One of our stops on this 9-day tour was Todra Gorge. It’s the “Grand Canyon of Morocco”, and it is gorgeous. Our hotel was built into one side, near the river and looking up at the opposite canyon wall. A fifteen minute drive away was the visitor site of Todra Gorge itself, where a road was built along the river. We walked along, snapped awesome pictures, saw some “climbers”, several merchants, and even a few donkeys. The weather was sunny and pleasant - not warm or cold.
We drove back into the village and walked through some terrace fields for farming. We saw how the irrigation works. We made our way to the Berber carpet cooperative. They served us mint tea - and showed us how to make it - then explained about the carpet making. The women use sheep wool, camel wool, baby camel wool, and agave silk. They weave, embroider, and knot the yarn they have carded and dyed using natural pigments. Each family has a style and each carpet tells a story.
After buying two carpets, we returned to the hotel for lunch and leisure time by the pool. It was the most relaxed we had felt in days. The pool was too cold, as was the autumn air, so no swimming for us. Then we hit the road again, this time to Dades Gorge. There was a brief stop for Theo to pick up a SIM card. There was another stop for photos. We also passed the road of 1000 Kasbahs. Not quite a thousand, but there were lots. There was a moment when we passed the largest silver mine in Africa, and Theo used the opportunity for a teachable moment to ask how it is that we have pockets of stuff like silver and gold and whatnot. Gianna offered up “magnetics” but Theo heard “Bananics” which sounds like a word I must bring into usage. We checked in to the hotel and were given a choice of two rooms. The first room was a suite with two large bedrooms that each slept four, a living room, and a bathroom. We took the chance to all be under the same “roof”. The only drawback was a lack of heat. There were plenty of warm blankets, though. We were in bed, lights out, around 8 p.m.
The next day was another heavy driving day. As we drove on some more, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for our trip. Gratitude for the pace working in our favor, for getting our travel feet wet in Europe and working out some of the kinks of extended travel in a place with a lot of familiarity. It seems like the kids are really beginning to make connections between places and experiences.
Our final rural stop was in Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mustapha took us out for a late afternoon tour of the historic village. We came across a local guide who offered us an impromptu tour of the casbah. The upper floors bounced and the stairwells were steep and pitch dark. It was an amazing look at the historical architecture of Morocco. Mustapha took us on, telling us more about the village as we climbed to the top of the hill, which was the site of the village granary. From here we sat and watched a magnificent sunset. There was a large tour group there with us, as well as a smattering of other tourists, and they burst into applause as the sun dipped below the horizon.