Menara Airport in Marrakech, Morocco. I'm standing in line at passport control. The tail moves, very slowly but it moves. ? already? something, I think, remembering my first arrival in Morocco, two years ago at the Casablanca airport.
It is now 8.30am local time, but it was evening then. All the doors were closed for no apparent reason. Some of the travelers showed signs of nervousness, others, I did not understand if more? informed or just more? fatalists, they waited serenely. I asked two Spanish boys, who laughed with the air of those who know a lot, and they told me the reason was simple: the policemen had gone to eat.
? Ahora? Todos juntos ?? I asked amazed.
? Pues? claro que s?!?
Of course it was: it was the evening breaking of the Ramadan fast. Everyone had to eat, and everyone at that moment, just after sunset, and after the short prayer that follows the call of the Muezzin. We waited almost an hour, but I must say in a pleasant climate. Many distributed dates, which are traditionally the food with which fasting is traditionally broken in Morocco, and despite the annoyance of waiting there was a certain air of celebration.
Blink: a sachet peeps out on my cell phone screen. ? a message from my brother says he is waiting for me at arrivals.
Nothing strange, you will think; instead something strange c ??: while I am an only child. I don't want to bother the immortal Rino Gaetano, also why? my brother no, he doesn't? only child. ? just what? a brotherhood, shall we say, elective. We are not technically brothers. We have chosen, or maybe it would be more? fair to say that he chose me.
And the other strange thing? that my brother and I write to each other in English. In English, anyway? I write in English, the pi? simple as possible, to make sure that he understands. He writes in his own English, what's up a bit? interpreted. But now, after two years of texting, I have found a key. It is better to let it go how? written, so the handwriting is not? hardly ever correct, and try to pronounce it as an Arabic would, or as a French would. Generally so? 90% of the time there is a vague assonance with an English word, the rest is reconstructed in meaning.
My brother is called Salah,? Berber and? born in the mountains of the High Atlas, a few kilometers from the most? great and beautiful waterfalls of North Africa, the Ouzoud waterfalls. ? L? that I met him two years ago, during my first trip to Morocco.
He was my guide that day and immediately took a liking to me, perhaps because? in those parts they are not used to seeing tourists traveling alone. Did I understand that a little? I made him tenderness why? in Morocco, especially in rural Morocco, one who has a family consisting only of s? itself, and at most can? add an elderly father, it's very strange and we tend to think that he doesn't live well. But I too must say that I was struck by his kindness and honesty. What? si autonomin? my brother and we exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch. You know, they are those promises made on the wave of the moment, which often do not keep. But he kept it all right. In these two years he has written to me at least once a month, if not twice, often asking me to return to Morocco to take another tour with him, much more? long this time. For many times I have kindly declined the offer, but this summer, for several reasons what now is not? to explain, in the end I thought? Why? no??.
Sure, you think, his proposal? interested, and? true. But up to a certain point. I will pay him ?,? natural, but he does not do the guide by trade, even in a way for cos? say? unofficial ?. He does it only for the Ouzoud falls, which he knows like the back of his hand, and only during Ramadan, when? forced to close the small bar he manages right at the crossroads from which, from the national road, the one for the waterfalls departs.
Ramadan this year? came earlier than two years ago and? already? finished. The bar will have to? entrust it to someone else. Should I? stay away from his wife and children for several days. The places we will see you know them, but not so? well: in some at least once? been, in others never. In short, maybe he also likes to take this trip with me. I certainly enjoy doing it with him.
13/8/2013: Marrakech? Ait Benhaddou
When I enter the arrivals hall, I immediately recognize Salah among the people waiting. He hesitates for a moment, then we hug.
After the first pleasantries, we sit down to have a coffee: I explain to him that I slept little or nothing, since the flight left very early. Do we exchange news? on their respective families: mine, in reality, is not? changed for nothing; in his, however, c ?? a new arrival. About a month ago the? born a grandson, son of his brother.
But must we, first of all, plan a little? travel. In our contacts via sms we have not decided anything specific, c ?? a? rough idea of the places where we will go but we do not know in what order n? by what means.
As a starting point, I take out of my wallet a piece of paper from a carton of cigarettes on which, two years ago, he had scribbled a possible itinerary between mountains and desert. Do you recognize his writing, maybe he didn't even remember it but? happy to see I kept it. We agree that, more? or not, the tour will be? that. But some problems arise: in what sense to do it? And go to his house right away or at the end of the tour? The initial idea he had proposed to me via text message was to go there immediately, sleep one night there. and leave the next day. But, to do the tour in the sense that it seems better to him, we would have to go back here to Marrakech, it would mean missing another day of travel. So we decide to go there only at the end, maybe it will be? even more? so beautiful: for him it will be? some kind of homecoming and for me? grow up during the trip the curiosity? to get to know his wife and children.
