Morocco Part 2

Day 102: June 22, 2018

I stayed up a bit too late reading then woke up around 3:30 am from a bad dream. We woke up at 7:30 am and went down for breakfast. We had boiled eggs, crepes, bread and fresh orange juice. The waiter always had a smile on his face and he had been nice enough to arrange to bring the food up to our room when Danny was sick. We all paid into a tipping kitty at the beginning of the trip, but we tipped him a bit more.

At 9:00 am we boarded the bus and drove through the desert passing small oasis towns. We drove passed the largest silver mine in Africa. It uses water from a local village which has caused drought for the residents. They come to the main road quite often to protest. The company was previously owned by the French, but is now owned by the royal family. The company’s representative claims they employ many villagers, who say this is not true.

The previous king had an absolute monarchy and ruled until 1999. There were two coup d’états, one in 1971 and one in 1972. Due to this, 39 military officials were placed in a secret prison with cells only 1 m x 1 m. They spent 18 years inside with only five surviving. An American woman married to one of the prisoners came looking for her husband. After 20 years she found a local who told her where she could see a guard tower. She saw it and was sure her husband was there. With the help of the American government, the prisoners were freed. The current king ordered reconciliation payments to the families. Moroccan prisons have change, but are still not a place you want to be due to overcrowding.

We stopped in the Valley of Roses where 800 tons of rose petals are harvested every April. They are used to make rose water and put in cosmetics. There were some vendors selling different jewellery. Moroccans are very superstitious, especially the women. Babies, pregnant women and brides are adorned with jewellery shaped like a hand which is the Hand of Fatima, who was the daughter of the prophet Mohammed. It is believed to defend against the evil eye. In small villages there are still witch doctors. People go to them for revenge mostly. The witch doctor will make odd requests like take a piece of glass from a car accident, bring me the underwear of the person you want to curse or collect the dead skin from the person you want revenge on.

We saw Cinema Studio Atlas, a film studio set up in the desert that has been operating since 1957. It has produced such films as Gladiator, The Mummy and Black Hawk Down were filmed there. We stopped for lunch nearby. Danny and I shared a very nice Moroccan soup (harira) and a Margherita pizza. We continued driving to our hotel right near Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We rested for a bit then met up at 6:30 pm to walk over to the kasbah or fortress. It held a community’s important goods and the chief lived inside. There were 35 tribes in Morocco before the French arrived. This kasbah was built in the 18th century and had a collective granary at the top. It was an important stop for caravans travelling from Sudan to Marrakech to trade. There are currently only 4 or 5 families living inside. Most have moved to more modern homes. A lady on our way up invited us inside her home. We saw how they lit the fireplace under the bath for heat. We also saw how they grind grains. We walked up to their terrace which had a very nice view.

View over Ait Ben Haddou

We continued our walk to the top for a view of the houses below and the Atlas Mountains. Yassine said that not much money is put into preserving the site.

View to the Atlas Mountains from Ait Ben Haddou

We visited a local artist who was making paintings of Ait Ben Haddou and the desert. He used sugar and tea for a dark colour, saffron for yellow and indigo for blue. It didn’t look that great until he burned it slightly and the colours popped out.

We walked back to the hotel and had a tajine cooking class. Everything was prepared and all we had to do was throw it in the tajine. Chicken with red onions was added first. Then 1/2 tsp each of garlic, pepper, salt, cumin, sweet paprika, turmeric, ginger and parsley. Then two dashes of olive oil were placed on top. It was cooked on low for 10 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through and adding a bit of water. Then we added the veggies: potatoes, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and olives. We added five tablespoons of water around and then let it cook for 45 minutes more. Our tajines turned out pretty well and we very much enjoyed eating them.

Our tajines
Day 103: June 23, 2018

We woke up and had breakfast: crepes, bread and boiled eggs. Danny’s stomach wasn’t feeling very good again. We hopped on the bus and drove through the high Atlas Mountains. We went through the highest driveable mountains pass in Africa at 2,260 m.

High Atlas Mountains

We stopped at an argan oil cooperative where many women work. They are typically divorcees and single mothers. In society, they are looked down on. Families disown them as they have brought shame to the family. The child from a single mother is unable to get a birth certificate without the father there. A German association is helping to legally go after the fathers so the children can get documentation. Many of the children end up as street children or in child labour as they are unable to go to school. Child labour is illegal in Morocco.

