Morocco Debrief: Thru the Atlas Mts to the Sahara 1 of 2

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All week I’ll be posting about Morocco – here’s the 3rd post of the series! The other posts cover the city of Marrakech, our hammam experience, and  10 things to do in Morocco. Stay tuned!

Morocco has way more to offer than just the colorful and vibrant city of Marrakech. While in the planning stages of my trip to Morocco, I realized that the Sahara Desert was not too far from Marrakech (a few hours drive – certainly a lot closer than I’d ever been). The more I read up on it, the more realized that there was an opportunity to do an overnight camping trip in the Sahara Desert and that was something I could NOT pass up!

After one full day in Marrakech, taking in the sights of the Medina, we met our guide Mohamed from Camel Trekking. We had decided to go with Camel Trekking for a number of reasons – the good reviews on Trip Advisor and the itineraries and the length of their tours matched what we were looking for, to name a couple. Our tour was the 3 days and 2 nights thru the Atlas Mountains, Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge, Sahara (Erg Chebbi dunes) and back to Marrakech. The tours are done in groups of 6, and you’re riding in a comfortable 4×4 for most of the trip.

Once the luggage was piled high and strapped onto the roof of the Toyota 4×4, we took off for our adventure – although at the time I didn’t know it would be SO MUCH adventure! Our group was a good one – there was a lovely couple from British Columbia (hi Rachael and Ian!) and another couple from Italy. There’s only one road thru the Atlas Mountains, up and down and around and around it seemed to go. My sister had to take her motion sickness medicine because of all the sharp turns. There was lots of scenery outside the car windows and we often took roadside picture breaks.

Related Post:   I left my heart in Morocco...

Most people in Morocco are either Arab or Berber. Our guide Mohamed, is Berber. In the Atlas Mountains, there are many Berber villages – many of the men work in the leather tanneries in Marrakech and then travel back up to the Atlas Mountains to their families. Read more about Berber people here.

Berber village in the Atlas Mountains
Berber village in the Atlas Mountains
Laundry getting done in a Berber village
Laundry getting done in a Berber village
roadside scene
roadside scene

Along the way, we stopped at a couple small stores/restaurants. We had the opportunity to watch women making argan oil, also known as Moroccan oil. I must say, after watching the women making argan oil, I will never again complain about the price! They are taking these small shells and cracking them on stone to get to the seed/nut. After that, it’s ground into a paste with honey – those women are putting in WORK! It was interesting to watch and I definitely picked up a few goodies.

women making argan oil
women making argan oil

We went thru the mountains virtually all day in the cramped 4×4, stopping at the Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou, where Gladiator and other movies filmed, a hotel to have lunch (with a pool!), a ruined kasbah, a movie studio and ending the day at our hotel in the Dades Gorge.

Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou - Gladiator filmed here amongst other films
Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou – Gladiator filmed here amongst other films
kasbah of Aït Benhaddou
kasbah of Aït Benhaddou
souks in the kasbah
souks in the kasbah
kasbah of Aït Benhaddou
kasbah of Aït Benhaddou
our lunch restaurant and view
our lunch restaurant and view
movie studio
movie studio
in a ruined kasbah
in a ruined kasbah

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Dades Gorge
the “monkey fingers” of the Dades Gorge

We stayed in a decent but clean hotel in the Dades Gorge, excited for our next night in the Sahara! To be continued…

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it's me!
it’s me!

Read Part Two of My Trek to the Sahara, which includes my overnight camping experience here.

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