A Travellerspoint blog

THE DADES VALLEY

A GLIMPSE INTO LIFE IN THE REGION

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How does one write when there are no adjectives left? I don’t want to be boring or repetitious or to be perceived as being full of shit when I keep saying that each day is as good or better than the day before. But it is true. I could not have enjoyed today any more than I did.

Over the years, Darren has met and established relationships with various families or individuals along the route of his tours. It can be quite difficult to photograph people in Morocco. Like most Arab countries, it is especially difficult to photograph woman. The fear is that someone might see them in a world where modesty holds high value. Having the opportunity to get into the homes of the locals is an incredible opportunity. Of course, he helps them out financially, to allow us the access to photograph freely, but he does nothing to force them to show the warmth and hospitality that we have seen this week.

This morning was no different. Today we visited a woman, her two children and family friend. She is said to have anywhere from 11 -14 children but many have left home. Her husband was in town working but he also works in his shop at home making slippers. We were able to look her around her home which was relatively large and very clean. Along with the sheep and food that they grow, they even had a little garden in the back. Of course, we had tea and hot bread from the oven. The kids seemed to really enjoy the company and were full of smiles. The longer we stayed, the more they warmed up to us and by the end I was having a great game of ball and there was tons of laughter. It was very special. When we left, we got big hugs from the kids and the mom. It was obvious that this house was filled with much fun and love and I felt so blessed to have been given a glimpse. I left in tears. But that is probably no surprise to most of you.

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From there we made our way to the top of the Dades Valley. A terrifying drive, although Darren says we are the first to think so. The view was incredible, and comparable to the Grand Canyon but of course, my picture fails to represent.

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We went back into town for an amazing lunch. The food is terrific. Everything is fresh, laden with vegetables and lightly seasoned. People cook what is freshly available and it tastes delicious. Typically, we eat from one dish.

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When we arrived at our next stop, Tamtattouchte we had another special opportunity. Living nearby is a man who spent most of his life as a nomad. He has since gone blind and is living in town. No one knows his age and say it really doesn’t matter. He was happy to model for us for a few minutes and was even happier when we took his arms and led him inside mumbling in Berber something about having a harem. He had a million-different expressions and I couldn’t choose a favorite.

Meet Bassou.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:57 Archived in Morocco Tagged people the in valley morocco images dades sun. Comments (9)

WELCOMED BY LOCALS

A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MOROCCAN HOME

sunny 25 °C
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The internet is terrible here in the Dades Valley where we are spending the night so this will be short.

We have had the most excellent day. We began by wandering down to the river to catch the early morning light. As it was just ok, I choose to walk up the river and try and get a few snaps of a lady doing her laundry. It took some financial coaxing but it turned out to be well worth it. After convincing Darren to help her get the laundry on her head, we ended up following her home where we visited her yard, her home and met her daughter and granddaughter, who were still asleep. It was a hoot. She was a hoot.

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From there we ventured into the village where we got to go into the home of a young girl who allowed us to photograph her. She was great but sadly she has dropped out of school and instead tends to the cleaning and cooking in their very simple clay home. Her mom arrived just as we were leaving.

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From there we made our way to another home, one that is considered a bit more middle class, with some help from Russell Crowe. This lady lost her husband years ago and lives alone with her daughter (her two sons married Swiss girls and live in Switzerland). While filming here, Russell Crowe got to know them and helped her purchase a new loom and better home. She makes her own carpets and I loved the hospitality so much, I bought a small one. We had a wonderful visit, taking pictures, having tea and best of all sharing a huge couscous dish that we all ate from the same bowl.

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We spent many hours relaxing in these simple homes. Simply wonderful.

After a return visit to a carpet shop, where I did buy a rug (because Betty Shang said I might regret it otherwise), we headed off on our way to the Dades Valley. We did stop at another carpet shop to have tea with a lovely man.

The Dades Valley is beautiful but I have few pictures since I am a disaster with landscapes.

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I am settled into another Berber room for the night after a wonderful 5 course meal at a local restaurant owned by 3 brothers. It is booked months in advanced and I can see why.

Not too happy with today’s photos but not because there was not plenty of opportunity. It doesn’t really damper the day, because it was an incredible day of culture which is what I love most. This country is a little different than I expected. Life moves slow and people are simply warm and friendly. At least so far.

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Posted by curlygirl 16:39 Archived in Morocco Tagged people morocco atlas dades Comments (7)

FACES OF MOROCCO

THE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR BEGINS

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We left Marrakesh at about 10:30 this morning to head into the Atlas Mountains with our photography guide, Darren. While originally from the UK, he has been living in Morocco for 7 years. I am joined by another lady from London. She is an interesting character. She works in investment banking and who not only loves photography but also has a passion for hoola hooping. She travels the world at hoola retreats. Who knew?

