A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: margofiala

Walking on the Moon

Lanzarote


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Lanzarote has an amazing moon-like landscape that is like nothing we had ever seen before. Where else in the world would you see volcano cones on the horizon everywhere you look and black lava stone in between. How the people of Lanzarote have learned to build and incorporate the moonscape into their island is very special.

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We were excited to return to Casita Palmera, our “home away from home” in the Canary Islands. Marcus, the person that actually owns this place, had it all set up for us to go, a spread of groceries, lights on, music playing and even a fire burning in the fireplace. It was great to be back! http://casitapalmera.com/

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We enjoyed ten days here in May/2021, when we first met our Airbnb hosts, Marcus and Heidi, and all their furry friends. This is definitely a place for animal lovers with three dogs, three cats, two ducks and many chickens … which means fresh eggs for Dean every morning:

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We really wanted some R&R after our Morocco adventure in one of our favorite places, so other than visiting a few things that were closed last time due to Covid, we spent a lot of time relaxing in Marcus and Heidi’s beautiful home (and hung out with their pets!) We saw many of the Lanzarote sights last time, so check out our blog “Lanzarote - Lava & Grapes” from May 2021 to see all the cool stuff here https://margoanddean.travellerspoint.com/61/

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One place that was closed last time is right in Haria, the town we were staying in. It is the last home that Cesar Manrique lived in, and pretty much left as it was on the day he died in 1992. It is now a museum. Manrique is a famous artist/architect from Lanzarote that had a huge impact on the island during his lifetime and today. He was instrumental in establishing architectural requirements for the island to keep it “Canarian” when facing mega-development for tourism. Also, his amazing artistic projects around the island are fantastic and are major tourist attractions. (See our 2021 Lanzarote blog for more info and pictures – it’s quite amazing what he designed and built with lava rock and volcano tubes.)

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For a small town, Haria has some great restaurants. We enjoyed a great lunch at Tacande in the main town square. We enjoyed the ‘Watchtower’ tasting menu that had many yummy courses: (trio starter - rock fish croquette, peking pig trout, rabbit taco; tom khai kai fish with thai salad & sweet potatoes; goat satay with tzatziki; citris coriander for dessert)

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The weather was perfect for hiking along the east coast between Playa de Los Caletones and Punta Mujeres. The holiday travelers had not rolled into the island yet, so we had the trail and the ocean to ourselves:

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Even little Haria was decorated for Christmas and had several poinsettia trees. We have only ever seen poinsettia trees in Maui before, just outside of Hana. Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) everyone!

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Another great restaurant in Haria, is Puerta Verde (Green Door). Our waiter, Jason, was Argentinian and avidly watching World Cup on his phone in between serving tables (Argentina vs Netherlands). Dean was tracking the score on his phone, so Jason invited him behind the counter to watch the final plays of the game. The food was scrumptious, and it was exciting when Argentina won! (Mussels in white wine, slow-cooked pork, grilled seabream):

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During a walk at Costa Teguise we came across dozens and dozens of crabs sunning themselves on the rocks. However, they quickly scurried away when we tried to take pictures - a little camera shy. We also saw a couple of paddle boarders braving the waves:

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We got caught up in the hype and excitement of the World Cup games, first cheering for Canada and United States, then the Cinderella team from Morocco. We felt a close connection given our wonderful trip we had there last month. We texted with Ali after each game to recap the plays and hear about the Moroccan people partying in the streets. We hoped they would go all the way to the final game. We watched one of their wins in Arrecife when they played Portugal and qualified for the semifinals, the first African country to ever do so. It was very exciting!

