A trip to Morocco in 2009 remains the only time I’ve ever been in Africa, and it was something I’ll never forget.
Before that trip, I had never visited anywhere that had such a strikingly different culture than my own. Morocco is primarily a Muslim country, so I got to hear the call to prayer multiple times a day, which was a first for me.
I had also never been somewhere so poor before… I was constantly bombarded by child beggars — especially outside of Marrakech, where my trip started — and the vendors in the city’s spice markets were some of the most aggressive ones I’ve come across. They grabbed at me and loudly called “California! California!” in an attempt to entice me into their shop. (Little did they know I’m from Nevada not California. Haha suckerrrrs!)
From Marrakech, I embarked on a journey by van (and camel!) toward the Algerian border, and that van ride across the Atlas Mountains remains one of my craziest travel experiences. I remember being so scared and nauseous from the twisty roads and cliffs, with only the blaring music of Akon playing on repeat to comfort me.
The van made a few stops along the way, and one of them was to the city pictured above: Aït Benhaddou.
Aït Benhaddou is a little fortified city with earthen architecture in the Ouarzazate province, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. To get into the city, our van let us out on one side of the little stream you see pictured above, and we had to ride across the water on donkeys with a local guide. I remember snapping pictures while we were going across, and when we reached the other side, my guide took a picture of me on his camera phone! I guess he hadn’t met many “California” blondes like me.
I didn’t take any other photos of the city itself, and I actually don’t remember much about it other than the fact it was really pretty. I’d like to go back again and spend more time there because we only had a few minutes, if I remember correctly. After checking out Aït Benhaddou, we continued on to our campsite in the Sahara Desert, where we ate a traditional Bedouin dinner, slept in cloth tents, and sang songs around a campfire.