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Published: September 18th 2018
Exterior of the Ksar KaissarYou know more of a road by having travelled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world
It looks nice from the outside!
- William Hazlitt
We had a much better start to the day this morning! There was sufficient hot water for me to shower, and I managed not to flood the bathroom this time. The breakfast was much improved, as was dinner last night. Last night we had a cooked Moroccan salad (rice and assorted veggies), bread, olives, and a quite tasty vegetarian couscous, all washed down with a small bottle of rosé. Plus fresh fruit salad for dessert. I was very stuffed.
Breakfast was that same tasty pancakey pastry, with apricot jam, a boiled egg, really nice baguette, yogurt, and good strong coffee. We headed off about 9 am, for a short drive to a rose product shop outside M’Goun. We bought some lotion, soap, and rose water at Essence Bara Rosenol, then continued on our way. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, and we could see the High Atlas Mountains in the distance with snow on the peaks. The landscape was desert-y, with the hills in the distance.
We made our way to Skoura Oasis, where we
visited Kasbah Amridil, a beautifully restored 17th C. kasbah. Abdul was concerned the road might be washed out because of all the recent rains (there was more lightning, thunder and rain last night). When we got there the road was indeed washed out. We didn’t want to take a chance with the minibus getting stuck so we elected to walk across. The muddy water was quite fast flowing, but not deep (maybe up to our knees at the most). Lahssan lent Susan some rubber sandals, since she was wearing runners and didn’t want to cross the flooded area in bare feet (it was really rocky and she has wimpy feet). I took off my Keens for the crossing, and the rocks weren’t too comfortable, but we made it across just fine, though we got quite muddy! It was an adventure. 😊 We washed off our feet at a tap (and I decided to keep my Keens on for the return crossing as they are perfectly waterproof and got all wet when I rinsed them off anyway). After we waded across, we discovered several of our group were riding across on camels! An enterprising camel owner had brought his two camels
to get some business ferrying tourists across the flooded road to the Kasbah.
We met our local guide for our approximately 1 hour tour of Kasbah Amridil, Reda, who gave us a fun tour. He was quite the comedian and often cracked himself up! I love the mud brick construction of the Kasbah. Many movies have been filmed here, and no wonder, because it is quite amazing. The Kasbah is very much designed with security in mind, and has various methods to make it difficult for any invaders (steep stairs of differing heights, low doorways, few entrances, etc). After our tour we made the return crossing across the flooded area (much easier with my Keens on), rinsed our feet in an irrigation channel, and boarded our minibus to continue our journey. Before we left we admired the view of the restored sections of the Kasbah, along with the unrestored sections. I do love the slightly ruined look of unrestored Kasbahs.
We next went to the “la caravane des epices”, a shop which sells natural products including spices, teas, natural remedies, soaps, oils, etc. We bought some tea and spices, as well as black cumin seeds and peppermint. You
put a very small amount of both in a bit of fabric, and inhale into each nostril. It is excellent for sinus congestion and snoring. It cleared up my sinuses right away!
We continued our drive to Ouarzazate, passing huge solar panels (as I mentioned yesterday Morocco uses a lot of solar power). There are lots of salt mines in this area, and we could see white chunks of salt in the soil. The name Ouarzazate means “without noise” and is home to Berber people, and is also a holiday location for people from Marrakech.
We went to the Kasbah Tafarnout for lunch, which we had on the roof terrace. For a change from Moroccan dishes, Susan and I shared a vegetarian pizza, which was quite tasty. I also had a Moroccan mint tea. We continued to Ait Benhaddou, passing several movie studios on the way. A long list of movies, beginning in the 1950s, have been filmed in this area. We dropped off two of our group at our hotel, Riad Maktoub (one of our group suddenly got quite sick today), and the rest of us went to a nearby Berber carpet cooperative to check out the
carpets. Susan and I bought a beautiful Berber carpet for our living room, which will be shipped to us. We remembered to take a photo of it before we left. By the time we were finished only Susan and I and Nicole and Matt, who also bought a carpet, were still in the shop (the rest had wandered back to our hotel).
Abdul took those of us who wanted to (Nicole, Matt, Jeff, and I) on a walk though the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ksar Ait Benhaddou up to the fortified granary high above. I could see the granary far above us, and wondered what I was getting myself into, but it wasn‘t as hard walking up as it looked from the bottom. The Ksar (a fortified village) was really interesting to walk through (lined with small shops at the bottom levels), and the view from the granary was really amazing. The Ksar was on the caravan route between Timbuktu and Marrakech. The whole village is walled (the old side is on one side of the river and the new side is on the other side— both are walled). The granary, where in past centuries the villagers would
have kept their valuables including grain, was ringed with another wall for extra protection from hostile tribes. There is no electricity in the old section, and some time ago families moved to the new section across the river.
On the way back down we stopped to look at paintings (small paintings of the Ksar Ait Benhaddou), and talked with the artist (Abdou). He uses only paints from natural products (indigo for the blue, saffron for the yellow, and tea for the brown). Just the yellow shows up on the painting until he heats the underside up over a burner. Then the brown and blue colours appear. It is based on an ancient method of sending messages via a kind of invisible ink. I bought one of the paintings - I knew Susan would like it too. Abdou also wrote our names in Berber on the painting (I got him to write both Susan and my names - see the bottom left hand side). It is such a nice souvenir 😊.
We walked to our hotel, Riad Maktoub, where I found Susan by the pool in the courtyard of the riad. It is a really cute place. We all
have rooms on the ground floor, so we can step outside our room to the patio area around the pool where there are tables and chairs for each room. Susan had asked the hotel to put our remaining beer in the fridge, so she got two of them and we enjoyed a beer in the courtyard and I started the blog. The wifi is good here and photos uploaded quickly. First I rinsed off my dirty feet in the shower and then sat by the pool with my feet in the cool water. It was very refreshing.
Abdul took our sick travelling companion to the doctor in Ouarzazate. (I heard them return awhile ago, so I think she will be all right). It’s terrible to be so sick when you are travelling. We shared travel illness stories over dinner, which was included. We had thought it was a la carte, but it turned out not to be. We started with a good Berber soup, followed by chicken and vegetable tagines. There was no veggie tagine, but they quickly brought out plates of rice and veggies for us. The desert was a crepe, which I really enjoyed. I hope we
have crepes for breakfast.
Tomorrow is a long drive through the High Atlas Mountains, crossing the highest mountain pass in Morocco, the Tizi n’Tichka. We are bound for Ourigane, a Berber village in the Toubkal National Park.
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