Snapshot Morocco: Closing the loop

We’re back where we started: Casablanca. Tomorrow we’ll be boarding the plane that will take us to Abu Dhabi then onwards to Manila.

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Putting my cooking lessons to good use

We left Marrakech early this morning, anticipating the volume of people traveling back to their hometown on the eve of Eid al-Adha. We were so different from when we first arrived in Morocco almost 3 weeks ago: we were no longer meek and confused at the platform. In fact, we were even the first ones onboard the train.

Arriving at Casa Voyageurs left us with little choice but to accept a ride from an enterprising petit taxi driver. We ended up lost, but were saved by the kindness of a policeman and another taxi driver who barely speak any English but was able to take us to the house we’re staying at. The driver only charged us 20 dirhams.

I wanted to end the trip by watching the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean, but considering the hassle we encountered going to our accommodation, we just opted to stay in, only going out to walk to the nearby supermarché for some chicken, spices, soup mix, chips, drinks and dessert. While we love the food in Morocco, it’s nice to cook and taste something familiar again.

Photo by Cla Ines

Snapshot Morocco: Into the souk

After 12 days, we gave in and shopped. It was hard resisting in the other cities we went to before Marrakech, but we held off because it would be cumbersome to travel with the extra weight in our bags.

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I love my new bag

Lilliane, who is into the fifth month of her one-year RTW trip, happened to be in Marrakech the same time. We met up for dinner last night. It’s her last day today in Morocco, so off to the souk we go for some Moroccan goods: locally weaved scarves, leather bags and shoes, and argan oil.

Haggling is a must when shopping in the markets. While other shop keepers can be quite brusque and even aggressive, some are charming and quite accommodating. It also helped that there were 3 of us buying: it’s easier to ask for discounts.

A word of advise to those planning to shop in Morocco: ask where the items are from. At the scarf store, the shop keeper told us that some of their products are from India and China.

Photo by Cla Ines

Snapshot Morocco: The long road to Marrakech

Though Marrakech is only 200 kilometers from Ouarzazate, the bus ride takes almost four hours. The route takes us not just through the Atlas Mountains, but also up and down its side.

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Through the High Atlas

One minute we were marveling at tr mountain, next thing we know, our bus is hugging its side. The view was spectacular: green valleys, autumn foliage in the river beds, snow capped peaks. The road was narrow though and zig zags through the mountain. As we take a rest stop after several hairpin curves, eating is the last thing on our minds (even if the guy manning the grill looks like Andrew Keegan).

We finally arrive in Marrakech, prepared for touts and chaos. We were worried for nothing it seems; it’s nothing a seasoned visitor to Quiapo and Divisoria can’t handle.

Photo by Cla Ines

Snapshot Morocco: Ouallywood

Ouarzazate was a pleasant surprise. We were expecting another small, sleepy town, and though it is small and sleepy, it was pretty-fied to look like a bustling metropolis.

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View from our balcony

There were no touts waiting to “welcome” us when we got off the bus, and we were ignored for the most part while we walked the length of Rue de Marché.

We stopped here en route to Marrakech, to visit Aït Benhaddou, a fortified ksar about 20 kilometers from here. Our driver gave us quite a treat when he veered off the road and drove us through the plains, streams and small oasis villages.

Tomorrow we’re pushing on to the last leg of our Morroco trip. Bring it on, Marrakech!

Photo by Cla Ines

Snapshot Morocco: Erg Chebbi

We opted to have breakfast at the veranda of our hotel and this is our view:

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Those little specks you see are runners and the organizers

Merzouga is a refreshing change from Fez. Sure there were touts waiting for us at the bus stop, but they don’t pester us as much.

We’re staying in the village of Hassilabied, 5 kilometers from downtown Merzouga. There are no stores or restaurants nearby, but the dunes are within walking distance. We walked a small portion of the dunes yesterday and found out why it’s better to traverse it on camel (rather, dromedaries): the sand and very fine and soft it’s an effort walking and climbing the sand dunes.

Despite the cloudless sky and the sun shining brightly, it’s pleasantly cool here. The hotel retains much of the cold from the night and it holds all through the day.

Last night after dinner, our hosts played some traditional Berber music and afterwards taught us how to play. It’s hard not to like this place.

Photo by Cla Ines