Ait Ben Haddou and a 350 Mile Bus Ride to Marrakesh

May 6th ~ Visit Ait Ben Haddou, Travel to Marrakesh, Morocco

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

It was confirmed this morning that the road to Marrakesh is still closed due to the mud slide. What does that mean for us? Well, that translates into an EXTRA 200 miles as the only alternative route takes us the long way around. We expect around a 12 hour day on the bus to travel 350 miles. Some of the route will be through small villages, some involves negotiating traffic and some of the time over winding roads through the Atlas Mountains. 

Our group is made up of seasoned travelers who thankfully understand that there is a part of traveling and seem resolved to hunker down for the long ride.

But first, after breakfast at the hotel , we take time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou, a ksar – or fortified city – along a former caravan route.

“This is the true Morocco: a village that seems to rise from the sands. Its desert-dusted Kasbahs and maze-like warrens are sure to enthrall you.” ~ Gate 1 website

“This is a traditional Mud Brick city on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains. It has appeared in more than 10 movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.” ~ Wikitravel.org

First we had to cross this river over a narrow walking bridge that connected the new city with the old city.

Crossing over the river to enter Ait-Benhaddou

Crossing over this river to enter Ait-Benhaddou

There are a few places to still stay in the old city and your luggage will be transported for you over the bridge via donkey.

This is how they transport your luggage over the bridge to the old city.

This is how they transport your luggage over the bridge to the old city.

We wander down slim passageways of mud and straw walls, mostly colorless other than the red adobe. The contrast comes from the characters we pass, such as this man with his cow and the variety offered in the few shops.

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The cow was not pleased to share the path with our group.

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Few families still actually live in the old city, as most have moved across the river to the new portion. But we were introduced to a man and his family who do still live here. First we got to investigate the older homestead where he was born.

Tim in the loft of the old home

Tim in the loft of the old home

Next we walked through the home where he currently lives with his family.

His wife sweeping the steps before inviting us into their home

His wife sweeping the steps before inviting us into their home

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Kitchen area

At the end of the village we stopped for a panoramic view of the town nestled on the side of the hill.

The old village blends into the soil and vice a versa

The old village blends into the soil and vice a versa

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Donkey carrying a load of greens into the village

Donkey carrying a load of greens into the village

Back across the bridge to the new city where I spotted an enormous stork nest sitting on top of the minaret.

Stork nest on top of the square Berber style minaret

Stork nest on top of the square Berber style minaret

Then it was time to climb on the bus once again for our anticipated LONNNNGGGG ride. I especially felt bad for our incredible bus driver, Aziz (I’m not sure that I am spelling his name correctly). He has been so rock steady and I have felt safe with his capable driving.

We also have a bus boy with us, Mohammed, who keeps the bus clean, passes out cold bottles of water several times a day, and stands at the bottom of the steps each time we disembark to offer the ladies a hand. He is in training, like an apprenticeship, so that in a few years he can become a bus driver.

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I think that they are miners. There are many minerals in this area including silver.

The scenery is sometimes harsh, but always beautiful. I’ve chosen a few shots to try to show the variety of the desert.

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A woman tending her herd of goats. We see both men and women herders.

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Some of the journey is over steep and winding mountain roads

The occasional fuel station of small village break up the otherwise empty vista

The occasional fuel station or small village break up the otherwise empty vista

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It is easy to see where that the colors of the desert comes from the soil

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Plateaus and hills dot the landscape as well

As we got closer to Marrakesh we started seeing the famous Argan trees. They have become quite well-known for two reasons. The first is for the organic argan oil which is used in women’s cosmetics and can cost a small fortune. The tree is only grown successfully in this small region of Morocco and nowhere else in the world, however I understand that recently scientist from Israel have managed to get a few trees started there.

Arian trees with goats out on the limbs eating the fruit

Argan trees with goats out on the limbs eating the fruit

The second reason is because of the goats. They actually CLIMB up into the trees to eat the fruit. We got lucky to find a herd munching away and we hopped off the bus, scampered toward the trees and snapped several shots. The goats were not too thrilled by us interrupting their meal, and many of them jumped down and scrambled off.

Yes, they DO CLIMB up into the trees.

Yes, they DO CLIMB up into the trees.

Our guide, Ham, gave the bewildered goat herder some money as he now had to go round-up his herd once again.

As the sun was setting, we finally arrived in the magical city of Marrakesh where we plan on staying for three nights.

Arriving in Marrakesh, a thriving big city

Arriving in Marrakesh, a thriving big city

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It is sometimes nice to stay put longer than a night or two in the same hotel (or in this case, Riad). I think everyone was happy to be off the bus, unpack and then head up to the top terrace restaurant for our included dinner.

Our room here was smaller and more basic than some of the other places we have stayed on this trip, but it was adequate and in a fabulous location right around the corner from the main square of the Medina. The bed was comfortable and plenty of hot water with good water pressure.

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Sadly one of our tour members was quite vocal about her unhappiness with her accommodations, stating that she was every upset and that she expected and deserved better than this. It grieves me to have overheard her acting like the “Ugly American” as she also later “demanded” in an extremely rude manner that the desk clerk do something about the Internet service.

Overnight: Riad Bahia Salam, Marrakesh

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that by far the majority of the people we meet on our tours are kind, experienced travelers who represent our country in a good light. I am on occasion caught by surprise by the (thankfully rare) individual(s) who behave in a demanding, rude or loud manner. I want to apologize to whomever is on the receiving end of their tirade and have been known to do just that.

But this is about gratitude, so I will continue to focus on the many, many people I am now pleased to call my friends who have learned to roll with the punches, can handle delays with patience, realize that there are sometimes situations outside of the norm that need to be dealt with, and that part of the reason we travel is to see what is different about another place, people or culture.

