Ait – Ben – Haddou and our first trip to Morocco part 1

Now I’m not really sure how many of you have heard about it or seen it. Since I visited the site last year I wanted to share pictures and my amazement. Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List and I would never have known it if I didn’t go there by accident really.

We were bound to Agadir and wanted to see the desert. No other plans, no pre-bookings, we decided to get there and make choices as we go.

Destination: Morocco

Time frame: Saturday evening to Wednesday evening (4 days) January 2010

Participants: Pawel, Maciek and Me (3 Travellers)

Aim: Experience the desert

Tip1: Remember to fill out the landing card on the plane. You should get it from the crew, if you don’t because you are fast asleep; make sure you ask the flight attendant for one.

Our trip started at 7pm outside the terminal building in Agadir. It was dark but warm. In the yellow light of street lamps we saw dozens of empty taxis just waiting for customers. The drivers were not. They were chatting away, shouting to each other barely paying any attention to us. After traveling in Asia we were inclined to look for a bus or a “mini cab” to save some money. None of those were present. Eventually we tried to bargain but ended up paying full price according to the price list clearly visible on a public board. We took taxi to the bus station as we figured there is no point in staying for the night in Agadir. We didn’t have any accommodation, we didn’t want to stay on the beach, and we would have to take a bus or rent a car the next day to get to the desert.

And so we ended up on a very busy, asphalt square with small pavilion at one end and few waiting buses. As you can imagine no one spoke English but we were able to buy tickets to Ouarzazate. The bus was only due in a two hours or so. We reluctantly left our luggage in the ticket office, to have a look around the neighbourhood. Felt really unsafe even with the two guys on my sides. Finally we ended up back in the bus station having our first Moroccan dinner. The food was alright but the tea was phenomenal. The waiter didn’t just serve us tea he showed us how it should be done. He brought a small pot with tea leaves and boiling water already inside, three small glasses, mint leaves and sugar. All I remember now is that we had to wait quite long for the tea to steep (almost thought the waiter forgot about us) and then watched in amazement how many times he would pour the tea to small glasses with sugar only to pour it back to the pot and start the process again. It reminded me of Barcelona Magic Fountain show. Before the final round he placed some fresh mint leaves in each cup and poured from a distance to produce foam on the tea. It seems that the higher the distance the more proud the master of ceremony is.

We took bus at 10pm to Ouarzazate and tried to fall asleep as it was so dark you couldn’t see anything outside. The bus had only one stop in front of a carpet shop before arriving at 4am at the destination. We got off the bus and stared in amazement on empty city around us. You did not hear any noises and the lamp light was only limited to the bus station. No hotels, no shops, nothing just bare walls and windows of buildings which to us seemed abandoned. We went inside the bus station building and found opened cafe. Not sure what to do we order some coffee (suspiciously European) and boiling water (no tea available). Besides us there were three other gentlemen sitting by the next table, they were watching something on TV and speaking in a language we could not understand. Suddenly one of them decided to chat us up.

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

-“Alaykum Salam” (trying to sound confident)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (thinking it’s the right thing to do)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (getting a bit scared and not knowing what to do)

– “As-Salamu Alaykum”

– “Alaykum Salam” (panicking inside and trying to look confident outside)

Then he tried French, Pawel told him in French (the only one who can speak the language a bit) that we speak English. I (as a woman) was trying to melt with the background – never happened to me in any other situation before. But he didn’t give up. At some point we agreed that traveling through desert is better with car because camels stink. We still wanted to ride camels, but didn’t want to argue our point. First opportunity to leave the cafe was ours and when it presented itself it gave us a chance to jump on the bus to Zagora, which we gladly did.

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