We then take a Petit Taxi (city taxi) to reach the bus station, where we will take a direct bus to Ait Benhaddou, which will be? the first stop on our tour. The operation seems simple, but I see that he immediately begins to haggle over the price. Apparently, according to him, the taxi driver is asking too much. Probably, with the amount he asks for, in Milan you would make two traffic lights, but go and explain it to Salah. Normally, at least for city routes, the prices are fairly fixed, but he doesn't know how he can get a discount and off we go.
We cross the city, which reminds me of almost familiar images: I spent four days here, two years ago, in a hostel built in an old riad a stone's throw from the large square, the Djemaa el Fna. To understand where we are, I look for the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque, which was my reference point to orient myself in the medina.
The heat is felt; the temperature, apparently,? of? solo? 29? C, but the air coming in through the taxi windows seems to be shot from a huge hairdryer.
At the bus station, I have confirmation that Salah took his leadership role very seriously. He takes care of everything, from asking for information on timetables, tickets, bottles of water to buy for waiting and for the trip. He would also claim to carry my backpack, but on this I am adamant: him? my friend, actually my brother, not my sherpa. You bring yours, I tell him, ch? I carry mine. Sure, mine weighs about 12 kg, yours? a lot more? lightweight:? set off on a week-long trip with a day trip backpack. Says that if you need to wash? the stuff, maybe he's right.
Yes ? even borrowed a French Routard guide from a friend, so? together we can look for a place to sleep at our first destination. I have my trusty Lonely Planet of course, so we can compare them. How will it get? way of understanding during the whole trip, even if obviously I pay for both of them, in the choice he thinks about his pockets, not mine. So? always chooses the most? cheap, more? ? popular ?, for what? to say. Not that this necessarily displeases me, quite the contrary. Of course, the standard will not be? really? European ?, but it doesn't matter? and then if I try to object or propose even slightly higher level posts he says:? No my brother, this is expensive!?.
I don't feel like telling him at all? Listen, since I'm paying, let me choose something more? decent?. It would be like saying that the places where he goes, and where 90% of Moroccans go when he travels, suck, it would sound really offensive to me. So? I gladly accept.
We have almost two hours of waiting before the bus leaves. The first problem? find a good place to wait in the shade. The station ? packed with people everywhere. Salah explains me that? why? Ramadan? finished a few days and a lot of people, what is it? moved for the holiday that celebrates the end of the fasting month, now she is returning home. So? these days, across the country, buses are even more? full of normal.
Once we have found the place, we take advantage of this time to tell us what there? happened in these two years. By communicating mainly via SMS, we are generally forced to be very brief. I tell him about my leg operation and my travels; at work just two words, I don't want to bore him and? it's also hard to find a way to explain it to him in English that is understandable to him. From him I discover instead that the family is fine, apart from his father who unfortunately? missed, and even business is not bad, so much so that he is trying to open a new bar more? big right next to the old. Hopefully, inshallah, it could open in two or three months.
The bus, besides being full,? really old and run down, the look doesn't? very encouraging. But? true that in Morocco this? almost normal, with the exception of the two largest companies. large, operating nationwide.
The "P? large, the CTM, has good standards also for Europe: new, comfortable buses, with air conditioning, reserved seats, even the luggage is numbered and taken to the bus with a special trolley. Then c ?? Supratours, what? a step below but still of an acceptable level even for those who do not want to travel like traveling in Africa. It goes without saying, however, that, apart from the prices more? high, these two cover only a small part of the possible routes, substantially those that concern the big cities. All other companies, working locally or regionally, are completely another world. The means are what they are, the air conditioning? a dream, it frequently happens that a dozen or more people travel upright in the corridor and travel with the hatch open. As for the times, b ?, are they? flexible. In the sense that it can? happen, even if not? frequent, what if? full the bus leaves half an hour earlier. And it frequently happens that, if not? totally full, leave half an hour later, to wait for other passengers. This also happens for the intermediate stops, at least for the most? important, so travel times can easily get longer.
But I know this, did I consciously choose to travel for a week? As a Moroccan? and that's part of the journey.
This time the delay? definitely acceptable: not even a quarter of an hour after the set time the engine starts and we leave.