QUESTION: Have you witnessed ugly behavior of a fellow traveler on a trip? Were you embarrassed or upset that the impolite person was leaving a poor impression of our (your) country? If so, how did you handle it? I’m particularly interested in learning a positive way to defuse the situation and leave a better impression.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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31 Responses to Ait Ben Haddou and a 350 Mile Bus Ride to Marrakesh

  1. Kristy Rhine says:

    These photos are amazing. What an experience!

    Like

  2. Paul Finnell says:

    Well,I guess today added new meaning to the term “Marrakesh Express” 🙂 I know exactly who and where you were thinking about and remembering when you encountered the disgruntled woman in the hotel! She didn’t use the term “sh*t hole” by any chance, did she?

    Like

  3. GeorgieMoon says:

    Wow, what an amazing trip,you are having! I’ve never been anywhere like that. Some amazing photos here. Look at the luggage donkeys! I’m sorry to hear that one rude traveller spoilt it for everyone. Good luck with the rest of your journey.

    Like

    • Thank you Georgie. Actually it would take a lot more than that to spoil the trip, as we pretty much take things in stride. I just thought it was shameful behavior and truly do want to learn a diplomatic way to handle an awkward situation. And yes, I too got a big kick out of that donkey hauling the luggage. Thanks for your good wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have most definitely witnessed this happening again and again. Typically I ignore it unless it is bad. I am not terribly fond of conflict. However, I was stuck in a European airport after 9/11 and witnessed some older people from Georgia making disgusting racists comments to a young Indian family with an infant assuming they were Middle Eastern Terrorists. That set me over the edge. I made quite a scene actually. I regret doing it because I don’t think it actually made the couple feel any better. But, it made me feel better to not tolerate their disgusting comments.

    Other than that it is always small things like people being rude to wait staff or retail clerks or hotel staff which I am sure they are all used to but it is embarrassing to me.

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  5. ardysez says:

    I don’t know why, but I’m surprised at how much the interior of Morocco reminds me of Central Australia–the scenery and even the flash floods! We even live in a rammed earth house made from local dirt the colour of Ait Ben Haddou. As always, very nice photos, especially the people shots, which I always find a challenge to not be intrusive. As for the rude member of your group, it happens. We see it in our travels too and do much the same as you, empathise with the person copping the abuse, so that they know not all of us ‘Westerners’ are like that. It speaks volumes about the person hurling the abuse, but it does concern me that it also reflects badly on the rest of us. We have found that being respectful and patient is the way to go. When you have time will you write to me about using the overseas sim card, cost, data etc.? (ardysz@me.com) You upload a lot of photos, which is what I like to do, but which can be very tricky on overseas situations when relying on wifi. Thanks so much Joanne.

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    • You have made me curios now to see central Australia. I agree completely that being respectful and patient are so important. Regarding the SIM card, Tim does a little research ahead of time to see which local company has the best service. We have newer iPhone which are already unlocked. Upon arriving in the new country we can often find a kiosk for the company we chose and can get the SIM card right there. The clerk is usually quite experienced and can install and activate it for you in a matter of a few minutes. Make sure you keep your regular SIM card in a safe location as you will need to switch it back when you return home. Most countries have a very reasonable price, for example here in Morocco we got a 30 day plan with 10G of data for $20. Hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ait-Benhaddou looks amazing. What a journey you’re having. I don’t remember travelling with anyone who was rude. We usually travel alone, but we did a tour through Jordan and another through Egypt and everyone was really great. Lucky I guess. I don’t know if you actually could do anything about it if someone is all upset and yelling. I think I’d probably just leave the scene.
    Alison

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  7. mike alesko says:

    As always, great photos and narratives, Joanne. I’m particularly enjoying Morocco, as these are places and vistas not seen everyday compared to say European or Asian touring. As to your Ugly Anerican question: I was on a bus tour of the Guatemala City area while there for one of my adoptions. As we went by a very rickety shanty town (very common in impoverished Guatemala as you know Joanne) a tour member loudly proclaimed that we shouldn’t feel any empathy or sympathy for the residents as they were living just as they wanted to and had no desire for electricity, plumbing or running water. I loudly let her have it and noted for everyone how her attitude was as imperious as it was nonsensical. I’m all for diplomacy but I think that ugly Americanism, racist and bigoted comments, etc., need to be called out vocally and on the spot. Why should we fear offending various stripes of haters?? And why should we let it go unchallenged? That’s like agreeing with it. It really is.

    To me this applies everywhere, not just in travel. I was behind a lady in a grocery store checkout line who made loud and very racist comments about the Asian lady in front of her who was a bit bewildered due to lack of understanding English. I also let that racist have it, loud and clear and to some applause. I say if you are the shy type folks, just step out of your comfort zone at times like these and do the right thing. Just do it!

    Like

  8. janet oates says:

    This looks truly amazing! I love all the different colors of the desert! Am really enjoying keep up with you and hubs! Cheers

    Like

  9. Marie says:

    What a journey.

    Like

  10. Wasan Abod says:

    Nice photos! With all these vivid details of the desert, the architecture, the life there, i felt i was visiting Morocco myself

    Like

  11. What an interesting journey. And the beauty of the desert… always. 12 hours on a bus, ouch. But it would be an adventure. Loved the luggage carrying donkey. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dee says:

    Absolutely amazing! I was reading about houses in Africa with my students and they were amazed that homes could be made of mud and built right into the side of a mountain. One day I will travel to these magical places that seem to be trapped in a time long ago.

    Like

  13. Travel Nurse April says:

    Beautifully written and with amazing photos! Thank you for telling us about your travels. I wish people were more grateful when they travel and appreciated what they have (hence the unhappy traveler that you met).

    Like

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