Posting from a restaurant with super weak wifi before heading into the Sahara, so photos will be added at a later date! (Update: Photos added!)
Today we left Marrakech for a drive through the Atlas Mountains on our way to the Sahara. 7 hours of driving in a 4×4 with a few stops along the way.
Stop 1: Side of the road cafe with an awesome view and a couple of cute dogs. I am of the mindset to always use the restroom when available, only to find out that you had to pay for toilet paper. I’m cheap and didn’t have to go badly, so instead of going back to the car to get a baby wipe, I pet dogs instead. Mildly regretted this decision later, but life goes on.
Stop 2: We did some off-roading to get to Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, a Unesco World Heritage site. Also where many movies have been filmed. We crossed the Draa River and walked up to the top; me in socks and Birkenstock sandals, maybe not the best choice. (Though my footwear selection did allow for a a pun I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with; I socked the Kasbah. Lolllll.) We also picked up the 6th member of our group here!
Stop 3: After passing two film studios where things like The Mummy, Game of Thrones, and most recently Grand Tour were filmed, we stopped for lunch in Ouazazarte, complete with fresh bread, stray cats, and begging children (with mothers 10 steps away encouraging them to continue.) After lunch we stopped at one other place in town for snacks, water, and wine to bring into the desert. We got a bottle of red and a bottle of white for 120 Dirham, or $12 USD. We also may or may not have all gotten Berber jackets from the small market across the street at well. It’s colder than we all were expecting, so an extra layer is more than welcome – even if it does make us look like stupid tourists.
Stop 4: Eventually we arrived at Chez Yacob, our Kasbah hotel for the night! While our guide and the Australian in our group went back in to town (she was going on at least 4 days in the same dress and chambray button down,) we drank mint tea and watched the sun set while figuring out what pictures to post to social media (unexpected wifi is pretty exciting.)
We went downstairs for dinner, where unfortunately it wasn’t at all warmer, and then…the Berber band started playing.
Our group is fairly introverted as a whole; meals are about 40% conversation, 60% silence, so a bottle of wine split between 5 people was not nearly enough to get us up and dancing as was the apparent expectation. But sure enough, one by one we all ended up on the dance floor, along with a French couple, some guides, and a local Berber man that just REALLY likes to dance. The table of Russians (?) left just as the music was starting, lucky them?
As goofy as we felt, and as relieved as we were when the music ended, we had all warmed up (!!) and probably will never have that experience again. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?
xx Claire (Bia)
Ps. Our guide introduced us by our Moroccan names to another guide after dinner. The other guide said “no no no, no she’s no Labia….Iman! You are Iman!” I much prefer Iman.
Pps. The showers at Chez Yacob were a ceramic lined corner of the bathroom with a faucet at about hip-height on the wall and a shower head hanging from said faucet. After accidentally spraying down the majority of the bathroom while showering before bed, Joe ended up being my shower head holder, and I did the same for him this morning. Ah, marriage.