Pu? also happen, although so far to tell the truth? it had never happened to me that after a few kilometers you run out of diesel. We stop suddenly and far from inhabited centers; at the beginning I fear a mechanical failure (yes, maybe that too would be part of the trip but not so soon!) but Salah goes to check and confirms that? this: we are dry. Obviously the driver made a mistake in the calculations or maybe the indicator didn't work, nothing more? easy.
Now that we're still, the heat? almost unbearable. But luckily we are not in the desert here. Within a quarter of an hour a guy arrives on a moped with some jerrycans and in a short time we leave. Of course, taking into account that we still expect at least 5 hours of travel we could do without it, but so much ???
The old bus begins to laboriously climb the High Atlas mountains, crossing the Zat Valley and the Tizi N? Tichka pass. The street ? very spectacular: extremely diverse landscapes, from barren, harsh and almost lunar to wooded, with equally changing colors.
We make another long stop, this time planned, in a small village in the middle of nowhere that really has a taste of Africa. We sit down to have a drink in a little bar, the hens scratch around us, the environment would also be pleasant if it were not for the air? almost unbreathable, due to a terrible mix of smells: diesel fuel, engine exhaust and burnt frying oil that comes from the grills on which mutton is cooked outdoors.
After another couple of hours of travel, we finally arrive at a crossroads, where we get off and wait for a Grand Taxi to take us to Ait Benhaddou.
The Grand Taxi, for those who don't know,? usually an old Mercedes, of those old flagships now ready for retirement, which in Europe were destined to become a pile of wrecks and which instead sometimes meet a new life here, in Africa, plowing dusty roads loaded to the impossible. Yeah, why? the Grand Taxi is used to connect cities, or small villages, when there is no other means. And for Moroccans, almost always,? a Grand Taxi Collectif. What? you go up in different, all directed more? or less in the same place, and splits the expense. Generally, the Grand Taxi is considered full when there are six more people. the driver, cos? arranged: two in the passenger seat and four behind. And until? not ? full does not start.
In this case, the wait? of short duration, in a few minutes we reach the necessary number and off we go. Of course not? the maximum of comfort, but this time? only for a few kilometers.
When we reach Ait Benhaddou, we find a place for the night in a Maison d? Hote marked on the Routard of Salah. We will sleep in two for 150 Dirham (less than 15 euros) and the place not? not bad either.
We settle down and immediately go to visit the th century Kasbah with mud and straw brick walls, which has been the backdrop to several Hollywood movies (Gladiator in primis, but also Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, jewel of the Nile?).
Now only ten families live there, one of which is hosting us for a t? relaxing, served with the usual ritual that already? I know, who plans to throw the first two or three glasses back into the teapot and pour holding the teapot more? as high as possible, of course without missing the glass.
The kasbah? so frozen in time that it appears a bit? fake, but the scenario? definitely unique and the quiet? almost? total. Silence ? broken only, from time to time, by the screams of children and the sounds of animals (donkeys, goats, chickens), until the muezzin's chanting call for evening prayer.
Light dinner tonight and early bedtime, why? c ?? a lot of sleep to recover and here there is ?? literally nothing to do.
14/8/2013: Ait Benhaddou - Ouarzazate
After a typical breakfast of bread and oil (age, of course), we move back to Grand Taxi Collectif, in Ouarzazate, squeezed between the desert and the high Atlas. This city? ? famous for its eighteenth-century kasbah, where scenes of Star Wars and dozens of other films from the nearby studios were shot, with biblical themes, or set in the Roman Empire, Egypt or whatever.
Ne d? testimony the museum of cinema, full of objects and reconstructed sets but to tell the truth? a little? poor in explanation: or are you a real cinephile (of that genre) or do you have to go a bit? to nose.
? pi? interesting is the real kasbah, which we visit with a local guide, who speaks Italian and who illustrates to us in great detail every place in the Pasci palace? (but here we say Bach?) Glaoui, from his room to that of the favorite, to those where his four wives and twenty concubines dined or prayed. The favorite was always the mother of the first male heir, and she never lost her title. The palace has splendid inlaid roofs in cedar and oleander wood, used why? toxic and therefore not attackable by termites.
There? also a Jewish neighborhood with an old synagogue, but the few Jews who remained left for Israel in 1967, at the time of the 6-day war.
The local guide takes us to a weaving workshop, where a man works on a blanket. Traditionally, carpet weaving? task of women, while men take care of blankets, bedspreads, scarves and more.
