Sahara Tour Day 2 of our Sahara Tour – Dades Gorge to Merzouga via Todra Gorge


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We traveled 250 kilometers (about 150 mile), and is shown in the  map below.  We left the hotel after have an early breakfast.  A map showing our travels on day 2 is shown below:

Slide01Even though did not travel as far, there was a lot to do.  High points for day 2 included:

  • Toured Dades Gorge.  This is a beautiful sandstone gorge with a really windy road that was recently used for a Cadillac commercial.  We went into the g
  • Todra Gorge with a beautiful hotel at the end.  We passed many more oasis’ and valleys with date palms reaching this point.
  • Marco Fossles Kasbak where fossils captured in marble are cut into jewelry, table tops, and other interesting items.  We spent an hour here just looking at the fossil art forms.
  • Merzouga for our camel ride into the desert, and a Sahara sunset, and a night under the stars after our camel ride.

As with day 1, we will cover day 2 by showing photos of our day in sequence with narrated comments for each photo.  As appropriate, additional text will be provided to tie the events of the day together.

Dades Gorge

The Dades gorge is fairly narrow so even though it was light we did not have any direct sun light.  We left Kasbah de la Valle and went into the gorge, and then went to the top.  Photos of our trip through the gorge follow.

The road through the gorge rises rapidly.  We were in the gorge early in the morning, and did not have directly sun while we were in the gorge.
The road through the gorge rises rapidly. We were in the gorge early in the morning, and did not have directly sun while we were in the gorge.  The part of the Dades Gorge was recently featured in a Cadillac commercial.
Chez Pierre is a hotel on the gorge summit.  Can you imagine the view from your room?
Chez Pierre is a hotel on the gorge summit. Can you imagine the view from your room?

Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge and Dades Gorge are canyons in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains. Both the Dades Toda Rivers carved out cliff-sided canyons (Arabic: wadi) in their last 40 kilometres (25 mi) through the mountains.

We left directly for Todra Gorge upon leaving Dades Gorge.  To enter Todra Gorge, it is first necessary to drive through the City of Tinghir, Morocco.  Tinghir is a city of about 40,0000.  Tinghir is really an oasis about 30 kilometres (19 mi) long and about 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) wide. The climate is hot, dry winters in relation at altitude of 1,400+ meters (about 4,700 ft).  Photos of the Todra Gorge, Tinghir, and the oasis follow.

As we entered Tinghir, and the oasis, there were a number of abandoned homes that we noticed.  We made an inquiry about the homes, and were told that they belonged to Jewish people that left for Israel.  I am not sure how to confirm this, but I was told that these homes are still owned by the same Jews that left for Israel.
As we entered Tinghir, we also noticed a number of abandoned homes. We made an inquiry, and was told that these homes belonged to Jewish people who left for Israel. I am not sure how to confirm this, but I was told that these homes are still owned by the same Jews that left for Israel.
A number of crops are cultivated in the Tinghir oasis.
A number of crops are cultivated in the Tinghir oasis.
Todra Gorge is above Tinghir.  This is a view of the north side of Tinghir Oasis.
Todra Gorge is above Tinghir. This is a view of the north side of Tinghir Oasis.  Many date palms can be seen in this part of the oasis.
Finally, we reached the entrance to Todra Gorge,
Finally, we reached the entrance to Todra Gorge,
We entered Todra Gorge and went as far as Hotel Yasmina and the Kasbah Los Roches.  The Todra River appeared to just rise from the ground in front of Hotel Yasmine.
We entered Todra Gorge and went as far as Hotel Yasmina and the Kasbah Los Roches. The Todra River appeared to just rise from the ground in front of Hotel Yasmina.
We crossed the wooden bridge, and visited Hotel Yasmina.
We crossed the wooden bridge, and visited Hotel Yasmina.
Chuck was quite amazed by the canyon walls, and spent a few minutes enjoying the view.
Chuck was quite amazed by the canyon walls, and spent a few minutes enjoying the view.
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This is a view from Hotel Yasmina looking up the Todra Gorge.  It was 11 AM in January 2013, but even in the late morning, we did not have direct sun light.
Hicham and Chuck were awaiting my return so that we could continue on to Merzouga.
Hicham and Chuck were awaiting my return so that we could continue to Merzouga.  I had to recross the river to rejoin them, and continue our tour.
We crossed the river prior to leaving Todra Gorge.  Notice the cement acquduct on the right side of the river.  This was constructed for have an efficient source of irrigation water for the Tinghir Oasis.
We crossed the river before leaving Todra Gorge. Notice the cement aqueduct on the right side of the river. This was constructed to have an efficient source of irrigation water for the Tinghir Oasis.
We finally executed Todra Gorge, and reentered Tinghir and the oasis.  At this point we were starting to think about lunch,
We finally executed Todra Gorge, and reentered Tinghir and the oasis. At this point we were starting to think about lunch.

