23 Oct 2014

The Road of A Thousand Kasbahs

Doesn't that sound wonderful? Like something straight out of 1001 nights.

Well, good news is, it's real. The Road of A Thousand Kasbahs is real. Lining up Atlas mountain and the Valley of Roses, all the way to Dades Valley is an endless road, scattered with patches of hue of green, and bright orange of dry mud - the main component to build Kasbahs - the infamous Berber "castle" architecture. Needless to say, there were plenty to see along the way.

Our first stop was, of course Aït Benhaddou. The ensemble was formed with 4 kasbahs, all were still in used by ~10 families. See that dark brown cluster from afar? That's Aït Benhaddou from the main road.
From the main road, we had to walk down some steep steps, crossed the river bed (I couldn't help imagine how it'd be like when it rained and the river was actually full).

Here's the view from the other side

There we were, standing right in the middle of the river! I did try to look for fish bone (?!)

A few mins later ...bam, we were in the magnificent Aït Benhaddou.

A local tour guide took us and another 2 girls up and down the place, explained random details in 4 different languages at the same time, switching from one to another half way through each sentence even though we all spoke English. He clearly didn't speak anything fluently apart from his mother tongue, but he was highly enthusiastic and lovely, offered us his harden hand and gap teeth smile the whole time. So even though we understood about 1/10 of what he was saying, we all nodded in unison while smiling ear to ear.

When we got to the top, the sun was directly above us. It was blazing hot, and since there was quite a bit of walking up and down, so even though we enjoyed the place immensely, we were quite glad to be back in the car and get some breeze once the wheels started rolling.

Next pit stop: Ouarzazate, the "city" of Valley of Roses. Yes, same architecture, same brilliant blue sky and bright orange backdrop, everything was just a little more well groomed. If you have more time, you should spend an afternoon here to walk around. We didn't, so we spent 15 mins people watching and soaking in the vastness of this city.

Inevitable selfie
And a sneaky snap from Mr. J
Next pit stop: A kasbah museum. Kasbah Amridil is privately owned and was restored to become a living museum. The guy who took us around was a direct descendant of the nobles who owned the place back in the day. Now, let me tell you, this dude, was a freaking GEM!.  

With amazing command of English, (and no doubt, French), plus a well of knowledge, plus genuine love for his history and culture, he gave us the best architectural history lesson of Morocco. Ever! And yes, he was good looking (lovely smile, don't you think?). If only my history teacher was anything like him, pretty sure I'd be sitting in my office at Cambridge now. 
Well happy with the lesson and slightly dizzy from the heat, we headed to our Kasbah for the night. Yes, you head that right, we stayed in an authentic Kasbah!. 

Now, this is where I have to stop posting photos to tell you all that unless you have heaps of time in your hands, do get a private guide and car. It's cheaper, it's more organised, and you get to see/do so much more that you wouldn't be able to do otherwise. The Kasbah we stayed at, for example, is well hidden within a Berber village. I don't know how one would even find it if they weren't local. After 40 mins of proper 4x4 off road action in the car, we arrived at this tranquil Kasbah that was restored to become a retreat, which meant no wifi, no electronic devices, no sound other than light wind slithering through the olive trees, and amazing food. 

The place was completely empty. We were the only guests, together with the house keeper who was quiet, well mannered (think France 1920s) and spoke very little English (which wasn't a problem at all). 

As everywhere we went, we were greeted with sugared mint tea (I've come to love it at this point) and some Moroccan treats. We then had a look around this amazing place

Can I say it again? We had all of this to ourselves. Call me selfish, whateves! We then went for dip in the pool, 

..exhausted ourselves being silly with the GoPro. Yes, I had my bikini on but didn't take my dress off. Alhough the place was completely empty and I'm sure the house keeper wouldn't mind, I didn't want to be insensitive to his culture. 

Before we knew it, dinner was ready. We had dinner out side by the rose garden. 

Starter was fresh Moroccan bread and lentil soup. This, is the face of satisfaction. 

Then main course was the most amorous tagine ever. 

I'm pretty sure there was dessert, but I was probably too full and exhausted by this point to take photos. 

We then went to the roof top and watched the last light of day slowly dissolved into the surrounding olive trees, and the Atlas range drew vague lines into the horizon. 
I spent the evening by the pool in the dim light reading, listening to the sound of nothingness.  

And yes, that night, we had the best sleep we had in days. 

On this bed!

Until next time, darlings! 

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