The synagogue? it has become a shop-museum, where a Berber with a very fluent English speaking explains to us various interesting things, taking a cue from the exhibits. For example, he tells us about the similarities between the Star of David and the Berber five-pointed star (which also stands on the flag of Morocco), both based on triangles. And then, of the? Identity card? that in ancient times Berber women wore. These are two brooches they carried on their shoulders, in the shape of a triangle for married women, of a flower for virgin girls. The two brooches were joined by a chain, with as many medals hanging as there were children. If the woman had no more? husband, why? widow or why? repudiated, could not anymore? wearing the chain and this of course, especially in the second case, was of no help at all.
In the end the man tries to sell me some nice bedspreads but a little bit? expensive. Having already? bought two scarves in the other workshop, I leave him only one offer for the museum.
After a lunch based on Tajine, we go to rest in the small hotel we have found, also why? the heat is becoming suffocating.
Salah? more and more? efficient, so much so that I'm almost bored ... he does everything, I'm not used to it. For? ? no doubt that? a nice advantage to have someone negotiate the price for you in tashelhit, the Berber language from here.
In the evening, in the central square of Ouarzazate, we attend a beautiful show of Berber folk music and dance, called? Ahouach ?. The dancers are about fifteen women who tend to dance in a circle, the musicians are men and play a large drum, in addition to the classic Berber lute and the bowed instrument, with two strings, which is called rbab. Maybe it lasts a while? too, in the long run it becomes repetitive, but? Interesting.
15/8/2013: Ouarzazate? Todra gorge
We take an early morning bus to Tinerhir. The journey, through the whole Dades valley, lasts three hours. The landscape here too? changeable: at times desert, at times more? green.
In Kelaa M? Gouna begins the valley of Ait Bougomez, called the valley of roses, where? Salah's wife born. He says that ? went to the valley of roses and left? brought home one, all for him? romantic, huh? Now not ? the moment of flowering, but rose water? omnipresent on shop signs. This valley? also famous for daggers: roses and daggers, a curious combination.
Here and there we also see writings made with stones on the slopes of the mountains, which say things like? God, the Fatherland and the King? or? The Sahara? ours ?, with clear reference to the question of Western Sahara, claimed by both Morocco and the Saharawi people.
Upon arrival, looking for how to reach Todra Gorge, we are hooked by a guy who? Recommends us? the Auberge Etoile des Gorges, also reported by the Lonely Planet. The price ? good, so we accept.
He takes us on a supposed tour of the old Mellah, the Jewish quarter, which Salah wanted to see. Before for? he asks me a favor: I should go and buy for him (but with his money) a bottle of wine at a hotel bar. According to him, they sell them to foreigners. I try, but in reality? not ? so: they tell me I can only drink it there, they don't (obviously) sell take-away bottles.
The ride in the Mellah quickly turns into a carpet sales session (I knew that sooner or later it would be my turn). All in all for? they are not bad and the prices are reasonable, with a minimum deal. I take one with the design of a loom comb, which symbolizes artistic creation, and other Berber symbols used in tattoos.
We eat a rather bad tagine in a place also recommended by our friend and try to leave again. But in the meantime, the Supratours office where I left the backpack for delivery has closed for lunch. What? we wait for more? half an hour, during which Salah tries to hook up two Franco-Moroccan tourists in the hope of sharing the taxi with them for Todra gorge (and perhaps for Merzouga). For now it's going badly, but soon we will meet them again.
We finally manage to take another Grand Taxi Collectif and reach the gorge, what? really very spectacular and repays all the hard work. Another beautiful thing? that, yes, there are foreigners but the majority of? tourists? they are Moroccan families with children, which give the place an atmosphere of festive confusion.
We climb up a path, but after a while? we are forced to go back, why? Unfortunately not ? well signposted. We arrive for? to a nice vantage point.
Is dinner a little late? to arrive why? in the hotel, powered by a diesel generator, electricity doesn't come in until nine. But in the end ? tasty, Moroccan salad and turkey brochette (skewers).
We have a quick chat with a Spanish couple, with whom we agree to share the taxi in the morning. They will take our same bus, but they told them it ends in Erfoud, while Salah? sure it reaches Merzouga. Will we find out only tomorrow?
16/8/2013: Todra Gorge - Merzouga
And the next day it was discovered? that the bus only went as far as Erfoud. But never mind.
Another Grand Taxi (this time four, it seems like a luxury) takes us early from the gorge to Tinerhir. Waking up at 6.30? traumatic, why? again there is no power and we are forced to wash and get ready in the dark.
The bus to Erfoud? still packed and the journey? how hot ?. On arrival, our two new Spanish friends also look exhausted.
In the meantime, we have discovered something more? on them. Your name is Amaia ed? Basque, from San Sebastian. Him, Eduardo,? Canary Island of Tenerife. They live in Madrid.
