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Long drives and sunsets

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Our second day in Marrakech found us at a very early start. Thankfully.. I am a morning person. Only when I'm on vacation that is haha! We had signed up for a Sahara Desert Tour, and boy was that the highlight of the trip. We also met two Muricans (Hi Simon + Daniel!) that joined us on this tour, and quickly went into many debatable conversations about Canada vs. USA, topped with an overflow of maple syrup jokes. There were many stops along the way, but what we weren't exactly prepared for was the 10 hour drive, and no shower facility. And oh, riding a camel is not as glamorous as it looks. Trying to make it seem glamourous though.. that's another story. 

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Our first stop was for breakfast! Breakfast with beautiful views of the Morrocan landscapes? Count me in. The day eventually got hotter, up to 40 degrees hotter.. so the morning breeze was nice. We then made another stop to check out the amazing Atlas Mountains. 2500 KM of stunning beauty.

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There were so many picturesque stops, that I couldn't help but snap away. Thankfully, our driver Farid was so accommodating. We weren't too sure about how this tour was going to pan out, but we're so grateful to have had him as our guide, and now our friend. When you spend 10 hours straight with someone, you definitely get to learn quite a bit about that person. We learned that this is his full-time job, driving 8-10 hours daily, navigating through the winding roads along the Atlas Mountains, and he does this for most of the year, until the conditions get a bit rough when the season changes. He shared about life in Morocco, and how he moved out to the city of Marrakech to make money, and only visits his family in his home village when he has time off. (He ended up bringing us to the other side of the Atlas Mountain on his off day, and the Jardin Majorelle! Also, his bargaining skills are awesome. Although we ended up with one too many things.) Another favourite stop (for the ladies), was when we got to purchase local Argan and Rose oil! It was cool to see the behind the scenes process of how it's produced.

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Next up, we made our way to Aït Benhaddou. Located in the foothills on the southern slopes of the High Atlas in the Province of Ouarzazate, the site of Ait-Ben-Haddou is the most famous ksar in the Ounila Valley. It is also quite the popular flim spot! Many movies have been filmed here including Gladiator, Jesus of Nazareth, Prince of Persia, The Mummy.. and of course, the ever popular Game of Thrones. At this point, the weather was not too kind. But when we got to the top of the hill, the view was well worth it.

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After lunch, Farid suggested we stock up on water and that the guys get some head scarves before we head on over to the Sahara. We're almost there! What seemed like forever on the camel ride, we arrived at base camp and had tea with our hosts by the nomad tents. Soon, we got to meet our fellow travellers, and shared a meal together. I think this may just be my favourite part of the trip - sharing life, honest conversations and a meal with people from all walks of life. And the best part, it was beneath a sky full of stars and while we had the campfire going. We had the opportunity to meet and got to know a lovely family from Holland, and some musicians from the UK among others while we talked the night away. 

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The next morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise. Sunrises and sunsets are probably my favourite thing in the world. There's always something special about watching the day start that way. And savouring those moments.

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Another camel trek later, and we were on our way back to Marrakech. But not before a few more pit stops along the way! I saw a ceramics store on our drive back that I just had to stop and check out, and of course had to leave with a few items for keepsake! Definitely a memorable time in the Sahara. I may just make my way back in the future. Next up - our last few days in Morocco before heading to Côte d'Azur!

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The Moroccan Adventure

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I finally got the chance to sort some of my photos from my travels, so I'll start with Morocco! Back in April this year, my friend Shaina and I went on quite the trip to Morocco, the South of France and Paris. Paris was our first and last stop, but we've both been there so we kept our stay short. Fun fact: We had an embarrassing incident where we did not read the menu at a restaurant carefully, and essentially ended up with a raw beef patty. Steak tartare, anyone? Needless to say, we did not finish our meal, paid and booked it out of there before we could see the disgusted faces of our servers hahaha. Oops.

When we first decided on where to travel, we had an endless list. Spain, Croatia, Greece.. list goes on. But somehow, Morocco made the cut, and we're glad it did! Our first impression of Marrakech wasn't too great to be honest, but the people, sights and rich culture quickly made up for it.. and we fell in love with the country.

Upon arrival, we had to wait at least an hour an a half before we got through immigration. (Their immigration process definitely needs some streamlining. A little shocked to see that many people argued over the queue, and skipped lines as they pleased!) It's a city that is very much feels like you've gone back in time, but you'll grow to understand the history and the beauty of Marrakech as you explore. Once we got to the riad, the in house chef made us some simple Moroccan fare for breakfast after check-in, and we got to rest a little before exploring the souks in the Medina. 

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We got to explore the souks through a local guide from our first riad (We stayed in 3 different airbnb riads! A little exhausting, but worth it. Design enthusiasts, you'd appreciate the uniqueness of all three), and I ended up with some leather purchases and homeware. Tip: Bargain away! Everything is marked up for tourists. We also got to check out the leather tanneries and see first hand how leather is processed, which was a very interesting and educational experience. The smell on the other hand.. no comment.

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I didn't bring my DSLR out on our first day, so these were mostly from my iPhone. The souks were a challenge to navigate, so I'm pretty glad we had our guide Ismail to see the city through a local's perspective. Those wedding carpets though.. what a dream. I think I may have to come back on a buying trip next time! It was a sensory overload of smells, colours and culture. A photographer's haven for sure.

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We then made our way to the Ben Youssef Madrasa, which used to be an islamic college back in the day. It has since been refurbished and reopened to the public as a historical site. The intricate details of the tiles and architecture is stunning. And.. that pretty much sums up our first day! We kept it fairly relaxed on the itinerary, as we would be embarking on an 8-9 hour drive (unbeknownst to us) to camp in the Sahara the next day. More on that later!

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