Guest Blogger: Anna Colclough in Morocco

January 6, 2011 by

Guest Bloggers, Middle East & Africa

Editor’s Note: This post is from Anna Colclough, who is the founder of the adventure travel web site Tourdust. Anna travels for a living, researching local adventure outfittersaround the world. She also writes about the challenges of balancing travel, work and kids on her own blog.

My parents are brilliant grandparents – the hands on types. Which is great for the kids, but as their daughter, I struggle sometimes to get a word in edgeways. So, in order to get a chance to catch up properly, I booked my mum and me a trip to Morocco with a twist. The plan was to do a spot of shopping in Marrakech and then head out to the desert, to visit some Saharan dunes for a spot of camping and camel trekking. She was all up for the shopping and the desert bit, but less sure about the camels. Still, after checking out some video footage on Youtube, she reckoned she was game, how hard could it be?

Camels Erg Chebbi

Camels Erg Chebbi

Sightseeing and Shopping

We decided to travel in November and beat the onset of winter blues, which turned out to be a fantastic time to go. The temperature in Marrakech was in the low 20′s which was just perfect for ambling around and shopping. And shopping we did, lanterns, tea pots, mirrors, you name it, we shopped, then dropped, then got horribly lost in the labyrinth that is the souk. After a couple of days, however, we were ready to escape the city and see a bit more of the country that we were starting to fall in love with.

We headed out on the spectacular Tizi-n-Tichka Pass, a winding mountain road peaking at a glorious 2,600m with breath-taking panoramic views. Driving past donkey carts and road side stalls selling trinkets, we were leaving the dust of the city far behind. Our first stop of the trip was to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou – an impressive fortified city reached by stepping over stones in a stream. The site has been used as the location for several Hollywood films, including Gladiator and The Mummy and it is easy to understand why. The buildings are enchanting and winding alleys intriguing.

Ait Benhaddou

Journey Through the Desert

After getting our fill of culture, we headed back into the 4 x 4 and continued our drive. The landscape was starting to change from the mountains to plateau and I was starting to wish I had paid more attention in my geography classes. Definite must-sees along the way were two gorges we made side-trips to visit – Dades and Todra Gorges. Both formed out of spectacular red sandstone, they were imposing gorges that my amateur photography could not do justice to.

Still, the desert was calling, beckoning us, and as the plateau turned to rocky desert, our minds turned to the dunes. Mum was preoccupied with the camels, I was wondering about the sand. We had been promised Sahara, but would it be a Disneyfied token dune? I was not to be disappointed. We saw the dunes in the distance and started our approach off road. Driving through the dusty, rock desert, we could see them looming, and they were mighty! The highest dunes are approx. 150m high and the range is around 22km long, by 5 km. I was starting to get excited, this was looking like it would be quite promising.

Anna Erg Chebbi

We arrived at a Kasbah to pick up our camels and meet our guide. We were allocated a camel each, loaded up a day pack and then mounted our animals. There is no dignified way to get on a camel. Well, maybe there is, but we didn’t manage it. After many shrieks and laughing, however, we were ready to head off into the sunset. Literally, actually, as the tour was timed to perfection so that we could watch the sun disappear behind the dunes as we rode. We arrived at our camp after about an hour, tired, but happy. With no electricity and very basic facilities, we lay back and watched mother nature put on a spectacular show, with stars appearing by the second, counting the shooting variety. Sleep came easily that night in the moonlight, under a traditional tent. Good thing really, as the next morning we were awoken at 5am to mount our camels. We trekked for around 30 minutes before dismounting to watch a new day dawn over the dunes. Possibly one of the most magical experiences I have ever had.

Two days later, we were heading home. Mum had overcome her camel phobia and we had pretty much talked the hind legs off both our camels! A perfect trip all round.

- Anna Colclough

Planning a trip to Morocco? Head over to Tourdust for multi-day trekking trips in the Atlas Mountains and multi-day 4wd tours out to the Sahara or browse Viator’s own tours in Marrakech.

2 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Anna Colclough in Morocco”

  1. Christopher Says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ll definitely stick to the Atlas Mountains and avoid Marrakech next time I’m in Morocco. My own experience in Marrakech was the typical one of being grabbed at by everyone wanting to sell something to me.

  2. Aaron Says:

    Anna – looks like you had a good time in Morocco. I enjoyed my time in the dunes as well. Camels aren’t my thing but they’ll do in a pinch, especially if I’m in a 1000km wide dune field.

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