You work for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), where you met Laura Boldrini, who was basically your boss. In fact, you work at the Press Office in Madrid, dealing with communication. Did your work allow you to see half of Africa and a lot? of Latin America. But? a passionate traveler (backpacker) even for pleasure: she recommends Laos and some less touristy places in Thailand.
He ? a consultant? economist? (as he defines himself) that he works for a large company, but inside he ensures that he has an environmentalist heart.
Two beautiful Parisian girls also join the group, one of whom has Moroccan origins. Yes, just them, those of yesterday. Fatima called Fat? (obviously in the French way, with the accent on i),?, as its name clearly says, the Franco-Moroccan one. Her parents are from Oujda, but don't you think about going there? to find relatives, at least not on this trip, which shocks Salah a lot. Your friend, Elodie aka El?, Has a Valencian grandfather and therefore? he speaks good Spanish, but he is very surprised at how I speak it, that I don't even have a grandfather; in general, I think I understand from half sentences thrown there? who does not have a very high opinion of the Italians.
From Erfoud to Merzouga another Grand Taxi, this time in six. The two brogues, dressed quite low-cut, sit in front and the driver goes crazy: he doesn't look at the road (luckily? A single strip of asphalt that is always straight). obvious signs of imbalance, talk on the phone while driving, etc.
Merzouga: now we have this? the Sahara. Thanks to a contact provided by Todra Gorges' hotelier, who comes to pick us up at the taxi, they take us to eat, but only fruit. C ?? terrifyingly hot, we wouldn't be able to eat anything else, and then Amaia has stomach problems. He says he can't? not even eat the melon and you lose a lot, why? ? excellent and very fresh. But at the moment his diet only includes bananas and cola.
They then take us to a house with a cozy sitting room, where they show us all the details of the excursion in the desert, or rather of the various possible excursions.
Can you? go to a simple camp (40 min by camel, or rather dromedary) or to the oasis (about two hours).
We have excluded a priori the off-road vehicle, which obviously allows more excursions? long, but for us? too expensive and not environmentally sustainable.
Time passes, between a glass of tea? with mint and the other. Here they call it Berber whiskey :? always the same joke, l? avr? heard at least twenty times, but every time you smile and toast pretending that it is the first?
In the end we all lean towards the oasis, but we try to get a price reduction from 350 Dh / person to 300. Our host, Mohamed,? reluctant: says he doesn't? someone who steals, his money earns them honestly, we must understand that he incurs costs to take us and the stuff to the desert, in short, he does a bit? offended him. But then, with the agreement that for dinner we will only have tajine, except Amaia who asks for and gets the white rice, he grants us the discount.
At this point we are all in agreement except the French, who are still undecided. There are at least two big problems for them.
First problem: the dromedary has only one hump; they want the camel, the one with two humps, why? according to El? ? pi? comfortable. Corn naturellement, he says, so? I can sit between the two humps! This, however, is resolved (almost) immediately why? unfortunately for her there? a small detail: camels do not live here, their habitat? in Central Asia. Mohamed tries to make him understand it with some decision, but are the two a bit? doubtful, of the series? but not? that if we go to another there is ??. When for? we all confirm that? as he says they are convinced.
The second problem? pi? thorny: they came with the idea of sleeping in a hotel with a swimming pool in Merzouga (they know that there are at least a couple of them) and then only go to the desert, if anything tomorrow. But, crazy as it seems, it seems that the essential is the swimming pool, not the desert. The Spaniards and I look at each other astonished, but they seem determined, also why? then they discover with immense pain that, ma ce n? est pas possible, there is no oasis? the shower! Finch? Salah comes up with the idea:
But why? won't you come with us and let's keep the group together? Can you go to the pool tomorrow ?.
This simple but wise consideration makes them waver, until? yield:? done, everyone goes.
To tell the truth? Salah would like to follow us on foot, I do not understand if for fear of the dromedary or in the hope of saving me something, but in any case I tell him that he does not talk about it: he will do? what we all do.
While waiting for departure, which for obvious climatic reasons? scheduled for late afternoon, we take turns taking a shower (since the oasis is not there ???) and chatting.
With difficulty, we come out alive from a discussion on the differences between Europe and Morocco in the relationships between men and women. The conclusion ? that the differences are still great, except for the cities? main of Morocco, which are some? ? Europeanized ?. But, before we get there, do we hear a little from the two Berbers present (not counting Salah, who wisely abstains)? of all colors. Some are obvious bluster, but still a sign of a cultural background that? die Hard. Fortunately, at this moment there is no ?? Amaia, I still know little but it gives me? the idea that he would have a hard time with this kind of conversation.
