Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Part 3 - to Ouarzazate and the northern Sahara.

The next day we set off in an south easterly direction toward Ouarzazate, over the High Atlas Mountains - Fig 1.

Fig 1 - the road tracking across the High Atlas Mountains.

with a stop at Alt Benhaddou - Fig 2 and 3 - one of the great Kasbahs left in Morocco (a Kasbah has four lookout - one at each corner - which were used as the forts of the various tribes that lived in or invaded Morocco. The great Kasbah at Alt Benhaddou was used to film 'The Gladiator', 'Laurence of Arabia' etc., and is quite imposing.

Fig 2 - the great Kasbah of Alt Benhaddou

Fig 3 - the enormous expanse visible from the top of the Kasbah.

We stayed overnight at Dar Daif. As night was falling we drank mint tea and ate almond biscuits in the serene setting sun outside our room. Dinner was accompanyed by a man playing a lute - a mixture between as oud and a banjo - Fig 4 - who sang simple Moroccan songs that were really catchy. It was just wonderful.

Fig 4 - a Moroccan man playing the 'oud'/banjo.

We began our dinner with a red grapefruit drink with dates and olives or Zitoun. Then we had Harira soup - Fig 5 - chickpea and mutton soup - yum!

Fig 5 - Harira soup.

Then we had couscous tagine with chicken - Fig 6, and then a mixture of fresh fruit and Mouhallabiya - a milk pudding. It was a really delightful meal. Alcoholic beverages are not really permitted in Morocco although some restaurants serve them under their 'secret menu'!

Fig 6 - couscous with chicken.

We passed valleys with palm tree groves producing dates

Fig 7 - lots and lots of dates!

on our way to the Todra gorges. Some of the gorges were up to 600 feet high - it was really impressive - Fig 8 and 9.

Fig 8 - very high gorges.

Fig 9 - the gorges are used in the summer for rock climbing.

Then on to Efroud where a four wheel vehicle drove us far into the desert. It took approximately one hour. Towards evening we ended in a place called Zagora where we jumped onto camels. Actually, they were dromedaries - Fig 10: they have one hump where camels have two humps.

Fig 10 - Aviva, James and I set trail on our Dromedaries.

These dromedaries took us further into the dessert where we saw the sun setting - a most beautiful sight! The desert (the north part of the Sahara desert) is a desolate place with only a very occasional tufts of grass; the occasional Berber tent and its folks - Fig 11

Fig 11 - a Berber man in his tribal dress, dispensing water for us.

and unending sand dunes - Fig 12.

Fig 12 - the unending sand dunes of the Sahara desert.

Fig 13 - the sun setting on the Sahara desert.

It was really quite strange - some of the Berber tents have solar panels now!

Fig 14 - the 'three musketeers' on the top of endless sand dunes.

We came back from our dromedary ride at night time and we slept in a Berber tent at Auberge Dunes d'Or. It was really quite warm in the desert but it got a little but chilly at about 4.00am. Thank goodness we were under Berber blankets - Fig 15 - they are SO warm!

Fig 15 - Barry under a Berber blanket.

Fig 16 - our little fire could be seen for kilometers in the empty desert.

When the outside fire went out and we were alone in the desert, it was totally dark except for the bright stars - just wonderful! Zagora is about 30 kilometers from the Algerian border, and at present, Morocco has a very poor relationship indeed with Algeria.

Early the next morning, we settrack in the 4 WD once again across the nothingness Fig 17 - the Sahara desert, and went back to Erfoud and our car once again.

Fig 17 - the complete 'nothingness' which makes up the bulk of the Sahara desert.

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