Monday 27 June 2016

Armed And Dangerous

The next few stops were only for one night each which meant a lot of traveling each day in the morning and an afternoon exploring the local attraction. After the Sahara, the first stop was Todra Gorge. Todra is a small town located right next to an enormous canyon with a river and a lush green oasis running through the centre of it. I'm not entirely su what the difference is between a canyon and a gorge. I'm sure I could google it and find out but there are some things that man was never meant to know, ya feel?


Anyway, there isn't much to really say about Todra beside saying the pictures I got of the actual gorge itself were mostly pretty blurry for some reason and the ones that aren't, totally fail to capture the size and grandeur of the place. Very humbling experience walking through it.



The night in Todra was also the night the champions league (soccer) final was played in Milan. By a total fluke, the two teams playing in the final were Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Atletico week the underdogs, I'd gone to see them play a few months earlier and I already had an Atletico scarf on me so picking a team was a no brainier. Also, FC Barcelona is super popular in Morocco so when I watched the game in the hotel, I was with 12 loud Moroccan men supporting anyone who wasn't Real Madrid. I wish I could have been in Madrid that night to watch the city tear itself apart in mourning/celebration but it was still a fun atmosphere.

Real Madrid won, btw


On a scale of 1-10 of road coolness, this one is a yes.

The next stop was Ait Ben Haddou. Air Ben Haddou is a (now mostly empty) town that doesn't really have too much of a story behind it except that it's very old and looks cool. Also, it's the setting of Yunkai'i in Game of Thrones and the opening fight sequence of Gladiator.

Oh, we also stopped I'm a well preserved riad building to get an insight into how they were built, how people used to live in them, etc... The overly enthusiastic guide giving us a lecturing his conspiracy theory about how Islam, all religions, world events and everything in the world is connected to the number 5. #islaminatticonfirmed


That night in Ait Ben Haddou, we had a cooking class on how to make Moroccan tagine. It might be presumptuous to say my tagine was the best but it would also be incorrect to say otherwise.


The next stop was the small village of Armed (or Armad, Armd, Aamed, Amed, Amad or Amd, depending on which map you look at). Although Armed is a picturesque village high in the Atlas Mountains (looking up at the second highest peak in Africa), the most interesting thing about Armed is that it was the village of Abdellah, our guide. The only way to get to the village is to climb up on foot or on a donkey and when we got to the village, Abdellah took us all to his family home for tea. Although Armed didn't really have an 'attraction', it was a great insight into the way a normal Moroccan family might live.

Not like this




You know how some families live? Very badly. Millions of families living in refugee camps across the world have to make do with barely enough food to survive. Children go to sleep hungry simply because the UN and charity organisations don't have the money to adequately feed them. That's why from August 1 I'm doing the Act for Peace Ration challenge to live off the rations of a Syrian refugee for one week. It will be hard and godawful and if anyone wanted to sponsor me, feed some hungry refugees and get a warm fuzzy feeling twice (once when you donate, a second time when you get your money back at tax time) I would be incredibly grateful.


Donations can be made here but they close very soon



Wednesday 22 June 2016

Save Room For Desert

The next stop after Chefchaouen was the old imperial city of Fes (of hat fame) but first we'd be making two stops on the way. The first was the ruins marking the site of the ancient roman city of Volubilis. Volubilis was a medium sized Roman city in the Roman client state of Mauretania. Although it was the main Roman presence in the west of Africa, it was still a comparatively small city of only around 15,000. It's entirely possible that I've just seen far too many ruins because I think I've just become desensitised to them. Even still, it was interesting seeing how they built a city in the middle of a pretty hot, dry, hostile environment.

Neat party trick bruh


The second stop was Meknes, the younger sister city to Fes. Meknes was the home of Sultan Moulay Ismail, a man who's legacy consists mainly of overkill. Dude had 16,000 black African slaves, 12,000 Arabian warhorses and 500 wives so you can imagine his pad was also pretty cool.


Fes itself was an interesting city. The oldest of the imperial cities, Fes is a winding, sprawling maze of dark, narrow streets (over 9000 in the medina alone, 46% of which are dead ends). Fes is also known as the workshop of Morocco (a nickname I just made up then). Fes is the literal and/or spiritual home of most craftsmen in Morocco and Fes seems to be one big series of interconnected workshops, cooperatives and factories.

Always exit through the gift shop


In Fes we were staying outside the medina, in the new town. At the end of the day, it was nice to leave the medina and head back because the dense, compact city centre quickly became confining and a little oppressive. It was fascinating to see but after a day of navigating the narrow streets, ducking, weaving and jumping around people, donkeys and everything else, it was nice to have some breathing room. That night we also went out to a fancy restaurant with sword swallowers, belly dancing and the worlds perviest magician.

My favourite photo of my beard

The next stage after Fes was probably the most exciting of the whole trip. After a stop to look at monkeys and lunch by a river, we made our way out to the town of Merzouga, right on the edge of the Sahara desert. Typically, as we arrived in Merzouga a small sandstorm blew in.


The following morning one of the locals took us out in a 4wd to see some of the local Berber villages on the edge off the Sahara which was cool.


That afternoon, we got ready to head out into the desert for the night. I've ridden on camels before and I've been in deserts before but nothing I've ever experienced has compared to riding camels through the Sahara desert. It was really cool, here's some pictures.Also, there was another small sandstorm when we set out, which was a little uncomfortable, I'll be honest.

So candid


We spent the night in a camp in the desert. The original plan was to sleep under the stars but that was interrupted by wind and RAIN IN THE SAHARA DESERT. Forgive me if I've been labour intensive under a delusion all these years, but I thought the very technical definition of a desert was a place where it didn't rain. I spend one night in the Sahara and it's like I'm camping out in merry old rainy England.


I'm making a big deal of it but it sprinkled for like, 10 minutes on and off. But still. Surely I'm entitled to a refund.