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Published: October 24th 2011
Evening view from Kasbah Bab Ourika
Morocco Day 9
This morning was spent at rest in the Kasbah Bab Ourika. The hotel is situated at the top of hill so has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including several Berber villages. The manageress is a Kiwi called Amanda and she is very welcoming and really goes the extra mile for her guests. Most of' the staff speak English, which is less appealing for me personally but would be a great draw for most!
This morning I took a Hammam, which was quite an experience. Having undressed, you enter a room which is almost as hot as a sauna. The heat is coming from a stone bench built into the room (presumably there is a fire underneath). The lady fills a large tub with warm water from a tap above it and then dips a small wooden bucket in and uses it to gently sluice you down. She then rubs an olive oil paste over you and again washes this down. Then she takes a rough glove like a loofah to scrub you all over. After that you are covered in kaolin clay, left for a short while and then washed down again. After a hair
wash you are put in a robe. The result: baby-soft skin.
This afternoon we had a real treat. We had booked a trek to see two gardens: the saffron garden and a herb garden. The saffron garden produces about 5 kilos of saffron per year, which doesn’t sound much but it is quite a substantial amount when you are talking the purest ‘red gold’. Our guide Mohamed told us about how it is grown and harvested and we saw the very first flowers of the season, which were just starting to appear.
The herb garden was very interesting too, although many of the herbs are the ones we grow in England. The garden has its own processing plant to make soaps and other products using the herbs and flowers grown there and some of these are used in the hotel. Mohamed picked some of the herbs and later used them in a demonstration of how to make Berber tea which was absolutely delicious.
Mohamed also taught us a great deal about the Berber life. We passed through several villages and he told us that each had its own speciality. For example, we saw salt being processed at one village and
The first saffron flower of the season
in his own village there is a blacksmith.
The people seem genuinely friendly especially the children, who want to try out their French, crying out ‘Bonjour’ as you pass. Unfortunately I had forgotten to take some packs of pens with me, as they are all grateful to receive ‘un stylo’ and unlike some children I had previously come across in the larger towns who would snatch several pens, the children here are very polite.
We couldn’t help but admire Mohamed, who has come from quite a poor background, but who has been to university to study philosophy and speaks several languages. He is a shining example of an enterprising young man who seeks to better himself but also, more importantly, the community he is obviously so proud of.
Tomorrow we move on to Essaouria.
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