Days 36-37: The Route of 1000 Kasbahs

After Josef dropped me off back in Erfoud, Driss drove us to Todra Gorges.  The beautiful valleys in the High Atlas Mountains delivered the backdrop to the most beautiful oasis you’ll ever see.  The oasis stretches for miles upon miles alongside the great Atlas Mountains.

We caught a mountain climber trying to scale the 600 feet high walls of the Todra Gorges.  It gave for a great opportunity to take a different kind of photo.  I can’t remember where Driss told me the climber was from.  I think he was Dutch or something…

Everywhere you look in the gorge, you’ll find names etched or spray painted into the mountain walls.  This is a beautiful place where people just want the world to know, “I was here.” 

That evening, Driss dropped me off at Xaluca Dades…one of the most amazing suites I’ve ever stayed in.  The terrace to my room offered an amazing view of the town below with the Atlas Mountains against the skyline.

At this part of my trip, I was starting to get really ill (the illness was not related to Morocco…it was from the cigarette smoke in Paris).  It was in Xaluca Dades that I wrote about Hamid and our magical night.  Relaying bits of the story on to the tourists over breakfast the next morning, all I could see was that the story had to be told and retold.  Not too many love stories are that magical.  The way the women (and men) sighed at the tale of my night with Hamid told me that I had to write the story. 

After breakfast, we headed off to Ouarzazate along the Route of 1000 Kasbahs. 

Ouarzazate…that’s where Gladiator, Prince of Persia and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.  Ouarzazate is actually very important in this journey through Morocco.  Why?  Because it was the setting from Gladiator that had me dreaming that one day I would go to Morocco.

Imagine that feeling when you’re standing in the exact spot where Russell Crowe was filming one of the most important films that would help inspire a dream within your soul.  That is how important Ouarzazate is on this journey.

Right now, Ouarzazate is #1 on my list of places I will probably end up moving to in Morocco.  In April, I’ll be making my final decision.  Why Ouarzazate?  It’s the Hollywood of Morocco.  It’s at the top of my list because a) it’s near Hamid, b) it’s near the sand dunes, and c) if I need a job, I can always work in film…especially when an American film company comes to town.

It’s also the halfway point between Erfoud and Marrakech.  That means that I can have the best of both worlds…the desert and the big city.  BUT once again, we’ll decide in April where I’m moving.  I may end up in Rabat or at some other coastal town if the sea calls to me more. 

Standing in the same spot as where Gladiator was filmed was surreal.  You can’t help but think…that film was the reason why I went to Morocco to begin with.  There was something about those Moroccan scenes that kept calling to me…telling me to go to Morocco.  The movie planted the seed in my mind…and it grew for the next decade. 

If you look at the timing…I fell in love the day before with a nomad.  The next day I’m realizing I didn’t just fall in love with a nomad…I fell in love with Morocco.  That love for Morocco is much deeper and more incredible than just falling for some guy.

I became connected with Morocco in ways that you cannot even imagine.  I believe Paulo Coelho calls it connecting with the soul of the world.  That was what was happening while I was standing in the same place that called to me years before.  I fell in love with Morocco in the same place I heard Morocco calling for me from a scene in Gladiator.

I saw Gladiator 3 times in the movie theater.  I didn’t think I would like it when I first saw it.  My friends would go to the midnight showing.  I’d fall asleep after that scene from Morocco.  I went to the movie just for that scene (and to see that fine looking man, Russell Crowe). 

Would you believe that a few months after Gladiator, I was watching Russell Crowe at the House of Blues in Chicago with my mom?  He dedicated “Somebody Else’s Princess” to me.  Why?  Because I was humiliated to be a woman at that show.  There was so much estrogen in that room…the way the women were acting…I was embarrassed to be a woman.

Crowe noticed my embarrassment.  He had just had a pair of panties thrown at his head.  He was pissed.  But then he saw me and saw how disgusted I was at that display.  He pointed right at me and said, “This next song’s for you.”

My mom still talks about that moment to this day! 


This, of course, was a month before 9/11.  You know…that day that changed the lives of so many people.  That day was the day that I realized that life is short…we have to pursue our dreams and do everything we can to make our dreams a reality.

I guess the point in talking about Gladiator and Russell Crowe…dreams start with a moment.  The seed was planted.  It began as a dream of a place far away.  I kept seeing myself married with a family in a kasbah or riad in Morocco.  I dreamt of Morocco for a very long time.  I kept saying, “Someday.” 

Someday finally came and I not only made a dream come true, but I found myself there.  My soul finally felt like it had gone home.  Now, all I can think about is the moment I can get back there.  Morocco started calling for me while I was watching Gladiator…and it was in that exact spot I saw in the movie that I knew I was home.

Without ado…here are the last of the photos before we hit Marrakech.  Oh, and the collage of photos of Crowe…that’s the spot where they filmed Gladiator.  They have a sign there with all of the photos posted.  Guess you can say that the movie is still a great reminder of a great movie there in Morocco.  For me, it just made me realize the journey I’ve been on and how I had finally come home.

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