So unlike this title suggests, this blog isn't solely about camping in the Sahara Desert. But not to fear: desert camping is still a piece of the story! This blog is about my recent trip to Morocco, which was definitely one of my most exciting trips this semester. I had never been to Africa before so I was very excited to finally see part of the continent. All of my expectations were completely blown out of the water; I especially was not prepared for the chaos that made up the city of Marrakesh (although I have to thank the movie The Mummy for preparing me for the beauty of the ancient town Ait Benhaddou).
After being dropped off in the city center an ancient looking man greeted us and piled our backpacks into a wagon which he carted alongside us as we headed towards our Riad (a popular form of lodging in Morocco). Compared to my usual choice of budget hostels this Riad felt like absolute luxury. The walls were made up of beautiful colored tiles and our room contained a king sized bed as well as two couches that we had all to ourselves. We were also greeted with delicious mint tea (the drink of choice in Morocco) and informed that there was a jacuzzi on the roof so it is safe to say that we were absolutely thrilled. We explored a few of the shops near our Riad but then headed back to get some rest because we knew 6:30 was going to come quickly.
Our tour guide picked us up at 7 o'clock and we set out for the Atlas Mountains. I was very surprised to see that the tops of the mountains were covered in snow. Next up, we visited Ait Benhaddou (A World Heritage Site) to see the village whose buildings have been around since the 11th century. The combination of the clay houses, swaying palm trees, green river, and vibrant blue sky made this village absolutely stunning. We were informed that a multitude of movies had been filmed here including The Mummy, Gladiator, a variety of biblical movies, and even a few episodes of Game of Thrones.
My friend Lena & some Geode rocks
Atlas Mountains and some sunshine :)
In the distance you can see Ait Benhaddou, the 11th century village
Panorama of Ait Benhaddou
Lena in the Ait Benhaddou village
Markets in Ait Benhaddou
The next day we visited a Berber village where we learned about the people living in the village as well as the Nomadic families living in the surrounding mountains. Our tour guide informed us that most of the nomadic families were divorced or widowed mothers caring for (on average) eight children, thus living in severe poverty. It was amazing to hear that the villagers offered any empty houses to these families in the winter for free: no strings attached. After this visit it was time for our final destination: The Sahara Desert. Our driver brought us to the beginning of the desert and where the road stopped we prepared for our next mode of transportation: camels. We began our journey into the desert as the sun was setting and I can honestly say I will never forget the view of the sun shimmering over the never-ending sand dunes. We arrived at our tents after an hour or so and we all sat around a fire while our tour guides played drums and taught us Arabic songs in the light of the moon.
Bridge crossing on the way to the Berber Village
Can you spot the moon?
Single file !!
Distant view of our campsite
A few of our group members on top of the sand dunes
The next day involved a brutal 10 hour drive back to Marrakesh but luckily, since we left early we made it back by around 9pm. My friend and I headed into the main square and were completely baffled by the chaos that awaited us. (Keep in mind this took place late on a Sunday night) The square was filled with hundreds of people, all gathered in circles watching street performers or bands performing traditional Moroccan music. The smell of Moroccan spices wafted through the air as we wondered about the square taking in the scenery. There were even monkeys roaming around the square as well as boxing matches: it really was wild. I was so amazed by the small amount of the country I was able to see in one weekend and I know this visit definitely will not be my last.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>"It feels good to be lost in the right direction" </p>
<p>Leading a dangerously caffeine dependent life and learning as much as I can wherever I go. </p>
<p>University of Massachusetts Amherst ---> University of Amsterdam </p>