Saturday, August 15, 2009
We left Agadir later than expected and ended up driving most of the time in the dark. We went up and over numerous mountains on narrow roads with few guard rails. Ouarzazate is known for the Atlas Corporation Studios which is where alot of Hollywood movies are made. Babel, Passion of the Christ, Kingdom ofHeaven, Alexander the Great, and Gladiator are some of the American known movies that were filmed there. There were also some French movies and a Canadian documentary on an explorer. We took a tour of the studios and visited the sets of the movies. It was wierd to think that what felt like the middle of nowhere was where a lot of Hollywood movies were made. Our guide was telling us how he's been able to be an extra in almost every movie filmed there and his roommate was part of the Moroccan family that helps Brad Pitt in Babel. One of the sets was a replication of theTemples of Karnak, so we took pictures to see how it compares to the real temple in Luxor. After the movie tour some of our group went out on ATVs in the desert for a two hour tour, but since it was 110F, I opted to go back to the hotel and go swimming in the pool. We left Ourzazate the next morning and headed to Merzouga, where we were going to go camping in the Sahara desert. A lot of our TSS friends who have come to Morocco have gone here as well and have taken some amazing pictures of the dunes. We were looking forward for our chance to do the same, but we had such an atypical experience. It all started during our drive to Merzouga. When we were within 60km, we started hitting a couple of sandstorms, but hoped that wouldn't affect us later on. We arrived at the place and were getting ready to go when a sandstorm blew in and caused our departure to be delayed. Mind you it's also 45 degrees Celcius out, which is 116 Fahrenheit. When it calmed down, we headed outside and got on our camels who would take us on an hour and a half camel ride to the oasis where we would camp. I named my camel Flower (he had a flower stuck in the hair on his neck)and while it took a few minutes to get used to, the ride was more comfortable than I had thought it would be. We were a half hour into the ride when one of friends felt like he was going to throw up, so we took a quick five minute break. Off in the distance you could see a windstorm and we kept our fingers crossed that it would stay away. We were back on our way and ten minutes later the sandstorm we had been hoping to escape finally caught up with us. A sandstorm in the dunes looks so cool; it's like the wind and sand are dancing all over the dunes, it's beautiful. Beautiful and painful. We were wearing ruzza's,which are headscarves, which protected our face, eyes, and mouth, but the rest of our body was fair game. Each piece of sand felt like a needle piercing your skin. Now imagine this except thousands of particles of sand being thrown at you. And then to add the icing on the cake, it started raining. In the desert. Which in itself is pretty rare. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, the rain was almost as painful as the sand. There was nothing else to do but to trek onwards. We battled intermittent storms for the rest of the ride and made it to the camp by dusk. There were already tents set up so we made our way to ours and had some tea. After tea we went to the kitchen tent to see how they were cooking dinner and then on the walk back to our tent, AJ stepped on an insect and got bit. His foot was burning from the bite, but the guides assured him it was just an insect and wasn't anything serious. Of course this hadn't ever happened to a tourist before, which seemed fitting to the day we were having. It was a full moon and we could see pretty well so we climbed to the top of one of the dunes to see the night view. The way the dunes were illuminated by the moon made the desert look surreal and dream-like. The camp was only 30km away from the Algerian border so from the dunes you could see the border and the lights of an Algerian city which was really cool. At night it was still pretty hot so we moved our matresses outside to sleep under the stars. It rained on us while we were sleeping but everyone was too tired to care. We woke up the next morning at 6:30 expecting to see an amazing sunrise, and found nothing but clouds, which seemed fitting for our adventure into the desert. The guides then said we might as well just head back to avoid the hot sun so we got back on our camels and trudged along backto the main place. Now after reading this, one might think I had a horrible time, which is quite the contrary. I had so much fun, even during the sandstorm we made the best of it and laughed about it right after. So if anyone ever goes to Morocco, they MUST go to the Sahara! It was a lot of fun and we didn't let anything get us down or bother us. And after all, if worse comes to worse at least you'll have one heck of a story to laugh about later.