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We went paddle boarding in the canals of Arrecife as the ocean was too rough, but we didn’t have our waterproof bag with us so don’t have any pictures. We enjoyed the sunset after boarding:

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We had watched Morocco beat Croatia at a bar in Haria (Centro Cultural la Tegala) and noticed they served food too, so headed back there for dinner and another big World Cup soccer game – France vs England (France won). Marcus was none too happy with England not winning:

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Having a big lunch out on Sundays with friends and/or family is a wonderful Spanish tradition that we love. We went to one of Marcus and Heidi’s favorite restaurants in Costa Teguise with them and had a great meal at Taberna El Bocadito: (tortilla, ham and shrimp croquettes, sauteed mushrooms, chipirones, black angus steak and pork cheeks):

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Then we toured through the wine valley, stopping at Stratvs for a wine tasting. On top of having great wine, they had built an incredibly intricate nativity scene that replicated many buildings from Lanzarote and their vineyard:

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Sunset was beautiful that night over the volcano cones:

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On a particularly sunny day we headed to Famara Beach for a walk and to watch the surfers. This wonderful beach seems to go on for ever and you walk along staring up at this huge granite wall that towers over the beach:

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Also had to eat of course, a very scenic lunch spot:

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We went on a tour at Vega de Yuco Winery, which produces one of our favorite Lanzarote dry white wines, Yaiza, made from Malvasia grapes grown in volcanic soil. It all comes from this amazing landscape, which prior to the 1730 volcano eruption was a village and farmland - hard to imagine:

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A little lunch at Rubicon Winery, garlic shrimp, ham with melon and couple of glasses of lovely dry white wine! Yes, it was as good as it sounds!

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Lanzarote’s wine country is such a cool landscape, I will never get tired of looking at the black lava rock and the vibrant green plant life. How could this be? Interesting to know that staked grape vines on this property produces approximately 5-6 kilos of grapes. However, the vines that are growing on the ground in a depression behind a round lava wall produces 18-20 kilos of grapes, the reverse of what you would think:

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During our last trip to Lanzarote, Fundación Cesar Manrique in Tachiche was also closed during Covid. Manrique did an amazing job of creating a two-story building over five large volcanic bubbles or lava caves. He connected the five bubble with narrow passageways that were burrowed into the lava. He turned them into “recreational” areas including a pool, dance floor, BBQ area and even a painter’s studio! All decorated with a jungle of plants. You can only imagine attending one of his many wild parties! It’s unreal how he envisioned this party shack in a huge lava field along with keeping it all looking Canarian!?

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“Welcome to my underground lair”, (a favorite Deanism):

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Swim anyone?

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Cesar Manrique and his dog. This dog was in many photos around both houses so was clearly loved:

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The garden is very colorful against the black volcanic rock, I found these yellow flowers particularly unique looking. No idea what it is:

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Heidi had recommended some hiking trails around the volcanoes just outside of Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. It is very difficult and dangerous to walk through the lava rock, so you must follow an established trail. We had done Caldera Blanca last trip, which is a great hike where you climb the volcano, walk around the edge and peer into the caldera. At Caldera de Los Cuervos you can hike into the caldera without climbing up the side, as there is a natural break in the side where it fell in – bonus!

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At Montana Colorada, you can walk around the volcano to see all the debris that was thrown out of the caldera when it erupted. Lots of fragments, but the most interesting is “the bomb” that scientists today are still questioning how one this large landed so far from the eruption point.

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Playa Blanca and Punta del Papagayo are at the other side of the island where the ferries go between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the neighboring island. We arrived via this ferry last time we were here. Punta del Papagayo is a park, protecting several beautiful beach coves and rugged coastline – we had hiked through here last time. Very beautiful but not as warm as May!

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We stopped at La Santa on the way to the south end. The waves that rolled in were massive and made a huge spray when they hit the weather coastline.

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We enjoyed a dinner out with Marcus at a cool little local Columbian food restaurant, Restaurante Arepera Jojoto y Millo La Unica, in Mala, near Costa Teguise. Arepas stuffed with sauteed mushrooms, shrimp & octopus, and roasted lamb chops (a Columbian specialty) that were out of this world! (We missed a picture of the arepa, kind like a scooped out toasted pita pocket, but better, the first picture is what they were stuffed with.)

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Puerto del Carmen has a nice long seawall above the beach that we enjoy walking. We met some Moroccans visiting there and had a nice chat about our recent trip. They were very friendly and full of suggestions for more places to see in Morocco, further south than we got.

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Sunset over Fuerteventura from the Long Beach Club in Puerto del Carmen was spectacular:

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Another coastal hike, this time on the west side of the island between La Santa and Tenesar. It was a rugged trail with the amazing ocean as a backdrop again….it never gets old!