Many babies are kidnaped for use by professional beggars or treasure hunters. There are over 300,000 professional beggars in Morocco. In the 10th-13th centuries people buried their treasures. It is believed they are protected by spirits. To protect you from the supernatural you need to bring a baby. You cut the hand of the baby to decode the spell to find the buried treasure. It is illegal in Morocco, but still done. Metal detectors are also illegal.

The argan tree is native to the Atlantic Ocean region of Morocco. At the cooperative, we saw the women cracking the nuts with rocks. We were able to taste the roasted nut which had a very odd after taste. Another woman was grinding the nuts into paste. We tasted the oil, nut butter and honey made from the argan.

Argan oil production

We continued our drive into Marrakech and arrived at our hotel. We had lunch across the street. I had spinach ravioli. Mmm.

We then drove to the Marrakech kasbah. Our first stop was the Saadian tombs which hosts 170 tombs for the royal family. There are three rooms: one for the sultans, one for his wives and one for their children. People are placed in the tombs on their sides facing Mecca. The Saadian family ruled for three centuries. In 1659, the Alaouite dynasty took over of which the current king is a part.

Saadian tombs

We moved on to the Jewish quarter established in the 16th century. Jews originally settled in Fez, but when it became overcrowded a Jewish quarter was created in Marrakech.

We walked on to Palace Bahia which was built in 1894 by a grand vizier of the sultan, who named it after his favourite wife. His favourite wife had given him his first son. The palace is sometimes still used by relatives of the current king. We visited the administrative section first. The palace is of Moorish design: ceilings of painted cedar wood, stucco walls and tile floors. At that time, there were no chairs just mats and rugs. People would lounge so the roofs were very ornate.

A roof in Palace Bahia

Next was the family section with four rooms: one for each of his official wives. They would all have been of high birth and were married for life. A separate courtyard had eight rooms for the unofficial wives. They needed to be very beautiful: young (12-20 years old) and obese. They were for fun and pleasure. In Southern Morocco it is still believed a larger woman is more beautiful. Some families force feed their daughters for marriage. If they have money, they may send their daughter to a fattening farm. The daily diet would include two cups of butter, twenty litres of milk and two kilograms of couscous.

Courtyard of Palace Bahia

The next section was the private apartment, where there was food, belly dancing, music and sex with a different wife every night. Outside, five unichs would be waiting on a wooden platform. Four would sit and one would march, deliberately noisy, so the master would know they were awake and ready to serve him.

Our tour ended in the main square of Marrakech where there were many vendors, snake charmers and men with monkeys. It was a very large square with restaurants all around.

We were given free time so we walked into the medina. Danny and I walked in a straight line to ensure we didn’t get lost. It kept going forever. I bartered for some leather shoes. Some vendors didn’t like my low balling and just walked away. The prices went up to 380 Durhams. I paid 100 Durhams and I think I overpaid a bit. The market was much more chill than the ones in Egypt. In Egypt, the vendors would follow you and were just generally annoying. In Morocco, they mostly left you alone.

We met some others from our group and went on a horse carriage ride around town. It was nice, but we mostly just saw hotels. We took a taxi back to the hotel from the main square.

Danny wasn’t feeling well so he had a nap before we met everyone for supper at 8:00 pm. We walked about 10 minutes to a fancy restaurant. The food took a long time and we were getting very tired. Danny and I shared a pizza and salad although he didn’t eat much. We got back to the hotel and said our goodbyes. We weren’t as tight with this group as the one in Egypt, but we really enjoyed them. We went to bed right away to be ready for an early wake up.

Day 104: June 24, 2018

We woke up at 4:15 am for our taxi ride to the airport at 4:45 am. Yassine was nice enough to arrange the ride. It only took 15 minutes. We checked in then went through security. The domestic portion was very small.

There was only time for a 20 minute nap on the 45 minute flight from Marrakech to Casablanca. We had a two hour layover then boarded another 45 minute flight to Tanger. We were told to fill out a landing card even though we came domestically then the officers were confused.

We got through the airport and went outside. There was no one really hassling us for a cab as it seemed there was a set price to get to certain places. Our driver wasn’t sure where we were going, but others helped him figure it out based on our map. I had remembered to download an offline map and pin our Airbnb location in GoogleMaps.

