Ouarzazate & Aït Benhaddou: Rock the Kasbah

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Our decision to join a small-group tour to Ouarzazate turned out to be wiser than we had imagined. Several friends had advised us not to rent a car in Morocco, warning of sky-high prices and less-than-optimal vehicles that were not worth the hassle, particularly for a day trip. But as our little van began the climb up the Atlas Mountains and we got a full picture of the conditions we would have been facing on our own, we were very relieved that we hadn’t let our distaste for tours get the best of us. The zigzag road was… well… currently not so much a road, as workers are trying to carve deeper into the mountain to widen the path. We would round a sharp corner — without a guide rail of course — and suddenly drop onto unpaved gravel as our fearless driver dodged the speed demons flying around the other side of the bend. I had popped a motion sickness pill before we boarded the van, but even with the medicine it was a little much so I decided it was time for a nap.

Our guide made a few stops along the way — first to see a Berber town camouflaged into the mountain, then for a breakfast of eggs, bread and Moroccan tea, and then to see a desert oasis — until finally, about four hours after leaving Marrakech, we found ourselves in Ouarzazate. Our group went on a tour of a movie studio that included sets from desert films that were shot in Morocco like Gladiator, but that wasn’t really our thing. Gui and I preferred the visit to the kasbah across the street, which was recently restored and filled with gorgeous ceilings and window fixtures. Afterward, we drove to Aït Benhaddou, which took my breath away (see the photo above). The clay architecture is so unique and we loved the windswept view from the top of the mountain overlooking the village. After posing for a photo in front of the gate where Khaleesi freed the slaves (we should really start watching Game of Thrones) we piled back into the van and began the winding drive back to Marrakech, with a pitstop for orange juice along the green terraces of the Atlas. Enjoy the photos!

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