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We worked up a little hunger, so had to lunch at “Majo Picon”, a restaurant that Heidi recommended and booked for us in Tinajo. Perfectly grilled chipironies, tuna salad and roasted pork cheeks, delicious!

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On our last day in Lanzarote we went to the Teguise Sunday Market for some last minute shopping, and then watched the World Cup Final (France vs Argentina) at home with Heidi, Tony and Blacky. Yes, surrounded by pets it really feels like home!

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Leaving Lanzarote - a camel from Canada in Duty-Free?

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We flew home through London and had dinner with our niece Erika. She was supposed to join us in Lanzarote but was too busy working – oh to be young again!

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Denver bound – time for Christmas! See you soon Auntie Connie!

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Our furry friends on Lanzarote: Marcus and Heidi’s pack is at the top of the list of course!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!🎄🎄🎄

Posted by margofiala 20:35 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Back to Jamón and Cervezas!

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands


View Morocco 2022 & Morocco Tour on margofiala's travel map.

There are eight inhabited Canary Islands, and we had been to four the last time we were here in 2021 during Covid. We had decided to go back to Lanzarote but wanted to visit a new island too. So when the direct flight from Marrakesh to Gran Canaria came up, we booked it.

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First things first - Spain = Jamon, right?

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We were happy to be back in the land of jamon and cervezas, not that we couldn’t find a beer in Morocco if we went looking for it, but we certainly were not having ham! Our first night was spent is a very Spanish tapa bar enjoying all the food we missed (sorry, we ate too fast, no pictures):

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Las Palmes de Gran Cañaría is the largest city in the Canary Islands at almost 400,000 people but shares the status of capital of the Canaries with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. (How do you “share” being the capital?) Anyways, it has a real mainland Spain feel, we could have been in a mini Malaga or Barcelona. It has the reputation of being more cosmopolitan than the other islands with a broader mix of ethnic groups, as well as a large international port and cruise ships. It is a real working city, not as dependent on tourism as the other islands.

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We stayed at Suite 1478, (a restored mansion from 1478), conveniently located in Vegueta, the oldest part of the city. It was very special, extremely comfortable and great service, we would highly recommend it if you were visiting there. https://suites1478.com/en/

The entrance and reception:

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The rooftop terrace, right outside our room:

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Our room:

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View from our terrace, the top of Catedral de Santa Ana:

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And from the street, an impressive building:

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Interesting, in front of the Cathedral were several sculptures of dogs, each looking up at the church:

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We couldn’t find any information or plaque in the area, so googled it and found out that there are several possible reasons as to why the dogs are there looking up at the church and no agreement on which is correct. The one we like the best is that they were placed there in honor of the Guanches (indigenous peoples of the islands), who worshiped dogs and treated them as holy animals. The only facts we could find was that the statues were placed in the 1890s, are made of bronze and were cast in Paris.

The next day was bright and sunny, so we decided to walk to the beach at the north end of the city called Playa de Las Canteras. We saw several sights on the way, starting with this fountain that reminded us of the porcelain frog fountains in Maria Luisa Park in Seville:

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Parque San Telmo, with it’s cool café:

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The Pedro Galdos monument (writer and playwright, Spanish activist for the people of the Canary Islands):

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A great place for dog walking, we met a lovely Italian woman out walking her pup:

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Another beautiful park, Parque Doramas, in the more upscale part of the city:

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This plant reminded me of amaranthus, a very cool plant that grows in Denver but was slightly different. The flowers were soft and felt like fleece:

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Santa Catalina Park, right near the port and cruise ships:

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We stopped for a jamón (ham) feeding at Bodegon El Biberon, another place right out of Barcelona:

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We finally made it to Playa de Las Canteras. Wow! A big crescent shaped beach with a reef protecting it. It reminded us of Playa La Concha in San Sebastian (Northern Spain):

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We love walking on beaches, and this was no exception. We even spotted a paddle boarder out by the reef:

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We had a great dinner at Triciclo, a restaurant our hotel had recommended. It was amazing, we enjoyed wine from Lanzarote and my dinner was moving when it arrived – not because it was alive, but from the heat. That’s weird!