To lighten the mood, Mohamed performs this joke:? You know what? the point pi? high of Paris (Paris) ??
Replies like the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Montparnasse and other places I can't remember the names flourish. In reality? the answer ? ? the dot on the i ?. Mark it.
Finally we leave. Travel not? of the pi? easy. There is a lot of dancing, especially when the dromedary goes up and down the dunes. For the lower parts (all) and for the back not? a panacea. For more? my beast, every time we stop for even a minute to take pictures, sits down. Maybe he thinks every time we arrived, I don't know. The fact is that every time they have to get him up and I have to try to stay on his back.
Fatima also has some problems, I think she can't find a comfortable position. They let her down, fix her saddle and off we go. Salah instead gets along more? that good. During the break, Eduardo and I look at each other and, giggling, we exchange comments on the lack of capacity? of adaptation (to put it mildly) of the two Parisians, pi? what else with gestures not to let us hear from Elodie, who could understand. If nothing else, are they giving us a lot of fun?
The desert, however, pays off for everything. The dunes change color with every slight change of light and our long shadows are our only companions in the sea of sand.
At the oasis the evening passes in a rather cheerful and talkative atmosphere, waiting for a tagine that never arrives.
At the beginning, when we were still in Merzouga, it was decided to use English as the lingua franca of the group (excuse the pun), an entirely Mediterranean group. But the two French, especially Fatima, have obvious problems. Then we alternate French and Spanish. Elodie, who knows both languages well enough, translates in case of particular difficulties.
We talk above all about travel, with some political digression. Unfortunately, the echo of bananas pulled a Kyenge? reached as far as France and Spain; I am therefore forced to explain that we are not a people of racists, at least we could not and should not allow ourselves to be with the history we have, but there are idiots who tickle these feelings? of the gut ?. Is it known, then, that the crisis only exacerbates the resentment of the poor on average towards the poorest? poor of all. I don't know if I can be convincing, but I try.
Mustafa, the guy who brought us here, is an entertainer and in the meantime he tries a little? with Fatima, with all possible excuses: he teaches her to wear a turban and tests her Berber, what more? different from what he speaks. She, being from the North, speaks Tarrift. He, like everyone here in central Morocco, speaks Tashelhit. I don't think the differences are very noticeable, but there are.
Eventually dinner arrives late but? abundant: in addition to the tagine and rice from Amaia, they also bring us the Moroccan salad.
After a short walk on the dunes in the light of a torch, we lie down outdoors in front of the tent. The night at the beginning? cloudy, but then the wind begins to blow impetuously (at least for us, as the locals always minimize) and sweeps the sky; so the starry above us? remarkable. Eventually even the duo El? and Fat?, which I nicknamed "tres jolie a Paris", seems to have (almost) forgotten the pool!
17/8/2013: Merzouga - Khenifra
I can hardly sleep, especially when the wind starts to pick up the sand. Only towards the end of the night does fatigue take over, but I have recently fallen asleep when Salah wakes me up: he has decided that we must leave.
In reality? would we still have some? of time, but we take the opportunity to go and see the sun rise, even if in the middle of the clouds. The sunrise over the pink dunes truly keeps its promises.
As soon as day breaks, we get back on the back and return to Merzouga.
L? we have breakfast and some more chat before parting.
A football dispute starts: Mohamed, convinced to please the Madrid couple, declares himself a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo. He had never done that. He doesn't know it but Amaia, being Basque, can't stand Real Madrid and makes it clear immediately. Edu and I, supporters of the Bar? A, we answer that? pi? strong Messi, there can? be doubtful.
? Messi ?? ? does he? But Messi? Argentine! You are Europeans, you have to cheer for Cristiano! And then, Messi? a tax evader.?
Why, are you convinced that Cristiano pays all the taxes? I say.
? We pay them all. ? cuts short Amaia? ? They always find ways not to pay them.
We dip the Arab bread in oil and honey, then slowly drink the last tea. together.
? time to say goodbye. The two Parisian girls finally go towards the longed-for swimming pool; me, Salah, Amaia and Eduardo take another taxi to Erfoud.
When do we get there the sun ? now too tall to do anything. We sit at a bar table for a couple of hours drinking coca cola and tell each other about other journeys while waiting for our buses, which leave almost together. We are now headed to Khenifra, they go to the coast to enjoy a bit? of sea.
We leave with the promise to exchange photos, then who knows? the summer parties that I attended ten years ago in the Basque Country also left a few words in Euskara in my luggage, enough to greet Amaia with a? gero arte? (see you later). She smiles and wishes me a good trip. I also greet Edu, with the hope of seeing each other again in the Canaries, perhaps in Fuerteventura, which we both know.
