yet and that everyone has dubbed our ‘cyber house’. Lol.
That afternoon we ventured into town for a Hammam (Turkish bath). Now I’ve had hammams in Turkey before, this was a similar experience but low key. 3 separate steam rooms, very basic (no marble of high domed ceiling like in turkey) none the less it was very local and very much a unique experience in that 6 foreign women were in the local hammer steaming ourselves up and then scrubbed, scrubbed and scrubbed even further by local women. It’s amazing all the dirt that came off us (especially after the desert!!). My first hamamm in Bursa, Turkey still is my favourite Hammam but definitely my favourite Hammam experience was here in the Todra Gorge. That evening I partook in some apple shisha - the best ever shisha (yes even better that the one in Aqaba, Jordan) YUM!! Me and 2 other intrepid girls’ shishas until late.
A la prochaine 😊
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