Part 1: Desert Excursion
Part 2: Heading Out
[Hooray, I'm getting things done today! And I'm determined to get my last Morocco post finished before I leave for a family reunion on Friday. You'll be hearing about camels soon!]
The main reason I picked this excursion was to visit the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco's many must-sees. [Of course, I would have loved to go on a longer one that stopped more places, but I just didn't have time.]
Like the Chellah in Rabat, this was one of my favorite spots, and again, one that I didn't get enough time to fully enjoy. After dropping off the poor sick Danish kid in our group at the restaurant where we'd be eating lunch, we met our guide and walked over to the river. The "new city" is on one side and the Kasbah is on the other.
First, he pointed out the gates that were made for some movie or other. All of the other artificial movie constructions have been removed, but these are still there. We walked across a makeshift bridge over the river, where kids begging for money tried to help us cross, and then saw the open area where the arena in Gladiator was filmed.
Movie trivia...not the most auspicious start to a visit to an ancient historical fortress-city.
We passed a man making bricks - they're working on moving families back into the city now that the film studios don't have free reign - and entered the city. Finally we got some history. The walled city was built to protect one of the tribes against the others. There were four main tribal groups, often warring over water. Eventually, they started working towards peace.
We passed by the Mosque and some smaller houses, stopping to sit a minute in the shade. [The Danes were shocked to hear that in the summer, temperatures in the desert could reach 50 C - or about 130 farenheit.] The thatched roofs on these houses used to be replaced about every 4-5 years, but now they have a sheet of tin covering them, so they last closer to 12 years.
I was also surprised to learn that there was a Jewish Quarter in the city. Its inhabitants left a long time ago, but according to our guide, they still return maybe once a year for their holy days [I think ones that have to do with the dead, so they visit their old cemetery near the city].
We watched a fascinating demonstration by a man who paints postcards using saffron and a gas tank. The "paint" is made of saffron tea and doesn't appear on the paper until it's been exposed to some heat [hence the gas]. I'm still kicking myself for not buying one.
|(Found via Google image search)|
|(Not my picture. Also thanks to a Google image search.)|
We then walked back to have a delicious and, by Moroccan standards, expensive lunch. [It cost less than 10 euros. I was a happy camper.] The rest of the afternoon was spent driving, driving, driving through the mountains until we reached the town of Zagora, where we met our camels...