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March 8, 2017

So today we took a 4×4 tour to the Asni Ouirgane valley.  Suman, Brien, Nina and I climbed into a large SUV and our driver took us toward the mountains.  We followed the same highway we took to hike in the High Atlas Mountains.  We made stops a few viewpoints for views of the farmland and surrounding mountains, until eventually we turned off onto a dirt road.

We climbed the dirt road which led us through green pastures sprinkled in yellow dots of blooming flowers.  Villages sat tucked in the valley beneath the snow-capped mountains.  After venturing far into the valley, we got to stretch our legs along the road and snap photos of Toubkal, Northern Africa’s highest mountain, while a shepherd directed his goats along the hills.

We stopped for lunch at Chez Momo (http://www.aubergemomo.com/), a restaurant at a nice Riad in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains.  We sat on the patio which overlooked the pool and a lake.  It was quite a nice atmosphere.  The day was sunny, so sun hats were placed on each for us to use.  Fortunately, we found a table that was partly shaded.

Our lunch was tasty!  It included a plate of cold vegetables that could be mixed into a salad, a variety of meats like chicken kabobs, meat patties and sausage, and an apple crisp dessert, and of course bread.  The server knocked our basket of bread off the table onto a chair.  He picked up the bread, added it to basket, and placed the basket back on the table.  Between this incident and the one where the server shook the bread off my appetizer plate and onto my entrée plate, I began to wonder if bread was sacred to the Berber culture.  Believe it or not, it is!  Bread is God given and used as a utensil.  No bread is thrown away or placed on the ground.  Stale bread is placed out for poor people or used for animals!

We arrived back at the hotel in the late afternoon.  Departure for dinner was planned at 8:30, so we had at least five hours of free-time.  The afternoon was scorching hot, so we rested by the pool.  I actually tried to get in a training swim for my triathlon, but the pool was surprisingly freezing cold.  I figured I’d warm up as I swam, but after 15 minutes, my hands and feet were too cold to continue.  Not to mention, it’s not very much fun to exercise while on vacation!

There was a mall across the street from our hotel with restaurants in an open area on the top floor, so we decided to go watch the sunset from the rooftop.  We weren’t exactly facing the right direction, but it did provide a nice view of the nearby medina and the mountains from afar.

Our dinner was at Palais Jad Mahal (http://www.palaisjadmahal.net/), a combination restaurant, bar, and club.  It was fancy and enforced a certain dress code.  The cuisine was international, so we were served spring rolls and fish.  I didn’t think the food was that great, but the atmosphere and dance show was great!  All sort of dancers circled through the restaurants.  Some balanced candelabras on their heads.  Then, in the court yard which was surrounded by the windowed restaurant, fire performers swung flaming batons and dancers put on amazing shows.

Later, we heard loud music and thought there should be dancing with this, but we didn’t see any performers.  We got up from the table and turned the corner into the lounge and bar to find lights blinking, a stage with musicians performing, and women dancing on the bar.  It seemed like to sit at a table by the stage, bottle service was required.  Cuban cigars were available in the lounge.  The place was crazy!  I’d totally go back, especially if I were there celebrating a birthday or something.  We stayed until about midnight before we headed back to the hotel and prepared for an early morning flight to Casa Blanca.  ETB

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