Monday, July 7, 2014
Last year, I started watching Game of Thrones and throughout the series I kept wondering: "WOW! Did they shoot this in a real location, is it a set in a studio or maybe it's CG-ed?" It didn't come off as a surprise when we found out that a lot of scenes in GOT were shot in Morocco. This country has a surreal-ancient-world quality that is hard to replicate. The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou (pictured above) is one of the filming locations and it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was part of a 3 day tour of the Sahara Desert that Miss Adri and I booked as soon as we got to our hostel in Marrakesh.
The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou used to be inhabited but most of the inhabitants have moved into a neighboring town. Nowadays, there is only one family remaining and the rest are artists who are eager to sell their crafts to enthusiastic tourists. The funny thing about Morocco is the abundance of ordinary-looking folks trying to spark a conversation with you and you think: "Hey! I made a new friend" and then suddenly they'll take out a bag of goodies and you know they are after your $$$ ;___; . But it's all good, we all have to make a living somehow!
On our second day of the tour, we got to the Sahara Desert and it was hands-down the highlight of our trip. Sand as soft as powder, dunes stretched as far as the distant horizon, we were finally there! It was cloudy that day so the temperature was really comfortable (~25C), a nice change from the incredible heatwave that had swept Morocco during our stay. A lot of the times, I get engulfed by my worries and my world seems to revolve around my fears, doubts and insecurities. Riding on a camel in the vast desert reminded me that I was a small dot in a large fabric of life. I wished that I could have bottled some of this "humbling mindset" but for now, my photos will do.
We ate supper in the dessert (probably the best chicken tajine ever, no idea how they cooked it!), enjoyed some refreshing mint tea and talked with the other travelers about life.
After the Sahara Desert tour, we returned to Marrakesh. Just like Fez, Marrakesh is an ancient capital of Morocco. The bustling activity in this city can be overwhelming to your senses! Many times I stopped to snap a picture, only to be honked by several motorcyclists, called out by shopkeepers, almost run over by bicyclist and/or a donkey carriage. There always seems to be something or someone to dodge!
We stayed at hostel Marrakesh Rouge and the funniest thing happened on our first night there. We were inside our room with another male roommate and I stepped out to get something. Half-way out of the room, I called out to Adrienne to ask a question. Both Adrienne and our male roommate answered with: "yes?" It turned out that both of them had the same name (different spelling), same age and same occupation (graphic designers)! When it was revealed that they both had bus sickness, one of our hostel mates called out: "Just get married already!" It was pretty hilarious! That's the awesome part about staying in a hostel, you get to meet all kinds of people!
THE (IN)FAMOUS SOUKS OF MARRAKESH! For people like Miss Adri and I who do not like to cause a ruckus, the souks completely drained our energy X_X!!! There were so many beautiful things but the process of haggling got us sweating with dread. We had quite the adventure at one of the shops! We were haggling for scarves and the shopkeeper got so mad with our "absurdly low" price that he took a bag, stuffed the scarves inside and threw them at us when we walked away. His friend started chasing us with the bag in his hand, trying to get us to buy. THANKS BUT NO THANKS!
Eventually we became better at haggling and managed to get all the souvenirs that were on my list (poor Miss Adri had to endure all that back-and-forth for me, somehow the shopkeepers would only try to haggle with her even though we were buying for me :-P).
You can't visit Marrakesh without enjoying the view of the Place Jemaa El Fna from a roof top terrasse. The Place Jemaa El Fna really comes to life at night time! People flock from all corners because it's finally cool enough to come out and play. The square gets packed with street vendors, food stalls, acrobats, musicians, snake charmers, fortune tellers and entertainers on top of regular folks. With all that crowd, the trick is to keep on moving or else you'll get pick pocketed :-P
On our last day in Marrakesh, I got food poisoning so I stayed inside the hostel the entire day. Perhaps it was a good thing because the last day was our shopping day and I just couldn't resist all those cute lamps! I'm sure if I hadn't gotten sick, I would've come back with a handful of lamps!
*rub rub lamp* "I wish I could travel the world~"