Travels

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Sahara Expedition Part 4: Engulfed by the Desert

Tue, 10/08/2013 - 09:57 -- Jnane Tamsna

The desert has engulfed us within fifteen minutes of our departure from Merzouga but we have a two hour camel ride in front of us. Our final destination will be a campsite set up by relatives of Hassan and Hamid, nomads who spend a large part of their life in the Sahara and occasionally come out to border towns such as Merzouga and Hassilabied.

Since we left at 5 p.m. the desert is much cooler than we anticipated. The camel ride is actually very enjoyable as we roll up and down sand dunes while enjoying the views at the peaks and admiring the sheer size of the dunes in the troughs.

Having seen Lawrence of Arabia a few weeks before our journey we thought this would be a real adventure that would seriously test our resilience, but this part of the Sahara is very mild at this time of year. A t-shirt and jeans are perfect for the daytime, and a simple sweater sufficient for nighttime.

It is hard to tame this part of the world with modern technology, since the continually shifting dunes make it hard to build roads and four-wheel drives tend to get stuck or turn over on the steep slopes. But our camels just stroll through the desert as easily as anyone would stroll along the historical ramparts of Marrakech.

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Sahara Expedition Part 3: Entering the Desert...

Sun, 10/06/2013 - 17:58 -- Jnane Tamsna

Once we drive into Merzouga (a small village on the edge of the Sahara), we find many locals offering camel rides into the desert. After speaking to various individuals and negotiating a little bit we meet Hamid, a very friendly Amazight willing to bring us into the Sahara for 30 Euros.

Hamid is so nice that he shows us the nearby village of Hassilbiad and tells us where we can get lunch for a reasonable price. After we finish our meal, he leaves to prepare for the journey.

We meet him again at five pm. He introduces us to his friend Hassan, who will bring us to the camp site, and the three camels we will be riding. Shortly after, we start riding into the Sahara.

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Sahara Expedition Part 2: Merzouga

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 17:10 -- Jnane Tamsna

The next morning we wake up early to have breakfast on the roof of our guest house. The view is truly breathtaking. The Sahara is known for its amazing beauty, but the scene in front of us goes beyond our wildest imagination.

It seems as though we are standing on the edge of civilization and facing one of the few places that appears to be completely untouched by humanity. Electricity lines and small roads come all the way to our small town and connect it to the rest of the country. But they do not continue into the Sahara as it is one of the few places that cannot be tamed by civilization.

In front of us there are enormous dunes, the tallest of which reach 150 meters high, and an amazing blue horizon. We decide that our travels cannot stop here and start looking for ways to enter the desert. 

thaismartin's picture

Nomadic Art

Tue, 09/10/2013 - 11:53 -- thaismartin

Growing up at Jnane Tamsna had its perks. As a kid, I’d go on lengthy bike rides through the palm grove accompanied by my trusty dogs to discover our surroundings.  But I did not even have to leave our property to expand my horizons. When I was in the 4th grade, I would run up the stairs of the Moussafir Pavillion as soon as I got back from school. Once at the top, I’d look down from the rooftop terrace into the garden, where painter Phillipe Deltour would be crouched over a large canvas spread out on the ground. At that time, the Belgian artist was using charcoal to draw on recycled cement bag paper. Having always had a passion for art, I just loved being perched on the roof watching him work until the sun went down.

thaismartin's picture

Casblanca's Iconic Mosque

Fri, 08/16/2013 - 12:38 -- thaismartin

Though our calm haven in the Marrakech Palmeraie is the only place we would chose to live in Morocco, weekend escapades are always a breath of fresh air. The last couple times we ventured to Casablanca, we visited its most famous monument: the Hassan II Mosque.  Built in celebration of the former king's 60th birthday and opened in 1993, it rises high above the Atlantic coast, embodying the Koranic verse stating that God's throne was built upon the water. It can hold up to 25,000 worshippers inside and has space for 80,000 more in its courtyards and squares. Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, its minaret is 210m-tall. Though the monument’s design stays true to Islamic tradition, a laser beam shines from the top towards Mecca at night, exemplifying Morocco’s move towards modernity. I took great pleasure in photographing the traditional woodcarving, zellij (tile work) and stucco moulding.

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Sahara Expedition Part 1: Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou

Mon, 08/05/2013 - 15:38 -- Jnane Tamsna

This week we decided to visit the Sahara desert, a place known around the world for its amazing size and incredible beauty. There are many towns and villages which can act as gateways into the Sahara.

We chose to go through the village of Merzouga because the road from Marrakech runs through the Kasbah Aït Benhadou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features a small ksar (village) located on the old caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Enchanted by the charm of this ksar we lost sight of time and ended up hitting the road not long before the sun set.

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Fes

Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:58 -- Jnane Tamsna

Morocco has four imperial cities. The one we visited this week is Fes. Six hours after leaving the Marrakech Palmeraie and driving along some of Morocco's most beautiful backcountry roads we arrived at our destination. Just like Marrakech, Fez has a unique charm that differentiates it from the rest of the country. It has the largest medina (old town) of Morocco and is home to the world's first university.

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Bine El Ouidane

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 11:37 -- Jnane Tamsna

 

Marrakech is surrounded by stunning regions easily accessible by road. One we visited this month is Bine El Ouidane.  After a three-hour drive on backcountry roads that expose the breathtaking landscapes of central Morocco we arrived to our destination.

The region has a large water reservoir set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, surrounded by rolling hills and lush vegetation. After settling down we took three of the kayaks offered by the hotel to explore the lake in front of us. For dinner we enjoyed a delicious chicken tajine prepared with fresh local produce.

The next day we visited the Cascades d’Ouzoud, an area that has a gorgeous waterfall and caves that we unfortunately did not have time to visit. This area of Morocco has some of the most beautiful landscapes we have seen in the country. We highly recommended to anyone wishing to go on a one or two day trip from Jnane Tamsna, our boutique hotel in the Marrakech Palmeraie.

thaismartin's picture

Fez Labyrinth

Thu, 05/23/2013 - 12:14 -- thaismartin

Although I grew up exploring the Marrakech Medina (ancient city), it was still an adventure to have a weekend getaway to explore the winding alleys of the 12th century Fez Medina. The blend of white and cream colored walls reflected the summer sunlight to give the area a soft glow.

Walking through the antique wooden doors of the Attarin Medersa (Koranic School) we entered into an airy courtyard, surrounded by walls covered in intricately hand-carved calligraphy. The Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts & Crafts was an equally impressive showcase of Moroccan craftsmanship.This 14th century foundouk (abode for nomadic traders) has a rooftop terrace with a panoramic view one can enjoy whilst sipping traditional Moroccan mint tea.

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