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 6

This morning started off with a 5 mile trek out of Tailouine, through olive groves, the Anti Atlas Mountains, and small villages, and across a river that had not totallyyyy dried up. As we were walking through one village, a man invited us into the building they use to produce olive oil (like I said yesterday, very friendly and welcoming) and even let us try some; freshly pressed out of the storage hole in the ground. It definitely didn’t look like the most sanitary operation, but over 24 hours later and we’re all still alive and kickin’ 😜


A few hours later we met back up with our 4x4s and started a fairly long drive to Taroudant. There were a lot of un-paved detours on our route, due to heavy rains almost 2 months ago taking out a lot of roads and bridges. I guess that’s a risk you take living in the valley? Also as I’m typing this out, I’m thinking we came across more of the road closures on day 5, but that’s okay. That’s what I get for not keeping up with blog posts I suppose.

We found a spot for lunch after arriving in Taroudant (people call it the Mini Marrakech) – most everyone ordered a “Sheeseburger” (oh, frenglish) – I had a cheese panini. As delicious and fresh as the couscous and Tagines are, it was nice to add a small bit of variety 🙂

After walking through Taroudant’s median, we settled in to people watch at a cafe. I like to count things, so I began counting the number of people that went into the restroom across the street (1 Dirham for a bit of privacy – more if you needed TP.) It only ended up being 4 for the 10 minutes I was watching, in case you were curious.

We popped into a pharmacy before heading out to our hotel for the night – cold medicine for someone in our group ended up being 26 Dirham. $2.60 for a week of DayQuil and NyQuil equivalent. Almost makes me wish I got sick on this trip! But not really. We also saw people crowded around a snake charmer, so watched that for long enough to have to pay a bit of money. So it goes.

Our hotel for the night was basically in the middle of nowhere, but really enjoyable. It’s run by a brother and a sister – he does most of the “front of house” stuff, and she makes all of the food. We were able to go into the kitchen to watch our dinner being made, in between rounds of Uno and BS 😛 One of my biggest regrets of the trip was forgetting to bring a deck of cards, but luckily Hotel la Tour de Toile had us covered! They also gave us the opportunity to have some wine delivered, and while 2 bottles of wine split between 5 people still went quite quickly, it made our late night rounds of Heads Up a bit more entertaining – especially when our guide tried to play – so I’ll just leave you with that Heads Up video.

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Morocco: Day 5

Waking up at 6am is hard enough on a normal day, but waking up after a night of sleeping in below freezing temperatures was even harder than normal. Even with the promise of a once in a lifetime sunrise, Joe and I were definitely putting off getting out from under the blankets for as long as possible. I imagine it goes without saying that the sunrise was totally worth the 6am wake up and temporary loss of feeling in fingers and toes 🙃😏

After a quick breakfast (during which we all passed around the teapot in hopes of gaining feeling back in our fingers,) a few of us decided to try sand boarding before hitting the road (well, hitting the…sand, dirt, and rocks?) by 8am. For some reason no one showered either, I guess icy cold water didn’t seem too appealing 😜

As we made our way out of the Sahara, we stopped in the middle of Lake Iriki (dried up for the vast majority of the year,) and at a nomad family’s camp, where I got to hold a baby goat that was born maybe 2 days prior. So cute. It did poop on my Birkenstock AND on my sock, but totally worth it.

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On today’s drive (we did end up making it back out onto a real road eventually,) Ibrahim told us that our driver (who doesn’t speak a lick of English) is having woman troubles; there are two women fighting over him. In Morocco it is legal for a man to have 4 wives, so we suggested he just marry both. Problem solved, right? Wrong. He wants to marry one light and one dark woman. Not two of the same. #MoroccanProblems

Also on today’s drive, Ibrahim planned an entire life for him and Jenna, the Australian in our group. Joe and I are invited to visit, phew.

Before lunch, we stopped at a women’s rug cooperative (that’s the word I was looking for the other day!) with beautiful rugs, pillowcases, and blankets. Joe would have really liked to bring something back, but with the addition of 2 Berber coats, our bags are already over capacity and we have yet to buy anything for any family/friends. Maybe next time 😜

Due to the lack of showers, mirrors, and because we were still a bit chilly, everyone but Joe was still wearing headscarves when we arrived in Tailouine for the night. Apparently we were far enough out of the desert for our nomadic wrap to be out of style – local teenage girls were staring and giggling, and we heard a few people say “ohh, Sahara” – it was amusing. And also made us all feel a little awkward, but you’ve just gotta run with it! We joked that we should buy a donkey and a couple of sheep from the local market and walk them down the street for the full effect.

