Ouarzazate: What Happens When You Wing It

Every time I look at a picture of myself in Morocco, or flip through the pages of the journals I filled up while I was there, I get a kind of out of body experience – it doesn’t seem like it was actually me that was there. I think that’s because it was so different and cool and exotic, but also because I was practically a different person, living spontaneously and doing whatever I wanted. I talked in this post about how cool it was to discover places I never would have gone if I had prebooked my trip, and that was definitely a theme of the trip.

From the gorgeous Todra Gorge (ha) we got a ride to the bus station and bought tickets to Ouarzazate. This city is famous for movie sets and this one absolutely gorgeous kasbah. We showed up with zero plans and zero idea of where to stay, so we walked out of the bus station in what we thought (hoped) was the direction of the town center.

My phone was the only one with data and it was dead, so we walked aimlessly until we found wifi, but still couldn’t figure out where to stay. It was over 40 degrees and I thought I was going to die in my maxi dress and long sleeves….the joys of travelling as a female in Islamic countries. Eventually, we walked into a completely random store and asked someone to take us to a hotel.

He showed us this completely empty hotel with no sign indicating its existence and we asked for the cheapest thing we could get, which turned out to be one triple room and one double room. I still have no idea what the place was called, but we paid 60 dirhams (~5.50 Euros) and it was fine. The owner had no idea what to do with us, whether that was because he wasn’t used to tourists at all or just freaked out by how obnoxious we were.

With accommodation finally sorted, we went out to experience the surprisingly lively main square of Ouarzazate. I had never seen so many women and children out late at night in Morocco, and it was a lovely change to not be one of the few girls around. There was a lively market going on, and little kids were driving around giggling in these mini cars. We people watched over some mediocre food, then headed back to our hotel where we took over the ‘salon’ and laughed late into the night.

The next day, we had to figure out how we were going to see the sights. Our first thought was to rent a car, drive ourselves around, and then drop the car off in Marrakech, our next stop, but they wanted to charge us an exorbitant amount. We couldn’t afford it even split five ways, so we found a grand taxi. The driver only spoke weak French and of course Arabic, so I was the one that had to negotiate with him, but he irritatingly kept refusing to speak to me (I assume because I am female) and would ineffectually try to communicate with the guys.

Eventually, through a confusing combination of him deciding to talk to me and another guy peering in the window and translating, we hired him to take us to Oasis Fint and Ait Benhaddou, before driving us all the way to Marrakech.

Oasis Fint

This wasn’t even in our Lonely Planet book, but the driver wanted to take us and we figured why not. I didn’t really understand what this place was, and I didn’t until just now when I looked at the Tripadvisor listing….it’s basically an oasis area of the desert where people still live traditional lives and they tour you around. Pretty much all I wrote about it in my travel journal was “I didn’t understand the point of coming here. But I guess it was pretty.” I had to translate our tour because it was in French, which was kind of fun. We were also promised swimming, which turned out to be in a tiny little stream filled with algae. Needless to say, we did not swim.

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The rock that looks oddly like a frog

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Ait Benhaddou

In a lot of ways I am like a toddler. During our stop at Ait Benhaddou, I was extremely hungry and tired, so I was extremely cranky and barely enjoyed myself. Looking back, the pictures are stunning and it’s so cool that Game of Thrones was filmed there (and you know, other stuff that I haven’t seen) and I wish I had been able to enjoy myself more, but I still have the memories!! To get to the actual kasbah (aka the stone houses on the hilltop) you have to hop across a river and then hike up the hill through houses and tunnels, which was a fun little adventure. When we entered, we paid the fee and then this guy dressed in traditional clothes started following us around and giving us a crappy little tour, which we wrongly assumed was just free and included somehow. Alas, it was not, and when we exited he tried to charge us 150dirham EACH. That was like my budget for three days. I wanted to straight up refuse to pay him because he was so rude, but the guys convinced me to give him something. Which I guess was probably good – cranky me can’t be trusted to be a nice human. The view over the landscape from the top was breathtaking, and I wish I had taken more pictures, but I just wanted to sit and stew in my hunger.

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If I learned two things from my Morocco trip, they are as follows:
1) I should ALWAYS bring snacks, and
2) Being a girl sucks.

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