Morocco - The Desert

We took a flight from Santiago De Compostela to Marrakesh Morocco.  The airport was new and modern with very few people.  Immigration was easy and our driver was waiting with our names on a sign.  Boy we love it when all works out well.  We arrive one day prior to the start of an organized 10 day tour of the country.  Our hotel is outside of the city, large with a great swimming pool.  It was nice to relax in the sun.  We took a walk from the resort passing a movie theater on our way to a very nice shopping mall. This area was very modern and we find a Carrefour, which was like a small Target store with groceries and clothes, appliances Here we purchased 2 sleeping bags to be prepare for our desert sleep over.

This is the salad for the table at dinner

This is the salad for the table at dinner

We meet with our group and our tour guide and after a review of the plans for the next 10 days we all pile into our van (and temporary home for the 2,000+ KM we will travel) and head out for a our first great dinner in the main town.

Our travel van

Our travel van

Our travel group is small, 11 in total.  We picked a tour group that specializes in budget backpacker type travelers, so we are the youngest in the group by many years, most of the others are our kids ages and are from New Zealand and Australia, all living in London and one American.   

We start early the next day for a full day of driving south to the desert of Morocco The next morning we loaded up on the 15 space Van and started the drive toward the southeast portion of the country through the Atlas Mountains and onward to the Sahara. The terrain in this part was barren with foothills, plateau  and finally the Great Atlas Mts. Top height being 2400 meters.

 Our first stop is market day in a small village.  The winding streets are full of vendors selling vegetables, meats and dried goods.  This is not unlike the many markets we visited in South American except it is all men.  At this village the women to not go to market.  See the pictures below of the market and the terrain 

As the sun began to dipwe reached the final destination for the night. We were in the wilderness area, of the Bedouins. We unloaded our luggage on a road to nowhere into a small pickup. We then marched on foot into the wild until we reached our tent city encircling a common area with rugs anda central fire pit. Our luggage had been delivered and we took possession of the private tent with double bed and many blankets.  The bathroom tent was separated from the tent circleby 25 yards with a path marked with stone borders.  The bathroom floors are sand with 3 stalls, and a sink with a sand bottom, very basic.

Dinner with our travel mates

In the large food tent we had traditional Moroccan food with Mint tea. We broke out a bottle of redwine that we had carried from Portugal and shared with our table.  The temperature was dropping, but we all sat around the fire pit while the local hosts played traditional instruments and allowed us to enjoy a medley of drumming beats. It was desert cold. When bedtime came we used our cheap little sleeping bags for an extra layer of warmth along with 3 heavy woolen blankets.   We both wore stocking caps and prayed we would not have to make a bathroom run.  No such luck. Freezing. 

The silence of the night was broken by the honk of the donkey that was staked near the bathroom. Is this the desert rooster  Thankfully, this was not the wake up call and we could stillsleep under the warm blankets covering our ears. See the pictures below

Up early for a very cold breakfast, a great sunrise and our camel ride.  The camels are waiting a few yards from our tent circle.  Without much instructions we are loading on them, they kneel and quickly jump up and off we go.  The camels are fitted with saddles made of thick blankets with a hole for the hump.  You sit behind the hump and bounce along.  It can be a painful ride, especially for the guys.  

Our pizza

After 2 hours we meet our van at the side of the road and pile in for our next destination, the middle Atlas Mountains.  We drive for 6 hours with one quick lunch stop.  Along the way our guide tells us about the new King and how quickly the country has changed to a Democracy.  Women have equal rights and are not required to wear the head scarf called a Khimar. Each village we pass is busy and we do see women without the Khimar, but also some fully robed in black.  In the afternoon our guide stopped and jumps out, after 5 minutes he returns with a pipping hot "pizza" for us to share.  This is the speciality of this area, it has a top crust and is filled with meat, raisins and almonds, very tasty

We arrived at our destination, a hotel in the middle of nowhere and were quickly moved into jeeps for a desert ride before the sunset. 

We split up getting into 2 vehicles and took off for the wilderness going up and down hills and speeding on the flats. Frank had the more conservative driver. Janet had the crazy driver and a lot more fun. They did spin outs, higher banked turns, and accelerated faster, switching out front seat passengers for equal excitement and fear factor.

When finished our motor trek at the home of a bedouin.  We were invited to see to his home, that was several room composed of some solid walls and tent material. We met his 2 wives, saw the cooking area, met his goats, saw the water well and had mint tea in his separate canopy tent.  The house was very clean with dirt floors and several rooms.  Per our guide, the women do up to 90% of all the work including tending the animals, this is a very hard life.  The man was younger and actually quite handsome, dental work aside. 

Woman making tea for us 

We loaded back up into the jeeps and took off for our hotel. Surprise! We did get to the hotel but our group was assigned the tent area. Cold feet again, but at least they promised hot running water for showers. These tents where made of a rubberized fabric with electricity but with the mattress on the rugged ground. The common area was rugged. We however congregated inside the hotel for dinner and used the permanent shower rooms next to our tent city. The water was hot and refreshing. We ate and then with the sun up we trekked into the foothills of the Sahara Desert.  This area was rolling hills of bright red sand that extended as far as the eye could see. Our little group walked, ran, and jumped over the sands from the crest of one hill to the next. The view, and shadows were spectacular.   Next stop Fez 

Sunrise with our tent city behind