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Entries about ait ben haddou

Conquering the Atlas Mountains

In the rain, flood, fog, snow, sun...

storm 15 °C
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Well... at least we tried to leave Marrakech... we had downloaded satnavs for our phones, but even they found navigating through the Medina difficult as they didn't seem to understand the concept of one-way streets. We seem trapped inside the walls of the city and so just drove as close to the wall as possible on a parallel road until we found the nearest exit!

Unfortunately outside of the city the driving didn't seem to improve as Moroccan's seem to have zero patience on the roads and certainly don't stick to the highway code as Pete and I do. Not as we experienced it anyway. We got cut up, tailgated, flashed at, pulled out on, beeped at, shouted at and flagged down by what seemed like every other car on the road! It was daunting at first, but Pete soon got used to it and I learned to divert my attention to the scenery and looking out the window!

It had rained in Marrakech the whole night before and was still raining in the morning when we set off. We figured that Morocco isn't that used to the rain because all the roads had flooded.... quite badly. Had the roads not been busy so we were able to follow someone to know how deep the water was, we may have turned around and waited for the waters to recede.

The flooded road

The journey from here didn't get much better as the ascent up and over the Atlas Mountains began and we went deeper and deeper into the fog and rain clouds. This road: the N9 aka Tizi N'Tichka was supposed to one of the most beautiful roads in the world, but unfortunately we couldn't see a thing...


But still, I'd much rather have been in our car than on a tour bus...
Quite a scary sight, the passengers looked shaken up but luckily uninjured

Once we broke over the peak of the mountains the sky began to open and we saw smaller pockets of blue sky...
...I think this was when we decided that we should make sure our plans included a return trip back over this mountain pass on a more sunny day.

We arrived at our guesthouse which was still high in the mountains but at least to the south of them. Riad Irocha was a small guesthouse in Tisseldei, a very sleepy village with only a handful of houses. It was lovely and the owner, Ahmed, was very hospitable.
The clouds finally cleared

We ate some tasty food here and then took a short walk out of the riad down into the village and then to the palmerai (oasis) which was about 5 min walk over the road. The best, and most unusual, part of this village was the geology and rocks. They were incredible as you could see the veins of quartz and metal ores running through them. We dug quite a few bits of quartz out for ourselves which we have on display in our house now. But they are not nearly as striking as how they appeared buried in the rock face.

The following day the weather was glorious and we finally got a glimpse of what we had missed; the snow-capped atlas mountains now behind us...

However, we focused on the day ahead as I had planned for us to visit the iconic Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. A traditional fortress and village built of mud brick and carved into the hillside.

I thought that this might be one of the few places where we would see the traditional mud houses, but as we journeyed from Tisseldei towards it we noted that all the houses we could see were in fact mud/clay houses. They blended into the landscape, clearly made from the mud/clay on which they were built. The only colours we saw to complement this were greens and blues, which only added to the natural charm of the buildings.

Approaching Ait Ben Haddou - which you can just see in the distance

Ait Ben Haddou was spectacular. The setting was firstly amazing. The barren landscape on it's own is beautiful, and very different to other places we had been before, but seeing the Draa river cut through it bordered by a lush green oasis gave such a stark contrast, we would have been happy just visiting to see that! But just across the river was the traditional kasbah, rising out of the ground and up the hillside, in the natural colours we had identified so far...
First spot of the kasbah
Spot the stork's nest!
The intricate carvings also housed smaller birds!

We climbed through the old kasbah, which then turned into a thriving village with many shops. You could climb all the way to the top of the hill and from here the 360 view out over the dessert, kasbah, oasis and snow-capped Atlas mountains was breathtaking...
Playing around with panoramas!

We loved this place and the journey so far inspired us to take ourselves further into the Southern Draa Valley.... However, I had also heard that the Dades river valley through Ouarzazate and Skoura was beautiful, so we took a 1 night detour to Skoura, just east of Ouarzazate.

Posted by Libbytes 04:00 Archived in Morocco Tagged n9 ait_ben_haddou atlas_mountains irocha tizi_n'tichka Comments (0)

The Journey Home (Fly-Eye)

sunny 22 °C
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We decided to begin the journey back to Marakech on the Friday so we could relax more on the Saturday and not have to worry about getting to the airport. The drive wasn't that far, but the roads on the way had been unpredictable so we were playing it safe. We decided to leave straight after the morning camel ride and stop half way for lunch, before staying overnight at our favourite; Ait Ben Haddou. That was so on Saturday we'd only have a 2 hour drive back to Marakech. The plan was perfect....

We started the journey and at around 1pm we stopped at a village just outside Agdz for some lunch. At the table we were both mesmerised by a strange fly. It looked different. It had large eyes that watched you and an open mouth that made it seem to be smiling. Pete 'played' with it for a while, moving his pointed finger in front of it and watching it hover in sync with the movements. It was very strange. Pete even filmed it(!)

