Sahara Dessert

Day 78- Day in the Desert

Today after breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and started to explore the Sahara desert. 

First, Lahcen taught us about the ancient method of irrigation that is still in use today in Morocco. It involves creating a series of wells that connect with an underground canal. By building all of these wells and connecting them, water from one area and be directed to an area that is higher up. We walked through plots of palm trees that were watered though this system! 

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We then went to a shop in Merzouga where they sold crafts made by Berber nomads in the region. There I bought my Morocco earrings and Alexander and I bought gifts for our mothers! 

After that, we drove to the “Black Village” of Ksr Khamila. It is called the Black Village because it is inhabited by black Africans who were brought to Morocco as slaves. In the village, each family provides one man to join this band and play for tourists and the money they make goes to support the entire village. Not only does it generate income for their community, it also gives them a reason to continue teaching and sharing their traditional music which otherwise was only played at their annual festival. We had a wonderful time watching them perform and dancing with them! And we of course bought a CD:) 

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Next, we drove to the top of a hill called Gilpen Nass, which means the heart of the people. Which is kind of sad because the hill is made of black volcanic rock. However, from the top of the hill, we had another great view of the area around us. 

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Then we started driving a full loop around the sand dunes. We stopped further on at an area full of fossils embedded in beautiful black marble! There, Lahcen bought us each a fossil necklace for a wedding present even though he definitely did not need to do that!

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On our drive, we would see other cars roaming around with other tourists. However, at one point we came across a small house with a big shade tree where we saw a couple people. Lahcen knew the person who owned the house and the man was busy making something on the fire so we stopped to watch! He was making a “Berber pizza” which has beef, onions, and spices stuffed into a round piece of bread. While watching him cook the pizza, we chatted with an older couple from Wales who were there to have lunch with the man. Since the pizza was so large, us and Lahcen were invited to join them for lunch and all 6 of us shared! We enjoyed chatting with the couple and hearing about their journey around Africa in their camper van. 

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After our lunch, on our drive around the dunes, Lahcen took us THROUGH the dunes in the car! We had so much fun going up and down the giant hills of sand! And when we were on the top of one, Lahcen lent Alexander some of his traditional Moroccan dress and I put on my dress for a couple photos!

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After our photo op, we continued driving and passed a number of nomad tents. A few of them had built permanent houses because there by the sand dunes they have access to water and can make money from tourists. Many tour guides bring their tourists to the homes of the nomadic people so they can see where and how they live, and introduce them. In exchange, the tourists give the nomads a small gift, usually money. I think it is great to have a chance to help them out while getting to see their way of life! 

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All of the nomadic families have an agreement that if they find of someone else’s donkeys or camels by a well, they will give them water because someone else would give their donkey or camel water too. 

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Since we still had some time to kill before our camel ride, we drove back through the dunes! Lahcen even pushed me off a dune and the sand was so dry I slid all the way down! The sand dunes are seriously like a playground.

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Then it was time to ride our camels through the sand dunes to our camp for the night! We also stopped at watched the sunset over the dunes! 

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Once we arrived at our beautiful camp, we had dinner in the restaurant tent and then sat on a floor of rugs and watched the stars and did hooka with Lahcen and some girls from California! The whole evening was truly magical. 

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Day 77- Middle Atlas Mountains, Ziz Valley, and MONKEYS

Today we woke up to a breakfast of Moroccan crepes and fresh fruit before heading off for the day! Our first stop was at Iffram, the Swiss village. It is a very wealthy city that looks very clean and modern.  It actually does look like a village out of Switzerland! Many of the buildings look Swiss and it is so green! Since it is in the Middle Atlas Mountains, the temperature was milder as well. It is really amazing how quickly the landscape changes here!! 

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 Next, we got to meet some wild monkeys!! They were so cute! And because so many humans feed them, they are quite friendly! Their eyes are so human-like I almost felt like this one was actually listening to what I was saying. 

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 While driving, we saw many nomads tending to their sheep. Somewhere near by we would see makeshift tents that they live in. Even seeing them, it is impossible to fathom what their lives are like. 

Eventually we stopped at a large tourist restaurant for lunch. Because we loved the chicken tagine so much, we had it again! 

Along the way on our drive to the desert we passed through the Middle Atlas Mountains and the Ziz Valley. 

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 In the Ziz Valley, we saw a group of families cleaning their winter blankets in the river. We stopped and Lahcen introduced us. They were very kind and friendly people! They were cleaning their blankets before the weather gets cold and rainy. 

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Before getting to our hotel, we stopped on a hill across from the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and soaked in the view of the region of Merzouga. You can see the dunes behind us- what blew our minds is the sand dunes are actually only 14km by 4km! So basically, you can walk from one end to the other! The movies have been lying to us!! It is true that the Sahara Desert is very big, but most of it seems to be flat, dry land. 

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We then arrived at our hotel which is a kasbah (a building with 4 towers on each corner). It has a gorgeous courtyard and the backyard is sand dunes!

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Since we had an hour or so before dinner, we went out and walked through the Sahara dunes during the sunset! The dunes turn almost a bright orange in the evening light! Looking at the orange dunes against the bright blue sky was surreal, it looked like a painting. 

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Then we had a romantic candlelight dinner in the courtyard! 

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