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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Shopping in the Souks

Upon our return from the desert, we had a couple of days left to chill and explore Marrakesh at our leisure. With a new house to decorate, on top of my agenda was the souks. I had lights, ceramics, rugs and pouffes to buy! 

I was in my element meandering through the alleyways, with the different sights and smells.


I bought two lights similar to these, 

and a bowl in blue, similar to one of these.

There were so many to choose from!

Whilst wandering round, we stumbled across this little old man. Aged 96 years old and with no teeth he was the Moroccan Grandad I always wanted.

He proceeded to whip the family photo albums out and showed me photo's of himself from the 1970's and 1980's with all the different tourists he's met.

His Grandson then hopped aboard the action and we learnt that the old man had been selling rugs near enough all of his adult life in the same stall in Marrakesh.

He proceeded to make us some mint tea and wanted to hold my hand. With a lovely experience like this I haggled and bought one of his rugs at a reasonable price.

The grandson then asked us if we wanted to see where the wools were dyed in the medina. With a sense of intrigue, we followed him as he moved quickly down the narrow alleyways. We meandered our way past different stalls, with locals shouting and asking us to come and have a look in their shops. Politely declining and keeping up the pace with the grandson we arrived at the dyers market.
We were shown all the different natural powders they used to dye the materials.
I then watched him stir the dye into the boiling water. The man was absolutely filthy and covered in red dye made from poppies.
The heat and the smell from the bubbling pot of colour was overwhelming.
Looking up to the sky we could see all the different batches of colourful wool drying in the Moroccan sun.
Keeping on the theme of traditional craftsmanship, we also hopped in a cab and went to visit the tanneries. As they dye leather here, they use bird poo in the process, so the smell is oh so stinky! Luckily before you enter they give you a bunch of mint leaves to hold under your nose so it isn't too unpleasant.
After smelling pigeon poop, we then decided to head back to our little oasis.
Pool time + Beer time = A great end to a great holiday!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sunrise in the Sahara

After several days relaxing in Marrakesh we decided we wanted to get out of the city and see a bit more of Morocco. Whilst wandering around the souks a guy approached us and before we knew it, we were being whisked away to a small office down some alleyway that sold day trips & expeditions. We informed the sellers that we wanted to visit the Sahara desert and they advised us that the best way to do this was sign up with them on their 3 day, 2 night trip. At a reasonable price compared to other tour agencies we gave our deposit and walked hand in hand out of the office with smiles on our faces, and the knowledge that soon we would be having our own Lawrence of Arabia moment!

A couple of days later we were picked up from our hotel at 7am and taken into the medina to meet our other travel companions. 10 minutes and some shuffling later, we were put onto a small mini bus and set off on our travels. Now, bearing in mind we had over 1000km to travel in 3 days, a lot of our time was spent on this lovely little cosy bus.

 The roads were long and windy...
And full of donkeys.

Our bus stopped regularly for toilet/squat/cous-cous breaks and for lovely photo opportunities like this.

After weaving through the Atlas mountains we made our first official stop of the day. If you like your movies then you'll probably recognise this place. Aït Benhaddou has been used in films such as Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, Jewel of the Nile and the TV series Game of Thrones. It is an old fortified city, or Ksar as it's locally known, that has UNESCO World Heritage site status.  In the 40 degree heat  we meandered our way through to the out building on the top of the hill you can see in the left hand corner.

Never have I been so hot.

This old chap was playing his Sintir at the top of the mount, which made for a lovely soundtrack whilst looking at the panoramic views.

We then climbed all the way back down, panting and sweating profusely before stopping for lunch at a restaurant. After lunch we carried on driving along some more long and windy roads before stopping at our Riad for the night. Our Riad was comparable to the Moroccan version of Fawlty Towers.

All looked good and well until we reached our bedroom. 

Our bedroom was in the red light district of the hotel.

The bed looked OK...

Until I lay on it and A) I didn't fit in it and B) the left side of the mattress was broken and had a major hole/spring problem.

Then came this little charming bathroom. If you attempted to sit or squat on the toilet ,the toilet seat came off. The shower was also detached from the wall and you just had to grab it and hose yourself down quickly before retiring to the dwarf bed.

Note to self and others, DO NOT stay in room number 18 at these towers.

After managing to sleep a whole of about thirty minutes during the night, we woke early for some jam and bread at breakfast. We hopped on our mini bus and set off on our travels once again. Throughout the day we made our way through the Dadès Valley. We started off with a walk through the fields, in which the locals were harvesting fruits, vegetables, olives, etc. Although interesting I must admit I was still a bit sleepy.

What perked me up a bit was when we visited this man selling rugs who decided to make us all some mint tea.

You've got to love a good brew!

During our trip we saw lots of stalls/shops selling rose water/soap/perfume/oil. When we asked our tour driver, he informed us that we had driven through Kelaat M'Gouna, which is literally translated as the 'Valley of Roses'.

 A brief stop was made at the Todgha Gorge. From the canyon floor it was easy to marvel at such a spectacle.

We then stopped off for lunch, where I got to eat some pasta (My belly had been filled with tagine non stop from days before) and sit on these lovely tiled stairs which I wanted to bring home and put in my new house. 

Lunch over, we jumped aboard the bus and put the pedal to the floor to make it to the Sahara in time for sunset. When we arrived on the edge of the desert we transferred from bus to camel.

I named my camel Steve and rode him like a champ.

As we trekked over the dunes, our Berber guide decided to become a comedian and hide behind the sand and surprise us at every twist and turn.

My camel was having a bit of a bad day and was the only one who had a mare and decided to have a sit down mid trek.

 After a quick pep talk and a head rub from my girlfriend, Steve was back on his feet and headed towards camp.

Once we arrived, me and Steve had a mess around.

We became best buddies.

Our camp consisted of tents, rugs and mattresses. All you need for an overnight stay in the desert.

Once we popped our bags in our tent we had a play around on the dunes...

and admired our trustworthy camels.

As night began to fall, mint tea was served. 

Tagines were then brought out, which we happily feasted on.  

We also had a bit of after dinner entertainment, with the Berber guys whipping out their drums and singing us a tune or two. We called it a night at about 11:30pm and decided to sleep outside under the stars as the tents were just a bit too hot for my liking. 

The following morning at 5am we were woken by shouts of "YALLAH!! YALLAH!!". We hopped back on our camels in the dark and started our trek. Half an hour later we were greeted by the beautiful sun, which made for the perfect photos.


Unfortunately our Sahara trip had to come to an end so we headed back and dropped our camels off. Jumping off the camel I realised I no longer had balls and my bum felt like it had been anaesthetised.

Overall it was a once in a lifetime trip and one that I'd recommend for everyone to do.  

I also realised that in another life I wish to come back as a Berber man, where I get to drink mint tea and eat tagine all day, whilst wearing this comfy getup.