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It was December 2, and the Christmas lights were on:

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Time for a pit stop, nothing like Spanish vermut (where are Zane and Derise?):

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Next day was rainy but we made the best of it. Our great hotel provided a self-guided walking tour map of Vegueta, the old quarter. Our plan was to duck into one if we were getting soaked but luckily it held off. We spent the day trying to follow a paper map 🤔 and ogling all the historic buildings, the whole area is like an outdoor museum:

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A cool street where many arts museums are located, notably the Visual Arts Center of Gran Canaria:

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San Antonio Abad Chapel:

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Museum of Religious Art:

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The Plaza del Espíritu Santo, a lovely little garden with a covered fountain built in 1645:

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The San Francisco de Borja Church, which also could be seen from our hotel’s rooftop terrace (the steeple):

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The old town hall:

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The Guiniguada Theatre:

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The Vegueta Mercado, fresh everything for sale:

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Christopher Columbus House, the most visited museum in the Canary Islands. There is lots of history here related to Christopher Columbus, as this was his last stop before heading out to the Americas:

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The Palace of Justice, with it’s Audience Tower:

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The Canaria Museum:

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Plaza de Santa Domingo:

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The manager at our restaurant last night recommended we try 928 Capital the following night. A very creative selection of Spanish, Mexican, Asian and American dishes, a good recommendation: (wine from Lanzarote, spinach and feta cheese rolls, Mexican octopus ceviche, pulled pork tacos, curry chicken, chocolate brownie)

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Early the next morning we picked up a rental car and headed to the mountains in the center of the island (Destination: Tejeda, a town at one of the highest points on the island). Our first stop was Agüimes, a pretty little Spanish town where we planned to grab coffee and stretch our legs. We arrived to a big Christmas celebration – there were people everywhere, a bouncy castle, Christmas market and nowhere to park. Ugh. We made it fast, check out the old pharmacy now cafe/bar:

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Our second stop was the Barranco de Guayadeque, a large gorge coming down from the mountain to the ocean. Very dramatic and narrow, windy roads:

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As we climbed to the top the clouds rolled in and we lost visibility. Not good as we only had one night at the top and the view was the main draw. We had booked the Parador de Tejeda so that we could spend the afternoon/morning gazing at the spectacular view. We even booked the spa so we could gaze from their cliffside pool. Some things just aren’t meant to happen!

Our view:

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And … the view on a clear day from the Parador’s pool (picture complements of Google):

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The weather hadn’t changed by morning, so we headed down the mountain. It cleared about halfway down:

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We stopped at Caldera de Bandama, (200m/656 ft deep & 1 km/.6 mile diameter) on the way down. Very impressive views:

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… and a golf course nearby. Next time Dean!

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Before heading to the airport we stopped at Playa de Melenara for lunch – great fresh fish (dorado) and nice to be in the sun again:

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Next stop: Our second home in Haria, Lanzarote…can’t wait! ❤️ It will be great to see Marcus, Heidi and all their animals!

PS. Mask’s are required on public transportation in Spain:

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Posted by margofiala 12:21 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

A Little Beach Time in Morocco

Essaouira


View Morocco 2022 & Morocco Tour on margofiala's travel map.

No more Ali! We resorted to public transportation for our last stop. Ali was off with his next clients, and we were left to fend for ourselves (although he was checking in on us by text!)

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The bus was very comfortable, we arrived safely and ventured out to explore our new town, Essaouira (essa-weera), known as the ‘Windy City of Africa’:

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We quickly found where the action was in town, the fish market - fish of every size and description, including a sky of seagulls looking for a free meal. (My cousin Leith would have hated it - no end of birds!). Essaouira is a significant fishing port for Morocco, lots of fishing boats here:

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We really enjoyed walking the seawall in Essaouira, a nice break from the busyness of Marrakech. Also, lots of people wearing shorts here, so decided to break ours out. The town seems more touristy, with a significant French expat population.

