Day 132- Walking in Bucharest

Today we just explored a little bit! We walked around and admired the large buildings around our AirBnB! 

The first one we looked at is the Romanian Athenaeum, a beautiful concert hall! 


Right across the street from the concert hall is what used to be the Royal Palace! It is now the National Art Museum. 

When we were there, we saw many news crews and people paying respects to their last king who passed away on Dec 5th, just a few days before we arrived. His name was Michael I of Romania and he actually served as King at two separate times. He took the throne for the first time in 1927 as a minor when his father was exiled. Once his father returned, he took back the role of King. Michael I served again from 1940 to 1947. He was forced to abdicate by Petru Groza who was the head of the pro-Soviet government. He was then exiled and moved to Switzerland. During his lifetime he was only allowed a couple visits to Romania and he died in Aubonne, Switzerland at age 96. 

After learning more about his past, we were surprised at how many followers and memorials there were to a king that hasn’t ruled since the 1940s.  


Also near the palace, we saw the Memorial of Rebirth which is right outside the Fundatiunea Universitara Carol I (a library built by Michael I’s father Carol I for university students). The statue of the man on the horse is of Carol I. 

 The Memorial was built in 2005 to commemorate the Romanian Revolution overthrowing communism in 1989. 

 The Memorial was built in 2005 to commemorate the Romanian Revolution overthrowing communism in 1989. 


Then across from that monument, we went to the Kretzulescu Church. It was built between 1720 and. 1722. It was actually supposed to be demolished during the early Communist regime, thankfully it was spared by the efforts of a group of architects!  


On the way back to our AirBnB, we walked through a pretty park where we saw many people enjoying the almost 60 degree weather! We sat for quite a while and just watched the families and the children playing!  


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! 


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:) 


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. 


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!


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. 


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!


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! 


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. 


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.


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! 


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.