Friday, September 25, 2015

To Ouarzazate

On Thursday Rob and I both woke up after a rough night, more so for Rob than me as he’d spent the night throwing up and feeling terrible..the latest victim of our group virus(?)

I tried to clear my head by checking out the magnificent view of the village below the Hotel’s terrace overlooking the fertile Dades Valley. Today is Eid and so a very special day in Muslim Morocco. Most families will slaughter a sheep in memory of the prophet Abraham’s dispensation from God. Everyone wears their best clothes, children receive presents, there will be special prayer meetings, most villages will close down after morning prayers and there will be a special lunch (starting with a stew made from the neck meat of the sheep) before the streets are filled with people again in the afternoon.

As we pass through the villages of the Dades Valley it is a treat to see all the families out and about all dressed in their best clothes (new clothes usually, and very colourful) greeting each other and all the children excited with their gifts. It looks a lot like Christmas morning! We also pass quite a few prayer gatherings too with rows of men mostly dressed in white robes sitting crossed legged in clearings in the steeply sited villages.
We get going soon after 9.00am this morning with Rob sitting in the front of the van with a plastic bag handy. It’s a beautiful 17oC and we enjoy the drive up through the beautiful Dades River valley to the stupendous Dades Gorge, a drive that tests all the gear changing skills of our wonder driver Mohammed.
We turn back then and start the drive to Ouarzazat (140klms), by way of the thousand kazbahs and some of the most fertile looking settlements we’ve seen so far on this trip.  We pass through the area famed for its Damascus rose fields and rose water/oil co-operatives (although not open today sadly), through Skoura, and by lunchtime we reach Ouarzazat, the so called “Hollywood of Africa”, because of its reputation as an international (and more local) base for film production.  Along the way we have an interesting stop along an old river bank where nomadic tribes still stop at times in the cycle of seasons to find shelter for themselves and their goats/sheep in these caves. The smell of their animals was still very strong today.
Wayne and Rob stop off at our Riad Bouchedor in Ouarzazate for a welcome afternoon of rest while the rest of us head 30klm West to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, the largest Kasbah in Morocco for lunch, then an afternoon of exploring.  The Kasbar was built by one of the last Berber chieftains during the 18th century, although the granary and other areas on the site date back to the 11th century. More recently it has achieved fame through being used as the film set for the films Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator among many other historic epics. We enjoy our climb to the top of the site and imagining what life was like in this picturesque Kasbah overlooking the river and the fertile valley below. 

 Rod is the last Aussie male standing today...but Rachid is our favourite proud Berber son!

The cleared pit below the kasbah buildings was where the most famous Gladiator fight scenes were shot (with the aid of some CGI enhancement).

Maxie was targetted by one of the local boys who make handy pocket money "helping" visitors cross the river bed after our visit to the Ksar (castle) site.

We finish off the day with a visit to an amazing local and African artifacts gallery (Labyrinthe Du Sud), a real Aladdin’s cave of a place where we spent over an hour examining gorgeous jewellery and artifacts (and buying a few things). We wished we could fit some ancient doors and mirrors into our hand luggage!

Rob was a little improved by the time we got back for our evening meal at the Riad. Our hosts could not have been more caring, making him Za’atar tea and a light meal of rice, bread and apple (perfect recovery meal). Rob was even able to eat some of it (and keep it down).

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