Morocco

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Travel in Style Reviews
Lebes (Berber greeting) or sbah ikheer (Arabic for good morning)!

Spring break is about over and it's back to work tomorrow. It will be a shorter week at CAS for me because on Thursday I'll be leaving for the Optimal Match Conference (SPED and Technology) in Rabat. Last year I attended the conference in Madrid, Spain. I'm eager to see if the teachers from Rome, Paris, and Barcelona who I met last year will be attending this year. It is great to network with other teachers and find out about their programs plus hear about new and innovative strategies. The presenters are from the US.

Paul is currently enroute between Casablanca and Amsterdam with arrival due in the US at about 5:30 tonight and then back to work for him tomorrow. We had a fantastic week of touring and seeing more of
Morocco - a truly remarkable country with beaches, mountains, deserts, and everything in between in a relatively small area. Paul will send from his email account a number of pictures which might give you an idea of our experiences this past week.

Trekking in the Amizimiz area while seeing the Atlas Mountains with its picturesque landscapes and Berber villages was quite remarkable. Our guide Said served us Moroccan tea and a lamb tagine for lunch in his home. As you can see from the photo they also decided to dress us up in the typical Berber attire for lunch.

We continued on with the drive through the High Atlas Mountains crossing through the Tizi N' Tichka Pass and descended down through the Draa Valley stopping to see ancient Kasbahs (fortified palaces) and to the caravan-town of Ouarzazate (movie site of The Mummy, Black Hawk Down, Babel, Syriana, Lawrence of Arabia, etc.). Enroute we stopped to hike up Ait Benhaddou and up the sandstone hill which has been the site for a variety of movies including Gladiator. People still live in this UNESCO World Heritage village including Uemna and her husband. She invited us in to see her cave dwelling in the side of the hill and shared delicious home-grown almonds.

Our next two nights were spent in the desert. The first night was at Zagora and in the middle of a sandstorm. Paul thinks that I probably have never been so grouchy upon awaking in the morning after a night spent trying to breathe while attempting to sleep in our nomad Berber tent amongst a haze of blowing sand. I think that the sand is all out of our ears by now. The next night after some fun camel riding we enjoyed a night on the Merzouga Desert in a deluxe tent under the stars. Both nights we had our own private concert with talented musicians and dancers entertaining us with traditional Gnaouan music and delicious Moroccan cuisine.

It was interesting to study the information displayed on Paul's GPS in the mountains, deserts, etc. In the photo you can see our Moroccan friend and Paul discussing the merits of such equipment. We read in one of the tour books that it is difficult for tourists to locate their reserved auberges (lodging accommodations) or tent sites and that they are encouraged to call ahead for the GPS coordinates in order to locate the correct place in the Sahara Desert.

Riding out into the golden dunes near Merzouga on camels to see the sunset was so much fun while watching four-wheel-drive vehicles zipping up and down the sand dunes (some in preparation for the Dakar Rally). All too soon it was time to start the travel back to Casablanca via Fez. On one of our stops we fed peanuts to the Barbary apes near Ifrane.

Staying in the Riad Dar Al Andalous was an experience of seeing more of the history and culture of Fez. Here we had one more example of the challenges of communication in a foreign country. Paul asked if he should pay for a Coca Cola and before he knew it he was being enthusiastically escorted into the kitchen to meet the 'cook' (Coke).

Living and visiting in an international setting is truly an exciting and stimulating experience.

A week after leaving Casablanca via train we arrived back in Casa with our very informative and helpful driver Hamid. Now, we have the memories and the pictures (and a few souvenirs) to enjoy of this adventure in another area of incredible Morocco.

Our time in Morocco is fast approaching an end with one last trip before returning home to Minnesota. At this point we are thinking of exploring more of Spain and the Moroccan coast of the Mediterranean.

M'a ssalama (goodbye - Arabic)

 

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