Berber, not Bieber.

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On Day 2 of our Moroccan safari, somewhere between Boumalne Dades and Tinghir, Brooke and I found ourselves walking through a lush forest with a Berber guide.  I’m horrible and can’t remember his name… let’s just call him Justin.  Justin Berber.

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Justin Berber

He pointed at so many plants and asked us if we knew what they were.  Brooke and I just laughed at our stupidity and said “No” each time.  As he went on to explaining the diverse greenery around us, we nodded our heads with a resounding “Ahhhhhh, that’s what that is!”.  This entire time, I’m thinking we are about to be kidnapped and sold as slaves.  In a minute now, someone is going to jump out of these palm trees and onion bushes (yes, onions grow in bushes in my story) and snatch us up.

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Where is he taking us?

It didn’t happen.  But hey, Never Say Never.  Get it? Ha.  Hahhaaa.  Hahaaaaaaaaaa.  Justin Bieber.

ANYWAY, I think if you asked Brooke, she might say the next worse thing happened to us.  We were escorted unknowingly to a Berber Rug store.  I thought it was really neat.  I was having a ball, asking the salesman ridiculous questions.

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In case we are kidnapped, I’ll have this as a reference. Bah!

“Is baby camel hair easy to get?”

“How do you feel about employing such old women to make these rugs?”

“Can I have more tea?”

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I’m just kidding.  I didn’t ask any of those questions.  But it seemed as soon as we arrived at this salesman’s house in the middle of nowhere Tinghir, he was ready to SELL SELL SELL.  He offered us tiny stools to sit on while an old lady sat on the floor brushing wool in preparation for making a rug.

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I gave up my stool for a little bit so I could sit with her and get my hands on that hair!

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The salesman started pulling out all different kinds of rugs.  Red ones, blue ones, green ones, tan ones.  Ones made with camel fur, baby camel fur, sheeps wool.  He was explaining all of the symbols.  And any time Brooke or I showed the tiniest bit of interest in a rug, he would put it aside in a “They Might Buy Me” pile.  I think this is why Brooke was uncomfortable.  She hadn’t planned on buying a rug (neither had I) and this guy was really really REALLY trying to sell us each a rug.

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We had no idea how much these rugs were going to cost.  I wanted to have a private conversation with Brooke about it, but it didn’t seem possible in this man’s tiny home with his grandmother slaving away on the floor weaving a new rug right before our eyes.  So I just sat quietly, sipping my tea while making faces at Brooke like “How do we get out of here?!”  “How much do you think these cost?!”  “Do you think that’s his grandmother?!”  “Where did Justin Berber go?!”

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Once the salesman was finished with his speech, he flat out asked us which rug we would like to own.  Both Brooke and I were very hesitant to answer because there was NO WAY we would be able to afford any of these beautiful rugs.  But as the salesman kept insisting we play his little game, I fessed up and pointed at a lovely blue rug made of baby camel hair. I immediately felt like I should have kept my mouth shut.  Mr. Salesman asked how much I would be wiling to pay for it.  I refused to answer because I didn’t want to offend him or his grandmother!  I just absolutely knew there was no way I could give him the money he expected for the rug.  After about 10 long painful minutes of not answering his question, we somehow arrived at $300.  I smiled politely and said, “I’m really sorry, but there is no way I can pay that much.  It is a lovely rug, but I can’t afford it.”

To which he replied, “Make me an offer.”

To which I jokingly said, “I can really only afford to spend about $90 here.  I wasn’t even planning on buying a rug during this trip!”

To which he replied, “Ok, $90.”

To which I peed in my pants and said “WHAAAAAT?!”

Basically the same process happened with Brooke.  She got a gorgeous beige rug with some Moroccan / Berber symbols woven into it.

He wrapped up my new gorgeous blue Berber rug.

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I paid with my American Express card.

And Brooke and I continued our on-foot tour with Justin Berber around Tinghir.

 

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“Your camel has gas.”

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Brooke and I rode camels through the Sahara desert during our adventure in Morocco.  I was lucky to get the lead camel.  I think our guides put mine first because she had gas and they thought it’d be hilarious.  Brooke thought differently.  She let me know immediately about my camel’s digestive problems and her discontentment about being stuck behind me.  Although… Brooke DOES have a big smile on her face in that picture!  I’m more saying “Back, back back it up.”

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We rode for about an hour into the desert and stayed overnight in Berber tents.  Our guides cooked dinner for us out in the desert and we played on the sand dunes.  We climbed a dune with the other camelback riders close to camp to watch the sun go down.  We almost didn’t make it in time, but we power walked the last bit of the hike.  I remember Brooke being very adamant about getting to the top first.  She kept saying “We have to be first.  ‘Merica!”  Well, she was definitely first but I came in third or fourth.  I was sweating like a white girl in the Sahara.

