The Ms of Morocco


Before I dive in, we took a ton of pictures and you can see them in our Morocco gallery on SmugMug.

Marrakech (part 1)

We almost missed our plane getting here b/c our flights had been updated and we didn’t catch the change. We happened to get to the airport three hours before our flight instead of two hours… which turned out to be 1 hour before our adjusted flight. That was stressful, but we made out plane and due to a stop-over in Agidir, we arrived only ten minutes before our originally planned arrival time. Someone was at the airport to pick us up and take us to the Andalous hotel. It was dusk, dry and dusty and warmish and it seemed like a desolate wasteland. The hotel lobby was nice, but the rooms were a bit dilapidated. Overall we were unimpressed, but keep reading to part two! Here we met Mustafa and he shared a quick week itinerary and a detailed “tomorrow” with us and left us to enjoy dinner and a good night sleep.

Dinner was classic Moroccan food: meat with some veggies and bread. Lisa and I ordered a half bottle of wine to take the edge of the day of travel. It wasn’t bad wine, but we had just been in France and Belgium, so we weren’t overly impressed. Realizing that Morocco, given it’s overwhelmingly Muslim population, doesn’t really have a fantastic alcohol scene decided that this would likely be the last wine we had until South Africa.

Marrakech Mosque


We took a guided tour of Morocco (granted a small part) that took us from Marrakech over the Altas mountains, to Ouarzazate, to Tinghir, to Todra Gorge, to Aït Ben Haddou and back to Marrakech. Mustafa was our guide along with our driver Akmed.

Mismanaged Expectations

We had been led to believe that this would be a group tour (in English) with about twenty total people. When we arrived, we learned that it was just the five of us. We had been looking forward to talking with other people from various places during our stay here. We were all disappointed and taken by surprise. Zoe was crushed; she’s been feeling particularly isolated from life back home and having some kids to talk to other than her sisters was the one thing she was most excited for. As things go wrong, people’s character tends to show. Zoe made me a very proud father. Clearly devastated and beginning to get sick with a cold, she handled the news better than most adults I know would have. I was so impressed.

Mountains and Movies

Tori Hercules We woke up around 7:30am, had breakfast and left the hotel at 9am on our way to Ouarzazate. The Atlas mountains remind me of the foothills in Nepal quite a bit (at least what I remember of them). The high point of our trip was 2260 meters and the roads were decent, but likely to give heartburn to anyone scared of heights and close ledges. Lisa was certainly uncomfortable during portions of the trip. I was just glad that the road wasn’t completely crumbling away as I’ve seen elsewhere.

Ourrzazate is a thriving city of about 60k people and served as a salt producer on ancient trading routes. It is the home of Africa’s largest solar energy project that is due to supply over half of Morocco’s power needs by 2020. It was closed to the public, but we drove near by and had nice conversations about how great this project was. Ouarzazate is also the home of several move studios and boasts the filming location for parts of movies such as “The Jewel of the Nile,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Khundun”, and “Game of Thrones.” We took a tour of the Atlas corporation’s grounds and saw a ton of set constructions. It was very cool. I think the girls will later watch some of these movies and be like: “WAIT! WHAT? I WAS THERE!”

A thunderstorm rolled through that evening which put a damper on any desires to use the pool at our hotel. Instead, we retired to our room. The beds smelled clean, but there were hairs and some bugs (not bed bugs and not lice). It was tough to sleep well there and tomorrow would be a long day.


Dunes and Camels On our way to the edge of the dunes, we stopped to get water and a turban for me. My first turban for 40DH. Mustafa tied it… 100% gangsta. We rolled up to the hotel that offer the camels and camping experience. Lisa took the lead camel, then Tori, Gianna, Zoe and then me followed by Mustafa and the pack camel. We packed light and the pack camel had almost nothing on it.

Abdul leading the camels The trek through the dunes was a surreal experience as Abdul lead the camels for an hour to our encampment. I had tied the ladies scarves as I’d seen Mustafa tie mine. Winds rose and sand picked up. My turban setups for the ladies held at 50/50. Tori and Zoe’s unravelled as we rode, but Gianna and Lisa’s held fast. Even with sunglasses on and veils tight I managed to get sand in my right eye and struggled to see. I took some great pictures, but later learned I got a tiny scratch on the lens. After a lot of pictures and a lot of staring, I can’t detect the effects.

Sandboarding When we got to camp, the wind died down a bit and the girls grabbed the two available snowboards and climbed the dunes. The moon rose before the sun completely set. Absolutely surreal. My three daughters sandboarding on the dunes of the Sahara under a full moon. They convinced me to take a spin and all those years of skateboarding paid off well. Theo and Gianna on a dune A quick slice down the dune and I was done. We had dinner outside and just as it wrapped up, we noticed a lightning storm of the the Atlas mountains in the distance. The wind picked up, the lightning got closer. We moved quickly to our tent, which had a whole in the side, so we up and moved to the adjacent tent, which we soon learned had a hole in the roof. The staff started setting up a tent in a new section of camp that was still under construction. We waited in the tent as wind howled, the lightning flashed all around, and the tent shook hard. There was some mild looks of concern in the tent, but all in all the spirit was good. As I said then, “this is how we get good stories on this trip.”

