A Travellerspoint blog

Final day in Marrakech

Lamp hunting

sunny 16 °C

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Our final day in Marrakech was a mission to buy a lamp. We'd seen these pretty candleholders a few times around the place and went looking to see what we could pick up. As usual, our original idea of a small, humble candle holder for the table was quickly replaced by the desire for one of the beautiful and much bigger bronze lamps. We got the biggest size we could realistically fit in our little bags and spent most of the day crisscrossing the souks to find just the right thing.

That night we had a decadent dinner to use up all our extra Dirham, loaded up on mint tea and flew out the following morning.
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Posted by Addy21 04:31 Archived in Morocco Tagged marrakech mint_tea Comments (0)

Fes

Navigating the maze of the Medina

rain 12 °C

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From Casablanca we made our way to Fes and the maze that is the Medina there. With the help of a local we found a great little place down a tiny little alley that was always dark, even in full daylight. The boy who'd led us there refused our offer of a tip and then got annoyed when we didn't want to pay him to guide us all around Fes and insisted we give him a sizeable tip because he wasted time waiting around for us to change our minds. Of course we refused this ridiculous demand but gave him a small amount to get rid of him after two days of hounding.
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The weather turned miserable in Fes, so we spent quite a bit of time just chilling out indoors and watching a few movies. We had some fun exploring the Medina though. The maze like structure was fun to explore and while we did our best to navigate we generally just stumbled across the beautiful mosque's and Medersas that we were hoping to see. We got to see the outside of some beautiful mosques and religious buildings as well as Medersas, and paid our 10 Dirhams to go into one of the Medersas and see the beautiful architecture.
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We also walked up to some ruins above Fes and took in the beautiful view over its mazelike sprawl when the weather eased up a bit.
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We finally gave in and bought some of the lovely pottery that we'd been admiring the whole trip, and headed back to Marrakech for a final day before flying out.
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Posted by Addy21 04:17 Archived in Morocco Tagged medina fes Comments (0)

Casablanca

"Play it again, Sam"

overcast 15 °C

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We arrived in Casablanca at night and I must admit I was not very impressed. We stayed near the bus station that night and found our way to the old Medina the next morning to find a cheaper place to stay. The old Medina was the usual mix of windy little streets that seem impossible to navigate until you spend a few days in there. We found a great cheap hostel but the Medina itself was not particularly special.
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We made our way out to the famous mosque which really did live up to the hype. While we couldn't go in, being non-muslim, the outside was truly beautiful. The mosaics, the minarets, the columns and the carvings were breathtaking. It was worth the trip just for that. To be honest it didn't seem like Casablanca had much else to offer.
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Posted by Addy21 01:03 Archived in Morocco Tagged casablanca white_mosque Comments (0)