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We stopped for a cold drink and some salads that turned out to be pretty impressive for a beach bar: (seafood salad and tuna salad)

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At the end of the beach, we saw camels on the beach, which quickly turned into a frenzy of people trying to sell us rides. We declined, having already had the best experience EVER in the Sahara:

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Had an amazing dinner at Triskala that night, located in an old synagogue. The restaurant changed its menu daily with new and fresh items, each as creative and unique as the interior of the restaurant: (pea soup with goat cheese, shrimp bisque, falafels, grilled sea bream)

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Not far from our hotel, Dar Maya, were the city walls and 18th century Spanish cannons, still in place:

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The main square in town, Place Moulay Hassan, had a huge screen showing the World Cup from Qatar. Depending on who was playing, there was always a large crowd watching and cheering. Soccer here is as big as in Europe, like a religion.

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Morocco versus Belgium was a huge game, Belgium heavily favored to win but Morocco beat them 2 - 0. The crowd went wild!

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We checked out another hotel in town that looked like it may have the soccer games televised, they didn't but we sure liked Villa Maroc - next time!

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Eating again! This time at Les Alizes Mogador, another very interesting restaurant. It was very close quarters; I wonder what they did during Covid? (Moroccan salad, Harira soup, lamb with prunes, Sefa - chicken, almonds, couscous, cinnamon & icing sugar, orange with cinnamon for dessert; the Sefa was outstanding):

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We spent most of the next day at a winery, Le Domaine du Val d'Argan. We toured the winery and vineyards, had lunch and spent time with their wonderful new puppy, Dada. It is a beautiful estate and the only winery in central Morocco, as the others are in the northern part of the country. Whenever wine is available at restaurants in Morocco, it is almost always from Morocco. This translates to significant demand for local wine, even in a Muslim country. The tour guide, Tony, was a very knowledgeable sommelier, originally from Senegal.

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The vines are dormant right now, notice some vines are on the ground versus staked, in a effort to keep them cooler:

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Lunch in in lovely garden with a puppy to play with - paradise!

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We met the owner, Charles Melisa, who explained the challenges of growing grapes in Morocco's hot climate (+50c in summers) and drought conditions. He is from France and also owns a winery in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. He is Dada's grandpa.

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Their branding is of very traditional farming techniques, still used today:

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Back in Essaouira, we watched the sunset from the sea wall. Great views with the color, kite surfers and camels:

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Another interesting place for dinner, Miyami, very "hole in the wall" looking but yummy food. This was Woof’s home (also starring in our dog section), he was hilarious, he howled during the call for prayers! (Shrimp bisque, veggie samosas, lamb couscous and chicken couscous)

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The things that happen when you meet a dog! We met Zena, whose mom was French, Veronica. She told us a lot about the town, where she rescued Zena, recommended restaurants and when I asked for a henna recommendation, she called a friend who had recently had it done for her wedding and arranged that henna artist to come to her house to do my hands. Really. She was a wealth of information and super helpful.

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She was super fast, about 20 minutes for both hands, 150 dirhams (about $15):

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After an hour or so, you brush the henna off and this is the end result. Typically it lasts two weeks.

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Our last day in Morocco, we took a day trip to Sidi Kaouki, a nearby beach town about 20 mins south of Essaouira. It has a huge beach that seems to go on forever! It is very popular for surfers, camel and horse riding:

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Our last meal in Morocco, lunch at La Mouette et les Dromadaires. Just off the beach, a lovely setting and great food. (Olives and spiced chickpeas, goat cheese salad with pesto, monkfish marinated in tea, grilled dorado):

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The city was just coming to life the morning we left. We had a clear view of the wind turbines across the water and the morning game of soccer on the beach! Goodbye Morocco! We will miss you!

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We were fortunate to meet several dogs in Essaouira. The town seemed very French and was full of pets. We had a great time with Zena and Dada, and Laka had her own motor bike!

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There were kitties there too, free with purchase in some cases:

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Back to Marrakech Airport and off to our next stop: Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

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Posted by margofiala 14:38 Archived in Morocco Comments (3)

The Marrakesh Express 🎶

Marrakesh


View Morocco 2022 & Morocco Tour on margofiala's travel map.

