Marrakech, Ourzazate, Zagora, and one unforgettable night in the desert
09.03.2013 - 13.03.2013
View Semester Break, pt. 2 on kmclean's travel map.
Other than Turkey, this is our first trip outside of Europe. Mom and Dad met us in Freiburg a couple of days ago and after spending a little time there, we all took off together for Marrakech. It turned out to be a lot more chaotic and busy than any of us had expected, so we took an overnight trip to the Sahara to spend a night camping with Berbers. It’s been an amazing experience so far; it’s always really interesting to see and experience different cultures.
We knew when we got a drive from the airport to our apartment that we were going to have get used to the traffic in the city. The drivers are crazy, and there are apparently no rules on the roads. To make things worse, there aren’t just cars, but also tour buses, scooters, bicycles, horse carriages, donkeys, and kids on rollerblades to look out for. We spent our first couple of days in Marrakech, mostly in the old city. The walk to the main square was terrifying enough, but once we made it we realized we still weren’t safe. There are cars, trucks, scooters, bikes, and donkeys, roaming around and through the market square seemingly at random. The Medina was still really interesting anyway, and seemed a lot more authentic than some other old cities. There were dentist offices, lawyers, grocery stores, and gas pumps among all the shops selling leather, spices, and food. You could tell some people actually lived there and it wasn’t just built for tourists, which is kind of what the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul felt like.
On our second day in the country we headed out for the 400km drive to the desert through the mountains to spend a night and see the sunrise. We stopped in Ourzazate, which is where they've filmed a few famous movies, like Gladiator, and also in Zagora, which is where we got on the camels. The ride was windy and rough, but no worse than the camel ride to the camp for the night. I’ve never ridden a camel before, and I doubt if I ever would again! I had no idea what to expect, but it was a lot rougher than I ever thought it would be. There must be a more comfortable way to ride them, if people spend days at a time traveling that way. As rough as the ride was, though, it was really cool to be lead into the Sahara on a camel by a Berber.
We spent the night in the desert singing and dancing with the Berbers, eating delicious food, and watching the stars. We woke up early to see the sunrise and then it was right back on the camels to head back to Marrakech. We got back at the end of the day and had one more evening in the city. We went out to a restaurant in the newer part of the city, which is also really interesting. It’s such a contrast with the old city. Inside the Medina it’s complete chaos and disorder, but the new city looks and feels almost like any other place we’ve been. There are clothing and grocery chains and shopping malls. It’s completely modern, and you’d never know you were right outside the walls of the old city and all its madness.
It was a great first stop on our trip, but I think we’re all really looking forward to travelling Europe, with Madrid as our next stop. I’ve only heard good things about it, and I can’t wait!