It was a long and boring ride from the Todra Gorge to Erfoud and Merzouga.
Merzouga is close to the Sahara, 40 km off the Algerian border with police roadblocks all over the place. It was
hot again (>40°)
but we made a nice evening stroll in the
slept in a Berber tent
on day #4 it was wake up time at 4AM, to ride our
dromedaires and see the sun rise over the Sahara. PHOTO
tour ended here and to avoid the puke-busses, we took a "grand taxi"
for the next 200 km to the north
over the Middle Atlas.
Midelt is a strategic stop-over, not very interesting but for us
unexpectedly nice because of our meeting with Youssef, a young guy who speaks
seven languages and just graduated in electrotechniques. He took us to the
museum of local Berber culture, and the manager invited us for tea in the
garden. After that, Youssef showed us his family's house in the kasbah. It
was interesting to see how a kasbah with ordinary houses (different
from a castle kasbah) is constructed. The people live on the first floor: Youssef
and his mother and two of his four sisters, his uncle and aunt and their
four kids, and two cats. The sheep also live in the house, on the bottom
floor. Scraps are dropped through a hole in the ceiling from the kitchen
above, a natural form of waste disposal.
A kasbah house does not have windows so it does not get too hot inside. We
had tea with the family and had a great afternoon and a nice evening in a
cosy restaurant, so our stay in Midelt was not dull at all.
bus from Midelt
to Fès. Piece of cake, we hoped, with the biggest part of the Middle
Atlas behind us. But the ominous puke bags were distributed immediately at the
In Fès we stayed two nights in a backpackers hotel in the old town.
Fès consists of three separate towns: Fès el-Bali (the old town), Fès el-Jadid
(a newer medina) and the Nouvelle
Ville (modern). Most must see's and must do's are of course in Fès el-Bali.
Basically this town consists of some palaces, mosques and medersa’s
(Quranic schools) PHOTO
and the small houses and back streets, alleys and slums.
The shops in the soukhs are grouped in a strict hierarchy. Closest to the
mosque come the vendors of candles and incense, next are the booksellers
and the vendors of leathergoods, followed by clothing and textile; then,
with fruit & veg, the walls and gates of the city are reached.
Special in Fès are the henna and spices soukh, and the artisans: silver
and musical instruments.
The soukh is not accessible for cars, so donkeys and horses still do the
job; even for the Coca Cola company
The soukh of the leathergoods is the most interesting, as the “tanneries”
are right behind the shops: rows and rows of pits in which the leather is washed PHOTO
tanned and dyed in again rows and rows of pits. Finally the leather is
dried on the roofs. The dying is done with natural products such as henna
(orange), peppermint (green), indigo and saffran. The smell is almost
unbearable. For that reason, and because it is hard work,
is a job strictly for men.
you buy something else than food in the soukh, you have to negociate about
the price; this applies to locals and even more to tourists, who get
charged skyhigh (if they don't haggle well enough). Furthermore, Moroccans
are extremely honest. Maybe because the Quran tells them to be honest,
maybe because the punishments for theft and worse crimes are quite heavy,
but a postcard seller showed it again when we bought 5 cards in his shop
for 2 euro's. He realized that he had made a mistake and came after us. We
had already climbed the hill for a few hundred metres, and panting and
returned 1 euro to us.
Fès is famous for its ceramics (white, painted with blue) PHOTO
for its magnificent zellij: mosaics made with small hand cut tiles
There are more than 360 shapes available in many colours; the mathematic
geometry and the creativity with which the mosaics are made, ensures that
you can look at them for hours.
The palaces are occupied by hotels and restaurants and you can only
see the interior when you order a consumption. After one look at
the menu we wanted to leave immediately, but because of the low season the waiter told
us that we could take one menu for two persons. Indeed the servings were
ridiculously large. Culinary, the restaurant was OK but we felt unhappy
with all those poor people within a distance of only a few metres.
The following day we went to Casablanca by train, which is far more
comfortable than by bus. The last 100 kms by bus, and home again in El