Before I went to Morocco, I pictured myself riding a camel in the Sahara Desert surrounded by miles of golden hued sand dunes, glamping in a luxurious Berber tent, watching the sunset and gazing upon the stars at night.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to realize that dream due to time constraints. Based on my research, Sahara Desert is far from Marrakech, where it takes days of driving before reaching it. Also my son wanted to go to Madrid and the two days we spent there took up all the time I would’ve allotted for a desert adventure.
Given all that, I was still determined to ride a camel! Sahara Desert or not, I was going to fulfill my bucket list and make it a dream-come-true. With all the crazies and feels I’ve had on Morocco for many years, I think the obsession had extended to camels, similar feeling I had on yaks. When I was planning a hiking trip to the Everest region in Nepal years ago, I was just as excited about the yaks as the trek itself (unfortunately, Nepal didn’t happen….or rather it hasn’t happened…yet).
My last day in Morocco was quite hectic. In the morning, I met my guide for a city tour in Marrakech. He was much older than the previous guides I’ve had and not too friendly either. He made sure I got the message that he was there as my guide, to take me sightseeing, and not as my photographer (lol). “These iPhones are much too complicated,” he muttered under his breath each time I handed him my phone. 😂😂😂
Oh well, let me just tell you how my day went….
Our first destination was at Jardin Majorelle, known for the beautiful gardens but more so for the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent. (My guide ditched me at the entrance and was on my own the whole time).
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé first discovered Jardin Majorelle during their first trip to Marrakech in 1966. In 1980, they bought the garden when they heard it was going to be turned into a hotel complex. They both undertook the restoration to keep its original concept. Today, it is one of the most visited sites in Morocco. In spite of the many visitors, the garden is still a haven of serenity—the blue colors that dominate the scene, lush colorful flowers and chirping birds surround the whole place.
After visiting Jardin Majorelle, our next stop was at Bahia Palace which means “palace of the beautiful, the brilliant” in Arabic. Built for a Moroccan sultan, it was the largest and most luxurious palace at its time. This architectural beauty spreads over almost eight hectares, each room had touches of Arabic and Moroccan design. What got my attention was a court for his harem, although he did name the palace after his wife. I wondered how all the concubines got along. I imagined the quarrels and jealousies among them….must be tough to compete for one man’s attention. And why is it that in the history of mankind, it’s always the men who get to have this privilege? How does a harem of male concubines sound? 😂
Okaaaay….back to my tour! Tired from the two hours I spent at the palace, I was now thinking about lunch. My guide took me to Jemaa el-Fnaa (a square and market place in Marrakesh’s medina quarter) to find a restaurant. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so crazy during the day but I heard it gets pretty wild at night. I saw those uber persuasive vendors selling all kinds of trinkets, following tourists everywhere trying to convince them to buy. Thank goodness no one followed me. Perhaps my guide scared them off haha! Speaking of my guide, he brought me to a restaurant that didn’t look too appealing for my taste. I requested to go somewhere that had a terrace so that I could people watch overlooking the square, while I eat my last meal of chicken tagine.
I had enough time to go shopping at the souk after lunch before going to Palmeraie for my much-awaited camel ride adventure!
After buying a few souvenirs, it was time for me to bid farewell to my guide. I don’t think I’d miss him much but I wished him well. My driver, Saíd, and I met up at the square and drove to Palmeraie, a palm oasis outside Marrakech. I didn’t have any expectations but when we arrived, I was surprised to see so many camels in my life. I envisioned there would be flocks of tourists but surprisingly, there was only me and a few people (only about 3-4). The camel guide, a young Berber man in his late twenties, showed up and introduced me to my camel named Michael. It was amusing to think that they named their camels with western names, I suppose to make it easier for tourists to remember. One of the men gave me a long blue kaftan to wear and used my scarf to wrap around my head.
Looking at me slightly bemused, my guide laughed heartily upon hearing me scream when the camel abruptly began to stand up. I became afraid as I didn’t realize how high I was from the ground. I reminded myself to suck it up, whatever fear I was feeling.
Umm…acrophobia, perhaps? I really didn’t care!
My guide pulled the rope that was tied on the camel and we began the adventure.
My guide began his interrogation about me: where I live, why I was there alone, how old I am, etc. The age threw him off for a loop and accused me of lying. I laughed and told him I have a 20 year old son in college. It was funny to see his reaction. I’m glad my guide began to warm up (he was a little stand-offish initially) as we had some lively conversation during the two hour palm desert ride.
We stopped at a Berber house, where a woman was waiting for us outside. She welcomed us inside her home, offered me tea and bread with honey. I was way too hot to drink the mint tea and too full to eat the bread. We sat in her living room for about 15 minutes while I listened to the woman and my guide converse in Arabic. Then when he decided it was time to go, I thanked her for her hospitality.
My guide made this for me from a palm leaf
It was late in the afternoon when Saíd brought me back to my hotel. I had enough time to rest before my 1:55am flight to Madrid. He later picked me up at 10:30pm to bring me to Marrakech Menara International Airport.
When my plane took off from Marrakech, I contemplated on the amazing journey I just had in the past ten days: experiencing college life at Oxford University, a gastronomic tour in Madrid, and exploring all of the imperial cities of Morocco! It was also wild to think that in within the next 24 hours, I would be in three continents, three countries, three cities, and three airports!