Lunch in Tinjdad

We had lunch in Tinjdad about an hour after leaving Tinghir.  It was nice to be able to get out the Toyota SUV and just sit in the sun for a while.

Hicham told us that this restaurant is used frequently by the tour operators.  Chuck was really into the mint tea, and had it at almost every meal while we were in Morocco, but I have just never developed a taste for tea.
Hicham told us that this restaurant is used often by the tour operators. Chuck was really into the mint tea, and had it at almost every meal while we were in Morocco, and has a long tradition on Moroccan culture.

Mint tea has a long tradition in Morocco, and is now commonly served all through the North Africa. It is served not only at mealtimes but throughout the day.  Mint tea is especially a drink of hospitality, commonly served when there are guests. Mint tea has traditionally been a man’s affair: prepared by the head of the family. It is served to guests, and it is impolite to refuse it.  I have to admit that when I was in Morocco, I did not accept mint tea when it was offered to me.  I sure hope that I did not offend anyone.

It was interesting to observe some of the transportation in Tinjdad
It was interesting to see some of the transportation vehicles in Tinjdad.  We were wondering about using this service in the future is the price was right.  There is nothing like open air transportation as you pass through the Atlas Mountain.

Macro Fossiles Kasbah, Rissani, Morocco

Macro Fossiles Kasbah (MFK) creates art work of all kinds from fossilized marble.  The marble is extracted from a quarry in cut slabs or cubes.  The material is then brought to their facility in Rissani, Morocco and fabricated into art work of all shapes and sized.  My understanding is that MKB is a French owned company.  I found the ideas of fossils in marble interesting, and the different are work that we way there was very interesting also.

Macro Fossiles Kasbah is located in
Macro Fossiles Kasbah is in Rissani, Morocca.  They make artistic objects of all kings from fossilized marble.  This facility is on the main highway, and we stopped there on our way to Merzouga.

Photos below show the entire process for creating the fossilized artwork.

Cut slabes, or cubes of fossilized marbel are brought to the Marco Fossiles Kasbah in Rassini.  Here the material is fabricated into a wide variety of art work.
Cut slates, or cubes of fossilized marble are brought to the Marco Fossiles Kasbah in Rassini. Here the material is fabricated into a variety of art work.
MFK works cut, shape and polish the fossilized marble into rough shapes before finishing the air work.
MFK works cut, shape and polish the fossilized marble into rough shapes before finishing the air work.
Fossilized marble slabs above show slabs with some water on them for better viewing the surface.  The areas circled in read show fossils in the marble.
Fossilized marble slabs above show slabs with some water on them for better viewing the surface. The areas circled in red show fossils in the marble.  A slab cut will be influenced by both the shape of the art work and the fossil or fossils in the art object
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A cube of marble above will be cut into larger objects such as a table top, multiple lamps, sinks, or any object the artist might think of.  Custom objects can also be fabricated by MFK.
Some of the many art objects created by MFK from their fossilized marble.
Some of the many art objects created by MFK from their fossilized marble.
A sink made from MFK fossilized marble on the left, and other art works are shown on the right above.
A sink made from MFK fossilized marble on the left, and other art works are shown on the right above.

This was our last stop before reaching Merzouga.

