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Explore the souks of Marrakech, walk in the Atlas Mountains and ride a camel through the desert.
Start in the late evening in Ouarzazate.
Our adventure begins in Ouarzazate, nicknamed as the 'door to the desert' because it used to be a crossing point for African traders on their way to Europe. It is home to the Atlas Film Studios, the setting for many Hollywood films including Gladiator, and the impressive Kasbah Taourirt. Originally home to the former caid (mayor), this kasbah was later owned by T'hami El Glaoui who is better known as the Lord of the Atlas by English-speaking countries. The Krupps field gun that secured the Glaoui power is now displayed outside the kasbah. We then head south along the Draa Valley, a huge palmery containing over four million palm trees, edged by many ksours (fortified villages) to our permanent Bedouin camp for the evening near Tazzarine.
We get up early for an exciting four-hour camel trip through the desert to Tamashelt. Riding a camel is a fun and truly memorable experience although it can be a bit bumpy and sore after a while! After our camel safari, we stop for a short walk around one of the palmeries before heading to N'kob. With its swimming pool, we can enjoy a well-deserved break after our adventure on the ships of the desert. We stay in the communal tents around an auberge and be served traditional Bedouin food.
After sunrise we head back up through the beautiful palm oases of the Draa Valley, until we reach the well-preserved Kasbah Ait Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most spectacular sights of the Atlas and made famous as the location of several Hollywood films, including 'Lawrence of Arabia'. There may only be a handful of families who still live within the walls yet as we wander around the kasbah enjoying impressive views, we also learn its importance as a major point on the trading caravan route from the desert.
We continue our journey and head into the High Atlas Mountains for a completely different and rewarding experience. After a short drive, we can enjoy a 1½ hour picturesque walk on a gentle gradient to our kasbah, where we spend the night (our bags will be transported separately for us). If the villagers are working on various schemes, then we hope to get involved and join in (weather dependent). The best experience is a football match with the local kids and other optional activities that let us gain insight into the unique Berber culture. Our base for the night is simple rural accommodation that overlooks this remote village that surprisingly only got electricity in 2004 and running water to every home over the last 2 years. There may also be the opportunity to support the latest development of Exodus' ongoing work in the village with a visit to the local hammam (Moroccan steam bath), which is now included in our programme.
In the morning we enjoy an optional 3-4 hour walk through the villages of the Tijhza Valley, passing fields cultivated by the Berber women with the peaks of the High Atlas as a fitting backdrop. We say goodbye to our new friends and head back to our bus for a scenic drive over the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. En route, we visit the amazing fortress of Telouet. Once, the mountains were controlled by feudal clans, including the most powerful Glaoui clans and their power stretched across Morocco into Europe and they even toppled a French Premier in the early 20th Century. Now Telouet stands abandoned and crumbling, and we can only take a look at this labyrinthine, fairy-tale structure from the outside. Our route continues over the main pass, Tizi'n'Tichka, which at 2260m is the highest road pass in Morocco and is truly spectacular (approximately 4 hour journey).
This morning we go on a guided tour (on foot) of the 'Pink City' of Marrakech when we can soak up the atmosphere of this bustling and vibrant city with its maze of bazaars, palaces and mosques. In the afternoon there is free time to simply potter around the souks, visit the more peaceful Jardin Majorelle, take a hammam (steam bath) or maybe enjoy a 'caleche' ride (horse-drawn carriage). No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the Djemma el Fna, the open-air central square around which Marrakech revolves. The name literally means 'place of death' as it was the place where the Sultans used to display the heads of their enemies. Now, with the foodstalls, snake charmers, water-sellers, travelling musicians and acrobats, the square is a place of entertainment for both Moroccan and overseas visitors.
Trip ends after breakfast.
4 nights hotel; 2 nights camping In the desert we sleep in traditional Bedouin-style tents, 1 night in mountain gite.
Flights via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc
Transport private minibus and camel
All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners included. Moroccan food is, generally speaking, excellent though not particularly varied. Breakfasts usually consist of bread and jam with coffee or tea. Meals eaten out are reasonably priced - kebab and bread cost only about GBP4 (USD6.50). In main towns it is possible to find very good French and Moroccan restaurants where a meal and French wine will cost anything from GBP20 (approx. . USD30) upwards. Generally dinner is likely to cost between GBP5-10 (USD8-15) depending on what you drink. GBP15 (USD25) a day for food is reasonable. Local beers, wines and soft drinks are available at very reasonable prices, but you can pay UK prices or more for imported alcohol. Your leader can help recommend restaurants each evening. Vegetarians can be catered for but there is a fairly limited choice of cous cous and tajine or omelettes. This is particularly the case during the more rural or trekking sections of the trip. Please note that if you have any special dietary requirements you should inform the Exodus Office prior to the trip. If you have a specific medical/dietary need (i.e. coeliac or vegan) you may find it helpful to bring some items of food with you from home.
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