We arrived at the location and the driver let us use his phone to call our host. The number didn’t seem to work so we told him he could leave us there. We went into a restaurant and used their wifi to message the host. We were freaking out a bit because the address only said the road name and the phone number wasn’t working. The host replied, but then we couldn’t find her. Finally we found the apartment and Danny got the keys.

We relaxed a bit then went walking to where GoogleMaps said there was a supermarket. It may have been closed or may not have existed. We did find a small store to buy water, yogurt and bananas.

Walking around as a minority is different. I’m not sure if we were looked at because I had no scarf on my head or if it was just because we were the only white people there. All the other places in Morocco I didn’t notice it that much, but we were usually with a group and in more touristy areas. I had also read not great things about the safety of Tanger so I think I was more on edge as well. Being glanced at does make you feel uncomfortable even when nothing is meant by it.

We went to a cafe for supper, but the waiter didn’t speak English and my French is not very good. We ordered orange juice, but they didn’t seem to have food. We walked back to the place we had used wifi to message our host and ordered pizzas which were all right. We went back to our Airbnb and I FaceTimed a friend before bed.

Our Airbnb host had recommended a cab driver to take us to the port in the morning. Danny sent him a message on WhatsApp and he sent voice recordings back which were cute. He said to speak instead. I guess his reading and writing of English weren’t too great, but his speaking and listening were better. He agreed to pick us up at at 6:00 am Moroccan time to drive us to the port to catch our ferry to Spain. Danny confirmed, “6:00 sharp.” And he replied, “Yes, 6:00 Moroccan time”. Danny got off the phone concerned that Moroccan time was similar to Nepali time. We will see what happens.

Day 105: June 25, 2018

We haven’t been feeling so great the last couple of days. Both of us are feeling homesick. Being somewhere different, then being on tour with only restaurant food is tiring. We are looking forward to cooking our own food and relaxing a bit. We knew this portion of the trip would be draining as the tours were fast paced and the cultures very different. It was all exciting, but I’m looking forward to being somewhere more familiar. We are starting to wonder how we will do in Asia and if we will get tired there.

We were up at 5:15 am to pack and eat a small breakfast. We were outside ten minutes early and our driver showed up five minutes early. When he arrived he said, “6:00 am” and we said, “Yes, 6:00 Moroccan time” and laughed.

He drove us along the coast and pointed out the fancy hotels and best places for coffee. He was quite chatty on the 50 minute drive to Tanger Med. He offered us a couple of items for free, but we just said no. He was very nice.

At the departures we were pointed in the right direction by random people which was very helpful. We had booked a 9:00 am ferry, but it wasn’t leaving until 9:30 am. It wasn’t busy at all at the port. We went through security and customs and were still two hours early. We sat in the waiting hall. A kitty came in and sat behind us. Danny played with her using his broken phone cord. Every time the cleaning lady appeared the kitty would run back outside. Obviously they had a history.

Danny playing with the kitty at Tanger Med

Around 9:00 am we boarded a bus and were driven to the ferry. We could see large ships being loaded with freight. We sat for a bit inside the ferry and had I napped until we left at 9:30 am. We went outside to say goodbye to Africa. The ferry only took euros so we weren’t able to use the rest of our durhams. We stood at the back of the ferry and I actually had to put my sweater on for the first time in a month.

Saying goodbye to Africa

It was very foggy over Tanger. We started to see Europe and were in the middle of the two continents which was pretty cool. It’s crazy how close they are at that point. There were lots of ships. We docked in Algeciras which was even busier than Tanger. My dad would have loved watching all the ships.

Arrived in Europe

It took awhile to get through customs. We arrived at 11:30 am Moroccan time, but quickly realized that Spain is an hour ahead. This may have been why the taxi driver kept repeating, “6:00 am Moroccan time”. This also meant we might not make it to pick up our rental car before the place closed at 1:00 pm. We tried calling, but there was no answer. At 12:50 pm we started our 15 minute walk to the car rental place. Luckily, we got there and someone had delayed the lady from leaving. We were able to get our car and be on our way.

We followed GoogleMaps to a grocery store, but parked in front of a market. We bought meat and veggies there. I squeezed a fig at one of the booths and was scolded. I ended up buying two because I felt guilty. We messaged our Airbnb host, but weren’t able to check in until 4:30 pm. We drove out to the beach and walked for a bit toward Gibraltar then sat on the beach.

