Its been nearly two months since I returned from Morocco and I cannot emphasize how pleasantly surprised I was at what this beautiful country had to offer.
My main reason for the trip was to visit the Sahara desert, however, our journey to this magical place from Marakkech was just as exciting. Tiring, but bloody exciting! When your in Marakkech there are so many tours that offer to take you to the Sahara ( usually marked as a 3 day 2 night trip to merzouga). There are also tours to Zagora, a smaller desert with far less majestic sand dunes. So if you want to experience the desert in its full force, book the trip to Merzouga. The journey is bumpier and longer but the size of the dunes make up for it.
The tours are cheaper if you book them directly with the tour company (forget booking it online as it costs twice the price). It costs around 90euros but you can get it down to 60-70euros if you persist!
Another thing to be aware of – the journey is not short, so be prepared to be in a van for hours driving through the winding roads into the Atlas mountains with drops of a few hundred feet. Not everyone’s idea of a pleasant journey but you get some amazing views that make up for it, if you dare to open your eyes.
There are two main attractions you see en-route to the Sahara. The first one, on day 1, is Morocco’s very own Hollywood attraction– Ait Ben Haddou
The Ksar (a group of modest homes made out of the combination of straw, mud and stones) of Ait Ben Haddou is a popular stop along the way to the Sahara, and rightly so. This old village in the Ourzazate province showcases the architecture of southern Morocco and has also been named a UNESCO Heritage site since 1987.
Whilst there use to be around 80 berber families living in this compound, only 4 families remain at present whilst the rest have been moved to more modern buildings across the river bed.
Inside the protective walls of Ait Ben Haddou you will stumble into an intricate maze of narrow alleys around the Kasbahs( the more majestic fortresses where locals leaders would live) and Ksar’s. Unfortunately you can only enter the gates of Ait Ben Haddou with a local guide ( the required tip is 20dh per person which is nothing), so getting lost in this charming village was not an option.
Although the colours of the street and walls are of a constant red-brown, my eyes never grew tired or bored. Something so simple left more of an imprint on my mind than the houses of parliament and the Big Ben. I felt like princess Jasmine waiting for her magic carpet to arrive at her feet, ready to see the rest of this alluring country.
I am not the only one who was taken away by this fascinating architecture, many film producers have used this old village and the barren, tranquil landscape that surrounds it as the set of famous films such as The Mummy, Gladiator and the Prince of Persia, just to name a few.
After a night in a not so amazing hotel in the Dades region, we made our way to see the next of Morocco’s underestimated natural formation – The Todgha Gorge.
This canyon is not just a sight for the eyes, but also an attraction for professional rock climbers. These majestic walls were carved by the Todgha and Dades rivers. The clear fresh water stream that runs through the gorge works as a gathering spot for the locals to wash their clothes and cool their hard working donkeys.
The beauty of Morocco lies not just in the vast, majestic landscape but in their people. I always find that the poorest countries are homes to the happiest of people. The Berber people, the indigenous North Africans, are surrounded by so much culture and belief. Many of them call themselves “Amazigh” – the free and noble people and there are 6 major different dialects, with different berber families speaking different dialects.
Berber music is a large piece of their culture with rhythmic drum beats that left my feet tapping while we were being driven in our van, hearts beating with excitement for the next and final stop – The Sahara
I never thought for a second that I would arrive in Morocco and keep all my possessions with me but have my heart stolen and that is exactly what happened.
I will be back!