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Published: February 4th 2019
The day dawns bright but cold, like fleece cold......we set off south east towards Skoura. This is a five hour drive, first across the plain and then up into the High Atlas. All does not go according to plan.
The plain is dotted with miles of olive tree plantations. In the distance the mountains can be seen, the highest peak rising to around 10,000 feet. Morocco has the third highest peak in Africa. All along the route are hundreds of Gendarmerie Royale. The King is on the move today, apparently. He is either going to visit his people somewhere, which he often does, or else he is off hunting as he likes to shoot gazelle and sangliers. Anyway, all the senior brass are out as well, resplendent in their uniforms and gaudy braid. Maybe he will come this way, maybe not, but best to be prepared and standing to attention.
Sara starts to feel unwell. We stop several times and she throws up, and starts to feel very wobbly. This continues as we snake up into the mountains. The scenery is spectacular, the light crystal clear, but only David is enjoying it. We reach the high pass at about
7500 feet. You can see for miles, and we share the vantage point with another coach load of Chinese tourists. “I have been London twice for shopping” one young girl tells me. No surprise there then.
The buildings are all single or double storey, clustered tight together as protection against the biting winter weather, and the possible snowfalls. They are built by the Berbers with whatever materials are at hand, so mostly they are red though sometimes they are white if the local clay for brick making is pale coloured. The name “Berber” is not the name they give themselves, but is a derivative of “barbarian” which is what the Romans called the original settlers when they were here. The later Arab invasion from the 8th
century onwards obviously brought the Arab peoples to the lower levels but they tend not to live in the mountains. At the higher levels the olive trees have given way to walnut and juniper trees, and eventually there are no trees at all, just hardly cactus.
Once we cross the pass we are zigzagging down to the high plain between the High Atlas and the Middle Atlas range that runs parallel to
it. The earth and rocks are now deep russet red, and very barren. There is much wind and water erosion and it often looks like you could be in the south-western USA, though the occasional gnarled farmer riding side-saddle on his donkey wearing a jellabah with its pointy head pulled up so he looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi would look a little out of place in New Mexico.
We come eventually upon Ouarzazate, which is the movie making capital of Morocco. Any movie involving a desert scene was made here. There are film sets and film studios and of course the stunning natural landscape backed by the High Atlas. We have not been able to visit Telouet or Ait ben Haddou today as we are focussed on getting Sara to Skoura to our luxurious oasis accommodation. We are the only guests tonight in this actual and figurative oasis resort; Sara retires to her bed with the manager's special rosemary tea and rehydrating fluid. David wanders the grounds and makes friends with the resident cats, unusual for him. The manager announces that his wife has decided that the patient must eat and is making her special “sick person” dinner. David awaits
with anticipation but Sara is too sick to care or to eat. We are experiencing traditional Berber hospitality for sure. At night the temperature drops dramatically, but the sky without any light or industrial pollution is the most stunning display of stars. You don’t see that in London!
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