Our journey took most of the day, stopping for a few photo opportunities which included randomly stopping people on the side of the road. Sometimes successful and sometimes not. But you know I love that. Some wanted a few coins and other were just happy to chat. Again, I am grateful to have some French. Although many spoke English, they were more fluent in French.

Here are a few shots from the day. We are anchored down in the small village of Ait Benhaddou. By the way, the weather is amazing. I love sunshine without humidity.

The scenery is so bizarre. Brown with the most vibrant green and where there is light and shadows, there is orange and purple.large_Morocco-4512.jpglarge_Morocco-4515.jpglarge_Morocco-4546.jpg

The people

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More stops to look at the villages amongst the red rocks and our little town for the night.

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This is how almonds grow.

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Some locals in the village.

This guitar player picked beautifully. He loved being photographed and gave me his gmail address to send the pictures. Which I have already done.

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A local boy, who was collecting coins to help people traverse the river.

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This man chatted with me and told me his wife and five children live in the Sahara, he travels back and forth to see his family and to bring goods to sell.

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It was a great day. I am looking forward to the next week. I have not shopped but the next two days are in the area where the berber ( the first people of Morocco) people make the rugs. Not sure where I would put one, but I still might need one.

As I have an early rise to catch the morning light, I am off to bed.

Posted by curlygirl 14:10 Archived in Morocco Tagged morocco atlas Comments (7)

EXPLORING MARRAKESH

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART – THAT MEANS YOU, NANCY.

sunny 32 °C
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I started my day with a simple breakfast on the roof with a cat and a rooster. Pretty special and peaceful

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Today I had arranged for a guide to show me the city. See, I am not entirely disorganized. I do make some plans. However, the best laid plans….

Apparently, my guide’s pregnant wife had to go to the hospital but before I even knew this, the riad had arranged another tour. So, I ended up joining a couple from Vancouver who had toured the city yesterday with this guide and booked him again for today. This meant that I would get out and about but not to the places on my list. As this was never discussed with me, I just went along for the ride. My walking tour even started in the car.

Our first stop was both fascinating and horrific. Marrakesh has tons of beautiful leather shops but after today, I had no real interest in buying any. We visited the local tannery. One of the oldest in Morocco and if you never considered the work that goes into making leather, you would after this visit. Although they take tourists there, it is certainly authentic. The stench of goat, cow and camel hides being processed is enough to knock you over. There were a couple other tourists there and they had mint leaves to their noses. We were not offered that. The men would only allow pictures if we paid and we were not really given a choice. They were up to their thighs in vats of water where they rinsed the hides. We walked through “stuff” and I can’t even guess what we might have been walking in. An interesting look at local life but not so easy to process.

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We then climbed some stairs into a small building where the men were scrapping the hides and making it look more like leather but it was hard work.

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Next, we visited the garden owned my Eves St Laurent. Lovely, cool and fresh compared to the previous stop. I liked the camels except i was afraid the pregnant one would be made to work.

We explored a little in the new part of the city and although I didn’t take many pictures, it was gorgeous and very modern and clean.

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We made our way back to the old city, always navigating to the old mosque. Mosques in Morocco are square and not round. There are three in the style of this one, the others in Rabat and Seville, Spain.

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The other guy on the tour was also a photographer who also shoots Pentax. Never seen that in my travels. So, we ended up visiting the photography museum which houses tons of spectacular pictures of Morocco taken in the early 1900s. We left the Canadian couple there.

I went on with my guide to the Koranic School. This was gorgeous although none of my pictures come close to showing the detail in the wood and plaster. It reminded me of pictures I have seen of Iran. It was built in the 14th century and before closing, it housed 900 students.

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My guide seemed in a bit of rush. He did not really like us stopping to take pictures and so even when the opportunity arose, it was rushed. I will say, I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures here. People really don’t like it unless you are will to pay. So even after we left the others, he was walking fast ahead of me. He was nice and very knowledgeable but seemed to get very annoyed when he took me to the leather “factory”, the argan oil “factory” and the dyeing “factory” and I refused to buy anything. It is a common thing for guides to bring tourists to shops so they get a commission. Prices are hiked and I don’t like that ploy. Especially since I made it quite clear when he tried to take me to the carpet factory. He also didn’t like that I didn’t want to take pictures of him and I. He was nice but I was glad I have some travel experience behind me.

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I really did enjoy my day and walked lots and saw tons of the city. The back alleys are amazing and they skill of the artisans spectacular. I am sure I will see lots more and hopefully, since I am on a photography trip, have many more opportunities to take pictures.

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I came back to my riad and had a nice massage, although a little light for me, and then soaked off all the argan oil. I had a little rest and then back to the main square to grab a sandwich for supper.