After coming from the quietness and solitude of the desert and slower pace of rural Morocco, driving into Marrakesh was a bit of a shock. Like the Crosby, Stills & Nash 1969 hit song Marrakesh Express, it was fast pace, a bit frenzied and not for the faint of heart. Ali maneuvered the truck to a small drop off spot outside the medina, someone from our riad met us and POOF we were gone, into the busy narrow alleys of a medina again. This was our last stop with Ali, no time for a long goodbye! Thank you!

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These guys do all the heavy lifting and know the medina like the back of their hand, they carry wagon loads of luggage to hotels in the medina:

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We stayed at the Riad Adore, another lovely spot with a garden in the middle. I can really get used to this!

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And the rooftop terrace:

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Dean needed a haircut, Ali said it should cost 50 - 100 dirhams (~$5-10), the guy said 80 dirhams, so we thought we were good. However, it was the longest haircut ever and included a shave, then he asked for 450 dirhams ($45)! (And he had the straight razor in his hand). Dean pulled 200 dirhams ($20) out of his pocket and politely said "this is all I have". So that's what he took, we were best friends after that.

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Our first dinner in Marrakesh was at Cafe Arabe, a bit of a tourist melting pot with people from all over the world and staff that spoke many languages. We missed getting pictures, but these off their website give you a good idea of the decor, imagine it full of people!

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We did a tour of Marrakesh on our first day to get a lay of the land. Our guide, Abdula (aka Dr. Seuss, a pro at rhymes) was funny and fast-paced. We did a full day tour in about 4 hours and Abdula was surprised when we told him we wanted to go back to a few places on our own. It was all good, we enjoyed our time with him, a native 'Marrakshi'. His advice for shopping in the medina was "Go deep for cheap, near is very dear" - meaning don't buy from the first shops you see entering the medina, go further into the medina for better value.

First stop, the Koutoubia Mosque that towers over Marrakesh, visible from across the city.

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Then we entered the medina through the Bab Agnaou gate, one of the main entrances to the medina constructed in 1188 (that is Abdula, our guide):

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The Kasbah Cafe, an icon in Marrakesh:

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The Saadian Tombs from 1578 are remarkably well preserved because they were hidden for years and “rediscovered” in 1917. They are very intricate and reflect the Moorish architecture we often saw in southern Spain. A few interesting facts about Muslim graves - there are no names or dates on the tomb as Muslims believe in a humble passing without a headstone to mark the final resting point of the deceased, the individual is not important, and the body is placed on its side facing east to Mecca. Also, the tombs of males and females are buried in separate locations, never together.

The male section (the rectangles on the floor are the tombs):

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The Sultan spared no expense in building his mausoleum, from Italian marble, intricate carving and pure gold decoration:

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Yes, this one is of a ceiling:

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The tombs for wives, female children and servants was next door:

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More gold:

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The Bahia Palace was built in the 16th century by the Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour, who was clearly enjoying good times as he also decorated his home with gold, turquoise and silver. The palace was decimated in the 18th century when Sultan Moulay Ismail pilfered the place for his palace in Meknes but it was still pretty impressive:

The gardens:

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The ceilings:

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The doorways and fireplaces:

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We visited a naturopathic pharmacy, which seem to be very popular here. An amazing array of natural ingredients, everything from dried flowers to mushrooms to chalk to seashells, and a huge variety of spices.

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Workshops fill the deeper areas of the medina, mostly unchanged over the centuries:

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Le Jardin Secret (The Secret Garden) is an oasis in the middle of the medina, a 400-year-old property with a restored garden. The story goes that a hotel developer was excavating the site and came upon an amazing underground irrigation system and ruins of an old Islamic garden. You never know what you are going to find when you dig here!

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Love the turtles:

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The Ben Youssef Medersa is a 16th century school, as we had seen in Sale and Fez, for students to come and live to study Islam and related subjects. I can't imagine studying here, I would be too distracted by the amazing architecture:

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The Jemaa El-Fnaa Square is almost indescribable, it dates back to the 11th century and is the “heartbeat” of the city. For centuries the square was a giant market, with caravans arriving from the mountains and as far as Timbuktu with their goods to sell. Now it is a huge square with so much going on it takes “people watching” to a whole new level. Everything from snake charmers to acrobatic shows to food and juice stalls, set to the beat of drums and flutes, with the smell of incense in the air! At night it gets even louder with music and feels like a full blown carnival. It was an experience, to say the least. We went back several times, as it is central and so interesting:

