Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moroccan Travels.. Off the Beaten Path

And by off the beaten path, I mean really off... about 230 miles south of Marrakech, in an area known for its winding and barely paved roads and steep mountain passes (over 7500 feet above sea level)! 

Justin and I were very excited to have our friends Emily, Chris, and Jeremy come to visit us in Morocco. Emily is Justin's oldest friend; they have known each other since they were 2 years old! Chris is a seasoned Morocco traveler (he knows an amazing amount about Jewish history and music in Morocco, which you can read about on his blog). And Jeremy is a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Cambodia from 2009-2011. Emily and Chris rented a car, which was a huge luxury for us because we're not allowed to drive in Morocco, and there are many parts of the country that are not accessible by train and require days upon days and multiple means of transportation. So we spent our time together catching up on old memories, talking about the Peace Corps, and most importantly, exploring some very exciting parts of Morocco!

To start... on the road to Tafraoute, we passed quite a sight, which I mentioned in my last blog post. The famous tree-climbing goats! This is an argan tree, with tasty fruits that entice the goats to climb up and eat them. In the middle of the argan fruits are large nuts, and contained within each nut are 1-3 kernels rich in argan oil which can then be extracted for use in many cosmetic and culinary products. Now here's a slightly graphic detail - Historically, in order to extract argan oil, people would collect argan pits from the waste of the goats (yes, waste) and then press them to extract the oil. Today, this doesn't seem to be as common, but it's still a fun story to tell!


After Tafraoute, we visited Aït Mansour, and I truly understood what the word "oasis" means! As we drove amongst endless dry stone deserts and huge towering rocks, all of a sudden, a valley appeared with a long flowing river and a trail of palm trees. One of the most beautiful sites I have seen in Morocco! And since we were down south, we saw a lot of Imazighen (Berber) people and artwork (I talked a bit about the history of the Berber people in this blog post). 


The next day was a long drive to Aït Benhaddou that was rewarded with a wonderful couscous dinner and some amazingly beautiful sites the following day. Aït Benhaddou is a famous ksar (a fortified city) that was once an important trading stop for merchants traveling between the Sahara and Marrakech, and some buildings date back to the 11th century. The ksar boasts a long list of movie credits due to its size and preservation - a few that you might recognize are Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Jesus of Nazareth (1977). It was truly stunning.


On our final leg of the trip, we took the Tizi n'Tichka pass, which winds through the High Atlas mountains and roads that Peace Corps Volunteers will only mention in the same sentence along with the word "dramamine." Motion sickness aside, it was a beautiful drive and we were also able to stop in Telouet to see the Glaoui Kasbah, with ruins on the outside and an unexpectedly beautiful salon on the inside.


It was an awesome trip, and we are so grateful to Emily, Chris, and Jeremy for their wonderful company, for all of their travel research, and for giving us a way to see some places in Morocco that we might never have gotten to otherwise! The final highlight of my trip made it into our lunch on the road back to Marrakech. LOUISIANA HOT SAUCE!! Just a little piece of home 3,000 miles away :)

6 comments:

  1. Hi Lauren,
    I'm a PCV in Cape Verde, and my husband and I are COSing next week. I'm commenting on your blog because we're interested in visiting Morocco but have limited access to the internet and basically know nothing about the country. We'd love to visit some PCVs there or just get some tips about good places to go and getting around. Any tips or contacts you could provide would be so great! (melissabenton@hotmail.com)
    Thanks so much,
    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa, sent you an email with lots of info. Hopefully you will find it helpful - hope you have a wonderful visit and congratulations on completing your service!

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  2. Hi Lauren

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories about my native country. I am very happy for you to be able to see the beauty that morocco displays in all its forms and shapes.

    Your pictures are beautiful and give a great illustration of that beauty.

    I am sitting here in my office listening to some Moroccan music and reading your blog.

    Hope you keep enjoying your stay there.

    Thanks
    Hassan (Chicago)

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    1. Hi Hassan, thank you so much for the kind words and I'm glad to hear that I am representing your country well in my blog! Say hi to the U.S. of A for me :)

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  3. Hi Lauren !
    It Was a Amazing your Descriptions About My Country I'm Just Happy That you love our culture and how you share your wonderful stories about Tafrouate and the towns On the Middle anti atlas range

    Even I leave in Agadir not too much far of that beauty i lived your trip like i was there .

    hope that you coming in other time and meet each other and help you if you need someone to see our country and represent it :)

    My Account Facebook it's (Oussama Ahbanouch) Add's me !!

    Oussama (Agadir-Morocco)

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    1. Thank you Oussama, I'm so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog!

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