Opening the Door to the Sahara

The top three reasons I love my job: adventure, passion, and people. Our trip to Ouarzazate was comprised of all three. In January, we journeyed south to this beautiful city on the edge of the world’s vastest desert.

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With  a crew of four humans (Robert and Julie, and our friends Bochra and Souad) and two birds (nameless), we traveled through the Tichka, a gorgeous but nauseatingly winding mountain pass. We stopped for a quick meal of sandwiches and bissara (chickpea soup) at a little Amazigh town in the Atlas Mountains. It was such a relief when we finally got to Ouarzazate!

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The next day, while Bochra and Souad were in Darija Tutor trainings, Robert and I explored Ouarzazate. Despite it being the largest city in its region and the site of a major Hollywood studio, Ouarzazate felt like a small town. (Fun fact: Game of Thrones was filmed in Ouarzazate!) There wasn’t any bustling about. People were so friendly and low-key. (Another fun fact: Ouarzazate means “noiselessly,” and it’s also known as The City Without Sound. We could definitely see why!)

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The next day, after wandering around the date palms, we got coffee and coke and wifi at an outdoor cafe, where we got some work done.

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We also explored some shops where we bought some cool jackets. The shopkeepers laughed at our terrible Darija, and then forced us to wear these Saharan outfits.

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In the afternoon, we finally got to the reason for our Ouarzazate trip! Bochra and I are launching a storytelling project together, with the support of PC Morocco’s Language and Cultural Coordinator. We sat down to meet with Said, the LCC, and talk about our project. Souad, Bochra’s sister, also wanted in—which I’m super happy about. It was awesome! I can’t wait to share more details about this project with you all after this month (Bochra and I are attending a Project Development and Management Training at the end of April, where we’ll flesh out more details!)

Bochra is literally one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I feel so lucky that I became friends with her! We are so much alike. We have all of the same passions: storytelling, culture, feminism, literature. When someone randomly sends me a Dropbox full of gender studies e-books for my Kindle, I know that we’re soul sisters! 😉 This is her blog.

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Khuti (my sister) Bochra and I on the Tichka

On the trip, we also met a group of wonderful Belgian tourists. We ended up hanging out with them quite a bit.

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The day we had to leave Ouarzazate, all the bus tickets in the entire city were sold out. Seriously. It was horrible. But luckily, our new Belgian friends suggested that we travel with them. And because Souad was leaving our group to go even more south to their hometown, we had the perfect number for a grand taxi! So that’s how three Belgians, two Americans, and one Moroccan squished themselves into the passenger seats of a beat up old Mercedes.

Travel tip! If you’re going through the Tichka and you can afford it, choose a grand taxi over a bus! We hated the bus with a burning passion, but the taxi was super fun. Plus, if you know Darija, you can ask the taxi driver to stop for a break along a gorgeous abandoned cliffside. We got a breather and several selfies, haha.

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It took us a year into living in Morocco for us to finally venture down into the Sahara, but we loved our trip and we will definitely be back.

It was a grand adventure trip to attend a work meeting about something I’m super passionate about with the best project partners I could ever imagine. So a complete success all around, and a beautiful reminder of why we’re here!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

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