Moroccan Argan Oil, A Bag of Snakes, and a Hollywood Movie Set
Friend Terry Hall is a big reason I travel as much as I do today. Another Friend, Jim Read, and him have led the way on many of our trips. On this trip, Terry had found a package where we could have a “Three Hour” ride from Marrakesh to the desert, where we would climb on camels and ride to a camp where we would spend the night with a tribe of Berbers. Sounded Great! Everyone was in.
So the day came when we were to take our “3-hour” ride out to the desert and we were all excited. We made our way from The Riad to the street where we were to meet our driver, where he greeted us with a 10-12-year old Astro mini-van. What seemed like bad luck by getting the very back bench seat in the van, turned out to be a god-send. (More on that later) We all climbed in and began our journey towards the Atlas Mountains. The journey started off innocently enough, normal sites leaving a city and entering the countryside, about an hour and half in, and right at the base of the mountains, we made a pit stop. Turns our Moroccan Argan Oil is made in this little roadside area. I had seen Moroccan argan oil in some shampoo and other moisturizing creams that my wife had at home. So, I had a real basic idea of what it was, but no idea what it came from and how it was made. Turns out we were about to get a quick tutorial. Argan oil comes from a special nut grown in Morocco, goats then eat them out of the trees. Goats could be seen in the trees, eating the nuts. The real trick to making the oil was the information that was shared next, after the goat’s digest and expel the nuts in their waste, the natives go and collect the eaten nuts, and then grind and mill them into a peanut buttery substance that is then turned into the oil. Quite an amazing example of how local people make a wonderful product that is used worldwide.
We then began our ascent into the Atlas Mountains on what we were told is one of the ten most dangerous roads in the world. Cadillac did a commercial on these roads showing the braking power and handling of its latest model that year on the swaybacked curves that climbed up the steep grades then looked out over drop-offs of up to 5000 feet, with no guard rails. For those in the van with a fear of heights, it was a daunting ride. We started to descend into what seemed like an ancient city guarding the beginning of the desert. We have now been traveling for four hours, so we figured we were here. As our driver slowed down to give us some photo ops, a local tribesman, we assumed, dressed in desert garb and carrying a large bag approached the van. We were out taking pictures and did not understand what he was asking. He then opened the bag and we found it was full of snakes. He was vagabond who was trying to get us to take pictures of his snakes and give him money. We quickly got back in the van and were taken to a nearby restaurant, that we thought was where we would be soon climbing on camels.
We were seated in the restaurant and ordered drinks and food. While waiting, a group of people, we assumed a large family, began to come in. They were perspiring quite a bit and a few of the kids were in tears. This made us quite nervous, because we were convinced they had just gotten back from the camel ride. We quickly finished our food, and we were gathering in the hallway, we notice a large hand painted map. We started asking the driver where we were and where the camels were. He laughed and said we were only halfway to where the camels were. Somewhat stunned, and everyone looking at Friend Terry, took to our cell phones, and googled the Segora Desert, our destination. To our amazement, Google maps showed where we were, but then as we slowly scrolled across the map, it went blank…. our destination was not shown by google maps. We were now officially entering the unknown and were more than a little worried about climbing in the 10-year-old astro van for another 4 hours of comfortable riding (The back seat was a god-send at this point, because the middle seat had an uncomfortable hump that those three guys had to keep alternating to get away from). The second half of the ride is foggy, what I remember most is that we went by an abandoned Hollywood movie set in Ouarzazete Movies such as Gladiator, The Mummy, and Game of Thrones have been filmed there. We did make it to the camels around 6 pm, with a temperature of 120 degrees and began our night in the desert.
Find Part 5 here.