So here I am again on another adventure into the unknown something I’ve dreamt of but never in my consciousness had I thought that this was the time I would make my journey to the Desert. Yes the thought always there but here and now – WOW – a trip to the Desert – Planned but nothing confirmed till the last minute, so as my friend and I are picked up by our guide Mohamed from out little stop over hotel in Fez we realised it was finally happening – an early morning start at 8 – ok not that early but for us it was on that day – not that we’d been out late, just Morocco sleeps till 10 – how lucky are they (– well obviously not all of Morocco) or maybe just how lucky were we.
Reaching the 4×4 at the Famous Blue Gate of Fez we clamber in and set off for a long full day journey to Marzouga – Travel sickness tablets in tow – oh my breaking every belief and habit in my book – resorting to medication once again – but I knew it was tablets and the desert or nothing and the desire, fascination and curiosity was too great to pass by. I was actually going to the Sahara – wow in my wildest dreams.
Luckily many stops were planned on the way and my travel buddy and I had plenty to chat and laugh about. Are travel guides from the Desert Crew Company were also fun chatty and informative, so before long we arrived at Ifrane for breakfast– known as little Switzerland to the Moroccans and as we arrived we knew exactly why – it was green lush and just as you’d imagine Switzerland, famous for its skiing in the winter and a statue of a lion gracing the main square representing the last lion killed in the area – So Morocco had lions in its past history.
Some local milwee pancakes and coffee sped us along to the cedar forest which we again visited on our return to hug them in their magnificence embracing their powerful energy. Hugs have been rare here in Morocco so even a tree hug was worth so much. And there we watched wild monkeys being fed on apples and other delicacies as they groomed each other and looked at us with pleading eyes for food. Though not as friendly as Taki in Volubilis, as they were left to remain wild, there were no hugs to be had, but it was so much fun to watch their playful nature as they interacted with humans from afar and tended to their own daily goings on.
The scenery was so varied as our journey progressed through the mid and high atlas mountains – From green valley land and its miles of date palms it was interesting to see that even as there was drought and some riverbeds dried and cracked as their thirst for water to hydrate the land persisted –the ground the date palms grew on was lush and green and the date picking season had arrived in its full glory with date sellers on the road side and date expos in surrounding villages showing off their produce to locals and foreigners.
It wasn’t long before the scenery changed again and the high Atlas Mountains were predominant on the horizon; Rough rugged red and sand-coloured rocks reaching high into the sky. This place was very special to the Moroccans as within these mountains a trade had emerged where fossils of plant, animal and meteorites were plentiful. Beautiful semi-precious rocks and stones, displayed in every ‘meteor’ store – Malakite, selenite, lapis and sooooo many more. Store holders waiting at the ready with plenty of information or each stone and where it was mined, with the hope of some sales being made. A nation with such treasure troves grasping at whatever is possible for them to make a living for their families, using their resources of the land as best as they can.
The rugged mountains weathered and battered into such beautiful visual scenery bathed in its barrenness with the odd tree spouting its seed to eventually grow into its tree magnificence. And then, the scenery just changes into a flat and barren scape – sooooo flat trimmed at the far away horizon by the mountains we had just left behind falling into the distance.- it was the edge of the desert flat straight roads some already being tarmacked as we left the nearest village stretching out as far as the eye could see, which at that time of the night wasn’t very far as the dusk settled in fast as we arrived at our first lodging.
A purpose built hotel called a Kasbah a castle made from mud and straw. The sky was already bathed in the quickly descending dusk as the sun had already begun to set, and a sense of magic could be felt in the air – maybe simply because we knew we had arrived at our destination for the first night.
This was a such a different country, gone were the Moroccans of Fez and the Towns and even Moulay Idriss, here were the Berbers dressed in their fine bright blue adorned jelababs and turbans.
A different people, so different even than those folk of Moulay , still poor in comparison but a feeling of the love of life was so much more prominent with these people, they seemed much more alive. Or maybe it was just their awareness of keeping tourists happy and entertained. The hotel though a tourist pit-stop for the desert was thought out and cared for in true tradition though simple vibrant with colour, cloth and décor, an honorary naff dinosaur statue spitting water into the tiled pool (so in keeping of where we were)and yet there were signs of typical Moroccan tiling, colour and a huge feeling of being welcomed. I could not have complained about anything had I tried. After a berber meal of stuffed courgettes, aubergines bread olives and the traditional tagine we slept like a babies till the following morning the anticipation of the day woke me up.
Donkey Park ( who needs cars anyway)
The following day was new – filled with excitement of what was to follow but we were not sure what to expect either as already the previous evening we were taken to have a glimpse of a wedding of the tour guides friend which had not been on the agenda – so what other endless possibilities would emerge for us today – Having been given a choice – A drive round the Dunes or a visit to the local market. the latter seemed a better choice as we would be camel riding through the dunes anyway, and were we glad to have made that decision – another day in the car would have been roasting and who would want to miss a donkey park and a delicious berber pizza meal in a local home that we had watched it being prepared and cooked in the communal mud ovens frequented by the women where they gathered to gossip and catch up on the daily goings on of the village as their food was being baked. So communal, so cheery, such lovely people, weaving their own tapestry of life.
At last bellies full our long awaited trip to the desert was imminent ………………………………………………