After a brief break back in Marrakesh, we set off to the east towards the Sahara. Though Morocco looks tiny on the map, the drive took two full days. Anywhere else in the world, I might have felt a bit trapped inside the car. Here, however, everything passing the window is completely new. Goats and shepherds teetered precariously on the edges of dark red cliffs, and ancient walled cities, rising out of the green valley oases, called our names. We were compelled to stop every few hours and explore the gorges and kasbahs along the road to Merzouga.
The red clay walls of the Berber city, Ouarzazate, burn in the midday sun. Despite its remote location, this brilliantly colored fortress has been the site of many Hollywood films. Gladiator, Prince of Persia, Babel, Kingdom of Heaven, and Lawrence of Arabia were all filmed here. Evidence of the sets built against the city walls lies in the woodpiles just outside the city; fuel to feed the Berber peoples fires when the temperatures drop below zero in winter.