Cold nights underneath the rain of stars – Morocco part 3

The road leading to the desert is suitable for only one car, to pass anyone on the road proves to be very difficult.  On the other hand there are no ditches on its sides making it easy to drive on the verge. Easy, but also damaging  to the car’s body. While driving you can easily imagine taking part in those famous car duels out of American movies.

We got to the backyard of a sandstone house with stables where the camels where waiting to take their cargo – us. Yes, they smell, but it’s not as bad as I imagined. Have a look at the picture below and tell me if you don’t think that my friend in white turban looks like Passepartout. Getting on the camel wasn’t too difficult, hanging on to the saddle when they get up wasn’t bad as well, it’s mostly getting off you should be careful about. We set on our journey: three tourists on camels, one Berber on foot and a dog on its four paws.

As we set off from the village of Tagounite there was a lot of palms, bushes and all sorts of greenery, the further we went the less plants and the more sand was starching in front of us, but only when we got to the camp we could see the rock desert I came to see. Don’t understand me wrongly, sand dunes are so romantic but have nothing to do with how most of the desert looks like.

The camp consisted of four sleeping and one dining tents (also we were spoiled with a toilet further away from the camp). All tents were made of camel blankets stretched on wooden poles and secured with ropes. We loved it the second we saw it. As you can imagine we played among the dunes like little children, rolling down the dunes, jumping in the air, running around and playing with our footmarks. The vast space was incredible. The sky enormous and blue.

And then when we got tired we sat down on the top of the highest dune and drank moroccan tea, thinking of things that can only be shared in moments of beauty. Unforgettable.

The night on the desert made me fall in love with Africa. I know people say it all the time and believe me there is no point in me describing it, you have to experience it yourselves. There are so many stars that every now and again you can see one falling down. Imagine how many wishes can come true. We sat by the bone fire after supper and watched the fire burn. No one felt like talking, what can you say?

We met a woman who lived in one of the other tents. She came for a one night like we did, but then felt the urge to come back and now she had been in the camp for last 6 days. This is the magic of the desert, peace.

The night was terribly cold, I slept in all my clothes under 2 blankets and duvet but I still was cold. The tent seemed like a penthouse comparing to what we are used to. I didn’t dream that night I woke up every now and again to think how cold it was and to fall asleep again… well in the end it was January.


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On Thursday I decided I needed to get out of London. Where better to go than where your friends are?! I booked the train and ferry to Dublin and then bus to Galway. It was the first time I wasn’t flying to Ireland. I would like to share some pictures from Holyhead with you.


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On the way to the desert – Morocco part 2

Marocco travel

We arrived in Zagora at 9am. Beautiful morning. During the last hour on the bus I admired the view outside. We seemed to be driving along river which banks were covered with green palm trees and sand buildings. Something I never have seen before.  In Zagora the bus station is located outside the town center and we didn’t really know what to do when we got off the bus. Take another bus, wander around and if so in which direction? Finally a man standing outside the building asked us if we need any help and told us to follow him along board but empty street. We wanted to make sure it leads towards center but English didn’t help much. Uncertain we followed the gentleman down the street. As you can expect he lead us straight to a tourist agency which wasn’t even open yet. January is not a peak season in Morocco so there wasn’t many people around. They opened the shop for us and presented a thick and well used notebook of testimonials. Clients who wrote their comments and recommendations came from all over the world. We bargained over the price of overnight stay in the desert and paid deposit in advance.  We arranged time when somebody would pick us up and drive to a place where we could mount the camels. You can choose from multiple tour options from means of transport like: camels, quads, jeeps; time: one day, two day, seven day; group or individual; sleeping in the desert or in a hotel anything that can be customised – is.

In the meantime we decided to walk around Zagora and eat some breakfast. Sitting in the cheapest place we could find, just off the main street we observed everyday life. Kids playing ball, adults walking about their business, men drinking mint tea. Now, when I think about it everything was so quiet and the air was so clear. The narrow streets were sandy and some times muddy, we saw a couple of carts with donkeys carrying cargo, people and food. On the way back we walked into a souk (shop) with all the tourist treasures you can imagine: lamps, clothes, jewelry, daggers, carpets, jars, pots, pictures and many, many more.  We made our mind and sat down to bargain. We were offered traditional tea and while drinking the owner of the shop ensured us we don’t have to do the business “If buy it’s good, if not buy it’s good”. If you have ever been bargaining you know the whole dance: we sat down, just to get up to leave, wanting to take something just to change our mind in the next minute, choosing different objects and exchanging one for another as the price was going down, to finally to close the deal with a pen and aspirine.

Tip2: For bargaining purposes take with you something you can leave without regret (a small souvenir you can seal the deal with) depending on how much you want to buy you may wish to take more than one.

We bought among others clothes in blue and white to cover our heads while riding the camels. Before it was time we went back to the agency and used their bathroom to wash ourselves after the night on the bus.  Our cab arrived. It was a really old Mercedes with windows covered with clothes not to let the sun in. Our driver was chatting and smiling all the way to Tagounite and stopped at one point to allow us to take first pictures of the rocky desert and oasis. We were listening to Berber music and looked around with our jaws open.

