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This was another bright and early morning for us. Gian came over the night before and left us with everything we'd need for breakfast. Mike and I groggily ate the pastries and cake (cake for breakfast is definitely a thing in Morocco), attempted and failed to make our own tea, and were met at the door by our driver Mohammed at 7:30 a.m. He told us he'd had a difficult time finding the place (we NEVER would have found it without the help of our driver on the first day) but that Gian had talked him through it over the phone, proving yet again that she was so much more than a housekeeper.
We walked with Mohammed to the main square where his SUV was parked and started the long 400 kilometer drive to camp. Luckily my parents had the foresight to gift me with a pressure-point anti-nausea bracelet before the trip, because the drive through the Atlas Mountains was incredibly windy. We made stops along the way to stretch our legs and take in the rugged beauty of the mountains. No matter where we stopped, there was always someone by the side of the road with something to sell — usually dates. Though I didn't buy any, I felt like I was in the right country as someone who loves eating dates.
We stopped and walked around in Ait-Ben-Haddou, part of the Ouarzazate province, This collection of dwellings is along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech and was used as the backdrop for scenes in movies like Lawrence of Arabia. The architecture was beautiful and the weather was glorious, but I have to tell you: I was sweating my clothes off. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that I didn't need to spend the entire eight-hour day wearing the heavy clothes I'd want for the camel ride that evening, so there I was on a beautiful 78-degree day with jeans, wool socks, tall boots, long sleeves, and a vest. Needless to say, I was a little uncomfortable.
We stopped for lunch (salad, vegetarian couscous, fruit) and I lost a little more sweat in the sunshine before getting back in the car and continuing the trip.
We took one last stop to catch another view of the Atlas Mountains before we drove to the spot where we'd meet our camels. (Mohammed, by the way, was lovely and enjoyed speaking both English and German with us (the latter after he found out about Mike's background). He was especially excited when he learned a new English word, like during a conversation about cheese when he heard "cheddar" for the first time.)
We finally reached our destination. Our guide's name was Hasson and he led the camels that Mike and I rode to camp. It was a very bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable ride, but all of that was secondary to the fact that we were really there, riding camels in Africa. (!)
When we arrived at camp there was a big group of other tourists (mostly German with a sprinkling of English and Japanese). The staff fed us tea, nuts and dates (you never have to go long before your next date in Morocco) and entertained us with African music in an open tent.
We were served dinner (soup, vegetarian tagine, fruit) in a separate tent. The tent where Mike and I stayed was private and plush, with electricity and warm blankets on the bed. The bathrooms also had flushing toilets and showers, which is something I did not expect to see in the middle of the African desert. After dinner, our hosts lit a bonfire and played more music and eventually we went to bed — though several dogs stayed up all night barking and the Germans stayed up playing music until the wee hours.