Our host’s daughter met us and we took our things to our room. We had major trouble booking a place near Gibraltar. We were cancelled on twice. We ended up booking a shared place in the Spanish town next to Gibraltar. We usually book the entire place to ourselves because we aren’t very social.

We drove to go into Gibraltar, but ended up in a parking lot. I wasn’t sure where to go and I knew Danny was going to ask so I threw the paper and said, “I can’t do this”. I was just overwhelmed and so overtired. We sat while I calmed down.

We drove to a place to eat, but nothing was open until 7:00 pm. We found one place opening at 6:30 pm so we waited outside for 15 minutes. The staff showed up and we were let in. They were super quick with our food which was awesome. It was delicious Indian food. We drove back to our Airbnb and booked the rest of the places to stay in Spain then went to sleep.

We loved learning about the good and bad of Morocco. The architecture was very beautiful and the food was spectacular. We are excited to be back in Europe to more familiarity. Danny has planned a road trip through Spain to Portugal and then back into Spain to end in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls.


Morocco Part 1

Day 97: June 17, 2018

We woke up at 2:30 am to catch our flight from Cairo to Casablanca. We ate the fruit in our room and leftover buns from the train. I FaceTimed my family who was having a family dinner. It was really nice to see them all and it made me wish that I was there. It was only a short chat as our shuttle to the airport was right there. It was a quick five minute free ride, but we tipped.

We went through the first bag scan. A guy kind of helped us through the first bag scan then expected a tip which we didn’t give. Last night when I checked in I noticed we were business class so we were able to use the separate line to drop our bags. We were given a ticket with “Daniel +1” marked on it for the business lounge. It had Danny’s name even though the tickets were in my name….

Another guy put our tags on our bags then expected a tip which again we didn’t give. We went through another bag scan then got our passport stamps. Next was the actual security check. We went through and walked very timidly to the business lounge. There was a space with couches and a bunch of food at a buffet. I asked how much for the buffet and he said, “All free”. I think my eyes went super wide. There were sandwiches, salads and pastries. Juice, water, soda, coffee and tea. I may have overdone it.

We went to the gate and sat waiting. They called business class and we jumped to the beginning of the line. On the plane, our seats were in the second row, two seats per row and so much leg room. We were given a fancy blanket and pillow then juice while we waited on the runway. We had a bag filled with toiletries and even slippers. Our lunch had a real table cloth and napkin. There was little salt and pepper shakers. Then later we were given free tablets and fancy headphones to watch movies. After a comfy nap we were given some snacks.

I looked up the price for the flight later and the business class was double the price of economy at $600 per seat. When we got off the plane there was lots of room to get your bag down and no one was pushing you. Sometimes on planes you feel like cattle, but business class is different. Seats like this will likely not come to us again so we soaked it in.

We had to wait quite a while in the line for customs, but then our bags were sitting waiting for us. We found our transfer driver. We were told to ask him who he was picking up before telling him our names which he did. We arrived at the hotel and were given tea and cookies as a welcome. We came up to our room and soaked in the wifi.

We went up the street to an ATM and found a grocery store to pick up some snacks. On the way back, we stopped at a cafe. The waitress spoke little English and we speak little French, but we understood there was no meals and only drinks. I had a tea and Danny had a banana juice. Then we shared a dessert. Casablanca felt much calmer than Cairo and more Westernized.

Back at the hotel, we looked into how I will get to Frankfurt from Spain in July. Then we went downstairs for the welcome meeting. We met our CEO, Yassine, and the others. There are lots of people from Canada which is cool.

We went for supper up the road. I had lamb couscous and the flavours in it were really amazing. Danny had seafood pastilla, a phyllo pastry pie. We watched the Switzerland vs. Brazil game of the World Cup and chatted about our travels.

Lamb couscous

We all walked back together to the hotel. All of sudden behind us we heard a girl scream once then twice. The German girl with us had her bag stolen out of her hands by two guys on a motorcycle. I thought I saw her spin out of the corner of my eye and thought she had been hit. Her and her boyfriend had all of their stuff in it: money, credit cards, passports and her cell phone. They were devastated and rightly so. We all stood in shock not knowing what to do or how to help. It made us all feel sick. We were feeling so safe and even more so in a group, but you never know when something like that could happen. It could have happened back home as well, but it’s much more devastating as a tourist. I wanted to hug them or do something.

