Morocco: A journey through the desert
January 1, 1970
by Isabela Canto
Roadtrip through the mountains and canyons
Everybody goes to Morocco expecting to see an endless desert. It’s not like that, it’s better! When you leave Marrakesh and head south, you’ll pass a huge chain of mountains and canyons. There is lots of villages around those mountains, and you can stop around to take pictures of this breathtaking view. The most beautiful canyons are the Gorges du Dades (that are called that way because of the finger shaped mountains) and the Gorges du Todra, one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had in my life!
Visit argan oil and roses cooperatives
Argan is a typical morrocan nut that lately has been very well known because of it’s moisturizing proprieties. It is done in traditional cooperatives of women specialized on extracting the oil and giving it a variety of uses: they make a huge variety of artesanal cosmetics, facial creams, shampoos, and even cooking oil! It is great if you want to keep your skin and hair moist while in the desert, where the weather is really dry and hot!
There is also small cooperatives where they plant and extract the oil of roses. They even have the festivity of the roses in May, and children sell crowns made of flowers in this time of the year. The smell is amazing!
Dress like a local
The moroccan do not dress like the western people. There are a mix of arab and berbere people, and they usually dress with beautiful and colorful dresses, that cover the knees and shoulders and knees. It’s also common to see them wearing colorful printed pashminas tied into turbants, to protect their heads from the desert’s sun. Those are really beautiful and really cheap, you can buy them for as cheap as 5 euros. If you are a woman, it’s also traditional to do in hena painting the hands.
Ride a camel
Riding a camel it’s a bit harder than riding a horse, but it’s the easiest method to get in the desert and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the ride though the dunes. They usually organize the rides during sunset, so it’s one remarkable experience. You’ll feel like Lawrence of the Arabia! Some packages even allow you to do Sandboard in the dunes while your camels rest a little bit. For those (like me!) who love a thrill, I would definately recommend!
Sleep a night in the desert
It’s the highlight of the whole trip. You can never get enough of the Sahara and it’s sky full of stars –the sky is so clear you can evey see the Milky Way. You can sleep in typical berbere lodgements, with a dinner and concert with traditional music. It’s really hard not to dance with the beating of the drums. Try to wake up early and climb a dune to watch the sun rise. The biggest dunes will take about 40 minutes to get on the top, but the view it’s so amazing it will worth it!
4×4 through the dunes
If you are a fan of adventure, don’t miss this! There are several companies that offer 4×4 tours in the desert, where you will go across the dunes in high speed in the same place that the legenday Paris Dakar rally goes. In this adventure, you will cross beautiful sceneries and you can even ride on the top of the car! Not for the faint at heart!
Drink thé de menthe
It’s the berbere whisky! It’s the symbol of hospitality in Morroco: anywhere you go, they will offer you thé de menthe, and it is always free. Drink as much as you can, it is delicious! If mint is not your flavor, they do have a variety of teas in the market that have all different uses: the wake up tea, the spicy ginger tea, the aphrodisiac tea, and the list goes on…
Get lost in the markets of Marrakesh
Marrakesh is legendary for it’s markets, where you can buy almost anything: from spices to handbags, jewelry to small animals like lizzards, you will find anything you want to! With it’s narrow streets filled with stands and busy with the traffic of people, motorcycles and even mules, this market will definetely drive you mad! Don’t forget to bargain: the sellers are used to it, and even get a little bit mad if you do not try to lower the price. In the market you will also see a huge number of street artists, snake charmers, and you can even read you future on the cards if you are willing to do so!
Have a taste of the Morrocan cuisine
These are the two most tradional plates of the Morrocan cusine. Tagine is a stew (it could be meat, chicken or lamb) with vegetables, raisins, dates and other fruits, made in a special pan that goes to the oven. The meat gets really, really tender! Couscous is a flour based on wheat that is mixed with meat, chicken or vegetables. The moroccan spices are something in particular: everything in really spicy and tasty, but you should be careful when eating in street markets as they are not always as clean as they should be.
Get in touch with the Berbere culture
The Berbere are a traditional community that composes 75% of the population of Morocco, and the first and native inhabitants of the desert. They are nomads, and live in tents called jaimas, that are made of a few sticks and pieces of fabric. They survive of the agriculture on some communal camps and of the shepherd of sheeps and other animals. They are polygamic and usually have many children, that mean more hands to help. Even though that sounds retrograde, they have a beautiful philosophy of life, based on the freedom of their own people. When I asked a Berbere lady why she did not moved to the city, she answered me with another question: “Why? I do have here everything I need…”
Maybe it’s true, having the chance to see the desert’s sunset everyday is truly everything we need.