Rock the Kasbah at Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, near Ouarzazate, Morocco

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, near Ouarzazate, Morocco

Click to see tours that include visits to Ait Ben Haddou.

About a 30-minute drive from Ouarzazate, Morocco, or a long day-trip from Marrakech, Ait Ben Haddou is a fortified village (ksar) in south-central Morocco. It’s only one of many ksars built by the indigenous Amazighen (Berbers) in the area, but, thanks to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a setting for a long list of Hollywood films, this ksar, unlike its fellows, is well preserved. It sits in the southern foothills of the High Atlas Mountains on the old trade route between the Sahara desert and Marrakech. Continue reading


This is Kasbah Taourirt in Ouarzazate, a Sahara Desert gateway town in the center-south of our mystery country. Taourirt was built in the 19th century by the Glaoui, a ruling clan of the south. UNESCO has restored the palace section of the kasbah and it is open to tourists. The Kasbah was a small fortified village, with multiple single-family dwellings inside, as well as the palace, and several families still live there.


Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

Continue reading


The answer to the last episode (Episode 6) is: MOROCCO.
Clue 1 – Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Clue 2 – Sahara Desert
Clue 3 – Ait Ben Haddou in Ouarzazate

Click to see tours to Morocco.

Now for this episode –

All the clues in this post refer to one Ya’lla Tours destination: Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Turkey, or United Arab Emirates.

We’ll show you images of popular tourist sites in our mystery country, along with descriptions of those sites. Continue reading

Travel Gifts for Comfy Plane Rides

Airplane travel is not fun, let’s face it. But I’m always careful to balance my grumbling with sincere gratitude. If it weren’t for a few cramped hours on airplanes, I probably would not know the weight of the air in a pharaonic tomb, or the light inside the Hagia Sophia, or the night-sky in the Sahara Desert, or a thousand other first-hand, unique sensory experiences found many thousands of miles from home. Honestly, I hardly remember all the hours I’ve spent on airplanes. It’s the places and people at the end of the ride that leave the lasting impressions. Still, it doesn’t hurt to pimp that ride as best you can. For me, that means swaddling my body in warm, soft things so it thinks I’m at home on the couch watching a Homeland marathon.

The foundation for a comfortable plane trip is comfortable clothing. Basically, you want jammies that you can wear in public, proudly. Your feet need to be warm and free to do what they do on planes. Socks don’t cut it. You need slippers. Then you need a blanket, not only for warmth but for privacy and to define your space. It’s a security blanket really, to make up for the vulnerability and lack of control we feel on airplanes. The protective powers of the blanket increase many fold when you know that blanket and where it has been. (Am I too attached to my blanket?) Finally, you need pillows to support the inevitable floppy-head and slouching back. (Is it really so hard to build a chair with lumbar support??)

My essentials, from Travelsmith:

3-piece knit suit

Soft, stretchy, breathable, wrinkle-resistant, cling-free, machine-washable fabric, keeps its shape so you don’t have to.

$99 on sale from $149 through December 18, 2013

3-piece knit suit

3-piece knit suit

Merino Wool Wrap

A blanket disguised as clothing, 100% merino wool, 65″L x 27″W.

$69 on sale from $99 through December 18, 2013

merino wool wrap

merino wool wrap

Women’s Nufoot™ Mary Jane Slippers

soft, water-resistant, with protective sole for visits to the loo




Coolmax® Travel Blanket®

soft, breathable, lightweight and all yours
open 70″L x 55″W; folded: 7″L x 3 1/2″W


travel blanket

travel blanket

Super Snoozer Memory Foam Pillow

I like the combination of memory foam, for just the right amount of neck support, with inflatable areas for less packing bulk.

16½” x 11″(inflated); 5 1/8″ x 5 7/8″ (closed & folded)


neck pillow

neck pillow

Lumbar Pillow

17″W x 5″D x 9″H; folded: 8½”W x 4½”H. 8 oz

lumbar pillow

lumbar pillow

Check out for these and other gift ideas for all the travelers in your life.

A Night in the Sahara Desert of Morocco, Berber Style

Morocco Sahara Desert Camp

Morocco Sahara Desert Camp

In my last post, I wrote about riding camels in the Sahara desert of Morocco to a Berber camp and watching the sunrise the next morning from the top of a 300 ft dune. Now I’ll tell you about what happened in between. The Berber camp was set up just for our group, not an actual camp where Berbers lived but done in the Berber way, with traditional camel-hair tents, a central fire pit and carpets laid on the sand, connecting everything. Inside the tents the ground was also covered with carpets. The low-frame beds were surprisingly cozy, with thick mattresses and warm, heavy blankets. This was November, so the temps dropped into the 40s at night. Everyone packed warm clothes for this experience and I heard no complaints.

Our camp consisted of about 20 tents. Besides the sleeping tents, there was a cooking tent, a dining tent and tents with toilets and showers. We have since changed to  sleeping tents with ensuite toilets, sinks and showers.

When the sun went down, we mingled around the roaring fire pit with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Dinner was elaborate, perfectly prepared and presented. How they managed a 5-star dining experience out of a tent, I don’t know; thousands of years of experience, I suppose. In the dining tent, the tables were beautifully set, with carpets underfoot and torches ablaze. One side of the tent remained open to the cool night. We had salads and soup and bread and tagine, trays of assorted sweets and a great volume of wine.

For me, the next chapter in the evening came on like a dream. I may have actually been nodding off, sitting at the dinner table in a warm, glowing space, lulled by the surrounding conversations, a little overfed, 60% sober, both fully present and having a vision of our tent from high above, an ember in a great black void (ok, 40% sober). In the midst of this trippy bliss I watched a striking group of men materialize outside, just at the edge of the light from the dining tent; our evening’s entertainment. The party was just getting started.

I remember the drums. There may have been other instruments but somewhere in my energy field those drums are still vibrating. The voices too, indelible. So we listened and we danced and we attempted to sing along. We gazed into the fire and we wondered into the pitch black beyond the camp and our mouths gapped unreservedly at the starry thicket over head. Well after midnight, I retired to my toasty bed. It was a good and complete day.