We moved to the new tent as the storm was passing. It was solid, sound and well insulated with heavy fabrics. As the wind died down, we started a fire and Abdul and Mustafa played drums and sang and then got all of us to play drums and attempt to sing songs from home of which we know embarrassingly few.

Bed was find, but no one slept particularly well. Back up at 5:45am we were on the camels just after six and back to the hotel for breakfast at seven.

All in all, it was brief, but full of rich experience and all the material for wonderful memories.

Mobile Phones

So our T-mobile, unlimited roaming in 120 countries…. Morocco is not one of those 120. Oops. $2.99/minute calls, $0.50 SMS message, and $15/MB for data (plus tax, of course). International highway robbery. Morocco has some interesting hoops to jump through to get a local SIM card (you need to apply and provide your passport, but it is immediate). I’ll jump ahead a bit… I didn’t get a chance to get a SIM until day 4, but for 30DH ($3) I got one hour of local talk time and 1GB of data. Yes. 1GB for $3. Morocco’s data coverage is pretty crappy in the rural areas and in the mountains, but where it is, it is 4G and fast. Google Hangouts and Google Voice work exceptionally well and 1GB will get you about 10 hours of talk time on Google Voice. I was able to take a five hour board meeting on Thursday. One day this “roaming” crap will just disappear and we’ll only be able to buy world plans and call people and use the Internet without stupid imaginary billing fences… one day.


Mustapha and ladies in Todra Gorge We stopped at Todra Gorge (which is like the Grand Canyon of Morocco) as much as something epic and beautiful but only about 400 meters long could resemble the Grand Canyon. Dades Gorge was the following night on our way to Aït Ben Haddou. Girls at a cave The hotels were nice, but the bedding was similarly “not so clean.” At some point during the night at Dades Gorge, I stopped caring about the sleeping accommodations so much and relaxed. I really didn’t think about where we were going next, or even where we would be tomorrow. My attitude changed to one of excitement and purpose to one of appreciation and enjoyment.

We bought two carpets and shipped them home. Lisa and I are both very excited to have physical things to help remember out trip when we return home.

Berber Carpets

Mud Architecture

Mud Kasbah We rolled into Aït Ben Haddou around 2pm and we left the hotel around 4:30 to walk into the old village. This was the most fantastic experience I had in Morocco. We got a private tour of an old Kasbah through its multiple stories and not-so-solid floors. Up a few hundred stone step paths we arrived at the top of the hill and the view was amazing. The new town on one side, the sun setting behind the mountain behind it and on the other side just rolling hills with Altas mountains in the distance.

We arrived minutes before sunset and witnessed the sun wink out over the mountains. I think they might be the first time the kids have seen a clear, unobscured sunset. It was beautiful. We got up to leave and turned around to be accosted with the amazing colors of purple, pink, orange, yellow and blue. The distant mountains took something that could not be captures in photos, only in paintings. I tried to capture some pictures and while I got the colors, my hands weren’t quite steady enough of the exposure bracketing I needed and they came out a bit ghosted. When I look at the pictures, I have the memories and I suppose that is actually what counts.

Watching a sunset A Sunset A negative sunset

Marrakech (part 2)

Baggy pants The next day we headed back to Marrakech and the Andalous Hotel (the only hotel we will stay in more than one night). Checking in, the room was wonderful. Consider my perspective adjusted. We went to lunch and I sat by the pool for a few hours relaxing and reviewing work things. I’ll note that at lunch I had a delicious salad and girls had pasta, I think everyone was quite happy with the changeup from Moroccan food.

The next morning we went on a walking tour of Morocco with Mustafa, only a different Mustafa. I didn’t enjoy this experience as much, but the sights were interesting. We saw the big Mosque, the Palace of Bahia, the Medusa Ben Youssef, and walked through the markets. As we were walking, I passed a shop with old license places on the wall. One was from Maryland and quite old (I’m guessing from 1937 given its design). Lamp shop I stopped to take a picture and the shop keeper almost attacked me. He jammed his hand in front of my phone and yelled, “No, I want to sell.” This, ladies and gentleman, is called being a dipshit. So, instead of the free marketing he would have received given a picture on my blog telling you to buy awesome old license plates, I’ll tell you instead that you should search him out, waste his time negotiating and then not buying anything because he’s a dipshit. I got a fairly bad deal in the market on some clothes (I really don’t know what clothes should cost, so I didn’t know this until my wife told me afterwards). Lisa clearly should have done the negotiations. Anyway, Tori and Gianna absolutely love their new baggy pants and Zoe is thoroughly embarrassed by mine, and that is priceless.

I figure that I’ll end this with a list of likes and dislikes:


  • the landscape is amazing
  • tagine’s are some good food., we’ll have to get one when we return home.
  • the old cities and mud construction are pleasing to look at
  • the experience of going on a camel ride and sleeping in the Sahara
  • the 4G mobile network here is superb and cheap, if you want to work remotely from Morocco, no problem
  • everything is inexpensive


  • it’s dry; really dry
  • tourism is the second largest industry in Morocco, but service isn’t a strong skill
  • the fact that everything everywhere seems perpetually under construction

General Information

Where we were.

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Where we are.

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Where we're going.

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