went to sleep. We were woken in the middle of the night by a major rain storm, which
Unfortunately, one of the
many leaks in the tent was
right above Trish. We had to
After dinner, we retired to our dark tent at 8 o’
clock, and with nothing else to do on the cold,
cloudy night, went to sleep. We were woken in
the middle of the night by a major rain storm,
which lasted all night. Unfortunately, one of the
many leaks in the tent was right above Trish. We
had to make our adjustments in the pitch dark,
then cuddled and made the best of it, listening to
the various sounds the drips made
Ali told us in the morning that this was the first
rain in the area in over two years, the time before
that was seven years earlier! We must be
blessed. Many of the local inhabitants are
worried that if the rain continues for another day,
their mud houses may disintegrate in the rain.
The ride back through the dunes on the camels
was freezing. The burnouses were invaluable,
the hotel a welcome sight.
After a week in Marrakech, we rented a
dilapidated little car and set off over the Atlas
Mountains and into the great Sahara desert.
I was fascinated by this mannequin in displayed
in a window in the old quarter of Marrakech. As
in most of the Muslim world signs of worldly sex
are usually hidden.
We took a turn off to the town of Ait Benhaddou,
well know for its Kasbah, a kind of fortified the
filming of Lawrence of Arabia! After a walk up
and through the Kasbah and a hike up the
adjoining hill (We were ripped off for 20
Dirham, $2.00. There was a small sign
indicating an entrance fee which two young men
asked for. I demanded a ticket and argued a bit,
but they did come up with a hand written one. I
was suspicious, but tired of arguing and paid
them. We were later told that we had, indeed
We made up our bed – consisting of a couple of a small, thin mattress laid on straw mats in a Berber tent – and had tea with Ali. We
then enjoyed a bottle of wine while he prepared Tajine for dinner. He sliced potatoes, large carrots, onions and tomatoes and placed
a chunk of poulet (chicken) in the middle of a round pan and piled the vegetables around it in the shape of a round pyramid. A
similarly shaped cover was placed over this assemblage. We watched, smelled and waited for an hour or so while the meal
cooked. Due to the preparation, the environment, and the anticipation, the meal was delicious. We ate using the ever present
Moroccan bread as a tool.
Ali was a nomad until he was seventeen years old, just eleven years ago. For him life has changed. The Algerian border is some
sixty kilometers away. Apparently they arrest nomads that wander across, jail them a couple of months and take away their sheep.
This repression of the nomadic life style is happening all over the world.
We had made the long drive through the barren southern part of Morroco to Merzouga see the huge drifting expanse of sand dunes on the
western fringe of the Sahara Desert known as the Erg Chebi. Unfortunately, as the weather was cold and threatened rain, we had our
doubts. Before starting off, one of the men brought us a couple of warm winter burnouses to wear, Trish said, “let’s go, it can’t get any
worse”. With these famous last words, we mounted our trusty steeds, and followed our guide Ali into the dunes for the night.
We found this small oasis on the edge of the
desert fascinating. It is divided into small
plots, each individually tended. The sparse
water is allotted by channeling it during
designated times. How long has this oasis
As usual, we walked a lot meeting people such as
this gentleman guarding his camels browsing on
The ride was ok, if a bit cold, but just as we
arrived at our bivouac, it started to rain.
The ride became more and more beautiful as we approached the coast.
Omar’s cousin rode up on his mule and the two had a fairly active conversation about the new power poles that were bringing electricity
to the village for the first time. A country Tajine was produced which we ate with gusto, using the local bread to scoop up the potatoes,
dates, carrots and goat meat. We were joined during the meal with two of Omar’s relatives including the patriarch who is 98 years old!
We watched Omar’s aunt breaking open the
recently harvested Argon seeds. After a very
tedious process delicious oil is produced. First
the fruit is collected after falling underneath the
trees. Sometimes by the goats who regurgitate the
seeds after bringing them home in their bloated
bellies. After the husks dry, the seeds are broken
out by hitting them with rocks. A very primitive
grinding stone helps to finally produce the oil,
which can be bartered for the few needs that are
not locally produced.
After several weeks exploring the southern desert area with its fascinating towns, we arrived in the coastal city of Essouira where
we joined Omar, a fascinating man we had met in Merzouga. On our second day there
Omar met us at our hotel and we drove to his traditional Berber home. It was a three hour drive on a rocky dirt road through forests
of Argan trees. The goats of the area actually climb them to graze on the Argan seeds used to produce a special oil.
We looked out over the barley fields while the
neighbor’s camel grazed with its new born. The
peace of the area was so intense that it really hurt
We finally said our good-byes, and then slowly
followed Omar back up the rough road, while he
constantly stopped to say a few words to his
many relatives. He had biscuits for all the
children, who kissed our hands when we greeted
them. As he was speaking in Berber, we couldn’t
be sure, but it sure seemed that he was doing a bit
of lobbying to get those unsightly poles moved.
We didn’t get back to Essouira until well after
dark. A fresh fish dinner on the deck of a
restaurant overlooking Essouira’s port and Main
Square finished a very fine day.
On our way back to Marrakech we were stopped by some pretty rough looking cops, but I managed to talk my
way out of the ticket I probably deserved.
It was still cold, so cold that we needed to find some place that was warmer. We thought about the adjacent
Canary Islands, but they were not a sure thing. We were confident that Egypt would be warm, so spent some
time finding a cheap flight. It was a great choice.
We couldn’t help but think about Ali told
us in the morning; that this was the first
rain in the area in over two years, the time
before that was seven years earlier! We
must be blessed! Many of the local
inhabitants are worried that if the rain
continues for another day, their mud
houses may disintegrate in the rain. The
ride back through the dunes on the camels
was freezing. The burnouses were
invaluable, the hotel a welcome sight.