Our resting place on the first night was a lovely Riad in Ouarzazate, with some of the most hospitable humans I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. I learnt that Islam in a peaceful country like Morocco is a truly powerful cultural influence, everyone’s greetings were followed with sincere and heartfelt welcoming thanks, all of our goodbyes were followed with 'see you again, Insha’allah’. As an entirely atheist man, the presence of their God in my surroundings was an interesting perspective to be exposed to, I really enjoyed their energy. Positivity and gratefulness could be found in every room of every building that we had visited thus far, these people were filled with hope and love. It's really important to understand that while I felt this way, there were still some occasions when Nicole felt uncomfortable and was approached with a different manner to the way that I, or the other male members of the team were. Cultural differences become more apparent the further afield we all travel, the key is to understand them, their reasonings and how we approach them objectively in each individual instance. Everyone in Morocco seemed to have a warm heart and at their core, filled their interactions with kindness. Nicole and I spoke about the way that she had been spoken to, or a lack thereof, we both understood. We both view things in a similar sense on an objective level, cultures are vastly different in different parts of the world. The men seemed to almost feel intimidated by Nicole, as she was taller than a lot of the men there and her appearance would have seemed quite alien, especially in the rural areas of the small deserts. It was interesting to see the dynamic of how people interact with new people and cultures, I think they were learning as much from us as we were from them. Tolerance of other ideas and attempting to understand them is a key part in formulating our own views, belief systems and paths. It led us onto an introspective series of thoughts, which benefitted us all greatly.
The food in these smaller areas seemed to be created with such care. The Moroccan crepes, honey and jams were unbelievable. The richness of the flavours were so prominent and the Moroccan tea quickly became my go-to beverage.
We left early in the morning, to carry on toward the Todgha Gorges, among the Dades. The gorges were surreal, with a small road running through the centre, you could walk all the way through the steepest sections of the incredible valley. There were spectacular views of the river that ran through the middle of the pass. We were met there by a herd of goats, running toward the water to quench their thirst and cool themselves down, away from the blistering sunshine. It was an incredible sight to behold. The road to the Sahara was a long and barren one, with very few settlements along the way. The feeling that we were imminently approaching an iconic part of the earth, had really started to sink in, at this point. Moha asked us where we’d like to stop to have lunch before reaching the desert, as we wouldn’t be able to eat until the evening, otherwise. He suggested that we visit the village where he lives, as he’d be able to prepare a special meal for us, with the help of his friends and a few locals. We all felt that this would be a great way to experience real Moroccan traditional cuisine, so we unanimously agreed to Moha’s idea. We were not to be disappointed. Not in the slightest. We arrived in the village, a very small settlement with some old & beaten up buildings, dusty roads and closed-off shopfronts. Moha told us that we were going to go to a local bakery, where our meal was being prepared, so we headed toward a small unmarked doorway in the middle of the village, where our meal was waiting for us. A stone-fire bread oven illuminated the dark room, lit by burning coals and fragranced by all of the spices of the Sahara.. They had prepared a large Berber ‘calzone' for us. It looked absolutely incredible. We took our lunch over to Moha’s house, where we were greeted by his family, in their small and humble home. We talked of life in Morocco and ate the local food together, sharing a moment that I’ll never be able to forget, a moment I’ll cherish for all the days that I live. Time to go.