Day Six: Merzouga, El Joref, Erfoud, Todgha Gorges, Qalaat Magoona, Ouarzazate [May 31st 2013, Friday]

Worcester State University Faculty Led Morocco Program – 2013 (Day 6)

This morning dawned very windy and sandy. Each of us trekked up the slight hill from the tents outside to the building to have breakfast. The wind was starting to die down (finally). Breakfast was brief and we said our goodbyes to our homies out in the desert.

—- *Blog Photographs are Courtesy of Christopher Lippmann, one of thirteen WSU Morocco 2013 Travelers | **Video Links are short ‘clips’ uploaded from the entire WSU Group to our WSU Flickr Account to enhance the blog experience. —-


Some of us still had school supplies in our gear so we gave them to the men who performed for us last night so they could give them to their children. They were very kind to us and showed us how to tie up the turbans in Moroccan fashion for our last photo opportunity out in the sand dunes. It was quite comical seeing all of us running around in the reddish sand jumping and cheering for our photos. It was so much fun though!

Here is a link to learn more about where we stayed:

A view in the morning after the sandstorm of the terrace at the Sand-Fish location where we did camel trekking and stayed in the bivouac tents.
After our breakfast, saying goodbye to our new Merzouga friends.
Yeah! Worcester State University rocks!

Flickr Video: “In the Desert” —

Check out how windy it is out in the Sahara Dunes…
A group shot at the bivouac tents where we slept last night during the sandstorm.

“Tent Accomodations” – Flickr Video:

Christopher and Pat out in the dunes.
We ran into a caravan of camels leaving Sand-Fish.

After thanking everyone for their kindnesses, we boarded the van again to take of on the next leg of our journey. We were driving through a small town outside of Merzouga called El Joref (or Al Jarf) and we learned about the drop out rate of the children that went to school there. It really isn’t their fault… there is no real means of transportation for parents to get their kids to school and there are no school buses. Some kids need to walk 5km to school. People have donated many bikes to the children so that they are able to get to school which is why we saw so many of them biking around.

Pat gifting a soccer ball to a group of local children.

We found a small group of young boys ranging in age from maybe 8-12 years old. Pat was the first person to give away one of the first soccer balls that we brought with us on our trip.

Precious. Olivia and Intisar sharing a quiet moment outside of Intisar’s family tent.
Holding Intissar’s hand. Our henna is made from the same stuff.
Intissar sits on Omar’s lap while Casandra and Kayla start teaching her hand games.

Later on we stopped at a colorful tent on the road by an ancient water system. There is an underground network of waterways interconnected and this family lives there to show a plaque in various languages explaining what the place is. The family consisted of a little girl around age four named Intissar (my spelling is probably way off – but it means Victorious in Arabic), her father and his mother. The old woman made us at home in her tent and gave us cups of delicious tea. This tea served to us she claimed was supposed to be able to cure something like 42 different ailments. She was clucking at her son saying that he was not being hospitable and made Mohamed laugh.

Panoramic of the desert outside of Merzouga.

Right behind their home tent, there was an old irrigation system under the ground connected by different vertical shafts. This is called Qanat. They created a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation. It was interesting to walk up to one of the holes and see how far down into the ground shaft they went in order to hit a water source.

A deep qanat irrigation well.


Intissar’s Grandmother at their home.
Pat is deciding on which piece of artwork to purchase from the family.
Casandra looks like she is finally home.

Everyone in the group bought little trinkets from the family’s tent — like the paintings that were stretched over cloth. Everything was overpriced, but we gladly paid the asking price without haggling so that we could give a little donation to the family.

There’s always a little time to play a game and maybe sing a song or two.

I personally gave a piece of jewelry as gifts to Intissar, her father and her grandmother. they were a necklace for Intissar, a ring for the father, a bracelet for the grandmother. Intassar was extremely smart, the girls in the group taught her how to snap her fingers within a few minutes.

We all wanted to play with her, she was very precious.

The grandmother gifted us with a generous pinch of the medicinal tea wrapped in plastic to each of us. It was kind of her to gift us with this.

We drove a lot this day and we were all beat from being out in the desert. I don’t think anyone really slept last night because of the sandstorm outside. Most of us slept while we could between Merzouga and Ouarzazate. At this time, I did not have a pen so I did not write anything in the book, I simply left pages blank with spaces to write in the details later on once we returned to ‘civilization’. Higher and higher we drove into the Atlas Mountains.