The journey to Khenifra, along the High and Middle Atlas,? very long. Do we get that by now? too late to eat. We just buy some figs from a stall to soothe a bit? hunger.
After being nearly kicked out, in a bad way, by a possessed hotel mistress who obviously didn't like Salah much, we find a place to sleep in a modest little hotel near the bus station. The location unfortunately? a little? unhappy. Due to the heat, we are forced to sleep with the window open, with the noise of the buses coming and going almost all night.
18/8/2013: Khenifra - Ouzoud
Khenifra? just a passing stage. We get up early to take the first bus to Beni Mellal.
From here, by Grand Taxi to Azilal. We are now a few kilometers from Salah's house.
First of all let's go to the hammam. Not ? one of the luxurious ones you see in movies, richly decorated and filled with glistening majolica. ? a real hammam, popular, even if today there is not? almost no one. Did we need it, anyway, to throw out some? of toxins and relax properly.
Then we go to the souq to do a large fruit shopping and buy some new dresses for the girls.
With this load we get on another taxi, which takes us to Ouzoud. Home, finally.
Sure, one can? imagine life in rural Morocco but when you find yourself there it has another effect. Nine of them live (two families with children and Salah's mother) in a house of perhaps 70 square meters, without running water and only with a Turkish bath. The current comes and goes, when is there? however, there is no lack of satellite TV, even if small. There are almond trees, olive trees, hens running around, 11 sheep, 3 cats and a donkey. For the guest they have equipped a bed made of carpets sewn by the women of the family.
The reception? hot, with a huge plate of couscous and another overflowing with melon slices.
But the most? beautiful are the girls. C ?? Owatch of almost 5 years and Jalila who is almost 3, like her cousin Nassima. She ? daughter of Salah's brother, who is not there ?? why? he works far from here, and he also has a little brother of just one month.
Of course with them the language can? be a problem. For now they speak only Tashelhit; they will study Arabic when they go to school, French they will only take it from the third year. If they then go to middle school, who here not? trivial, they will also do English or Spanish. But, despite everything, with a few keywords and many gestures and smiles, a communication channel is established. Are they beautiful, of a vivacity? contagious, they laugh with nothing and never complain.
Like all children of that age? they are curious, they talk, they ask questions. And they get angry if you don't answer, they want attention.
We try to explain to them that I come from very far and therefore I don't understand their language. Fortunately c ?? a small plastic plane, I take it and start to fly it making the noise with my mouth. Take off, fly, then land. Then again take off, and so? Street. They laugh like crazy, the pi? big certainly understands, the others at least have fun.
And then I have the secret weapon: the cell phone. Just take some pictures of them, then show them to them, show them others at random, and they are enchanted. But? matter of a moment, then Ouarda has already? learned how to scroll, enlarge and shrink them. Easily repeats everything I do. He moves his little finger easily, as if he had been doing it for a lifetime.
And can not you? really suspect that he has already? saw a smartphone. Salah has an old cell phone I don't know how old, with broken glass and that doesn't even take pictures.
I am truly amazed, but Salah confirms to me that? very clever. Sure, Daddy's heart, but in this case it seems to me that we can only agree with him.
The only problem ? even the pi? little ones want to play the new game; I try to get them to do something too, without doing too much damage.
We also bought a tablet with numbers, letters and animals. I try to teach Ouarda the numbers from 1 to 10, first in French and then in English. She repeats everything, without making a mistake in a pronunciation.
After dinner we also look at the photos of our trip, the ones where c? Salah, which we had printed in a photolab in Azilal. The pi? popular, of course, are those of dad? on the camel.
Then Salah insists why? we watch the DVD of Fatima's brother's wedding, her sister-in-law. ? a traditional Berber wedding, celebrated in Agadir, city? of origin of the family of Fatima. The ceremony ? suggestive, with beautiful music, large henn tattoos? and endless changes of the bride's dress. But after two hours I start to be seriously worried about the duration? Salah, naturally, informs me that it certainly lasts longer? 6 hours. I try to do it tactfully, but comment that? a sign of the different value given to time in Europe and Morocco, he agrees. Fortunately, for now, a malfunction of the DVD player saves us. All to bed.
19/8/2013: Ouzoud waterfalls
Despite the? Bed? improvised I sleep well and I am awakened only by the crowing of the cock.