Our food came so our attention turned to the table. But at that moment the fly swooped down to Pete's eye level and hovered in front of his face before 'spitting' something into his left eye...

Pete was shocked and not sure of what had just happened. He went to the toilet to look in the mirror. Both of us had a look in his eye and couldn't see a thing. We thought we must be exaggerating what had happened. We waited for a few minutes to see if the sensation in his eye would go, but it only got worse until Pete described the feeling as "wriggling". That got me worried and so I googled 'fly squirts something in eye morocco'... I did not like what I saw and got quite panicky.

Quickly, the strange sensation turned to pain and Pete was soon in agony with the pain of wriggling in his eye.

We checked the maps for hospitals, the closest one was back in Zagora or onward to Ouarzazate, so we decided to continue on with me now driving. Hoping to stop at a pharmacy in Agdz on the way.

We stopped at the first pharmacy we saw and told the people and the resident doctor what had happened. They told us to calm down and that everything was fine. The pharmacist gave Pete some eye drops for conjunctivitis and said it would be fine in a few minutes to an hour. We relaxed slightly, maybe it wasn't so bad. Pete used the drops immediately but felt no relief so about 5 mins down the road on the way out of Agdz we stopped at a second pharmacy. This place was worse and even laughed at us saying that we were being mad. The wriggling feeling Pete could feel lead us to believe that perhaps fly larvae had been deposited into his eye, but the pharmacist said this was not the case and that the drops we had already been given would do the trick.

Reluctantly we drove onward, convinced it was something more serious, and also driven by the pain that Pete was in, we decided to continue on to Ouarzazate hospital...

2 painful and stressful hours later we arrived in Ouarzazate and went to a pharmacy to ask for directions to A&E. The lady at this pharmacy understood us more clearly and told us the situation was very serious and that Pete did in fact have fly larvae in his eye.... She gave us directions to the polyclinic which had an ophthalmologist specialist for emergencies. We went straight there. It took us a while to find, but eventually we were with the doctor and more calm.

The doctors but some special drops and cream into Pete's eye and had a look with a camera. The camera was attached to a tv screen on the wall which I could see but Pete couldn't... I'm glad he couldn't...

When the doctor focused on Pete's eye, you could clearly see about 15 white wiggly larvae with black heads. Pete told me to video the screen, but I honestly was nearly throwing up, it was disgusting. I managed to get one photo of a single worm:

The nurse told us that this was a common problem in Morocco, it is this fly, known as Oestrus Ovis or more commonly a bot fly:
Oestrus Ovis or bot fly

The bot fly is trying to deposit it's larvae into sheep or camel nostrils where they develop fully in the mucus, however during Autumn months they can often mistake human eyes as hosts. It's not serious and usually only leads to conjunctivitis, but there are reports of people losing their eyes, so we are glad we were able to get this dealt with as soon as we were able.

The doctor got as many of the fly larvae out of Pete's eye as he could, but the procedure was painful. He basically just used cotton buds to scrape them out... Pete was left with 3 or 4 in his eye and given steroid drops and cream which he was to apply for the next 2 weeks. The doctor said the drops would paralyse the larvae within 2 days and they would fall out of his eye.

All-in-all it was a pretty horrific experience even for me, so I can only imagine what Pete was feeling. He dealt with it very well and we tried to enjoy the rest of our holiday as best we could. We stayed that night in Ait Ben Haddou again, using the experience of our first visit, we decided to stay at Chez Brahim, one of the houses with a view of the old kasbah and we were not disappointed, it was my favourite place we stayed, simply because of the view.

The next morning we drove back over the atlas mountains, stopping briefly for lunch half way at Café Assanfou, before continuing to the airport in time for our flight home. This time we drove along the N9 Tizi N'Tichka in the sun and as we predicted, it was our new favourite road in Southern Morocco! It's just a shame we couldn't enjoy it more. Pete was in a lot of pain, so we didn't stop often and just tried to get home as soon as we could.

We really enjoyed our Moroccan adventure (apart from the fly lavae bit). The landscapes and scenery of Morocco are inspiring, I had no idea it would be so beautiful. We had a few stresses with the culture differences, the haggling and hassle we received was at times overwhelming, but we tried to be open minded and gave people chances when we could. If we were to come back, I think we would have headed directly to the desert, camped out there and done activities and stargazing. In hindsight, we tried to pack too much into the short week and ended up spending most days driving.

Posted by Libbytes 04:00 Archived in Morocco Tagged ait_ben_haddou atlas_mountains tizi_n_tichka bot_fly oestrus_ovis fly_in_eye Comments (1)

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