Well, well, we had a major tech glitch last week, so I was unable to update the blog. Apologies, apologies. This made me realize that this blog needed a big update, so get ready for some fireworks soon : I’ve teamed up with two boss-ladies to prepare a major blog redesign, so stay tuned for that!
In my last post, I was promising you a second part to my Marrakech travelogue, so this one is dedicated to the Berber country and our Sahara trip, which lasted 4 days and 3 nights.
Part II, Sahara Desert.
Arasteh and Maya, unplugged – no wifi reception meant no selfies or snapchatting with friends. It was nice to reconnect with our teens.
We hit the road early on the morning of December 31, 2017. Three large 4×4’s picked each of the 3 families from their riad and we headed South of Marrakech toward Ouarzazate. We crossed many mountains, then quickly stopped in Ouarzazate – did you know Ourazazate is called “the Moroccan Hollywood” and that you can visit movie studios there where they filmed Gladiator or Babel to name a few? We continued our road trip and arrived for the night in Zagora and stayed in a delicious little hotel called Riad Dar Sofian. There, we experienced a typical (and oh-so-entertaining!) new year’s eve dinner party – you can still watch it on my Instagram highlight called ‘Sahara 2018’ .
The next morning, we continued our road trip toward Merzouga. The Berber country’s scenery was breathtaking, and although many of us complained about the long car rides, we all agreed it allowed us to see the real Morocco, with its real people and culture. This was an amazing part of our trip. Our drivers were very knowledgeable and made sure we stopped to breathtaking sites along the way, or halt for good quality meal stops. And then, we arrived in the Sahara desert. Magic. Pure magic. No sound, no crowd. Just us, the camels, our hosts – the touaregs – and the dunes.
My friend Kiana in the Sahara dunes. Below, her daughter Arasteh, walking bare foot on the gold sand.
Our Desert overnight camp site.
We hopped on our camels and crossed a few dunes to discover our GLAMPING camp site (wear some jeans because the ride will hurt in “inner-thighs” if you follow me, *wink*). The tents were suprisingly very large, with bathrooms and showers and hotel style amenities, arranged like real suites, but it was cold, like mid-20 low 30s at night, and the small generator for the entire camp did not allow space heaters inside the tents. The shower water was slightly warmer for those of us who ventured. No wifi either, which was great. We completely disconnected, listened to the touaregs sing and play percussions by the firepit all evening long. We sipped Moroccan mint tea or wine, the teens were free to go anywhere they wanted, and none of us parents were worried, because no cars, no creeps, nothing. No one. Just us. and the immensity of nature. A truly magical and humbling moment.
We watched the sun rise over the dunes around 7 in the morning, and it was another one of these moments in life where you stop, you pause, and take it ALL in. I can’t describe it, but it has happened to me only a few times while traveling – the last time was when we encountered a giant humpback whale in Cabo San Lucas. Mother nature, you are truly amazing!
Golden hour at the Todra Gorge.
On the way back, we headed toward Erfoud, crossed the Todra and Dades gorges, the Valley of the Roses, although it was obvsiouly the wrong season, and few other small Berber villages. At one stop, we met some children playing who asked us for candy. We couldn’t speak with them because they didn’t speak Arabic, only Berber. While the conversation was limited, we were able to exchange smiles, candies and one of them said the word “Pen” in Arabic. We realized we should have packed our bags with Crayola crayons and drawing paper, because that’s all these kids wanted. Children just being children. It was such a special moment. If you plan a trip there, keep this info in mind, it will only cost you a trip to Target and few dollars, but it will change a child’s day or week in Berber country. We all regretted not having extra goodies for these kids that day.
Our adorable little Berber friends.
We spent the rest of the day on the road and stopped for the night at the Xaluca Dades hotel which I highly recommend, especially after a glamping night. The view of the village was gorgeous and the hotel had great accommodations and a buffet restaurant. The teens swam in the pool but I was still frozen from the previous night under the glamping tent, so I passed. Others booked a massage at the hotel spa. I just hung out in my bathrobe and sipped a fresh glass of white wine.
We booked the entirety of this trip to Berber country and the Sahara desert via Nature Dream, a local agency based in Ouarzazate, specialized in à-la-carte trips. Write this name down or bookmark it, because this is an important one. Mohammad, the owner of the agency, was amazing at translating our travel wishes expressed through email exchanges into real reservations and accommodations, and the 3 drivers, Moha, Daoud and Nourredine went above and beyond to make our trip memorable. They also drove very carefully – you don’t want to drive a rental car in these dangerous Atlas mountain steep roads, you really don’t.
Moha, Daoud and Nourredine, our fantastic drivers and guides through the expedition.
The Dades gorge and the intricate mountain roads heading back to Marrakech.
Kasbah Amridil, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, and the original 50-Dirham bill was photographed from. Can you spot the yellow-turban man?
This was by far one of the best trips we’ve been to. We know Morocco, we’ve traveled there, but taking with us our American friends that had never been and showing them the culture, the real Morocco and how nice people are by nature was by far the most rewarding element of this trip. We all came back with more glitters in our eyes and more than ever aware that there is so much beauty and love left in this world when you care to look for it.
Happy teens – rare in my book!
The view from our hotel room of the village of Dades.
If I missed any tip or info you might need or have for an upcoming trip to Morocco, leave me a comment, I’ll do my best to help. Xo, Si-
Photography French By Design ©