{RAK} mountains and desert and camels.

(This post totally needs pictures…!)

On Saturday, bright and early at 7am, we were picked up by the van which was going to take us to the desert! We made our way from Marrakech through the higher Atlas Mountains, which was an interestingly twisty and turny ride. Luckily the many road trips that I have taken with my parents have taught me how to sleep under any condition in a moving vehicle. So I got to catch up on a little bit of sleep.

We stopped at a rest stop on the way, rehydrating a little with some mint tea and taking in some views, before continuing on our windy journey through the mountains. We then stopped at a little restaurant a little way from Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah to place our orders first, before continuing on to see the old town.

The fortified town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to five families, who have lived there for many, many years. It is also the site where a number of movies have been filmed e.g. Gladiator, Alexander, The Mummy, and the first of them all, Lawrence of Arabia.

We got the chance to see inside one of the family’s houses, which was pretty cool. The owner was actually involved in the production of Gladiator and there is even a scene in the movie that was filmed in one of the rooms of his house. In fact, he received us there and served us tea and almonds. :)

We wandered around a little bit more before heading back to the restaurant to have our lunch: kafta tagine and kafta pizza. Omnomnom. :)

Then we were on our way again, towards Zagora. As we made our way through the High Atlas, the highest point that we reached was Tizin’tichka Pass, at 2260m (although the highest in the entire range is 4167m!!) We also stopped by a supermarket in Ouarzazate to stock up on things for the night if we so chose. And then it was on through the Draa Valley, which was palm trees galore :)

Arrived at Zagora to find our camels waiting patiently for us! :)

Ok, so riding a camel is kind of bumpy and so I was a little bit sore after an hour or so of riding, although, I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for the guys…! Got to watch a bit of the sunset while we were riding though, so that was nice :)

And our final destination? The edge of the Sahara, to stay the night at a nomad camp.

Once we got to the camp, it was super dark. We dismounted and then waited around for a while… To be honest, it felt a little bit disorganised. Finally we were ushered to a tent and we girls were told to wait inside… In the dark…?! Yeah, we never figured that out. Anyway, a gas tank was brought out and a makeshift lamp was made. We sat around for a while, before we were served some tea :) Oh, and there was that episode with the bird…!

A little bit of waiting later and our meal began to arrive. First soup and bread, then chicken tagine… And then a kafta tagine because we were still hungry after one! Mandarins were good to finish up the meal. Hung out for a little while longer before we were summoned for a night of entertainment around the fire.

After that, we ended up heading to sleep because when you’re out in the desert, there isn’t much that can really keep you up…

It was a bit difficult to sleep that night, and I woke up many times due to the crazy cold from the open flap of the tent that we couldn’t figure out how to close… In the morning, we were awoken by our kind hosts to watch the sunrise. It was super pretty, with the horizon seemingly stretching out until forever in some places…

Then it was back to town, again on camels. There were a few incidents where camels would become untied from the line… or they would bolt at the sound of a motorbike! Kind of scary, but all part of the experience. :)

Once back at Zagora, we continued again on the bus, making a brief bonus stop in the Draa Valley to explore the palm tree oasis and steal some dates :) It was kind of amazing to see so much greenery so close to the desert.

Onward to Ouarzazate, which is home to two studios where a number of films have been made. It was a fairly long drive away, but luckily I was able to catch up on some sleep. :)

We made a brief stop to look out over a canyon which was kind of cool. :)

When we finally got to Ouarzazate, we stopped for lunch and shuffled around, trying to find a table that was sufficiently in the sun. We couldn’t go past the chicken couscous and chicken and chips tagine. Luckily, ours was well cooked…!

There was one more rest stop back to Marrakech, where we were told we could buy souvenirs, but I was not in the mood for bargaining…

Another 2 hours or so of more of driving and then we were about 30 minutes away… But then we were told that we had to make a stop to ‘watch the sunset’, aka leave some time to get the mini bus washed. They must have realised that we were a bit miffed, and so we left behind the car wash and headed on our way.

A quick stop at our driver’s house so that he could pick up a hug and kiss from his family after being on the road for two days… And whatever else was in the bag that his wife gave him. :)

When we finally made it back to Marrakech, we made plans to meet later for dinner in the square.

Back at the hostel, we found that we had been changed to a different room, which at least had working hot water! \o/ So after a nice shower and then a bit of a rest, we headed back out to find stand #40. Problem was, we thought they had meant a food stall. In the end though, we found them on ‘juice alley’ and we partook in some lovely 4dm freshly squeezed orange juice. :)

When the others arrived, we headed off in search of some food to eat. After being embarrassed by the applause down one street, we eventually stopped at stand #55 for some chicken tagine, as usual, and tried some calamari (awesome) and flatfish (could have been fried more to be more crispy). We then headed back to #40 Juice Man, and I tried the more pricey mixed orange/grapefruit option, but to be honest, it tastes almost the same as orange on its own…

Stayed around to chat a bit, but then ended up heading back to the hostel. I was super tired, despite being able to sleep some on the bus, so ended up sleeping quite early, although I was awake at some point to find out that the Packers had won! Yay…? \o/ Lol.

Thanks to our guide Mustafa, and driver Abdul, from Moroccan Views, who were with us for almost all of our wonderful desert experience! :)

Two more days have passed since then, and Marrakech has proven itself to be a lovely place. Hopefully I can write that all up soon!

‘Til then!


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