We came back to our room still in shock and feeling upset. It was a big reminder to us that we need to be more vigilant. Our passports are currently worth a lot with the visas we have inside. Losing them would ruin a lot of our plans. I’m not sure what I would do if I was them. It’s an awful spot to be in and could easily have happened to any of us.

Day 98: June 18, 2018

We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel. Lots of carbs, even cookies, then half cooked omelettes. We left Casablanca and drove to Volubilis, a Roman ruin. Along the way we passed many olive and cork trees. Morocco is the third largest producer of cork. There are also lots of truffles growing at the bottom of trees. Dogs are used to sniff them out. The farm land is 70% wheat and barley.

Yassine told us about a book he had read about Moulay Ismail who developed piracy in the Mediterranean in the 17th century. This led to over one million white slaves in Morocco.

For 44 years, Morocco was under French “protection” until their independence in 1956. The current sultan, Mohammed’s family has been ruling since 1666 and is part of the Arab dynasty. He has put in place many social reforms including: women obtaining inheritance rights and the end to underage marriage. As part of the new constitution in 2011, the prime minister is elected rather than appointed. There are 37 political parties in Morocco.

There is a move to privatize the education system. The public schools are overcrowded with 50 students per class. Government officials are given full pensions after a five year term.

The Koran says that drinking alcohol is haram or not allowed (halal means allowed). Morocco is not as religiously strict as other Muslim countries, however, a Muslim won’t be given a receipt if they purchase alcohol. Morocco was the only African Muslim country not invaded by the Ottomans.

We met our guide at Volubilis and he showed us around the 42 hectare site. It was established in the 2nd century AD. The first house we saw was 1,000 square meters and an olive oil merchant lived there. The dining room had a mosaic of Orpheus, the god of music. Fireplaces were built under the baths to provide heating. Another floor mosaic showed Orpheus with a lyre in the tree of life surrounded by African animals.

Mosaic of Orpheus and the tree of life, Volubilis

The next mosaic was a pool with Neptune in the middle and fish around. The houses had communal toilets where families would sit together. There was also a reconstructed olive press. As we walked, you could see the storks atop the ruins.

Storks at Volubilis

Next was a temple for Zeus, Hera and Athena with an altar used for animal sacrifice. The basilica hosted the court of justice and was the political centre. There was a mosaic with a man riding a donkey backwards who was a Roman acrobat.

Mosaic of a Roman acrobat, Volubilis

We saw the washing machine, then an aqueduct that brought spring water mixed with human urine to wash clothes. We saw an atrium with a fountain, a cistern and jacuzzi, then an aquarium.

Jacuzzi, Volubilis

In another house there was a mosaic with twelve Hercules. The ruins were very similar to others we have seen, but I found the expanse of it quite amazing, especially when now it is in the middle of nowhere.

We returned to the bus and stopped for lunch at an association of women that is sponsored by GAdventures. We had tajine for lunch. Tajine is a dish named after the clay pot it is cooked in. I ate way too much, but the chicken was so delicious.

Following lunch, we had an Arabic lesson. We were taught that their language has only consonants and no vowels. She showed us how to spell our names. Sounds in my name don’t exist in Arabic, but below are the closest Arabic sounds. It was definitely the highlight of the day.

Kind of my name in Arabic

We drove into Fez and relaxed for a bit. We had a drink in the bar, but it was too smoky. Smoking was outlawed inside in Morocco in 1996, but no one enforces it. We came back to the room and went to bed. We were so full from lunch that we skipped supper.

Day 99: June 19, 2018

We were able to sleep in this morning and had breakfast at 8:00 am. The buffet breakfasts mean that I eat way too much. We got onto the bus and drove to the Jewish part of Fez called the mellah. Our first stop was Dar al-Makhzen, the Royal Palace built in the 14th century. It shows the Moorish influence in Morocco. Jews that came from Spain brought Moorish life including tile work.

Dar al-Makhzen, Fez

Fez was founded in 808 AD by a descendant of the prophet Mohammed. We drove up to a fort and were able to look out at the Fez Medina. We were told of the oldest university founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 AD.

Panoramic view of Fez

We visited a place where they make pottery. We saw how they mixed the clay, molded it, placed it in the kiln, painted it and then sauldered on decoration. The paint colour changes when fired. I bought a vase that will take up way too much room in my bag.

