May 6th ~ Visit Ait Ben Haddou, Travel to Marrakesh, Morocco
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next we walked through the home where he currently lives with his family.
At the end of the village we stopped for a panoramic view of the town nestled on the side of the hill.
Back across the bridge to the new city where I spotted an enormous stork nest sitting on top of the 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.
The scenery is sometimes harsh, but always beautiful. I’ve chosen a few shots to try to show the variety of the desert.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.