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The sunset was beautiful.  Sand dunes upon sand dunes upon sand dunes and then, the sun!  Going down.  Changing colors in the sky.  B. E. A. Utiful.  After it went down, we trekked to camp for dinner.  I adopted Brooke’s “We must be first” motto and ran down the sand dune.  Have you ever run at full speed down a sand dune?  You should try it.  It is SO MUCH FUN!  I soon found out that running zig-zag was even more fun.  And it’s great training for dodging bullets, in case you’re ever in that type of situation.  Brooke thought it was hilarious, as did I and I just could not stop running and kicking up sand everywhere.  I didn’t have a care in the world and falling down was the least of my concerns.  The sand was so soft and I had just ridden camel through the damn desert – another dream checked off my list.  If I wasn’t so sweaty from the hike up the dune, I would have hiked back up just to run down again.

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Brooke joined all of the travelers for a fire pit party after dinner.  I was too exhausted (all that zigging and zagging I guess) and skipped it for some shut eye in our private tent.  As I tried to get some sleep, I could hear drums being played and people laughing at the fire pit.  At about midnight I had the strangest image of Arabian knights coming to our camp fire and chopping everyone’s heads off with a big sword.  You know, like what really happens in real life these days.  Or maybe only in the movies.  Anyway, in my imagination I would be the only one left because I was the only one NOT at the fire pit party.  Alone.  In the Sahara desert.  With my camel.  And no idea which direction to ride.  Needless to say, my imagination didn’t let me sleep that night.  I should have gone to the fire pit to drink wine and be merry.  No Arabian knights invaded our campsite.  The closest anyone came to losing a head was when a camel chomped on the shrubbery growing just outside our tent at dawn – shrubbery that just happened to be right next to Brooke’s head.

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As the sun came up, everyone packed, used the toilet (ummm, just find a semi-private spot in the sand somewhere and drop your pants), brushed their teeth. (I hope!) and mounted the camels to head back to civilization before the desert got too hot to handle.

What an adventure!

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Above: Me not wanting to touch the camel.  They make the weirdest noises and they stink.

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But our driver insisted I touch the thing, since I’m going to be riding it.  He helped me pet the hairy camel before he LEFT US in the desert with only our two Berber guides to fend for ourselves against any Arabian knights with swords who want to chop our heads off.

 

Riad for a night

Back in 2014, I went on an adventure with my American friend to Morocco.  We flew in to Marrakesh where we stayed one night in the most amazing Riad (it means hotel), Riad Tamarrakecht.

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We arranged for the riad to pick us up from the airport. This is a good idea if you aren’t familiar with Marrakech. We found our driver waiting for us just before we exited the airport. He made his way through the overcrowded and winding roads to a drop-off point. The streets are so narrow and crowded, the taxi couldn’t get all the way to the riad. But to be able to see the everyday life of Moroccans was really interesting… Traffic jams included donkey carts, motorbikes, bicyles and pedestrians. It seemed a bit sketch at first, especially us being 2 American girls in a Muslim country.  But we were safely picked up by the son of the family that owns the riad (sorry, I forgot his name! But he’s extremely nice and helpful).

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Upon entering the Riad, we were greeted by Sara and asked to sit and enjoy some mint tea and delicious pasteries. The riad gathered our paperwork and Sara sat down with us to discuss what we wanted to do on our trip. We only stayed at Riad Tamarrakecht one night, but Sara was willing to spend the time mapping out the old town and new town and giving us suggestions as to what we should see while in Marrakech. She organized a private 3 day mountain/desert tour for us through a company she is familiar with. If you are planning on doing a mountain/desert tour, I highly recommend asking this riad for help.

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Click here to see more about our 3 day tour, once I post it!

The riad itself was exquisite. So many rich colors and lovely decorations. It was clean gorgeous. The rooftop was a pleasant place to eat dinner and breakfast. Both meals were delicious and made in house by Sara’s mother. The bed was comfortable and the bathroom was big, especially compared to the small German bathrooms I’m used to. I thought the walls might be a little thin as I could hear other people outside of our room, but I am a light sleeper and came prepared with earplugs. The in-room fridge was stocked with drinks and bottled water was provided in the room, free of charge. The seating area outside the rooms was inviting and if we spent more time at this riad, it would have been an excellent retreat from the craziness at the souks. Great place. Great people. Great time.