Breakfast and then, after two years, we return to the falls, this time with more? calm and with little Ouarda in tow. C? Was already? been once, so don't? a novelty? absolute for her, but? still very happy. Do you like everything, widen your eyes and walk tirelessly up the paths with your sandals, holding your dad's hand? and sometimes me too. Sometimes she also goes alone, does she know when she can? and when can not ?.
The falls are always an incredible sight but can not? be like the first time, maybe this year c ?? even a little? less water.
In the early afternoon we go home and spend the rest of the day in the garden, except for a short walk with the girls. Jalila, the pi? baby, do you look up to dad ?:? angry why? he didn't take her to the falls, he saw her sister go and still can't get her down. Does he try to explain to her that? still too small, what will I soon bring? she too, but isn't there? towards.
We take the tea? in the garden, then Salah goes 'to the neighbor', he says (actually the neighbor is a couple of kilometers away), to arrange for the delivery of a load of almonds.
?But where are you going? And the girls? I ask him.
? Quiet, you will see that they are good? he does.
? true, they are good, but am not exactly used to having to handle three, without even speaking their language? although, to be honest, I have developed a minimal vocabulary that helps: Wakha (yes, okay), la (no, this is not done), jalla (come on, let's go), baraka (stop, stay still). With these four words and calling them by name I can more? or not to get by? and then my smartphone friend comes to my aid again. Look with that I keep it good, thanks also to some music videos; Nassima sings and dances alone, Jalila is dedicated to construction:? convinced that, putting a stone on the other, sooner or later succeed? to build a house.
Luckily Salah is back soon enough. After a while? the "neighbors" also arrive, with three mules ready for loading. Of course we offer tea. to them too.
Between them c ?? a very old lady, or one who looks so old (do you get old here early?), with a face parched with wrinkles, who walks leaning on a stick. I get up to make her sit down but Salah tells me to sit, ch? he takes care of it. He goes to get a small plastic stool where just a child could sit. She looks at him, refuses with dignity? and stands leaning on her staff.
This episode bothers me a lot, but I don't have the courage to argue. Sure, if I had any doubts, does it make me realize that in this society? rural c ?? still a long way to go for women. ? strange to see, for example, how, until? they are little girls, if they approach the table of grown-ups (men of course, women always eat in the kitchen) no one sends them away, indeed they can nibble on something too and are pampered and pampered by everyone. Then, when they become women, off: in the kitchen.
Dinner becomes tiring for me, why? start to accuse a little? stomach discomfort. I'm sorry, why? I'm afraid they'll take offense to see me refuse their food, but there's nothing I can do about it. I explain it to Salah, so? I eat only what I can of the tagine and a little? of fruit.
Meanwhile the girls have collapsed, they all sleep like stones. The day ? it was long for them. I'm sorry not to be able to greet them properly, since tomorrow morning will I have to? leave early, but? went like this.
After dinner, there is no escape: c ?? the second episode of the Berber wedding. We watch a second DVD and a piece of the third, then it gets really too late and we go to sleep.
20/8/2013: Ouzoud - Essaouira
The night, unfortunately, not? of the best: it seems that in the end my gastro-intestinal system did not hold up, and in fact if I think about the places where I ate? already? pretty cool that he's made it this far. I have to get up a couple of times to go to the bathroom, then I start throwing down? Imodium hoping it will take effect. I expect a two and a half hour bus journey to Marrakech and, from there, another three hours to Essaouira.
The bus runs at seven. Salah? managed, I do not know how, to agree with the driver why? stop practically in front of his house, cos? we don't even have to get to the crossroads.
I have a quick breakfast, why? i can't eat much. I greet the women of the family, then Salah and I start waiting half an hour before under a tree by the roadside.
C ?? time for some final impressions of the trip and to tell each other that we will continue to keep in touch. Above all, I want him to know that, if he will? difficulty ?, may? always count on help from me. Maybe with the new bar things will be better, I wish him, but in any case, the girls must absolutely go to school. Inshallah, he says. We feel like two old friends, maybe after this trip for a while now? we are too. For this there are also long silences, we are both sad why? we have to separate and we know we won't see each other for a while.
The bus arrives, a last hug and I get on. As almost always on this trip, I am the only European.
Not ? it was easy to come away, I think the sensations of this journey will bring her? with me for a long time. The harshness of the mountains, the colors and sounds of the ancient kasbahs, the light and wind of the desert, but above all the eyes and smiles of the girls.
But now I also need to relax a bit. And the charm of Essaouira, what will it be? the last stage attracts me a lot. It seems to me already? to hear the hypnotic call of gnawa music. I want to spend the last two days in the cool, savoring the breeze, the smell of the sea and a good fish couscous, inshallah.