Paris of the Sahara
08.05.2014 - 10.05.2014 38 °C
We had the luxury to sleep in until 8AM again this morning and then off to The “Hollywood of Morocco”. We visited Atlas Studios. This is where many movies we have all seen have been filmed. One of the most famous was Ben Hur with Charlton Heston. Many props are still on the studio grounds.
There was one set that took the set builders over two years to build and it was only used for two months of shooting. It was one of the sets from Game of Thrones. We saw an oriental room and many rooms with an Egyptian theme. These rooms have been used for: Prince of Persia, Babel, Gladiator, the new Cleopatra, The Ark, Ten Commandments and The Bible. The set builders use plaster so they can change out an area within a week. Some sets are huge and when you get close it is strange to see how things are made out of cardboard!!!
We finally left the studio and Ouarzazate and headed for the spectacular fortress of Ait Ben Haddou. This area was shown again in the movies Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. This site is another of the UNESCO World heritage sites in Morocco. This climb to the top made up for the climb in the dessert to see the sun rise. Very steep and uneven stairs and very hot.
We left and set off for the high Atlas Mountains. We were going to go over the highest point in the mountains at 3000M. The Tiz In Tichka Pass was a very winding and narrow road. At one point, it was straight down on both sides of the road, no shoulders. Just a little scary. Beautiful countryside. Many green fields of wheat. They are grown on terraces much like the rice terraces in Asia.
We continued on and made it to the hotel in Marrakesh by 6PM. If this hotel is not a 5 star, it should be. Absolutely beautiful and another pool. The group who had lost luggage went off to the airport and retrieved it. At dinner we saw many new clothes not seen before this and a smile on every face.
Our tour guide, Redouane, had arranged for the group to go to a “Hookah” bar for the Shisha. This is a very social tradition of sitting with friends and passing around the water pipe. The flavour we had was apple and mint. Very different. After this some went to the Night Club for another local experience. Great night.
Marrakesh is known as the “Pearl of the South”. It is the second oldest city in Morocco. Our next two days in Marrakech started after lunch time. It was nice to be able to have a sleep in and go for lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area. Most of the students opted to try pizza.
Our first excursion sent us to the Bahia Palace. A beautiful building set on 10 hectors of lush land. This palace took 6 years to be built by 3000 workers. The mosaics and marble work were incredible. The Sultan who lived here had 3 legal wives and many concubines. We went through the area that were the rooms where the legal wives each had their own wing in the palace. The area for the harem was closed for reconstruction.
We continued on the see the Koutoubia Mosque and its famous Mineret built by the Almohads in the 12th century. From here we stopped for a very informative visit at the Bab Agnaou Herboristerie, a Berber pharmacy. All the items in this shop were natural and have been used for centuries by the local people as remedies for anything from acne to hemorrhoids. Everyone on the tour purchased Argon Oil for their hair. Our hair looks very shiny and healthy now. Another favorite purchase was a spice they locally call “Dynamite”. A very hot chilli.
Our last stop for the day was the Jemaa el Fina Square. This is the main square of the city and has snake charmers, local musicians, fortune tellers, ladies applying Henna to the girls hands, restaurants and of course the Souk. The group was given 1 hour to purchase any numbers of items. Back on the bus and back to the hotel. We had to say goodbye to our driver, Adil. He had been with us from Casablanca on day one but had to go to start working with another tour. We went to the pool to cool off as the temperature today was 38C.
Another late start and then off to the Berber Camp in Imintanoute. This will give us a chance to experience a day in the life of Berber women. We will not have Wi-Fi until we get back to Casablanca, so please stay tuned.