It is crazy how much busier the square is in the evening. It is packed with people. There are a ton of juice stalls and those with dried fruit. But, no pictures please.

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I did break down and pay the water guy for a snap. I love them. They walk around the city carrying water, cups, and a little bell and sell water to the locals.

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Marrakesh has pleasantly surprised me. I found the people respectful, and although they want you to come into their shops, they are not nearly as aggressive as other places I have traveled. I have had no issues with men ( except to tell me that I am beautiful, tee hee), and no issues with people not wanting to serve me. Although I think it shows respect to stay covered, there are lots of tourist is shorts, short skirts and sleeveless tees. The local women are mostly covered, some completely. I find they often look at me and smile. One lady at my table waved good bye when I finished dinner.

Tomorrow I am meeting my photographer guide and another person for our 8 day trip to the Atlas mountains. Can’t wait to see more of this beautiful place.

Posted by curlygirl 13:07 Archived in Morocco Tagged marrakech medina tannery Comments (2)

WELCOME TO MARRAKESH

DID SOMEONE SAY SHOES?

sunny 32 °C
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It is the beginning of another adventure. After a busy week in Paris, I am taking a couple weeks holidays with my camera in Morocco. Morocco has been on my bucket list for a very long time so I am thrilled to finally be here. I could not even be deterred by my friends and former neighbours who tried to discourage me because of a little stabbing incident here a few years back. Still, I am excited and at the moment very relaxed.

I seem to have gotten a little slack in my travel planning of late and will be looking closer at my tickets from now on. I had a little error on my return date from Dublin (oops) a couple weeks ago and managed to get my name backwards on my ticket to Marrakesh. I decided best not to mention it given the Shelley and Bailey were correct just in the wrong order. Although I saw a few crinkled brows, I managed to travel without issue.

It was a crazy day. I opted to go to the airport early after a friend reported long lines the day before. Orly Airport was no different. Although I had 2.5 hours at the airport, after a 90 minute security line, I had to run for my gate. I flew Royal Air Maroc on a shabby looking B747 that was blocked. It was almost like a flight to Disney. It is Easter Break in France and it seems Morocco is a favourite travel destination for families. So many crying babies and kids running in the aisles. I had an 11 year old boy sitting next to me who was traveling alone to visit his dad. When I told him he was brave he asked why. He has been doing it for years. Any way, the mom in me decided to practice my french and become his friend. We had a bit of a rough landing and a drop that made many scream. Me and my little friend were fine.

Marrakesh airport was surprisingly clean and modern. Other than long lines, the arrival went smooth. I am glad that I just had a week practicing my French because there is lots of French and not so much English My riad ( a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard) had a taxi waiting for me so after finding my guy amongst the mob, I made my way. You have to have a little trust. He dumped me off in the street and a guy put my luggage in a cart and proceeded to lead me through the Medina winding around carts, bikes mopeds and people. I loved it. The smell, the noise and the heat (32 degrees).

What is a Medina?

A medina is the old part of a town or city, found in many countries of North Africa, not just Morocco. It is typically walled, and contains narrow streets, fountains, palaces and mosques. Many medinas are car-free as there is not enough space in the alleyways for cars to pass.

One would never find Riad Mouna without this kinda help. It is located and the end of a long alley.

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But it is BEAUTIFUL. Just my kinda place. I was escorted up the stairs where I faced the entrance to my room

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Here are a few shots of my giant room.

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the bathroom

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The main floor

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I was so thirsty and in need of cash that I set out towards the main square to explore and get a bite. I have heard Marrakesh described as sensory overload and it does live up. Fortunately I am really good an ignoring all the people trying to sell. I explored the alleys, the main square and had a bite. I looked for a place crowded and filled with locals and my sandwich did not disappoint....flavour galore but happily not a Paris feast.

The square is packed with people. The snake charmer chased me to pay for my ( what I thought was discrete) picture. I finally convinced him that I had no money and he made me promise to come back and pay...whatever. The henna ladies were most aggressive, grabbing your hand for a free flower. After escaping two, one got me and I now have a brown stain on my hand. She was strong. She insisted I pay for the free flower but I did not, pissing her off.

A few shots of the square. I didn't take many. Trying to feel the place out a bit since women don't like to be photographed.

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Deciding to get in before dark, I managed to find my way back only to find this great little shoe store with two charming brothers. yes I have a couple pairs of shoes, yes, they are my very best friends. Yes, I promised to come for tea tomorrow (not) and I promised to ask my husband if he would take 2000 camels in exchange for my hand in marriage.

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A great evening. I will like it here and not because "I have beautiful eyes", or "because I look Moroccan" or because " I am so nice Canadian" but just because I love a little culture shock:)

Posted by curlygirl 14:34 Archived in Morocco Tagged marrakech Comments (8)

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