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Published: October 24th 2011
Meg with kid
...and the goats in the argon tree behind
Morocco Day 10
We left the high Atlas Mountains this morning as the first of this year’s snow had fallen on the peaks visible from our hotel. The journey to Essaouira took about four hours skirting the outskirts of Marrakesh, showing us some of the high end hotels and future golf resorts. We will see the city centre when we start our proper visit there on Wednesday.
The hotel we were staying in was about four miles from the nearest metalled road, in the town of Ourika, which is actually a collection of Berber villages. Monday is market day and whereas yesterday when we walked through to visit the gardens there was a road, today it was not visible for people, animals and carts. However Abdul found his way through, by the use of the horn. In the middle of this melee there was a policeman blowing his whistle and waving his arms about: no one seemed to bother to follow his instructions and if even they did I am not sure that he was adding anything useful.
We had two stops on our journey worth a mention, both relate to the argon tree that grows exclusively in this region of
Morocco. The goats here climb the trees to eat the fruit and beside the highway there were a group of goats in the tree. Although it was obviously staged Meg did get to cuddle a baby goat so it made the whole journey worthwhile as far as she was concerned.
The next stop was at an argon oil cooperative. These are formed by the government for women only so they can earn an income. The women employed are those that are in difficulties, i.e. they are divorced, widowed etc. They make two sorts of oil from the argon fruit one for cooking and one that they turn into cosmetic products: soaps, shampoos, moisturisers etc.
For the whole day the weather has been poor. We started with dust storms just after passing Marrakesh, in a desolate stony area that resembles the Arizona desert; then rain was added to the wind. By the time we got to Essaouira the rain was horizontal (good Scottish rain). Although the rain has now all but stopped and the wind has thankfully died, it has left the roads flooded in places.
We are in the old town (medina) in beautiful Riad Mumtaz Mahal, which is very
much on an Eastern theme. We have just had a lovely meal – a modern take on traditional Moroccan – in a stunning restaurant called Le Mamouche that is owned by the same lady as the hotel. We have a full day here tomorrow to explore before moving on again.
Perhaps to match the mood of the weather, we had some bad news today. Our driver Abdul, who although originally had told us he would be with us for the whole trip, announced that this would be his last day with us. Our next transfer will be with a new driver. He has been fantastic – more of a friend and guide than a driver – and we will really miss him... thank heavens that Facebook has reached Morocco!
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