Deserts, Ouarzazate, Trekking, and Agadir

Written by Nate, Cole Leighton

Sorry For The Wait

Hello friends and family, we all know you’ve been awaiting this blog for a very long time. I am happy to tell you that what you’ve been waiting for has arrived: the blog!

The last post left our travelers in the Sahara desert covered in sand. After leaving the music festival three days early, the group traveled to a small desert town called Zagora. There the group experienced heaven on earth in the form of a three star hotel. After two nights in the small desert town the group continued on to Ouarzazate. In Ouarzazate the group met up with our contact Mustafa. With this organization the group did work at a women’s center and helped out with community projects around Ouarzazate. The organization also set up really fun informal Arabic sessions and informational talks about Islam. A few men in the organization had recently worked at a movie studio and took the group on a informative tour there. Movies such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, some movie with Samuel L Jackson and a lot more were filmed there. Fun fact: one season of Game of Thrones was filmed on the same set as Kingdom of Heaven. In ouarzazate the group had their first experience with hammam (a traditional Moroccan bathhouse). In the hammam, the girls got scrubbed down by our chef and created a special bond with her; The boys had a funny experience getting washed by two Mohamed’s and a Said. The organization we we were with took us to an oasis —another fun fact is that an oasis is just where water is in abundance in the desert, not according to the amount of green shrubbery— where the group walked around, skipped rocks, and caught frogs. Nate also set up a trip to a Chinese restaurant which turned out pretty well. If there’s one thing you want your kids to get out of this trip in Morocco it’s the International food.

After 10 days in Ouarzazate, we moved on to the next part of our trip, one that we’d been eagerly awaiting since we arrived in Morocco: the High Atlas Trek. We arrived in Amizmiz, a cluster of villages at the base of the mountains. We met Latifa, our guide for the three day excursion, and also one of only seven female guides in Morocco. She quickly proved to be one of the most compassionate and helpful people we’d met on the trip, addressing us immediately as her children and vowing to take care of us in the mountains. We drove to a field about 2,000 meters in altitude and began our trip. Latifa took us on a three hour hike around the mountainside, where a local Burbur family invited us into their home for mint tea and bread. When we got back to the field, we loaded our belongings onto two mules and began to hike up the first mountain. After a few more hours of picturesque views and long conversations, we came to an inn where we spent the night. We woke up early the next morning to an incredible breakfast of bread, cheese, jam, fruit, tea, and coffee. After being sufficiently fueled with energy, we loaded up our packs and ventured back out into the mountains. The views on the second day were somehow even more impressive than the first. Strong winds forced us to take shelter at another native Moroccan household in which we were welcomed and brought delicious kebabs by the dozen. After lunch we happened upon a tent with two men making fresh donuts inside. Though thoroughly stuffed, we all got one and ate them ravenously. Two more hours of hiking found the group settling in a quaint village on the side of a mountain. After a good night’s sleep, Latifa gave the group the option to walk directly back to Amizmiz or take a more scenic pathway up and down a final peak. Nate, Ady, Cole, and Sheldon opted for the first choice and Owen, Emily, Leighton, and Bria chose the latter. So the groups went their separate ways, only to meet up in Amizmiz at the same time, where each group exchanged stories of their individual hiking experiences. We spent one more night in Amizmiz before parting with the town and our wonderful temporary mother, Latifa.

From there, we drove six hours to Agadir to begin our next adventure with Dar Si Hmad, an environmental NGO focused on bringing water from the large amounts of fog in the region to mountain villages with limited access to clean water. We were welcomed by the organization with a hearty lunch and an orientation PowerPoint before touring the souk in the late afternoon. The marketplace was busy as expected but its size allowed for a far more relaxing, and less crowded, experience than we were used to. After the souk we had dinner at a local pizza restaurant and then quickly retired to our hotel before our drive to Sidi Ifni the next day. We left Agadir Friday and arrived in the Oceanside town of Sidi Ifni in the afternoon. The next day we hiked, and rode a donkey, to the peak of the mountain to see the installments of cloud fisher nets that the organization had already set up, the nets were impressive in size and engineering and the effects they’ve had on the local communities were equally so. The next few days were filled with similar projects all centered around improving the quality of life for the local villages near the mountains. Most of the work we’ve done has focused on the use of permaculture to increase the efficiency and quality of farming methods in the area. After our work during the day we spend the late afternoon and early evenings in the town itself attending a variety of activities, our most recent being a jam session at a center focused on reviving the fine arts in the area. We still have a few days left in the town but so far our experience has been very rewarding and we’ve enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

Before finishing this blog we would like to say a quick apology for the long wait since our last post, we hope no one worried too much about whether or not we survived the Sahara. We promise not to keep you in suspense for our next installment.