Woman painting pottery, Fez

We entered the Medina through the food section which is closest to the gates for bringing the food inside. Inside we saw a large camel head which showed where you could buy camel meat. We visited a mausoleum for Idris II, the founder of Fez, which was quite beautiful inside.

Mausoleum of Idris II, Fez

We stopped for lunch nearby. There were Moroccan salads and I had lamb which was very yummy. For dessert there was watermelon and another delicious melon.

After lunch we went to a place where they weave fabrics and saw a large loom at work. They use agave silk made from the agave plant. The people at the shop kept trying to sell us things, but we weren’t interested.

Next we visited Chouara Tannery, which is almost one thousand years old. We were given sprigs of mint to offset the smell of the tannery. They call the smell Chanel No. 5. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. In the tannery, they use pigeon poop collected by the locals. It has ammonia in it to break down the hides. The red colour is from poppy, the blue from indigo, the yellow from saffron, the orange from henna, the brown from cedar wood and the green from mint. There were tons of shops selling leather products.

Chouara Tannery, Fez

After, we headed back to the bus. It was getting quite hot. We got back to the hotel and went to the massages we had booked. I had to get naked right in front of the masseuse then put on a little cloth thong. It was a very oily massage and the stones were very hot.

After our massages, Danny went up to the room and I went downstairs for my hammam. A hammam is a public bath. Naked again, I got into the steam room. It wasn’t crippingly hot, but I was pouring sweat. The lady came and took me to a marble seat outside. She shampooed my hair while I sat there. It made me feel like a princess. Next she took me over to a marble bed and exfoliated me with a mitt. Then she massaged with some soap. The other lady was done with her client so also came over and soaped me. She was moving over my stomach and said, “Bebe.” And I said, “No, I hope not.” It might have just been a food baby from the big lunch. Next they rinsed me off then I got into the jacuzzi. She came over and put her hand out in a claw shape so I did that with my hand. She started laughing. Finally I understood that I was supposed to sink more in the water then the jets hit my back. She massaged my feet for a bit. It was like being cared for by your mom when you were a child.

Next I got out and sat on the seat again. She applied a scrub then rinsed me off. I was able to have a shower then she brought over a towel and robe. I was told to sit and relax. Eventually I got dressed and went back to the room much more relaxed.

We went for supper to a cafe with the group to watch the Egypt vs. Russian World Cup game. We had Moroccan salad and a cheese crepe. We walked back to the hotel and packed up to leave tomorrow.

Day 100: June 20, 2018

Early morning. Up at 5:30 am to leave at 7:00 am. I tried not to indulge so much at breakfast, but I mean pancakes! We had a 10 hour drive to the Sahara. We drove through the Atlas Mountains and stopped in a town ranked the second cleanest in the world.

Further on, we stopped on the side of the road in the mountains to see a Berber family. There are 16,000 people living as nomads in the mountains. The mountains are dominated by the Berbers, who are non-Arab speaking people. This was a term used by the French to describe barbarians. The correct word is Amazigh. They dominate Northern Africa and typically have lighter skin. It is believed that they emigrated from Europe. In 2012, their language was recognized as an official language of Morocco. Although, people still cannot name their children Berber names.

Home of a Berber family, Atlas Mountains

The family we visited consisted of ten people. As we walked up the lady said to Yassine in Berber, “I haven’t seen you in awhile”. It is interesting the relationships that tour guides build. Yassine told us that not all GAdventures tour guides stop there.

The family works for a farmer to take care of the sheep. They are paid 5%. They spend half the year in the mountains then move to the lowlands in the winter. We saw their home that is heated with propane and wood. They are only allowed to cut trees at certain times of the year. They had a solar panel to provide light inside. We saw their oven outside where they make 5-6 loaves a bread a day.

Berber woman making bread, Atlas Mountains

We had bought groceries for a picnic lunch the day before. We had dried bread with cheese, tomato and cucumber. The Morocco vs. Portugal World Cup game was on in the restaurant and it was packed with locals.

We continued driving and stopped to look at an oasis of date palm trees in the dessert. There are 350 different types of dates with 18 varieties found in Morocco.

Date palm oasis, Morocco

We continued our drive to the Sahara. Then drove off the main road to a hotel right on the edge of some dunes. There was a locker room where we left our stuff. We went for a swim in the pool which was very refreshing in 36 degree heat. We changed to get ready for our camel ride into the desert at 6:30 pm. We only took small day packs.