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Ait – Ben – Haddou and our first trip to Morocco part 1

Now I’m not really sure how many of you have heard about it or seen it. Since I visited the site last year I wanted to share pictures and my amazement. Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List and I would never have known it if I didn’t go there by accident really.

We were bound to Agadir and wanted to see the desert. No other plans, no pre-bookings, we decided to get there and make choices as we go.

Destination: Morocco

Time frame: Saturday evening to Wednesday evening (4 days) January 2010

Participants: Pawel, Maciek and Me (3 Travellers)

Aim: Experience the desert

Tip1: Remember to fill out the landing card on the plane. You should get it from the crew, if you don’t because you are fast asleep; make sure you ask the flight attendant for one.

Our trip started at 7pm outside the terminal building in Agadir. It was dark but warm. In the yellow light of street lamps we saw dozens of empty taxis just waiting for customers. The drivers were not. They were chatting away, shouting to each other barely paying any attention to us. After traveling in Asia we were inclined to look for a bus or a “mini cab” to save some money. None of those were present. Eventually we tried to bargain but ended up paying full price according to the price list clearly visible on a public board. We took taxi to the bus station as we figured there is no point in staying for the night in Agadir. We didn’t have any accommodation, we didn’t want to stay on the beach, and we would have to take a bus or rent a car the next day to get to the desert.

And so we ended up on a very busy, asphalt square with small pavilion at one end and few waiting buses. As you can imagine no one spoke English but we were able to buy tickets to Ouarzazate. The bus was only due in a two hours or so. We reluctantly left our luggage in the ticket office, to have a look around the neighbourhood. Felt really unsafe even with the two guys on my sides. Finally we ended up back in the bus station having our first Moroccan dinner. The food was alright but the tea was phenomenal. The waiter didn’t just serve us tea he showed us how it should be done. He brought a small pot with tea leaves and boiling water already inside, three small glasses, mint leaves and sugar. All I remember now is that we had to wait quite long for the tea to steep (almost thought the waiter forgot about us) and then watched in amazement how many times he would pour the tea to small glasses with sugar only to pour it back to the pot and start the process again. It reminded me of Barcelona Magic Fountain show. Before the final round he placed some fresh mint leaves in each cup and poured from a distance to produce foam on the tea. It seems that the higher the distance the more proud the master of ceremony is.

We took bus at 10pm to Ouarzazate and tried to fall asleep as it was so dark you couldn’t see anything outside. The bus had only one stop in front of a carpet shop before arriving at 4am at the destination. We got off the bus and stared in amazement on empty city around us. You did not hear any noises and the lamp light was only limited to the bus station. No hotels, no shops, nothing just bare walls and windows of buildings which to us seemed abandoned. We went inside the bus station building and found opened cafe. Not sure what to do we order some coffee (suspiciously European) and boiling water (no tea available). Besides us there were three other gentlemen sitting by the next table, they were watching something on TV and speaking in a language we could not understand. Suddenly one of them decided to chat us up.

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

-“Alaykum Salam” (trying to sound confident)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (thinking it’s the right thing to do)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (getting a bit scared and not knowing what to do)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (panicking inside and trying to look confident outside)

Then he tried French, Pawel told him in French (the only one who can speak the language a bit) that we speak English. I (as a woman) was trying to melt with the background – never happened to me in any other situation before. But he didn’t give up. At some point we agreed that traveling through desert is better with car because camels stink. We still wanted to ride camels, but didn’t want to argue our point. First opportunity to leave the cafe was ours and when it presented itself it gave us a chance to jump on the bus to Zagora, which we gladly did.

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Desert sand

Today I was awoken by rain. It’s one of the best feelings when you lie in warmth and know that you don’t need to get up yet listen to the rain outside. My thoughts went back to Ireland where I used to live for what seemed a lifetime. So different to London.

In Galway it rains often, in spring, in summer (5 times a day) in autumn and in winter. And yes, you can get used to rain. I remember running in the rain, coming back from work in the rain, going to work in rain, going out in rain, drinking in pub in rain. All those precious memories and I miss it now.

What is true for this magical place is also that rain  comes from every direction. From in front of you, from behind you, from above you and sometime from beneath you, and I don’t mean when you fly. It’s because of the wind, you can forget about an umbrella. Most people give up and leave broken ones on the side of the street and never get another one.

The rain can be warm or cold, coming in big drops or just drizzle.  It washes the streets, pavements, street lights, green meadows in Connemara, diving boards in Salthill, mooring in Barna. It can rain for days or it can rain for minutes.

They say the weather makes Irish people depressed and overuse alcohol, I was never depressed in Ireland. My headaches stopped and I always had something to do so I forgot about the rain.

You are probably wondering why the title and pictures have nothing to do  with the text hahahaa I guess it’s because not many people really like rain 🙂


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