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Emerging from the Dunes

Foum Zguid, Ait Benhaddou, Telouet, Tizi n’ Tichka Pass

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We drove out of the desert heading towards Foum Zguid, an outpost town on the edge of the desert to the west of the camp (opposite of the way we came in from M'Hamid - note our travel map isn’t correct through the desert as it is trying to follow roads). It took us about 3 hours to cover the distance at 20 mph, across a large dried out lake bottom, rocks and sand. It is beyond flat for as far as you can see – very much prompting the joke the about driving across the Canadian prairies, "so flat that you can watch your dog run away for 3 days”. That made Ali laugh.


The lake does fill with water occasionally if they get a good rain, which is typically only a two to three times a year. A very dusty, moon-like landscape, then we started to see some mesas or plateaus in the distance. Ali’s advice: “you just keep those to the left.”


A few donkeys were out looking for their shepherd:


There are fossils in literally every rock you look at, clearly this was once a sea bottom:


Suddenly, a true oasis!


The spring that fed all, including visitors:


Finally, hitting the blacktop again. It had been a long time since we had driven on a real road:


Half an hour later we pulled into Foum Zguid, another town right out of a western movie:


Like M’Hamid, most people here are going to or leaving the desert. Check out this vehicle, a four-wheel drive motorhome, designed for the desert by Mercedes. It had French plates and a support vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser like ours).


We stopped here for lunch, reputed to be the best French fries in the desert:


While we ate, a dog settled in for a nap beneath our truck, looking for shade. Dean called him “Exhaust”:


There were many cats at the restaurant, clearly a good place for snacking:


At the beginning of our trip, Ali had told us that if we were interested in buying a Moroccan carpet, he would take us to a family-owned cooperative in the town of Taznakht, a village known for the quality of their carpets. Cooperative Akhnif Glaoui supports about 20 families, and Ali said the women making the carpets get a larger share of the proceeds of their work, compared to other places. Also, this cooperative was one of the few that was able to support the families through Covid, when Morocco was shut down to tourists.

The first step was teaching me how to make a carpet. I will tell you it is very precise, intricate and slow going! Depending on the size of the carpet, typically it takes 2-2.5 months to make one carpet. Part of that is that each woman can only work on it for 2-3 hours a day – it’s just too difficult to do more in one sitting. I found it hard after about 5 minutes, they definitely need to do an ergonomic study here. On the larger carpets, typically two women work together to complete it. The woman teaching me was very patient, her name was Aliyah (sp?):


There was a huge selection of carpets, we liked many of them and it was super hard to choose:


Here is what we chose in the end. The first one is larger, for the office in Denver we hope, and is made from camel and sheep wool in a traditional Berber Bedouin design. The other two are a Haratine tribe design, made from camel hair.


On to Ait Benhaddou, where we stayed for the night. This is a major movie making location, most recently by the Game of Thrones, but also Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth and Gladiator. The 11th century ksar is in great shape due to “movie funding” and is a UNESCO-protected site:


We stayed at the Riad Caravane, another great spot. I loved the camel lampshades!


Dinner at riad was amazing. We have had many tajines here, but this was one of our favorites. (Lemon chicken tajine with noodles that were lightly dusted with cinnamon & sugar, sounds weird but was delicious):


The next day our destination was Marrakesh, and we still had an interesting last day of countryside and sites to see getting there. But we knew the end was near when Ali showed up out of his desert duds:


The drive to Telouet was very hilly, twisting, and a lot greener than we’d seen for a while. The river valley was very productive, lots of farming and produce grown here:


We were headed for the Glaoui Kasbah in Telouet, and as we approached Ali rang up his friend, Mousaff, to tour us through. Another great guide, glad Ali is so connected:


Honestly, from the outside I could hear my dad saying "here we go, another pile of rocks":


But the inside was like the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Amazing.


Our guide was a great model (on the left):


Views from the rooftop terrace:


This cute little girl was helping her dad/grandpa sell nuts outside the kasbah. We bought nuts and thought she needed a Canadian flag:


Heading back to Marrakech, we crossed the Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’ Tichka Pass at 2260 m / 7414 ft. To say it was windy at the top was an understatement:


Quite the descent on the other side. Ali said the highway was new and a lot safer than the old one, which you could still see remnants of it from time to time. It was very twisty and even closer to the edge…


The “Last Supper” – our last meal with Ali: BBQ, all our favorite at this point!


Next Stop: Marrakech, a big crazy city.

Posted by margofiala 21:57 Archived in Morocco

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Sigh! We had a light swiping of snow today and it was overcast. I look at your amazing photos and want to go EVERYWHERE you went.

by Donna-Lynne

Extraordinary. Cannot wait to return to Morocco for the desert and the small cities.

by zzlangerhans

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