After our adventure in the Sahara, we had a long day of travel ahead through valleys and canyons of the Atlas mountains and in to the city of Ourzazate. We took the Tinjdad Road (the north route) towards Tinghir and had a few stops along the way.
We stopped for a bathroom break, tea, and a Panoramic view in Tinghir (Oualkim).
It was a beautiful valley oasis nestled within the Atlas Mountains. However, we did not spend any significant time there and quickly continued on our way to Ourzazate. We got to drive through the Todgha canyons, which rise up 800 feet as sheer cliffs, just outside of Tinghir.
We stopped for lunch briefly at a tourists restaurant which had probably the worst food we had tasted yet – only Moroccon food, extremely bland, and out of most items.
We asked for Coke Zero and they were out. Then, the waiter walked away fro our table and didn’t take half of our orders (we were sitting with the Mexican family today). We had to get up and ask M’hamed to have him come back – only to get our food way too late to even eat it properly. I had a Berber omelette with cheese, which also really threw off the waiter (I added the cheese). It came in a tagine too hot to eat, drenched in butter. Not good.
Our next stop was the Dades Canyons, where we stopped to walk around and have a brief hike. There were many backpackers and rockclimbers in this area, attempting to make their way up and over the cliffs.
There were also shepherds and villages washing clothes in the river.
Of course there were also small kiosks to sell wares to tourists, as this stretch of road was pretty uninhabited to Ourzazate, without many opportunities for meaningful stops.
After this, we continued to Ouarzazate via the road of the thousand Kasbahs, and the Dades Valley, famous for its roses and the yearly Rose Festival. We had a brief stop at a restaurant and rose oil vendor but didn’t linger.
It was a long day of driving and we finally reached Ourzazate around dusk and checked in to our hotel – the Kenzi Azghor. It was terrible. The ground and lobby was nice enough, but the room was a dump with broken furniture and paper thing walls and doors again. At least it was clean. The shower also barely worked, giving but a trickle of water. But, at least we only had one night here. M’hamed explained on the way that the hotel was simple in order to properly set out expectations, and that their really weren’t any other great options in Ourzazate since it stopped being a Hollywood film destination. It was sad to see that the entertainment industry allure of Ourzazate came and went, leaving a lot of unemployment in the area (as high as 20-25%).
We had a nice dinner with several other couples on our Gate 1 trip – Heidi and Danny who we also went to the Sahara with; Ravi and Nalini who kindly offered to trade seats when I wasn’t feeling well; and Alba and Diego, a couple we had talked to a few times before from New York City. Ravi ordered several bottles of wine for the table and pretty soon we were all laughing and having a great time. We got a few side-glances from other tables for our raucousness, so after the mediocre buffet, we moved in to the lounge area where a DJ was playing Arabic music.
There was a small dance floor and there was already a group of Arabic speaking people dancing who invited us to join them. We spent until about 11PM dancing, drinking some more wine that Diego ordered, and enjoying ourselves. I was feeling pretty miserable because of my head cold however, so we didn’t want to stay out too late.
Despite our best efforts to sleep early and long, we got no sleep at all. It was a combination of fever-dreams and being ill with the walls being so thin, and hearing every single conversation in the hallway all night, including the wake-up call of another tour group at 530AM. It was the worst hotel and the worst night of the trip, even though we had fun with the people on our tour.