Morocco – Trip Report!

I finally was able to add photos to all 9 of my Morocco updates – woo! I didn’t post a ‘Day 10’ because all that happened was breakfast, finishing packing, hanging out for way too long at the airport (and trying to figure out how to spend the rest of our Dirhams) and then taking a taxi to our Airbnb (which was stocked with snacks and 3 large beers. Hooray!) Oh, I also bought a giant bottle of Amarula, which required me to check my bag from Frankfurt to Detroit. And then I got either the flu or food poisoning halfway through our 9 hour flight back to Detroit. That was awful. But I survived, and am looking forward to heading to Disney in a few days. It never stops!

So anyways, for ease of reading, I’m compiling links to each day’s review. Enjoy!

Day 1   Day 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 6   Day 7   Day 8   Day 9

 

 

Morocco: Day 9

Our entire group would have loved to stay in Essaouira for the rest of our trip (all 28 hours of it,) but unfortunately a driver would be waiting to take us back to Marrakech at 11am. Before we left, I knew I wanted to wander through Essaouira’s port and see the beach once more before starting the journey back to grey Michigan. It was totally a coincidence that we walked through the Medina once more too, as we all figured out the maximum we could spend on souvenirs while 1) having enough money left for lunch and dinner, and 2) not needing to take more money out of the ATM.

Bare feet for the first (and only) time on the trip!

Unfortunately, 11am came rather quickly, and we were on our way back to Hotel Akabar in Marrakech. (Well, it was actually closer to 11:30 because Joe and I decided to walk back from the Medina instead of taking a taxi. Oops.)

First thing we did upon returning to Marrakech? Ordered burgers from the restaurant across the street. 5/6 of us. All of the Tagine and Cous Cous we had been eating over the last 8 days was so yummy – don’t get me wrong, but we were excited for something a bit more Westernized. After a late lunch, we spent some time relaxing in our room (orange this time instead of green,) while Jenna went to the airport to pick up the luggage she’d been surviving without for 8.5 days.

(I gave Joe the egg..)

Once Jenna returned, we went down into the square for the last time, each with a few ‘musts’ to check off before dinner. One of the ‘musts’? Henna in the square! As hokey and touristy as it seemed, we figured we might as well; it couldn’t be that expensive, right?

As soon as we got to the square, we saw a group of older women basically chomping at the bit to get to work on our hands. We figured there was no harm in asking about pricing – but as soon as we approached them we were barraged with requests to take a seat and discuss, rather than giving us a straightforward price. That should have been the first and only hint we needed to walk away and find another group of henna artists. But no, I decided to fulfill their request of sitting down to discuss a design, price, and henna color. Unfortunately instead of trying to discuss the details, the woman took my hand and went to work; with runny, black henna. I didn’t set a price or choose a design, and she was using black henna instead of brown as I requested. Not only were they charging more for the black henna (“it lasts longer!”) but black henna can be really bad for your skin. Cherry on top? She told me my henna would be 350 Dirhams ($35.) I’m pretty sure I straight up laughed in her face. Darn inconsiderate Americans, am I right?

While I haggled on and off with the woman that did my henna, two of the other girls in our group were able to talk the women down to 100 Dirhams for a specific design and brown henna. They paid ahead of time – smart. As they were finishing up, I got 50 Dirhams out of my bag and told the henna woman that she was either taking 50 or I was walking away. I didn’t say she could start, I didn’t get to choose a design, and I sure as heck didn’t want black henna – so I thought it was more than a fair price. They…didn’t agree. Names were called, there was some shouting, but just as I was about to walk away, they reluctantly accepted my 50 Dirhams. (And we avoided that side of the square for the rest of the night.)

Oh – AND they freaking sprinkled glitter all over my hand. I hate glitter.

After stopping at a cafe for some mint tea and doing a bit of last-minute shopping (made much more perilous thanks to the ultra-staining capabilities of the wet henna on my hand/arm,) we had our last group dinner where they served PEPSI! My first and only Pepsi of the trip, and my goodness it tasted delish. We did decide to go with Moroccan food for our last meal – Moroccan soup, with lamb cous cous to share. 10/10 would recommend. And would it really be a Moroccan meal if we didn’t end with mint tea? (Hint: the answer is no.)

Eventually it was time to say goodbye to our guide, get some dessert, and retire to our respective rooms to finish packing up. Goodbyes are weird, but I’m pretty sure Ibrahim used up the ‘goodbye weirdness’ quota for the rest of us – plus I think social media makes things a little less “it was nice hanging out with you for 10 days straight, peace out!”

