At 7 am we prepared to motor on to Ouarzazate, a city in south-central Morocco nicknamed "The Door to the Desert". We were told this leg of the journey would involve approximately 5 hours in the vehicle (which, as we learned were very inaccurate estimates). Between stops to view the Atlas Mountains, coffee breaks and mini hikes, we didn't arrive in Ouarzazate until late afternoon.
Our first pit stop was in the Al Haouz province to load up on coffee and treats - and get our first glimpse of the Atlas Mountains.
After a few more hours of slow moving roads, goat traffic jams and the occasional picture pit-stop, we descended upon Ksar d'Ait Ben Haddou. This small village is recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses a few families in clay structure dwellings.
We had lunch in a small restaurant facing the ancient city - a surprise we found that we'd be hiking to shortly after.
We crossed a dried up river bed (the first of MANY) and arrived at the entrance to Ksar d'Ait Ben Haddou - which may look familiar to some. This site has been utilized in a pile of films, including Gladiator, Alexander, The Mummy and many more.
We learned that the 4 remaining families who lived in the ancient city have since moved out (across the river) and now it is primarily used for markets and tourism.
If you look closely at the map you can see it really doesn't make any sense. With 30 Realtors wandering about aimlessly you can imagine some got lost, very easily (me being one of them). There's hidden tunnels, stairs leading every direction and an immense amount of character, culture and history.
The view from the top was i n c r e d i b l e. This was the first time where we started to grasp how VAST the edge of the Sahara was and how we have absolutely zero concept of distance.
From here we continued onto our final destination of the day: Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate is generally the meeting point for any excursion into the Sahara and seems to be a hot-spot for movies as well. We stayed in Le Berbere Palace and let me tell you, it was amazing (also, our last access to running water for a week!)