Morocco Day 5

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October 21st 2011
Published: October 21st 2011
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Day 5
Today we drove (or rather Abdul drove us) south east to the Sahara. We crossed the middle Atlas Mountains, stopping for coffee at Ifrane, called the Switzerland of Morocco because of its architecture. There is a ski resort nearby... hand s up who knew you could ski in Morocco – we certainly didn’t! Ifrene is also known for the only private university in Morocco (all education including university is free). The university was established by the kings of Saudi Arabia and Morocco and is attended by students from around the world.
After passing through some magnificent scenery, we stopped for lunch at a place called Midelt, conveniently midway between our starting point of Fez and Erfoud, although the name has an entirely different meaning. Midelt is famous for its apples of all things.
The landscape became more and more arid, with the exception of oases following the paths of rivers. As well as being the populated areas, these are almost exclusively given over to the growing of date palms and we have arrived bang in the middle of the date season. All around us dates were being picked and processed or carried on the backs of donkeys and mules.
In the middle Atlas MountainsIn the middle Atlas MountainsIn the middle Atlas Mountains

No, it wasn't our grafitti!

After a day on the road, we finally reached Erfoud, where we transferred to a Toyota Landcruiser driven by a Tuareg. Abdul came with us to the camp. It took us an hour to reach the dunes and the sun set on the way. On arrival at the camp we were welcomed with mint tea and pastries and entertained by a band of three playing traditional music. The leader, who started each refrain, played an instrument similar to a sitar. The other two who repeated each refrain were playing a drum and a rhythmic instrument, the nearest description of which would be metal castenets. We had a go at playing them and it wasn’t that easy.
We were then shown to our tent which contained a double bed, which was most unexpected. There was also a tent containing two showers and flushing toilets. We really didn’t expect such luxury and felt that we were being treated like royalty. We were served our dinner in a different tent, looking out onto the camp fire, where we heard some more music before and after dinner. By this time, the stars were really out and you could see so many that the sky wasn’t dark at all. Tired from our day, we went to bed quite early but, whether from excitement or knowing that we were getting up just after five, neither of us slept particularly well and we both got up in the night and found that the light of moon made it almost as bright as day. The sight of the desert at night has to be seen to be believed. The Tuareg people travelled at night using the stars to navigate. It is for this reason that they are called the Blumen (not from the colour of their clothes, although they are also known for wearing blue).

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