After leaving Ouarzazate’s town proper we went on to a casbah that is displayed on the 50 note dirham.

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It is gorgeous and felt like a movie set to me – – set up perfectly for a tourist like me to take photos. That’s not to take anything away from the beauty of the place, I mean, it is a real casbah that is hundreds and hundreds of years old, but it just felt contrived. Well, *surprise* *surprise*! It has been used in movies whenever a casbah is needed.

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It would seem that it is always at the ready for the next movie. The setting of this casbah is in a valley with palm trees all around. A juxtaposition with the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains in the not-too distance.

From the casbah we continued driving into the mountains to a place with rock formations that are called affectionately ‘Monkey Fingers’. No wonder!

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Very picturesque and spectacular! We continued on down the road where we were informed we’d be taking a walk through the countryside and then in to a Berber village. “But just walk and watch the people participate in their daily life without disturbing them,” Mokhtar said. It was a sunny day and it was a perfect thing for us to do! Mohammad, our guide met us and led us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through this Berber village pointing out various herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and cilantro. He gathered bunches of thyme for Berber Tea later, he said. Turns out the Berber tea was for us! He had us to his home after our walk to enjoy tea and cookies together. What a special treat! First it was special because that tea with thyme was unbelievable! So tasty. The tea is a regular Chinese green tea but with the thyme added, it takes on a whole new flavor. And I think Moroccan thyme is much different – – drier, less green, more sage-y. Secondly, to be invited in to this man’s home and to meet his family (his father and apparent niece) was just incredible! We drank tea, ate little barely sweetened cookies as well as coconut wafer cookies (my new favorite!), and looked at books he has of past tours he’s guided. It didn’t hurt that he was one of the most attractive men I’ve seen in Morocco, or anywhere for that matter!

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We continued walking to our hotel a mile or so down the road and enjoyed the solitude and beauty along the way. What a heavenly place! A place I will never forget.

The hotel was comfortable and hospitable. We met in Mokhtar’s room for wine and olives before dinner, which was a great bonding experience for all of us since we were only one day in to the journey. Plus, we were sneaking because the hotel has a bar and forbade us to bring in our own liquor. It was clear that this group was not going to be daunted by that rule! We immediately broke the rule by sneaking it up in various baggage. It was a lot fun. During our dinner there was a French group at the next table. They were horrified at the fun we were having – – at our raucous laughter: our traveling group along with our guide, Mokhtar, and our driver, Achmed. We were a happy group as we proceeded to the bar with our drums, castanets, and Richard’s flute! And the hotel staff followed for what turned out to be arguably the happiest day/evening of my entire life! The guys jammed on drums and Richard improvised on the flute (beautifully and enthusiastically) as Achmed played the castanets. What an amazing night! I remember thinking over and over, ‘This is the happiest I have ever been or could ever hope to be!’ No exaggeration! It was a great day and a fantastic night that just made me plain happy. And thinking about it now conjures up that wonderful feeling all over again. Ah, traveling! There is nothing like it.

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