Merzouga, Morocco

Merzouga is a city in Southeastern Morocco a few miles from the Algerian border.  It is located about 550 kilometers (about 350 miles) from Marrakesh.  It is approximately a 7 hour return drive from Merzouga to Marrakesh.  It is a popular tourist area located near the dunes of Erg Chebbi.  It is a popular area for tourist for tourist that want to ride camels in the Sahara, or camp under the stars.  This was the furthest point south on our trip to Morocco.  Two maps are show below.  The first shows Merzouga’s place in Morocco, and the second is a satellite view showing Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi dunes.

Merzouga is located in Southeastern Morocco near the Algerian border.  It was also, and still is to some extent, a major location on trading routes in and out of the Sahara.
Merzouga is in Southeastern Morocco near the Algerian border. It was also, and still is to some extent, a major place on trading routes in and out of the Sahara. (map courtesy of Bing Maps).
Merzouga and the Erg Chabbi dunes east of the city.  The dunes are a very popular place for tourists that want to ride a camel, and to spend a night in the dessert under the stars.
Merzouga and the Erg Chabbi dunes east of the city. The dunes are a very popular place for tourists that want to ride a camel, and to spend a night in the desert under the stars (map courtesy of Bing Maps).

A camel ride into the Sahara and a night in the tent under the stars

Our departure point for the camel ride was a nice hotel a few minutes south of Merzouga.  Below is a photo of the hotels swimming pool.  Even though it did not have any icebergs while we were there in January 2013, I sure that I would have felt like one if I had gone swimming.

The hotel swimming pool at our camel rides point of departure.
The hotel swimming pool at our camel rides point of departure.

Hicham, our Traces Berberes Voyages tour guide and driver, would be remaining at the hotel.  Since the weather with quite cold, I was beginning to wonder if I was nuts for suggesting to Chuck that we take a ride into the desert to spend a cold night in the Sahara.  I did ask Hicham about the best time of the year to camp and venture into the Sahara, and he told me that usually April and May are the test.

In most cases, camels are kept near a hotel.  I am not sure if the camels belong to the hotels, or if the camels belong to independent contractors that take the tourist into the Sahara for a trip, and possibly camping.

Event for our camel / camping adventure followed roughly the following sequence:

  1. Arrive at hotel,
  2. Separate belongings that will be used for overnight trip into the desert,
  3. Go out and meet guide and camels,
  4. Saddle up the camel (you don’t really saddle a camel, but I think you get what I mean),
  5. Get on the camel (easier said than done),
  6. Line up the camels,
  7. Follow the leader (your guide will lead your camel caravan into the desert), and
  8. Get of your camel near your camping area,
  9. Go to your camp for the evening.

Following are the photos of our camel / camel adventure into the Sahara.  Once we reached our camp, it was the furthest most point on our Moroccan trip.

The first view of the camels close to that palm tree was just magnificent.
The first view of the camels close to that palm tree was just magnificent.  The camels and caretakers were about 100 meters from the hotel.
Hicham took out to the camels, and made arrangements with out guide.
Hicham took out to the camels, and made arrangements with out guide.  I think that Chuck was wondering what he had gotten himself into.
Chuck was much for adept on getting on a camel than I was, and that is why I think he got the lead position in out two camel caravan.
Chuck was much for adept on getting on a camel than I was, and that is why I think he got the lead place in our two camel caravan.
We had gotten about 50 feet when I complained.  Riding at 45 degrees to the right on the camel was not a good thing for me.  I am sure that everyone was laughing at me behind my back.  Here we are arranging the camels.  I am being reassigned to the first camel.  It had a better arrangements for a little guy like me.
We had gotten about 50 feet when I complained. Riding at 45 degrees to the right on the camel was not a good thing for me. I am sure that everyone was laughing at me behind my back. Here we are arranging the camels. I am being reassigned to the first camel. It had a better arrangements for a little guy like me.
It took a little bit of work to rearrange the equipment on camel one so that it cold accommodate me.
It took a bit of work to rearrange the equipment on camel one so that it cold accommodate me.
Chuck got back into the saddle, and up again, and this time we made it out of camp.
Chuck got back into the saddle first.  I took this picture, and then up again. This time we made it out of camp.
I took just too many pictures that look basically the same, but here are four of them with our guide leading our small caravan to the west.  By now the sun was starting to set, and our shadows were getting longer.
I took just too many pictures that look basically the same, but here are four of them with our guide leading our small caravan to the west. By now the sun was starting to set, and our shadows were getting longer.