Walking across the sands

Hiking in the Sahara

sunny 27 °C

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We arrived at around 9pm and after a moment of thinking we'd been forgotten and fending off about 5 touts trying to get business for their own companies we were met by our guy and headed to a lovely little camp (all mudbrick) just outside M'Hamid to have an amazing preserved lemon tajine for dinner and a good night's rest before heading off the next day.
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We did 5 nights and 6 days of trekking. We took a very different route to the first time I did this trek and the landscape was even more spectacular. Our first day's trekking was pretty flat and we made it to a little patch of small dunes to spend the night. Matt and I were excited for our first dunes of the trek and walked up the biggest nearby (still only very small) to watch the sunset. It was lovely.
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The night was truly freezing. We hung out with our guides in the large square tent and had some tasty tajine for dinner before zipping up in sleeping bags with blankets over the top in a tiny two man tent for the night.
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The second day was quite a short trek to get to the Zahar dunes which were almost as spectacular as Chegaga. It was a pretty easy trek with the only difficulty finding a decent spot to cross the river (yes I said river...apparently it only runs in winter) where the camels wouldn't slip.
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Once we got to Zahar we spent the afternoon strolling up and down and around the dunes before heading up the biggest of the lot to catch the sunset. Unfortunately heavy cloud meant the sunset was a bit lacklustre, but we had fun.
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Thankfully it wasn't far to our camp for the night as we quickly discovered how disorienting dunes can be, when you have no landmarks as a guide you are very much relying on an innate sense of direction, which I'm pretty sure I don't have.
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Thankfully Matt does and we could spot our camp after making our way up a couple of the dunes in its general direction.
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The next day we put in the hard slog to get to Chegaga. The clouds made it a little more pleasant than the beating sun, but we also spent most of the day fighting against the wind whipping sand into our faces. I started to lag with some pretty gnarly blisters on my feet and rode one of the camels for a couple of hours that day.
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It was just as uncomfortable as I remembered, but once you settle into the rhythm and remember to keep your core engaged it's almost hypnotic.
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We got to Chegaga just in time fore sunset but didn't have enough time to get up the largest of the nearby dunes so we settled for a partial view over the sea of sand. Unfortunately the sunset wasn't the best thanks to the clouds but it was still pretty beautiful.
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We made another expedition to the highest of the nearby dunes before heading off the next morning to really take in the site and get some photos. It was incredible. Just wave after wave of sand as far as the eye could see. It really was a sea of sand. The dunes were so high we had some birds just below riding the air currents.
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The sun even decided to cooperate briefly so we could get some photos with the light. There is something awe inspiring about looking out over that much space without a soul in sight.
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We were beginning to appreciate the winter weather a bit more as except for the freezing nights it made the days much more pleasant and the desert flowers were truly beautiful. There were fields of yellow. Purple patches and even some gorgeous pink and white ones dotting our path.
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It was a stop/start kind of trekking day, I realised I'd lost my jumper just as we started out so Matt ran back to see if he could spot it. Also, one of the camels was loaded a bit lopsidedly, so the guides kept having to stop to try to readjust his load before it slipped off completely. We stopped for lunch under a proper tree right in the middle of nowhere and spent most of our day walking along the flat, rocky terrain that I remembered so well.
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We checked out a well and overall had a pretty nice day. We probably didn't cover the distance our guides would have liked but that night we got one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. The dust in the air cut out the glare and we watched the orange ball of the sun, perfectly spherical, slowly drop below the horizon. It really was an impressive sight though none of our photos quite seem to have captured it.
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We trekked on and the final night we camped at a lovely green area where some nomads had their camels grazing. It felt very peaceful and relaxing. A nice way to end our trek. Our final day we were just keen to get back, have a shower and get into some clean clothes. We stopped for a long lunch (there was no such thing as a short one on this trek) and spent the entire time trying to hide from the wind.
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I was particularly keen to get back as I'd had some sort of reaction and had blister type things on my hands which just seemed to be getting worse with the sun, heat and constant layer of sandy grit.
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The shower was glorious when we arrived back in M'Hamid. The pressure was terrible and it was only hand held, but it was glorious!

The next morning we were up before the sun to eat some brekky and jump the 6am bus to Casablanca.
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Posted by Addy21 03:11 Archived in Morocco Tagged hiking sahara Comments (0)

Place from a different time

Ait Ben Hadou by way of Ouarzazate

sunny 10 °C

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From Marrakech we made our way over the Atlas mountains to Ouarzazate to organise a trip into the Sahara. Unfortunately it was bit more expensive than last time around and we probably would have been better making out way down to M'Hamid to negotiate from there, as it is the actual starting point. We did a pretty good deal though and made the trip to Ouarzazate worthwhile by taking a day to go out to Ait Ben Hadou. We made our way to the local bus station to get a Grand Taxi (a bit like the micros in Latin America) and found some great beans for breakfast as well as a cheap ride out there.
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Ait Ben Hadou is a gorgeous old mud brick town just outside Ouarzazate. It's World Heritage listed and looks almost exactly like it did when it was built. Parts of around 40 films have been shot there including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
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We had heard that if you crossed into the town via the stepping stones over the river it was free to enter. This didn't turn out to be true any more but crossing over the stepping stones was great fun and you can't complain when the entry is only 10 Dirhams. It also means that you make your way up through to town to reach the hill and old granary on top which was a lot nicer than just scooting straight up there. The views were almost as nice as the town itself.
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We wandered out to the main road to flag down one of the Grand Taxis on its route back, but in the end a taxi driver dropping off a man further up the road was keen for a return trip and only cost us 10 Dirhams more.
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We made it back in plenty of time to get our 4pm bus down to M'Hamid to begin our Saharan adventure.
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Posted by Addy21 01:21 Archived in Morocco Tagged ait_ben_hadou Comments (1)

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