Camel in the Sahara

The sun was still out, but it wasn’t as hot as I was expecting. We received a lesson on how to tie our scarves around our heads. My camel was quite uncomfortable as I kept sliding to the right. We road about 1.25 hours into the desert to a small camp. The dunes reminded me of Namibia and you couldn’t take a bad picture of them.

Danny riding a camel in the Sahara

We arrived and were super sore from sitting for so long. My back hurt as well. As we walked into the camp, Yassine told us to climb the dune behind the camp to watch the sunset. Danny went straight up the hill which was the hard way as the sand kept slipping. We reached the top of a small dune and I was dead. Danny kept going, but I sat there resting with some others. Yassine yelled for us to go higher. So I climbed up a bit more. Everyone else stopped, but by then I was determined to make it to the top. After every ten steps I had to stop because my legs were killing me. For every two steps you take you slide back half a step in the sand. When I reached the top I was parched so Danny came over with water and I finished the climb. We sat with the German couple and watched the sun go down.

Sunset in the Sahara

We climbed back down to everyone else then back to our camp. There were olives and nuts to snack on. We brought out our wine as well. We sat chatting with the group until the food came out. There was bread and beef tajine (beef, potatoes, carrots and zucchini). It was very tasty. Our hosts brought out some drums and played some songs while we danced. Danny even tried the drums for a bit.

Danny trying out the drums

We tried some free styling as a group which was pretty fun. At around midnight we got our mattresses and pulled them out to the sand. We laid down and fell asleep under the stars.

Day 101: June 21, 2018

I actually got a bit chilly during the night so I was glad that Danny had brought out two blankets. We had gone to sleep with none.

Our bed in the Sahara

I was up at 6:00 am and climbed a smaller dune to watch the sun come up. It was very peaceful. Danny came up then some others and we watched the sunrise.

Sunrise in the Sahara

Back in camp I did some yoga to prepare for the camel ride back and we were given some tea. We hopped back on the camels at 7:00 am and returned to the hotel.

Camels are very photogenic

Danny was not feeling well on the camel on the way back. When we arrived he puked everything up. We had some breakfast in the hotel and then showered. Danny was still not feeling well.

We drove about 30 minutes on the bus and Danny puked into a bag. Then we pulled over not too long after and another guy had to puke. Danny sat with his head between his legs for the rest of the drive.

We arrived in Todra at our hotel. Quite a few people weren’t feeling well. We are thinking it may have been a bit of heat stroke. Danny stayed in the room and I brought him up some rice. We had an omlette cooked in a tajine with bread and melon for dessert. It was very tasty.

Sick Danny

We had some free time so I called my parents. At 5:30 pm we left for a walk through an oasis where local farmers grow crops. Danny stayed and napped. The oasis is 40 km long. We saw many date palm trees. Many were burned to kill the insects that destroy the trees. They hand pollinate the trees in March and April then hand pick the dates. They obtain 60-80 kilos of dates per tree.

Date palm trees, Todra

We saw their irrigation channels which use spring water.

Irrigation channels, Todra

They had many alfalfa crops that are used to feed their animals. They change the crops based on the four seasons. They were just starting tomatoes and carrots. Stones were used to separate the field between families. There were olive, almond, walnut, fig, pomegranate and apricot trees along our walk. The root of the walnut tree is used to clean teeth. We passed some houses that were abandoned 30 years ago.

Abandoned houses, Todra

We also saw some donkeys and egrets. The farmers grow the food for self consumption.

Donkey, Todra

The area we walked through was just a huge garden. With all the trees, it was quite cool. I wanted to stay there and keep walking around. It felt very peaceful.

Farmer’s crops, Todra

Our bus met us and we thanked the farmer for the tour. We drove to Todra Gorge which is 25 km long. We walked along the narrowest portion for about 10 minutes. Parts of the gorge are 4 km wide. There is lots of rock climbing to be done there. A river runs at the base and many family and friends were there enjoying a meal along the river bank.

Todra Gorge

Back at the hotel, Danny was feeling a bit better, but tired and feverish. I went down for supper and the waiter brought Danny’s up to the room for him. We chatted at supper and when I came back up, Danny was asleep. Now bed time for me.

Our camel ride through the Sahara and night under the stars was definitely a highlight of our trip through Morocco so far. We are excited to see what else Morocco has to offer.