A Travellerspoint blog

October 2017

Unique, well-preserved fortified village on caravan route

Town of Ait Benhaddou, Morocco

Nearly 50 old palaces and 6 kasbahs joined together in this UNESCO World Heritage Site

Nearly 50 old palaces and 6 kasbahs joined together in this UNESCO World Heritage Site

This fortified village was on the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh

This fortified village was on the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh

Village is popular set for films including Sodom and Gomorrah, The Man Who Would Be King, The Last Temptation of Christ and Gladiator

Village is popular set for films including Sodom and Gomorrah, The Man Who Would Be King, The Last Temptation of Christ and Gladiator

The village is a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture

The village is a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture

On our tour we will see 7 of the 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco

On our tour we will see 7 of the 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco

A couple of towns in Morocco are famous for their rose products but we never saw any rose fields; this rose was at a stop along the way

A couple of towns in Morocco are famous for their rose products but we never saw any rose fields; this rose was at a stop along the way

The vast majority of families have moved across the river to the modern village but a few traditionalists continue to live in the ancient fortified town

The vast majority of families have moved across the river to the modern village but a few traditionalists continue to live in the ancient fortified town

How were people surviving in the Sahara to even require a town on the route to civilization?

How were people surviving in the Sahara to even require a town on the route to civilization?

Village has been used as a setting on the popular television series, Game of Thrones

Village has been used as a setting on the popular television series, Game of Thrones

View of the modern village; sure do miss my crushed ice!

View of the modern village; sure do miss my crushed ice!

Posted by VagabondCowboy 00:42 Comments (0)

Essaouira-capital of Moroccan hip meets historical seaport

City served as Morocco's main port until the end of the 19th century

City served as Morocco's main port until the end of the 19th century

Gate into old town medina; more art galleries and creative products sold here compared to standard medina fare

Gate into old town medina; more art galleries and creative products sold here compared to standard medina fare

Within the medina are many riads, old palaces now turned into hotels; we stayed in one and found it preferable to the modern hotels lining the beach

Within the medina are many riads, old palaces now turned into hotels; we stayed in one and found it preferable to the modern hotels lining the beach

City known for excellent kitesurfing and windsurfing on protected, almost waveless, bay; you could also pay for a camel ride on the beach

City known for excellent kitesurfing and windsurfing on protected, almost waveless, bay; you could also pay for a camel ride on the beach

Locals believe that only meat from male animals should be eaten so butchers display their meat showing certain maleparts

Locals believe that only meat from male animals should be eaten so butchers display their meat showing certain maleparts

Central square; outside old town the apartments and shops were quite generic and unattractive; lots of trash

Central square; outside old town the apartments and shops were quite generic and unattractive; lots of trash

The catch of the day was prepared according to the buyer's request; healthy seagull population encouraged sales of hats

The catch of the day was prepared according to the buyer's request; healthy seagull population encouraged sales of hats

It never gets very hot here; the weather is similar to that of Santa Monica, CA

It never gets very hot here; the weather is similar to that of Santa Monica, CA

At one point Jews comprised almost 40% o the local population; Moroccan Jews are one of the largest groups in Israel

At one point Jews comprised almost 40% of the local population; Moroccan Jews are one of the largest groups in Israel

The Portuguese built the city defenses; despite direct flights from Europe there were relatively few tourists

The Portuguese built the city defenses; despite direct flights from Europe there were relatively few tourists

Across the country we've seen nice new streets, lined with palms and streetlights; the infrastructure for lots of expansion was completed before the financial crisis caused construction to suddenly stop

Across the country we've seen nice new streets, lined with palms and streetlights; the infrastructure for lots of expansion was completed before the financial crisis caused construction to suddenly stop

City one of the best anchorages on the Moroccan coast because it is protected by several off-shore islands

City one of the best anchorages on the Moroccan coast because it is protected by several off-shore islands

Until the 1960s Essaouira was generally known by its Portuguese name, Mogador

Until the 1960s Essaouira was generally known by its Portuguese name, Mogador

The wide beach wasn't very busy; the water was an unattractive brown and chilly

The wide beach wasn't very busy; the water was an unattractive brown and chilly

We had plenty of long days on the bus; I gave Lee a book to read but he was never able to get very far before sleep would overtake him

We had plenty of long days on the bus; I gave Lee a book to read but he was never able to get very far before sleep would overtake him

Moroccan homes are noted for their interiors while the exteriors are largely ignored; from the outside, intentionally, you couldn't tell an affluent home from an ordinary one

Moroccan homes are noted for their interiors while the exteriors are largely ignored; from the outside, intentionally, you couldn't tell an affluent home from an ordinary one

The medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the medina was similar to others in Morocco but there were local specialties such as wood carving and cabinet making

The medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the medina was similar to others in Morocco but there were local specialties such as wood carving and cabinet making

Present city was built during the 18th century by Mohammed III who wanted a port as close as possible to Marrakesh

Present city was built during the 18th century by Mohammed III who wanted a port as close as possible to Marrakesh

The Berber alphabet was challenging so we just hoped others spoke a little English

The Berber alphabet was challenging so we just hoped others spoke a little English

The 1952 movie Othello with Orson Welles was shot largely in Essaouira; supposedly Welles met Winston Churchill who was also in the city at the time

The 1952 movie Othello with Orson Welles was shot largely in Essaouira; supposedly Welles met Winston Churchill who was also in the city at the time

Fishing fleet mainly catches sardines and conger eels

Fishing fleet mainly catches sardines and conger eels

Jimi Hendrix lived here in the 1960s giving the city some cache among hippies and that vibe carries over today

Jimi Hendrix lived here in the 1960s giving the city some cache among hippies and that vibe carries over today

Lee really enjoyed his morning runs along the beach; plenty of space and great weather

Lee really enjoyed his morning runs along the beach; plenty of space and great weather

Women's cooperative made products from argan nuts; the trees are found only in this area of Morocco

Women's cooperative made products from argan nuts; the trees are found only in this area of Morocco

Another Moroccan city that has served as a set for the television series, Game of Thrones

Another Moroccan city that has served as a set for the television series, Game of Thrones

Attractive city in which to wander, whether through the medina or for a long walk down the beach promenade

Attractive city in which to wander, whether through the medina or for a long walk down the beach promenade

Posted by VagabondCowboy 00:15 Comments (0)

Home stay with local Berber family in High Atlas Mountains

Dorm living with a local family; didn't care for the bathroom door which was a plastic shower curtain

Dorm living with a local family; didn't care for the bathroom door which was a plastic shower curtain

Chaotic market day had areas for just about everything; no fixed prices; Lee's haircut was $3

Chaotic market day had areas for just about everything; no fixed prices; Lee's haircut was $3

This is the highest road pass in Morocco; tallest mountain in Morocco is nearby at 13,671 ft above sea level (Mont Blanc is 15,774)

This is the highest road pass in Morocco; tallest mountain in Morocco is nearby at 13,671 ft above sea level (Mont Blanc is 15,774)

We passed many of these overloaded hay trucks on the road but I could never get a good photo; they were always packed in this identical fashion and looked ready to topple over

We passed many of these overloaded hay trucks on the road but I could never get a good photo; they were always packed in this identical fashion and looked ready to topple over

Aroumd is village of 1900 in the High Atlas Mountains; the town, at 1900m, serves as a base for those trekking up the highest mountain in north Africa

Aroumd is village of 1900 in the High Atlas Mountains; the town, at 1900m, serves as a base for those trekking up the highest mountain in north Africa

Farmers sold direct; I couldn't watch people pick their chicken alive and then have it killed

Farmers sold direct; I couldn't watch people pick their chicken alive and then have it killed

It was an hour hike up to our home stay from the main village; lots of home stays here for tours so not off the beaten path

It was an hour hike up to our home stay from the main village; lots of home stays here for tours so not off the beaten path

Michael was the elder statesman in our group and really needed a haircut; since we were just taking a walk through the market I didn't feel there was time for me to get a quality cut

Michael was the elder statesman in our group and really needed a haircut; since we were just taking a walk through the market I didn't feel there was time for me to get a quality cut

Posted by VagabondCowboy 22:33 Comments (0)

Hiking the desolate Todra Gorge wasn't much fun

Our Morocco tour was cheap but we agreed that there were much better places in the world to visit

Our Morocco tour was cheap but we agreed that there were much better places in the world to visit

Expected the hike to be through the gorge, not over the mountains!

Expected the hike to be through the gorge, not over the mountains!

Caves and large tent were home to nomadic Berber family we visited; our tour guide talked to the Berber elder most of the time but translated little for us

Caves and large tent were home to nomadic Berber family we visited; our tour guide talked to the Berber elder most of the time but translated little for us

The nomadic Berbers had an old loom that I know my Dad would have enjoyed seeing

The nomadic Berbers had an old loom that I know my Dad would have enjoyed seeing

My hiking boots have been great and minimize the ankle rolls I get when I wear my tennis shoes

My hiking boots have been great and minimize the ankle rolls I get when I wear my tennis shoes

