Sorry, I was supposed to update on my trip to Zagora Desert, but I got a little bit occupied.
After surviving my first day, I went to bed early because my scheduled trip to the desert was at 7 a.m. in the morning. Again, I booked my trip online from http://www.marrakechairporttransfer.com/ website. Paul, the customer relationship Manager (I assume) from the website is a very helpful person. He answered my e-mails and gave information quite promptly.
But actually, you don't really have to book anything online. There are many agents in Marrakech who will offer you the trip. You just have to choose from them. The prices are quite competitive, so no worries. I paid around £ 54 for a 2 day trip to Zagora.
During the day however, I got a bit frustrated because the driver, who was supposed to pick me up from my Riad was late. Fortunately I was able to contact Paul through e-mail and he contacted the agent for me. Apparently, the agent did not get Paul's e-mail on my booking (or had overlooked). So the driver who was supposed to pick me up came late and consequently, I joined the mini van for a 3 day trip first, and changed my transport at Atlas mountain to the mini van for the 2 day trip. That's why my opinion is it will be better if you do not book online, because if anything happens, at least you have not paid for any deposits yet.
Then it was sorted and the driver picked me up at 8 am, and we went straightaway to the mini van that took us to Atlas mountain. Throughout the journey, we stopped at several places for lunches, taking photos sessions, visited places and simply for sightseeing.
Here are several highlights for those of you who are considering to go for the desert trip to Zagora:
1. Be prepared mentally and physically.
The journey through Atlas mountains takes about 7 to 10 hours in total. That includes stopping at a few places to visit, lunches, stops for services (toilets etc) and for you to buy water bottles or snacks. The journey was not as pleasant if you are going with a minivan. If you are with children, maybe buses will be more appropriate for you.
Make sure you drink a LOT of water, and maybe some carbonated drinks to keep you hydrated.
2. Bring enough money.
You are expected to pay locals for everything they serve, or help you with. You will be visiting places like Ait Ben Haddou (a real oasis) and the tour is not free. You are expected to pay some MAD 25 - MAD 30.
The lunches are not included in the tour package as well. Foods normally cost you around MAD 100 to MAD 180. Drinks are typically priced at MAD 80 - 100. The toilets are not free too at some places. It costs you MAD 10.
At the desert tent, you will be required to give a "gift", which is more like a tip. I gave MAD 100. My tent-mates gave MAD 20 and MAD 50. The value is undetermined, it really depends on how much you would like to give as a courtesy because the desert "hosts" have been hosting for you to sleep at the desert and they actually take care of you at night, prepared dinner and breakfasts as well. So it's fair for me to give them something in return.
Overall, I spent about MAD 800 (around £60+). I did not buy souvenirs during the trip. Bear in mind that there would be no money changers around. But I did exchange some money in a hotel along the Atlas mountain.
3. Enjoy the journey!
Here are several pictures I took during the journey.
|Along the journey, you will see a lot of people selling unique stones, dates, argan oils etc. It really makes me wonder, if they do make money. Because they are found literally nowhere.|
|Small kids randomly sitting under the burning sun. They were just chatting apparently|
|An elderly man working while two youngsters were taking a break|
|Don't be fooled by the bright sunshine. It was quite cold actually due to the altitude of the mountain.|
|This is our first stop for some snacks. This place is quite well known for argan oils.|
|These women are the workers responsible for making argan oils. They crush the argania shells and slowly grinding the seeds to become oil.|
|This is Ait Ben Haddou, a real oasis. According to the tour guide, many Hollywood movies were shot here such as The Mummy, Prince of Persia, Kingdom of heaven and some parts of Game of Thrones.|
|Just a few vendors selling goods for the tourists.|
|It has a lot of steps for you to go to the top of the hill where you will be able to see the whole view.|
|This is a real room for the people living there. It actually has a television.|
|The view is magnificent. Honestly, I did not feel tired climbing the hill at all!|
Then approaching sunset, we made our last stop for refreshments and we then headed directly to Zagora desert to ensure that we would be able to make it there to see the sunset.
|The camel I was riding.|
|This is the tent I was placed in, together with three other people from Japan.|
|Inside the tent|
The sky at night is to die for. I did not bother to take pictures at all. All I did was lying on the ground and just staring at the bright stars. It made me forget everything in life for a moment.
|We were greeted with some tea once we arrived at our tents.|
After a long journey, we went to sleep with peace. The bed in the tent was surprisingly comfortable to my liking though. I slept very well during the night. I heard occasional dogs' barks. But it was ironically soothing instead of sounding scary.
Then the next day, I woke up early to see the sunrise, and it was amazing!
|Sunrise you will never see in London. Not even in Brunei!|
|We had another camel ride to get to the driver who took us back to our hotels.|
|A love sign can be clearly seen formed at this mountain. All couples definitely did not miss the chance to take lovely pictures. Me? I blog about it. Oh well. lol|
|This was our last stop for picture taking during our journey back to Marrakech. At this point, everyone was already exhausted and did not take that much pictures anymore.|
The desert people to me are quite (and more) genuine too, compared to Marrakech people who always want to rip you off. They are happy even if you give smallest things. For example, I brought some pistachios and chocolate cookies with me. One of the hosts asked me what I have with me, and since I did not really feel like eating all of them, so I gave him all of it. And his smile and thanks just made me happy and felt appreciated. He shared the foods with his friends. I also gave him a bottle of water, although he did not really seem to need it (I assume it was because they really got used to the desert heat anyways).
It was a short getaway for me, but it was really meaningful. I'm actually glad that I chose Morocco as my first destination for my first solo trip. For my next trip, I'm thinking to go to an European country. I'm thinking to have a turn; Different cultures in every trip.
I'm also considering Egypt. I thought the country would be unsafe for visit at recent environment, but according to an acquaintance who just happened to visit Egypt quite recently, it is quite safe to go and it also sounds exciting! I mean, what will be more exciting than going for yourself to a place with the most well known and majestic history of all time? In shaa Allah.
So ladies and gents, that's all for my post about my first solo trip. Till next time.