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Snake charmers:

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Sunset in the square with the Koutoubia Mosque minaret:

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At night Amazigh (Berber) troupes would set up to play their music, providing stools for onlookers to sit and enjoy, passing around the hat from time to time. You could move around from group to group and listen to whoever you wanted. They were playing Arabic or Berber music, and together with the incense burning, it was captivating:

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Marrakesh is very green and the Jardin Majorelle is no exception. Famous French designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner bought the land and restored the garden, that had been designed and planted in the early 1900s by French landscape painter Jacques Majorelle. The garden area is beautiful and lush.

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Majorelle’s workshop is now painted in YSL blue and houses the Berber Museum. (It was very interesting, worth a visit, with amazing jewelry and artifacts, but unfortunately no pictures allowed inside.)

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Moroccan tea at its best:

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We joined a street food tour that night and ended up with a family of three from Denver, small world (Kai, Alison and their son Bode). Our guide, Jamil, was a young local Marakeshi with great knowledge of the food scene in Marrakesh. He took us to places we definitely would not have gone to on our own, and the food was great, we went home stuffed.

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The first restaurant we went to had its own pit for cooking mechoui and tanija in clay pots. This was Dean’s favorite stop, goat and lamb with a cumin/salt mix for dipping:

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Kai was brave enough to sample the goat's eye:

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Olives anyone?

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We would never have found this place or gone down this dark alley:

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But Lala Fatima made the best couscous ever and she did take out!

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We had seen the snail stalls around the medina and Jamil guided us on snail sampling in Morocco. I have to say Kathy and Garry’s are better - these were missing the garlic and butter:

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The hammam fire is not only used to heat the community baths, it also is used to cook tanjia’s (clay pot filled with meat and spices, slow cooked while you are in the bath above it):

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Our favorite bread, a Moroccan pancake, so simple but so good. Unfortunately we missed photos of a few stops (sardine burgers - another one of those things that sounds bad but are really good, and dessert - avocado shakes with pastries, we will leave that to your imagination! Yummy!)

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The Musee de Mouassine was a very fun music museum set in a lovely old building from the 1500’s. (We were encouraged to try the instruments!):

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The park near the Koutoubia Mosque is a jewel in the middle of the city, very picturesque:

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“A beer for my horses?” 🎶 Not!

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We went for a drink at Mamounia Hotel and Bar, just to see one of the top hotels in Marrakesh. It certainly was fancy!

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Yes, that is a camel…I mean the statue!

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You never know what is behind a wall here. This one had its door open, so we were able to sneak a peek at a palace that is being restored and turned into a restaurant. It has a nice shop downstairs too - decor for the rich and famous:

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We visited the Museo Dar Si Said mostly to see the building, a 19th century mansion dedicated to the master artisans of Morocco. The displays on weaving and carpets in Morocco were interesting, especially in such a magnificent setting:

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So much work went into the ceilings:

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Precursor to computer bags?

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The perfect home for Alldreds, or people our size!

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We really liked the bedding at the camp, particularly the cover, which was a traditional Moroccan wedding blanket. They are handmade with wool, so are heavier than they look, almost like a rug. We went shopping a few places without luck but ended up getting one in Marrakesh. Hope it looks as good on our bed at home as it did in the camp!

Our bed at the camp:

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Lots of choices:

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The finalists and our choice. We decided to go with one that just covers the lower part of the bed, they are very warm!

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Cats rule in Marrakesh, some even have motorbikes!

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Next stop: Off to the beach, Essaouira!

Posted by margofiala 12:41 Archived in Morocco Comments (4)

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.

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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.”

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A few donkeys were out looking for their shepherd:

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

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Suddenly, a true oasis!

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The spring that fed all, including visitors:

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

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

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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).

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

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

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

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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?):

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

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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.

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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:

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

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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):

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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

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

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Views from the rooftop terrace:

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

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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:

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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…

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

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Next Stop: Marrakech, a big crazy city.

Posted by margofiala 21:57 Archived in Morocco Comments (2)

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