Awkwardness aside, there were also a handful of shop owners that invited our group to dinner (we declined, as we had lamb Tagine waiting for us at the Berber home we were staying at for the night.) Moroccans as a whole are so welcoming and friendly, especially outside of the big cities.

We all ended the night with warm (ish) showers, and Joe and I shared the Kinder Bueno we had purchased a few days prior. There’s hardly any sugar in the Moroccan diet, with plates of fruit being served for dessert almost every night – so a candy bar tasted especially good.

Til tomorrow!

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

Morocco: Day 2

Short update today, because it’s after midnight (HAPPY NEW YEAR!) and we have an early start tomorrow.

Perhaps most amusingly, our guide gave us all Moroccan nicknames. Everyone got pretty ones meaning things like queen and born on an important day, and then he gets to me. “La-bee-ah.” Labiabwith a slightly different pronunciation. Yup. He says it means something along the lines of “woman who visits small villages and makes carpets” and I’m not about to Google anything even close to Moroccan labia so…I’m going by either Claire or Bia. Hopefully it’s at least spelled differently.


This morning we took a tour of some historically important locations in Marrkesh: the Koutoubia Mosque, Saadian Tombs, and Bahia Palace, ending in Djemaa El-fna, where a man in the square promptly attempted conning Joe into almost holding a monkey in a diaper. For money, of course. There were also snake charmers. Definitely an interesting place, but you have to look like you’re on a mission and know what you’re doing or else you’ll be hassled (I use that term loosely) by people trying to make a buck off the tourists (well, a dirham I suppose.)


Oh! And would it really be a guided tour in a foreign country without a stop in a shop or two where the guide clearly gets commission for any purchases made?! We were lucky enough to be stuck listening to a schpeal about argan oil – all products made by women who essentially were negatively effected by divorce (there’s a word I can’t think of that they used. You get the idea.) Then we were basically closed into a souvenir shop where we all felt super awkward and made it clear we had no plans of purchasing anything. Ah, travel.


After wandering the souks for a new wardrobe for the Australian in our group (her luggage got lost,) we had a prix-fixe New Year’s Eve dinner with SO much delicious food. It was too cold to actually be on the rooftop, but took a quick look out there afterwards – lots of people in the square, presumably getting ready to celebrate?


We made our way back to our hotel and went across the street, hoping that the posh, European looking café would have a bottle of wine we could share before heading to bed. Despite what the online menu said, we had no such luck and drank virgin mojitos and coladas before heading back to our hotel’s bar to split a 110 Dirham ($11) bottle of wine!


Tonight’s Moroccan television pre-bed movies? The end of Anastasia and Zombieland. Works for me!

Wifi will be spotty (or perhaps non-existent) for the next 4 or so days, but I’ll post another update when I can 🙂

Happy New Year!


xx Claire (Bia)

(Also it is now 1am. Oops. Luckily I have 7 hours to sleep in the car tomorrow.)

Wanderlust Wednesday – 10/5

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Wanderlust Wednesday – 9/28

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A change! Like Fall! Eh? Maybe that’s a stretch 😛

As much as I love warm weather, I also love cute socks and layers. That said – I’m so not ready to turn the heat on in our house! In other news, 92 days until Morocco. Maybe it’s time to start going through the ‘need to buy’ list I started making when we booked the trip. Pepto tablets and electrolyte tablets, I’m comin’ for ya!

Happy hump day 🙂

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Wanderlust Wednesday – 9-14

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Wanderlust Wednesday – 9/7

When was the last time you did something for the first time

Wanderlust Wednesday posts are alive and well, y’all! And only 113 days until Morocco! I have a feeling that trip will come up quicker than expected. I also learned the other day that flying scorpions are a thing in the Sahara Desert. But supposedly they don’t actually do anything with their stinging mechanism? Here’s hoping we don’t have a recreation of our rainforest bungalow bug experience…? AND hopefully I get my renewed passport back soon! (My mind has been so preoccupied that I sent it the first time without a check or signing the application. Oops.)

Also that quote is apparently from a Drake song. Don’t judge.

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Wanderlust Wednesday – 8/3

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Good news! My head no longer hurts, which means I can go on Space Mountain on Saturday without fear of an aneurysm…or whatever the worst case scenario of a concussion would be. Hooray!

I’m actually not looking forward to seeing how busy the parks will be, but there’s rain in the forecast so maybe that will keep some of the crowds at bay. Maybe. (Who am I kidding, there’s always rain in the forecast in Florida.)

We should probably start packing. Putting things away can wait til next week, right? 🙂

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