The small river valley was the only place where crops would grow

The small river valley was the only place where crops would grow

Relaxing in the Berbers tent with tea and bread was a high point of the hike

Relaxing in the Berbers tent with tea and bread was a high point of the hike

Happy to have reached the summit on our hike; some shade would have been nice

Happy to have reached the summit on our hike; some shade would have been nice

Walked 3 kms to the nearest store to get some Coke Zero; not sure I'm cut out for living like a Berber

Walked 3 kms to the nearest store to get some Coke Zero; not sure I'm cut out for living like a Berber

During rainy season (winter) river can cover canyon floor

During rainy season (winter) river can cover canyon floor

The nomadic Berbers lived in a complex of caves; challenging just to get water every day

The nomadic Berbers lived in a complex of caves; challenging just to get water every day

Area popular with rock climbers; limestone cliffs carved by normally sedate rivers

Area popular with rock climbers; limestone cliffs carved by normally sedate rivers

All across Morocco the schools are painted in bright pastel colors

All across Morocco the schools are painted in bright pastel colors

Lawrence of Arabia filmed nearby and gave rise to several movie studios

Lawrence of Arabia filmed nearby and gave rise to several movie studios

Stayed in fairly nice places but either had no wifi or it was so poor as to be useless

Stayed in fairly nice places but either had no wifi or it was so poor as to be useless

Seemed like hours of barren countryside crammed in an uncomfortable minibus

Seemed like hours of barren countryside crammed in an uncomfortable minibus

Posted by VagabondCowboy 17:08 Comments (1)

Camping under stars of Sahara among highlights

Really enjoyed the camel ride but not sure the feeling was mutual

Really enjoyed the camel ride but not sure the feeling was mutual

They were so polite; the macaques would hold their hands out but were not grabby at all

They were so polite; the macaques would hold their hands out but were not grabby at all

One of the best dinners of the trip was the one we enjoyed out in the Sahara

One of the best dinners of the trip was the one we enjoyed out in the Sahara

Can't imagine the toughness required of the traders in the past who took camel caravans across the Sahara

Can't imagine the toughness required of the traders in the past who took camel caravans across the Sahara

My camel thought the camera was a snack; he really liked having his head scratched

My camel thought the camera was a snack; he really liked having his head scratched

Lee led the group in treks up the high sand dunes

Lee led the group in treks up the high sand dunes

Our fun group with our tour leader on the far left

Our fun group with our tour leader on the far left

I tried to bond with my camel but I think the camel had other ideas

I tried to bond with my camel but I think the camel had other ideas

Every now and then we would come across an oasis with date palms and other crops; the contrast with the surrounding area was stark

Every now and then we would come across an oasis with date palms and other crops; the contrast with the surrounding area was stark

We lucked out by having a terrific tour group; everyone got along well

We lucked out by having a terrific tour group; everyone got along well

Males can live 25 yrs and females 30 years; unlike other macaques, males play an active role in rearing young

Males can live 25 yrs and females 30 years; unlike other macaques, males play an active role in rearing young

We wondered what the sheep ate and where they found water in these barren parts of Morocco

We wondered what the sheep ate and where they found water in these barren parts of Morocco

The Middle Atlas Mountains stretch 350 km; they get enough snow in the winter that there is even a ski resort

The Middle Atlas Mountains stretch 350 km; they get enough snow in the winter that there is even a ski resort

The Intrepid itinerary talked about the scenic drive through the countryside; Ha!

The Intrepid itinerary talked about the scenic drive through the countryside; Ha!

Sleeping under the stars in the Sahara was one of the highlights of the trip

Sleeping under the stars in the Sahara was one of the highlights of the trip

Barbary macaques are an endangered species found only in the Atlas Mtns of Morocco and Algeria plus some in Gibraltar

Barbary macaques are an endangered species found only in the Atlas Mtns of Morocco and Algeria plus some in Gibraltar

Don't even want to think of being here in the summer

Don't even want to think of being here in the summer

Group gathering for welcome tea at our camp

Group gathering for welcome tea at our camp

The camels were all healthy and seemed to be well-treated

The camels were all healthy and seemed to be well-treated

Dangers to the macaques are dogs and poachers who sell them as pets

Dangers to the macaques are dogs and poachers who sell them as pets

The group climbed the dunes to watch the sunrise

The group climbed the dunes to watch the sunrise

Most of us slept outside under a million stars

Most of us slept outside under a million stars

The desert camp was pretty basic but did have a sit down toilet and a little running water

The desert camp was pretty basic but did have a sit down toilet and a little running water

The Sahara Desert is about the same size as the US (3000 miles long by 1200 miles wide)

The Sahara Desert is about the same size as the US (3000 miles long by 1200 miles wide)

Posted by VagabondCowboy 09:46 Comments (0)

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