23 January 2011

Morock n Roll* Morock the Kasbah*

*Please excuse my bad puns in the title above

After falling in love with Marrakech, we decided to go on the road for a few days. During the road trip on our small bus, I was constantly amazed at the beauty and variety of landscapes that Morocco had to offer.  There was not a moment where I was bored or unimpressed with the landscape.

We weaved our way through the epic Atlas mountain ranges, to end up so high that we were glancing down onto the clouds. Along the sides of the mountains, locals were gathering stones, which, when cracked open, would reveal beautiful, glittering crystals.

View of the Atlas Mountains
As we drove through the former caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara, we stopped by the Ait Benhaddou. It is a majestic, fortified city built of mud. It's a glorious example of a kasbah, where local leaders would live, and be protected during attacks of the city. We faced a challenging obstacle as we climbed up this kasbah: a mighty sandstorm! We were blown in all directions and were forced to completely cover our faces as the sand ripped past us. We eventually made it to the top for a spectacular view of the nearby town and river.

The Ait Benhaddou
A stray dog approaches us at the top of the Ait Benhaddou
Further along, we stopped by the small town of Ourzazate; home to the Kasbah of Taourirt. A short drive away is the Oasis of Fint, where farmers tended to their crops and washed their clothes in a small stream. Here we witnessed how Moroccan carpets are designed and made.  I'd always known that it was a tedious and long task to create a carpet, but it wasn't until I saw the women and their rudimentary equipment that I fully appreciated their skill, ingenuity and patience. 

The Oasis of Fint
Moroccan Carpets
We spent a night in a very, very, very basic (emphasised!) hotel in the middle of nowhere. We met some extremely, but unsurprisingly friendly berbers in the dining room. They offered to share their sheesha with us. As we inhaled its strong blackcurrant taste, we were told to close our eyes and picture our ideal woman! One of the berbers was a local movie extra. He claimed to have worked with the likes of George Clooney in films such as Syriana and Babel. 

This wasn't our hotel, but a 'Place of Relaxation' nearby
As Ed, Hannah and I prepared for bed that night, we were scared of the sandstorm brewing outside. It sounded like an army of soldiers constantly clashing against our door, so, like children, we created a trap at the door consisting of a chair, two mandarins, and a tin of vasoline. The unforgiving wind of the sandstorm triggered our trap moments after its completion, causing us to scream and jump under our beds! Not surprisingly, we struggled to get a good night's sleep that night.

The Todra Gorge
Further down the trip, we climbed up some of the canyons of the Todra Gorge, and explored some mountainous landscapes with interesting patterns that resembled Keith Herring's art.


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