The next morning we woke up early to head out into the desert. On our way out we made our first journey through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass in the Atlas Mountains which go from lush forest to rocky mountains extremely quickly. Our first major stop was at Ait Benhaddou which is a Unesco World Heritage site where many movies have been filmed including Indiana Jones, Gladiator, and Game of Thrones. The old city is still very intact because people were living in it up until about 16 years ago. It was abandoned because electricity came to the new city.
We drove through the Hollywood of Morocco where we saw at least 10 major movie studios and several were actually filming. We also drove through what they call the ‘valley of roses’ where in the middle of the desert there are hundreds of thousands of roses growing. The hotel we stayed at in the middle of the desert (Ouarzazate) was absolutely amazing – it had a beautiful pool, which felt freezing after the sweltering heat of the desert. It was also had tons of unique and interesting statues, carvings and other artwork from all over Africa.
On our second day on the private guided tour we headed out further into the desert. Our first stop was Todra Gorge and that was my favorite stop along the tour. The massive cliffs on either side are daunting and there is a beautiful cool little river flowing through them. We also saw a man climbing the cliffs and it was terrifying just to look up at him.
The Moroccans that are local to the desert are called the Berbers and we made a stop to try on some traditional Berber clothes and hold the Berber flag in some fun photographs before we headed to the staging area for our camel ride. We also stopped at some underground dry wells that formed a tunnel system to provide water back in the day.
During the journey out to the Sahara my poor mom had food poisoning and as many of you know I had the same ailment when Andrew and I went to Peru and saw Machu Picchu, so Drew dubbed me Mucho Poopoo. My poor mom also had to suffer Andrew’s torture and received the nickname Madre Mucho. She was a trooper though and we made it out to our camp in the Sahara where she was rewarded with ‘glamping’ instead of ‘camping’ – our glamorous tent had a full bathroom complete with a porcelain toilet and shower, electricity and three comfortable beds.
The luxurious accommodations were very much appreciated after enduring a fun and adventures but extremely smelly camel ride. I was the last rider and Andrew’s camel (the one in front of me) seemed to suffer from the same ailment as Madre Mucho. Nevertheless Andrew and our tour guide got some excellent pictures of our trek.
After arriving at camp we made our way up to one of the sand dunes and watched the sunset before dinner. After dinner we listened to the guides play songs on their drums and sang ‘Mama Africa’ together around a campfire. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.