Sunday, June 17, 2012

Morocco 48

Ok, last picture from Morocco for now. Next: something from the archives, perhaps.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Morocco 47

The Djemma el Fna by night. We really could be done with the Morocco pictures, but we're not 100% sure what to do next, since we've mostly just been hanging around Washington and using the camera for family photos of the kind I don't care to put here and most people don't care to see. We'll figure out something soon, but we can't promise what...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Morocco 46

And so, with a little time to spare, we made it back to Marrakesh, whence we would depart. Another opportunity for delicious food and entertainment on the Djemma el Fna. During daylight, the square kind of sucks. The snake-charmers and water-sellers asking you to take your picture with them are amusing only briefly. But at night when all the musical acts come out and the restaurants start grilling, it is one of the coolest places in the world. I would happily go back tomorrow.

Above, one such musician, whose trained pigeon/dove would at times sit on his head as he played banjo. Nicely representative mixed crowd of locals of tourists also on display.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Morocco 45

We took the somewhat more luxurious although perhaps less "authentic" option of bus travel from Ourzazate to Marrakesh, rather than more Grandes Taxis. The scenery on this trip, going over the High Atlas mountains, is pretty spectacular. But rather than pretty pictures of mountains, here are a couple shots of people we saw from the bus window along the way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Morocco 44

At the end of hours and hours of riding with six other men in a steamy Mercedes, as described yesterday, we arrived at roughly the midway point between Marrakesh and the desert. Ourzazate has a cool old Casbah and some actual non-scamming guide types who have figured out the game: They promise you that they aren't guides and that you won't need to pay them and they just want to show you around their neighborhood and practice their English. Then they give a concise but thorough and interesting explanation of some of the sights in the Casbah. And then they say good-bye and actually don't demand money from you, which, in my particular case actually results in a big tip. Bigger than the guys who run the same scam and then say "ok now you give me money... no that's not enough." Maybe I'm the exception.

Anyway, street scene from Ourzazate above.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Morocco 43

Four pictures today from our epic trek back from the desert. At this point your correspondent was traveling solo, with no particular agenda. Did we mention this before? Traveling without reservations or plans is really liberating and a great feeling and something we promised as naive young backpackers never to stop doing and then eventually stopped doing. Or at least, did less. I think the culprits were: 1. Latvia, because we were mostly going on three-day-weekend hops around Europe and didn't want to waste time looking for a hotel once we were there; and 2. Afghanistan, because when we were getting away from Kabul we were going to splash out having things arranged ahead of time with nicer hotels; and 3. Those nicer hotels are pretty easy to get used to.

But in Morocco, for a bit, we did it right. I would not trade away the snazzy riads we had reserved in advance, but having an unstructured portion of the trip turned out pretty well. We tried to travel in a mostly local manner, which in returning from the desert involved a series of three city-to-city grand taxi trips. These earned zero points for comfort, which is a true traveling snob's test of "authenticity." The taxis hang out at a central spot until they have enough passengers to make a city-to-city trip worthwhile, which generally means seven men packed into the bench seats of an old beat up Mercedes. Seen at top, my view from the back seat, second of four, which I quickly learned is the very worst seat in the taxi. Below that, one of these fine pieces of automotive technology from the exterior.

Above, the view from one leg where I managed to score the shotgun seat. Best moment from the trip was probably driving through desert, as above, when one of the gentlemen in my taxi asked to be let off up ahead in the middle of nowhere. He got out at some high-tension power lines, where he had tied his donkey to one of the pylons. He was, I presume, preparing his donkey for the ride the rest of the way home as our taxi sped away, quickly re-filled to seven passengers by someone on the side of the road. Below, yet another picture just for kicks, waiting for the taxi to fill to capacity in Tagounite.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Morocco 42

So the desert was beautiful. Your correspondent did some sandboarding and rode a camel and had nice talks with some of the odd characters one meets when near sites of organized tourism. Two favorite comment from European tourists:

1. While sitting at a dining table and having Moroccan staff bring us tagines and cous-cous in an elaborate tent on the edge of the Sahara desert, which we had reached by chauffered SUV, one of my dining companions told me, totally stone-face seriously: "We consider ourselves travelers, not tourists. It's an important distinction." Your correspondent, putting his best diplomatic training to work, did not laugh.

2. Another European tourist, surprised to meet an American amongst so many Germans and Dutch and such, asked: "Why would you come all the way to Morocco? You have Mexico." Le sigh.

Anyway, this picture is from the SUV back to civilization. We passed these guys and the driver stopped to chat with them. He said they were nomadic camel herders, which given that we happened upon them sitting on a dune and staring at a herd of camels, seems to be within the realm of possible.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Morocco 41

Couldn't do a night so far from city lights without at least one star trails picture...

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Morocco 40

Our camp. Individual tents with beds and bathrooms. Not exactly roughing it. Of course, your correspondent slept outside under the stars because the stars were awesome.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Morocco 39

One of the camp staff smoking near the campfire at night.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Morocco 38

Guides, staff, and the occasional tourist around the fire in our desert camp. It was a pretty luxurious camp actually with a real bed in each tent.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Morocco 37

A couple wider shots of the scenery from the top of the tallest dune in Erg Chigaga. Camel train arriving in a tourist camp, above. Below, just nice colors and shadows.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Morocco 36

We did drink some tea in the Sahara. The Police would have been proud, as would the kid named Luc or "Looch" or something who came by my freshman dorm on a regular basis and asked whoever was there at the time to play "Tea in the Sahara" because he apparently couldn't find a copy of Synchronicity and this was before they had The Internet so he couldn't steal it.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Morocco 35

I love this curve.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Morocco 34

We climbed the tallest dune in the grouping of dunes we were in, known as Erg Chigaga. The climbing was difficult but the views were fantastic. There were a variety of camels wandering the dunes. We ran into one guy herding camels around, he asked us for a cigarette. I almost wished I had a cigarette to give him, since being a camel-herd in the Sahara is probably pretty rough sledding. On later reflection, I decided that as far as I know he just takes care of tourist camels, and probably gets all the cigarettes he wants.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Friday, June 01, 2012

Morocco 32

So it's official, we've given up on any hope to edit our Morocco pictures down to 31 pictures for 31 days of May. We've got another week or two to go. Some of this may be that we're not editing aggressively enough. But we do actually think all these pictures are worth showing. More sandy stuff today from Erg Chigaga.