The camping areas for the overnight camel trips are located about 2 or 3 kilometers into the Sahara from the hotel.  Our trip into the Sahara took us about an hour to arrive at the camp.  Most of the camps are semi-permanent, and can accommodate a large group.

As be got further into the Sahara the shadows begun to get larger as the sun was setting.  In this one I imagined myself in Star Wars on one of those big camel like tanks.
As be got further into the Sahara the shadows begun to get larger as the sun was setting. In this photo I imagined myself in Star Wars on one of those big camel like tanks.
Here I am in the lead of our small caravan.
Here I am in the lead of our small caravan.
Another view as the sun was setting.
Another view as the sun was setting.
We finally arrived at the place where we dismounted, and would leave our camels for the evening.
We finally arrived at the overnight camel  rest area where we dismounted.  We left the camels there for the evening.  If I had to guess, I would think that the smile on Chuck’s face would show that he is glad to have his feet on the ground again.  I sure was.
Our camels were in position now for the evening.  Look at the red circle in the picture above.  At least for our trip, this was the procedure to immobilize out camels, and they would stay in this position all night.  Only one leg is tied like this.  Camels are somehow taught to raise their let, and a rope is tied around one closed get.  The camel then sits down.  A camel can both raise itself, and decend itself with only three legs, but it is very hard for them to walk on 3 legs.
Our camels were now in place now for the evening. Look at the red circle in the picture above. At least for our trip, this was the procedure use to immobilize out camels for the evening.  They stayed in this place all night. Only one leg is tied like this. Camels are somehow taught to raise their leg, and a rope is tied around one leg. The camel then sits down. A camel can both raise itself, and descend with only three legs, but it is very hard for them to walk on 3 legs.
We had arrived at our camp.  The camp was just over the him for our camels.  If I remember correctly, the camp could not be seen fro the camel rest area.
We had arrived at our camp. The camp was just over the him for our camels. If I remember correctly, the camp could not be seen from the camel rest area.
I got one last picture of the sun letting into the West.
I got one last picture of the sun letting into the West.
I followed both Chuck and the guide down into the camp.  This camp is semipermanent.  We were the only people in camp on this evening.
I followed both Chuck and the guide down into the camp. This camp is semi-permanent. We were the only people in camp on this evening.
There was a well for the camp.  I was quite surprised to learn that the water table in the sand dunes close to Merzouga is very close to the surface.
There was a well for the camp. I was quite surprised to learn that the water table in the sand dunes close to Merzouga is very close to the surface.
If I had to guess, I believe that Chuck was quite cold when we got to camp.
If I had to guess, I believe that Chuck was quite cold when we got to camp.
As we got ready for dinner, I was again not quite sure how Chuck was feeling about his tour into the Sahara.
As we got ready for dinner, I was again not quite sure how Chuck was feeling about his tour into the Sahara.
Her is Chuck happy that he is in his warm bed.  The guide was just finishing my bed.  Ordinary camping beds were used in our camp.  The guide put 5 blankets for my cover, and 3 or 4 to work as a mattress on the bed.  When he was done, I was glad to get into the bed.  Overall it was fairly comfortable.
Her is Chuck happy that he is in his warm bed. The guide was just finishing my bed. Ordinary camping beds were used in our camp. The guide put 5 blankets for my cover, and 3 or 4 to work as a mattress on the bed. When he was done, I was glad to get into the bed. Overall it was fairly comfortable.

This ended the second day of our tour, and the furthest point that we would travel in Morocco.

My gallery of photos taken during the second day Sahara tour can be seen below.  Click your mouse on any photo you would like to see enlarged.  You an also see a slide show of the photos by clicking on the “slide show feature” in the lower left of any photo.