Who needs coffee when your morning starts walking down a dark alley in a foreign country with only your best friend for protection. It’s a great way to get the adrenaline pumping and wake you up. We were obviously fine but you can never be too careful. There was a friendly gentleman power-walking that guided us to our tour meeting spot in front of a school.
While waiting for our van a few different teens on motorbikes pulled up to see where we were trying to go. As long as we said we knew where we were going and that we were okay thank you, they left us along. A few minutes later our white van pulled up, we hopped in and off we went.
About an hour into our drive we arrived at our first stop, Al Haouz-Tazart for some pictures and a coffee or breakfast if desired. The view was a pretty mountain valley view, the restrooms cost money but were western style and very much appreciated. After enjoying the view for 20 minutes it was back in the van and on to the Atlas mountains.
I’m not really one for sleeping in a car but the combination of the windy roads, jet lag and our driver Ibrahim’s excellent driving skills I slept like a baby. Luckily Ibrahim was good at stopping for pictures so I didn’t feel like I missed everything.
After about 4 hours driving through the mountains we arrive in a small town, the bus door opened and all Ibrahim said was “Your guide will meet you here soon.” What guide? Where are we? The whole group had a laugh about it and then a guide appeared and off we went. Turns out we were at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, all the homes are crowded together with in the safety of the defensive walls. Our guide, led us through the new town to the river below the Kasbah. The created a crossing to easily get across the river and the locate children are there to help you cross as well for a small tip.
Many movies were filmed at Ksar of Ait-Ben Haddou such as Gladiator, The mummy, Prince of Persia etc. Our guide Walked us through the old town and gave us lots of history on the area and explained how the homes were constructed using hay and adobe. The rain is the biggest threat to the Kasbah but when it rains everyone gets together to helps repair any damages. It’s very important to the local people to preserve this piece of history. Most residents have moved into the new town across the river but there are still four families that live in the ancient village. At the very top there is a lookout that overlooks the Ksar, the river and the new town, unique perspective and worth the climb to the top.
Throughout the Kasbah there are locals with their crafts set up for sale, including rugs, painting, purses and random Morocco souvenirs. Our guide led us into one of the structures where there was a gentleman creating burn paintings, he did a demonstration and then offered the work for sale. It’s really interesting the technique they came up with and their ability to use resources available to them in their local area.
The final stop on the Ait-Ben-Haddou tour was to buy scarves we would need later in our trip for the camel ride, we got a demonstration on how to tie them and had a fun time haggling the price down.
After buying our scarves it was a short walk across the street for lunch. By the time we got to lunch we were all very hungry and very happy to see the basket of bread dropped on our table. This was the first of every meal on the trip including Tagine! Lunch was completed with the largest bowl of fruit we have ever seen. The entire group got a laugh as we loaded the fruit into a backpack for road snacks. Joke was on us as every meal the rest of the trip also concluded with a large bowl of fruit!
After lunch it was back on the van to continue on our fun little journey. The bus was great, we were there in February so it was cooler outside but even when we warmed up outside the bus was always a comfortable temperature. We were really lucky to be paired with a great group that included a gentleman serving the Peace Corps in Morocco who was a wealth of knowledge about the culture and history of Morocco.
The rest of the day was mostly spent driving to our hotel in the Dades Valley with various picture stops along the way. Our hotel, Le Chateau du Dades was much bigger than expected and our room had a great view of the valley and river. Dinner at the hotel was you guessed it, Tagine! Ha! But very delicious and accompanied with great conversation.
Read about our time in the Desert: Camel Camping in the Sahara Desert
This morning started much more chill than the previous. We woke up and packed our separate pack for the camel ride and camping that was coming this evening. We then made our way back down to the dining room in the lobby and met up with the rest of the group for Moroccan continental breakfast and fresh warm crepes.
We all boarded the van and off Ibrahim took us to continue the adventure. Once again after about 2 hours of the driving the van stopped literally in the middle of the street and we were told here is your guide. Out appeared Nebil, he’s a local Berber guide who supposedly lives in a cave a 5 hour walk from where he met us. He took us all through the Kasbah by way of gardens and streams to an area overlooking the valley and the surrounding cliff faces. We took lots of pictures and off he started leading us again. It was neat to see the women of the village doing the washing in the stream with their donkeys and young kids in tow.
Nebil took us winding around and around through alley ways until we enter a home for some Moroccan mint tea. Next thing you know we were in a full-on rug presentation. These are the women who make the rugs, these are the different materials used, these are the types of rugs we make here. Okay what rugs do you want to buy. Definitely didn’t wake up today thinking about buying rugs and definitely left the house having bought multiple rugs. Not going to lie, the rug shopping and presentation was so much fun! Our whole group got into it and we were all laughing and really enjoying ourselves. Did we get ripped off on rug prices? Probably! Do we care? Not at all! It was such a fun experience and honestly worth every penny.
After rug shopping we drove deeper into the Dades Valley to an area they refer to as the Grand Canyon of Morocco. It was really pretty but the time of day we were there prevented any really good pictures. There were several nomad groups traveling the river with their goat herds and woman filling bottles with river water. It’s always so interesting to see how local people thrive in an environment.
By this time in the day we were all quite hungry, so we were excited to hear lunch would be the next stop! Took another hour of winding through and around the valley but we finally arrived at lunch which was you guessed it, Tagine! Ha! This restaurant had a few options but for some reason I still chose the Tagine and a nice little mille feuille for dessert. This was our last stop before the desert so we were strongly advised to stock up on water as it’s not for sale once we got in the van.
To read about the actual time in the desert click here.
After our desert tour was complete it was back in the van and back to off-roading. It was bumping leaving camp, but we were all energized and excited. We knew this day was majority driving, but we also knew it would be worth it. We stopped at an oasis for a restroom break and then it was back in the van until lunch.
One member of our group had a meeting in Morocco so we were making tracks to get him to his meeting on time. Lunch was in a small down between Merzouga and Fes. Finally we decided to switch it up and we ordered a cheese omelet and some French fries, the French fries hit the spot. Because I didn’t sleep the night before I was feeling a bit queasy, nothing a little Fanta Orange and French Fries couldn’t perk me up from.
At lunch, other members of our group kept talking about Monkeys we were going to see. They must have gotten another itinerary than us cause we never read anything about some monkeys. We were both excited about this new development. Because of that the next stop after lunch was Monkeys in the high Atlas Mountains. There was quite a bit of driving to get to the high Atlas which made us fortunate enough to see a lot of the Moroccan countryside. If you travel outside of the major cities, morocco is incredibly beautiful. Lots of different environments and scenery. There was even a town modeled after a swiss town that looked really neat as we drove by. It was neat to see the different groups of nomads selling chickens and such on the side of the road and just a really good way to see the different ways people live in Morocco.
After some more driving we spotted monkeys! And it was crazy we went from lush green fields to the top of a mountain with snow and monkeys. Ibrahim pulled the van over and we all went running out to see the monkeys. Because of so much fruit from dessert I had some apples and bananas to feed the monkeys. Ibrahim gave us his bag of nuts to feed our furry friends and the sneaky little guy stole the whole bag out of my hand and ran straight up a tree!
Playing with Monkeys was so fun for all of us and we all crowded back on the van laughing and excited. It was another 3 or so hours to Fes and this is when we really started coming together as a group with our driver. We were all laughing and singing and just having a really great girls trip!
By the time we got near to Fes our driver was basically driving in reverse because just as much as we didn’t want the trip to be over, it was obvious he felt the same. We were each dropped off at our respective accommodations and then just like that our Marrakech to Fes 3 day tour was over.