Mohamed and Pat survey the landscape.

We took a side trip through the Todgha Gorges to a freezing, broad stream. There were many people here hanging out – it appears to be a popular tourist spot. The scenery is amazing out here in the mountains.

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Group shot at the Todgha Gorges.

Graffiti covered the walls of the mountain cliffs. We wrote ‘WSU Was Here’ again. Casandra and Joe were climbing the rocks all over the place. Patrick and Tim were doing the camel walk in the water. That water was cold!

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On to the next location….

WSU challenges you to a soccer match!

We stopped at one small town named Qalaat Magoona. This town is known for its roses. The town thrives off of its rose products. There were so many things made with roses it was unbelievable. Rose perfume, shampoo, lotions and oils. Everything was packaged in pink. The weather up to this point had been perfect for our trip but it decided to sprinkle a little bit while we were in town shopping. There was a small square where the girls played with a rambunctious kitten and many people in the group played a game of soccer with some kids. We gave them the soccer ball to share as a gift and some school supplies and candy too.

After our soccer game with the children of Qalaat Magoona. Smile!

One boy wanted us to come visit his karate club, so he jumped into our van with us to give directions. We all piled out and were treated to a little sparring session. All of the students were happy to see us and sang us songs.

Joe presents gifts to the teacher at the karate center.
The Karate Kids!

They were very well trained and all wanted to show off for us, begging their teacher to let them spar one another.We were on a tight schedule so we needed to go. We took quick pictures with the kids (all of them crammed into one room, perhaps 50 kids, all ages). We gave them what school supplies we had left. I felt bad that I had nothing left so I gave some dirham to help kids buy new kimonos.

We left feeling good, but we wanted to stay.

Omar showing off his moves during a late night soccer match.
Christopher presents a soccer ball to the kids on the street after a quick matchup.

We continued driving and it was after darkness fell that we found another group of young boys playing with a dilapidated soccer ball (soccer of course — is a religion). We all piled out again and the guys played a quick game while I snapped a few photos. It was very fun to give the balls away to the kids.

Our first view of Hollywood sets in Ouarzazate, Morocco. These walls were used during scenes of Game of Thrones!

We kept driving and arrived late to our next destination, our hotel called ‘Le Perle du Sud’ or ‘The Pearl of the South’ in Ouarzazate! Our luggage was hauled upstairs to our rooms where we got a glimpse of our opulent rooms. This is by far my favorite hotel on our trip! We dropped off our luggage and ran downstairs for dinner where there were still many people dining even though it was probably between 10:30-11:00pm at night. After glutting ourselves, we went outside to check out the pool that was surrounded by high private walls and lush greenery.

Meghan and Casandra walk on water at Le Perle Du Sud Hotel.

Casandra and Meaghan were walking on little pedestals under the water so from a distance it looked like they were walking on water. Christopher snapped a few shots of them. We were all contemplating going to a swim but were waayy too tired. We decided to retire to our room in order to update our emails to family since we did not have any internet connection for the past few days.

Bed… — I cannot wait to see what Moroccan Hollywood has in store for us tomorrow!


About wheresmrmerlin

I am an English Graduate from Worcester State University with a background in various things. I attended college at Atlantic Union College as a Biology Major with my heart set on becoming a Veterinarian. I love all animals - I am owned by two cats; Yoda and Sparta, a leopard gecko named Joe, and a ball python named Voldemort. During my first year as an Undergraduate student at AUC, one of my favorite professors lamented the fact that I was such a creative writer and pleaded with me to further a career with writing instead of science. Her words rooted into my soul. The next year I transferred to Fitchburg State University, still a Biology Major. Halfway through the year I made the commitment to switch my concentration to teaching Secondary Education in English. I attended FSU for a few years off and on. I transferred my degree to Worcester State University to be closer to home. Seven long college years later, I finally graduated with an Undergraduate Degree in English from WSU in 2011. After much debate and internal struggle, I returned to school in the Fall of 2012 to continue my education at WSU in their Graduate Non-Profit Management Program. I hope to finish my Program with WSU by 2015. Right now I am busy writing, working, teaching my cats good manners, crafting and planning a wedding for next summer. I look forward to travelling more, now that I have gotten the travel bug from visiting Morocco this past summer through an Annual Study Abroad Faculty Led Program that Worcester State University offers. It was truly a life changing experience that allowed me to make many good friends. I cannot wait to see what other adventures life brings my way.
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