Category Archives: Morocco

Road trip to the desert

Our guide, Hammid and driver Rasheed collected us from our Marrakech Riad at 8am, for a 10 hour drive to the desert.  There are four of us on our trip, myself, Trevor, Lynn and Nigel.

Our Journey took us over the High Atlas mountains via Tichka Pass (2260m.) to Ouarzazate. Here we enterd the Draa Valley, the largest palm grove in the Morocco, stretching for more than 100km along the banks of the River Draa. We pased through Agdz, Zagora, and Tagounit to reach Ouled Driss on the edge of the Sahara desert where we find ourself at a beautiful Berber Kasbah

Butchers on the Tichka PassButchers on the Tichka Pass
Butchers on the Tichka Pass

The journey was longer than I might have wanted but we stopped 3 times.  Along the way I tried another tea and still don’t like it, yuk.   Later I had a coffee, my first since Mcr airport 5 days ago, it made my heart sing!  The terrain was spectacular and ever changing, it made the journey easier.

Tichka Pass
My Heart sings!

My room here is lovely, all modern facilities and heating, there is even a pool!

Tabarkat Kashbah

Lucky for me Trevor and Lynn are both camera nerds.  I was worried about being a nuisance by taking photos all the time but I am not alone.  The bad news is that Trevor, as well as his Nikon DSLR, has a Sony Nex7 and worse still he let me have a fondle, this could cost me money, LOL.

MSR is currently working on in-room projects . . .

Tabarkat Kashbah

We said goodbye to Rasheed, tomorrow we get a new driver in a Landrover, he will take us almost all the way to our campsite and then drop us off with Hammid to trek into camp.  “Please can my feet and all other bits of my body behave.”

Leaving Essaouira

It’s my last day on the Moroccan coast in the seaside town of Essaouira. I feel I’m all Done here, its been very pleasant but frankly I’m tired of all the Attention when I go out. Today I gave up and now find myself covered in factor 50 on the rooftop terrace of Maison du Sud killing time before my transfer to Marrakech.

As is my tradition when travelling I have a “small friend” in my bag. Usually I’m not afraid to whip her out in a tourist spot and enjoy a bit of doll photography. Well if a blonde ladylike me gets attention what the flip will the locals make of a Japanese fashion doll with blue hair? So MSR has stayed in my bag until I repacked this morning – here she is in the window of my room, there’s a big drop, we were both terrified!

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The Sun, The Moon, Horses and a couple of Camels

Further ambling today around the souks and Medina.  I have to confess I am finding the ‘attention’ tiresome.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had stuck with French lessons a bit longer, then I could hurl some abuse . .  I found the Artisan area, got some photos of craftsmen and bought some art!

 

 

In the evening I met up with Darren from Images in the sun, it was the last day of Katie’s photo course and they invited me to join them for a sunset photo walk on the beach to see if we could capture some horses and camels as the sun went down.  Camels were thin on the ground but lots of horse action and the sunset was amazing.

 

 

And, I bagged another Moon shot, this time handheld, I’m going to be spoilt for choice!


Tomorrow is my last day in Essaouira, I’ll be heading to Marrakech to start my trekking adventure.

Essaouria

Today I headed out to explore Essaouira for myself. I got a fair bit of unwanted attention as the blonde lady with a big camera. “Bonjour! Journalist?”  I started off on the roof terrace of my Riad, Maison du Sud, using my long lens I managed a couple of Candids.

 

I had lunch at a cafe in the main square. Buskers come along, play a while and then pass around a hat, largely ignored. I took this fellas photo so felt it only right to offer a few coins.

Here’s a shot of one of the hand cart porters, all tourist luggage arrives in the Medina like this.

I ate dinner with Katie at a little French restaurant near to du Sud. I tried some mint tea, it was very nice but I don’t think I will be having it again, lets just say that later that evening I found out that Imodium Instant really is instant! I’m sure it was that tea!

Before bed I went back on to the roof terrace with my tripod, 75/300 and 2x converter in hand and Yay, I have my own photo of the moon! I know it’s not the bestest ever moon photo but its all my own work and now my blog has an appropriate banner image = chuffed!

 

Photo Walk

Today I met up with Darren from Images in the Sun. By lucky coincidence his tour starts at Maison du Sud. Also on the walk is Katie, a student from the US. Katie is on a week long holiday enjoying cooking and photography with Darren and his wife.

Before we leave du Sud Darren shows us examples of the sort of images we might be able to capture at the Souk we are visiting and gives tips on how to aproach the people in the Souk (not easy).

The Souk was amazing, culture shocks continued, in comparison with my beloved Trafford Centre this was positively primitive. It was hard to take people photos, some traders don’t like it, Katie and I got ticked off a few times.

The Souk sells everthing a Berber could need, fruit, veg, spices, household items, even jewellery. I’m not sure what came over me but I found myself asking if we could see the meat area. My Fishytarian sensibilities were challenged but we got some nice shots. This is Mr Meatman, Darren will print it off and give to him the next time he goes to the Souk, hopefully he will be happy to pose again.

