A moroccan advenutre!
I’m in the Sahara desert, It's fucking freezing & my arse is killing me from riding a camel! How is this real life?!
To the desert & back
still hungover & in desperate need of a shower i arrived into stanstead airport following a heavy few days with the boys in frankfurt. 4 days of beer, football, beer, nighclub, beer, german carnival, will kill any grown human, especially one in their 30's. 3 day hangovers have become a thing!
i had one night in the airport hotel before making my way across London to meet sara lincoln the next morning. We were headed to morocco for a shoot in the sahara desert with a couple from canada. AMAZING right?
in reality i was shitting my pants! not because of the hangover but because i'd only booked one nights accommodation in Marrakesh and we had to be in the desert 2 days later with no real plan other than to wing it! Well I had a basic plan. three plans actually but nothing concrete, no booking confirmations anyhow. for me I was totally out my comfort zone, I was defiantly going to get us both stranded in the middle of no where!
We arrived in the city late thursday evening.
(this sounds like the start of a decent story)
as it Turns out it’s really simple to get almost anywhere in morocco. all you have to do is ask your riad receptionist and they will have you on a bus first thing the next morning. we booked a tour to the sahara that included two nights accommodation and most of our meals for £85 - instant stress relief! We'd be in the desert in time to meet our couple, Perfect!
Wait! If we stay in the desert & don't come back with the tour how will we get home? shit!
The bus left Marrakesh square and we were off.
From Marrakech we headed to Ouarzazate via the Atlas Mountains and the highest mountain pass in Morocco, the Tizi n’Tichka. The pass sits 2000 metres above sea level and contains some pretty naughty hair pin bends but the views are pretty incredible! Make sure you have your seatbelt on as the drivers try to pass each other at any opportune moment.
I met Sara at a LOOKSLIKEFILM event in the Lake District a few years ago and we’ve been good mates ever since. I’ve seconded a few times for Sara and we travel pretty well together so it made sense to invite her along. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a good travel buddy, I’ve been on holidays with best mates in the past and wanted to strangle them after two days. It takes at least 4 days before I want to strangle Sara!
Following the safe passage over the Atlas Mountains we headed for Aït Benhaddou. Aït Benhaddou is a fortified village made up of clay that sit’s along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. The colour and texture of the moroccan earthy clay buildings is just beautiful, no wonder the town was used as a set for films and TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia & the Mummy. We stopped for mooch around and a spot of lunch.
From Aït Benhaddou we had a quick stop in Ouarzazate to stretch our legs before heading east to Dades Valley to rest up. We spent the evening at a small Raid with our berber hosts, chicken tagine was on the menu and berber dancing was compulsory. They told us Berber jokes (basically funny riddles) showed us how to dance like a camel and played music by the fire until late in the evening.
Dades Valley - Erg chebbi
The next morning we were up and off at the crack of dawn, we had a lot of driving to cover so we could reach Erg Chebbi before sunset. We had a super short stop in Todra Gorge (this place is amazing) before heading to a small picturesque berber town. They showed us how they worked the fields and collected food from the trees before taking us to a small berber home where they handmade rugs before hitting the road again. So much driving!
Erg Chebbi - the desert
We arrived in Erg Chebbi just before sunset, as soon as we arrived we were thrown onto the back of camels and sent off into the dessert. The sun was slowly setting and the views were incredible, the town behind us slowly disappeared and we were surrounded by glowing red & orange sand dunes. As the sun set and the further we got into the dessert the more painful it became, my arse was fucking killing! I should have packed cycling shorts! More than two hours later we arrived at our base camp in the dark, we’d spend the next 8 hours in the middle of the dessert.
I rested my sore arse on the cold sand while the berbers built a fire and fed us more chicken tagine. We spent the evening sitting round the fire, it was cold but I didn’t feel it, i was distracted by the sea of stars, the dancing fire and the berber rhythm on the drums, it was magic.
We rose the next morning at 5am to make the camel trek back to Merzouga to meet our driver and collect our things that we didn’t need in the dessert. We left in the dark and rode camels as the sun rose, my arse still reeling from the night before! The colours were like nothing iv’e seen before, reds, blues, oranges, amazing! It’s pretty hard to take a good photo on the back of a wobbly camel!
We’d planned to stay the next 48 hours in hassi labied before traveling back to Marrackech. I’m so glad we did! The town sits on the edge of the desert and is made of one story small clay buildings and the roads are made from dust, it wasn’t particularly beautiful but it was peaceful and the people are friendly. I was happy to take some time to rest after spending two days driving and riding camels. We talked to fellow travels ate more tagine, undertook some light reading and explored the village.
Through the glass
Our 48 hours were over and we were back on the road to Marrackch, google says it will take 9 hours but we left at 9am and arrived in Marrackech around 7pm that evening, only stopping for lunch and petrol. That's 12 hours google. The drive wasn’t as painful as I thought, the driver kept us entertained and the views are forever changing. At one point I didn’t think we were going to make it as the driver tried to overtake a semi on the Atlas mountain pass! i'm still alive tho!
Marrakech would be our last stop! I was pretty sad that our adventure was coming to an end but I was looking forward to spending 2 days exploring the streets of the city! If you haven’t been before you need to go! Marrackech is just amazing! The sounds, the colours, the people, the intensity, it’s a photographers paradise! We spent two days getting lost and wandering, taking photos, eating more tagging, haggling for bags, rugs and cushions, I could have spent a small fortune but I didn’t really have the room in my case. I will be back with an empty case and a pocket full of cash sometime soon.