-okay I’ve been starting at this for way too long trying to figure out a way to end it, but I’m just going to type this instead!-

Morocco, Day 4

Okay so tonight’s wifi (pronounced “wee-fee” in Morocco) has only allowed me to add the two photos I downloaded from snapchat, so like before – the rest will be added at a later date 🙂 (Update: everything has been added!!)

Have I already written about the breakfasts in Morocco? Bread, bread, and more bread. And tea/coffee/amazingly fresh OJ. But we’ve definitely all been loading up on delicious, freshly made carbs the last few days.

No difference at Chez Yacob, though we had an amazing view, and a very pretty cat at our feet. We packed up the 4x4s and took off on a 2 hour walk through the palm groves of Tamnougalt. The growing season for almost all crops is finished, but we came across a few families cutting the last bunches of dates off of their trees – snacking on those as we walked. Or more accurately – stumbled. 3 of the 6 of us took a tumble while following Ibrahim through the groves; only on something that resembled a pathway about 20% of the time. Looking at my hand right now, I may unintentionally be bringing some plant life back into the US due to a splinter (?) I got after grabbing into a random plant to prevent myself from falling. Oops.

Our 4x4s met up with us a few towns over, and thus began our journey into the Sahara. (With a stop in the last town before the desert, Zagora, for lunch and Wifi. Of course. 😂)


Let me tell you about riding 80km into the Sahara with a full bladder. I actually won’t be saying much more than that about the matter, since I am now in the same situation heading out of the desert, and though I’d’ve thought it impossible, this ride is even bumpier! Darn you, small bladder.

Sidenote: The difference in terrain from the High Atlas Mountains, to the Anti-Atlas, to the beginning of the Sahara to 2 hours into the Sahara is crazy. Two-way paved roads (that are really only one way unless another car is coming) quickly transition to a 1 lane road with two cars playing chicken, and a dark, rocky (volcanic) terrain changed to sand much quicker than you’d expect.

Camels we’re waiting for us upon our arrival at the desert camp, so after dropping off bags and having Ibrahim tie up our scarves, we saddled up to catch the sunset from the top of a dune! I was at the back of the line of camels, and I don’t know what they had for lunch, but I can now say from experience that camel farts are quite unpleasant.

We were all very happy to see a pot of mint tea (a staple in the Moroccan diet) waiting for us upon our return – once the sun began to set the temperature started dropping drastically. We also got a second serving of soup with dinner – the full bowls made good hand warmers.

I should mention at this point that while the majority of my pre-trip research has been on point, there are apparently multiple ‘Erg Chigaga Desert Camps” and we were not in fact staying at the fancy one with fireplaces, hot water bottles to warm the bed, or toilets in each tent. (This also meant I would not be able to ask anyone to draw me a bath. Drat.) There were in fact zero sources of heat anywhere in the camp, so when the local Berbers offered to start a fire, we were all more than ready to move to the heat source.

After cracking open a bottle of wine (we really should have bought more than 2…it goes fast between 5 people!) we were joined around the fire by our guide, drivers, and Berber camp staff who all played music, asked us some riddles, and told stories. Well, only our guide spoke English, so he was doing all the talking; other than a game we played that only required you to say “bzz.” Easy enough 😁

At one point a stray/lost/Sahara dog showed up next to me at the fire, and of course I began petting him without a second thought (much to the concern of Ibrahim and most others in our group.) The dog was so friendly though, and 3/4 of him ended up on my lap at one point; he just wanted to stay warm! (Really not exaggerating how cold it was, guys.)

Eventually we ran out of firewood, and as awesome as the sky looked (more stars than I’ve ever seen…and the moon was oriented in a really weird way) – it was time to hit the hay. With SO many layers on. Bra, tshirt, long sleeve shirt #1, long sleeve shirt #2, Patagonia fleece, Berber jacket, head scarf, regular scarf, 2 pairs of leggings, a pair of jeans, and 2 pairs of socks. And 5 heavy blankets on the bed. I’m really not sure how the 5 other girls managed, because I was still cold and had another body for warmth!


We started watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot before sleeping, and it was super funny! We’ll be finishing that tonight. Aka in 10 minutes. Goodnight!

xx Claire

Day 3

 

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😝

IMG_4894

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.