 

 

The Souk was scorching, so pleased to have aircon in Darren’s transport. Next stop was Cafe Dar Na for lunch.  This place was a photo op in it’s self, the owner, Siad, has many amazing sculptures and nik naks, all great fun to photograph.

 

 

After lovely food and a chance to relax on the Dar Na sun terrace we head to walk down the Sidi M’Bark valley, along the river to reach the waterfalls next to the sea.

We met this fella, he was filling up water bottles near the waterfalls, Darren offered him  a few coins to pose for us:

 

Here are Darren and Katie reviewing Katie’s photos:

 

I know I will be seeing a LOT more sand once I start my trek, this is from the end of our walk.

 

After the walk Darren invited me to join him and Katie for review of photos the next morning, how nice! I’ve had a lovely day.

Maison du Sud, Essaouira.

My driver met me at Marrakesh airport, it’s the first time I’ve had my name on a card at arrivals. KE Adventure, my travel agent, told me it would take 3 hours to transfer to Essouira (esso-weera), the driver said 21/2 but we arrived swiftly in 2 hours, it was something of an Adventure! After losing and then finding the car keys I had to ask him to switch on his headlights and within minutes of leaving the airport were only a few cms of a crash or two. The culture shock was immediate, it only took 12 mins from the airport for our first encounter with a donkey and cart.

Maison du Sud sits within the walls of Essouira, there is no access for cars so my luggage was transported by hand cart, yep just like the Olden Days. It’s just lovely here, my room is split level, the bed is upstairs with a nice sitting area and bathroom below. Being right in the Medina it can be a little noisy and of course we are all called to prayer at 6am.

 

 

 

Another shock to my system is that there is no tv or other Facilities in my room, I’m spoilt by my 4 star lifestyle . . The Riad does have free wi fi but only in the lobby, I can live with that.

A little piece of Morocco at Mcr Airport

I’m at Mcr airport and to my delight and relief I find I can buy Moroccan Dirham here.  The Dirham is a Closed currency, you can’t get it on the HIgh Street, I tried and I understand you can’t bring Dirhams home with you either.  So much happiness that I have 1000x (about £90) as I was worried about not being able to tip my driver when I get to Essaouira.

 

Good news!  I followed my own advice (keep moving and ice), along with what Google  says (ibuprofen) and my injured shoulder is much better, phew!  Its still a bit sore but I almost have full range of movement, wont need to adopt ‘special tactics’ to get dressed each day.

This is my first visit to terminal one, its quite nice, everything thorough and efficient at security, no queues at all.  So far so good!

Prequel, 48 hours to Marrakech

It’s 48 hours before I’m due to touch down in Marrakech on my Moroccan adventure and I have had a bloody disaster!  I seem to have hurt my rotator cuff muscles and have pain and restricted movement in my shoulder.  The worst thing is that I can’t take my hand behind my back.  This morning I had to figure out how a girl gets on a bra in such a situation . .

So, I am dosed up on Ibuprofen, wearing a freezer pack and preying to anyone who will listen that I can get my (very heavy) photo rucksack in the overhead locker on my Easyjet.

I’m trying not to panic and things seemed better after a visit from Sam Photo, she brought travel gifts for me and MSR.  I got a really cool water bottle that will keep my water super cool in the desert.  Sam had personally tested the bottle in Death Valley, says it really works.

 

MSR was not forgotten, check out this Moroccan inspired hat from Shelly’s Little Owl store on Etsy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my friends asked for my itinerary: I spend 4 nights in Essouira 18 – 21, then head back to Marrakech on the 22 where this happens:

Day 1: Arrive Marrakech. You are met by a KE representative who will arrange transfers to the group hotel in Marrakech. KE Land Only services begin with overnight in the Riad. Overnight at Riad.

Day 2: Drive across the atlas to Ouarzazate and then through the Draa Valley to Ouled Driss and M’Hamid on the fringes of the Sahara where we overnight at a kasbah.

Day 3: We start our walk by crossing palm groves and fields into the desert toward the dunes of Erg Chegaga. Tonight we camp at a fixed Bedouin site with a resturant and showers.

Day 4: Continue trekking through a fascinating and varied desert landscape we climb the highest dune before returning to our previous nights accommodation. Bedouin fixed camp.

Day 5: We continue on our journey through small palm groves, dunes and onto a plateaux where we camp at Erg Lihoudi. Bedouin style fixed camp with resturant and showers.

Day 6: Today we walk across Erg Lihouli from crest to crest before taking the 4WD transfer back to Ouled Driss and M’hamid to at our kasbah to overnight.

Day 7: We drive back across the Atlas to Marrakech arriving late afternoon / evening in time to visit the remarkable central square of the Djemaa-el-Fna. Riad.

Day 8: KE Land Only services end after breakfast. Complimentary airport transfers are provided for clients departing this day.

Here’s the link to a map and stuff.

Once I head out into the desert there will be no wifi so don’t expect daily updates!