Desert’s Reach (Morocco #3)

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There comes a time when man must leave the sanctuary that the city offers and venture deep within the wild. The desert was calling, with its promises of camels, dunes and merciless heatstrokes. Sure, it wouldn’t be such a dangerous and daring adventure – due to the lack of money and a driving licence. But I tried…

The Tour

First and foremost, y’all need to be careful when you pick which tour you want to go on. There is a variety of options, depending on how many days you want to spend and which places you want to go to. I went for the 3 days, 2 nights options towards Erg Chebbi; what you have to look out for is the price. Everyone I spoke with had a different initial tour organizer and I think everyone paid a different amount. I have seen websites online (should you want to organize this beforehand) that charge ridiculous amount, like 300 euro, as if the camels you will go on are made of gold.

Example: I booked my tour through these guys, for a price of 95€. Once I received the email of confirmation, they seem to have a second website, where Marrakech to Fes is at least 180€ (which is insane, because from Merzouga to Fes in no way will it cost you 90€ to get there). A good option would be to sort it out once you get there (maybe let your riad do it for you). There were several mini-buses doing that trip every day.

Ait Ben Haddou

Normally, this is where I would start complaining of how horrible it is to be stuck with tourists on a minibus. To my great surprise, it really wasn’t the case. Most of the people were genuinely pleasant human beings, some quite traveled, and they did add to the overall enjoyment of my trip (with just one or two individuals that would at times make me cringe).

The bad part of being part of an organised tour, however, is that you end up going to all sorts of places I didn’t really care much about.

All I wanted was camels and desert dunes.

Instead, we ended up on a hill, with no shade, the sun slow-cooking my brain, looking at huts made of mud.

No offense, I am sure some people love listening to the history of the mud huts, how they’re also made of straw, the differences between a ksar and a kasbah. But really, if I wanted all of this I would read Wikipedia. So I spent my time spying on birds in various positions with the mud huts.

The only remotely interesting facts about this place is that this is where the Gladiator was partly filmed, as well as parts of Game of Thrones (there were even pictures of Khaleesi on set). That took about, what, half a minute of being interested in the place.

We then stopped in Ouarzazate for some Movie Museum which I avoided and instead just sat on a terrace and drank a coke. It was cool, it had ice in it. And it was cheaper than the museum price. Towards the end we headed to Dades Gorge and stayed the night in a hotel somewhere in one of the valleys; the landscape was quite nice (despite my room not having a window)- something these trips really do well. You get to see a lot of the country out the window of the car.

The night sky was brilliant as there was nothing except our hotel in sight. And no lights. No civilization. Just you, and the stars (and the aliens).

Here are a few panoramas: Ait Ben Haddou and a valley.

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