Ouarzazat

Trip Start May 19, 2005
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Trip End Jun 02, 2005


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Friday, May 27, 2005

I hooked up with Sahara Expeditions to do a 3 day trip to the Sahara. Morroco's landscape is such that you are in mountains one minute, plains the next, and then desert which stretches for what seems forever.

We embarked at 7:30am on Friday morning. I was in a mini-bus with 7 other people. 1 Japanese girl Yoko and 3 couples. The couples were a mix. 3 Londoners, 1 Australian and a girl from California. We headed for the High Atlas.

I was hoping that there would be snow on the mountain still even though it was spring. I guess i'll have to return another time in the future which doesn't bother me at all. We stopped a few times for photo ops High in the mountains. I almost feel like I would do it no justice if I tried to explain what it looked like. I might just save it for the pictures and even that won't offer any justice.

I took a lot of pictures and at times felt I was strapped down by the camera. All the more reason to return with out it. One of the best parts about the trip through the mountains was not just the huge peaks towering over me but the small Berber villages and tribes along the way. At one point we topped out at about 6,000 FT which is probably the highest I have ever been on foot.

The trip through the High Atlas took about 5 hours at which time we arrived at Ait-Ben-Haddou about 40 miles outside of Ouarzazate. This is Morroco's most impressive Kasbah which is used in several Hollywood movies. Scenes from Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and other films were shot in the surrounding area. I guess I had perfect timing because our driver advised us that the movie "Babel" was being filmed that day. Well, he was right. I got to watch a few war scenes shot with lots of extras riding around on horses. The movie is with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchet so I took a few zoomed in shots and recorded some of it. Lets just hope that I don't get a call from the production company trying to sue me.

It is funny, the closest I have probably ever been to a major movie star is the furthest I have ever been from modern society. After leaving Ait Ben-Haddou we continued on. I found out that the city of Ouarzazate is pretty much Africa's version of Hollywood. There is a big studio here with nice hotels for stars to stay at. This region of Morocco I guess is easy for people to access and is attractive to the camera. I am sure there are portions of Algeria that directors would like to film in that they just can't get to.

Our next destination was going to be the Valley of Roses and the Draa Valley. Again, pictures and words might not even do these places justice. The drive through is absolutely amazing. Winding roads going inbetween small villages and towns and valleys inbetween the rock ledges. Some of the scenery reminded me of what the American southwest might look like. It is almost frustrating writing about this now because I can't convey the image correctly. I wish I wasn't under the weather. When I return I plan on posting as many pictures as possible. I took a lot during this 3 day trek.

At the end of the day we stopped in the Dades Gorge in the Dades Valley. It was a pleasant hotel right inside the gorge itself. Outside was a terrace and you could walk down to the valley itself. It was lush green with pink wild flowers growing near beautiful willows with a stream flowing through sparkling from the sun setting over the rocks. It reminded me of a fairy tale setting. All I needed to see now was a damn unicorn taking its evening drink from the stream and a couple of trolls asking for gold.

I got one of the best nights of sleep the entire trip that night. We were in for another long day of driving so it was much needed.
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