On April 23, 2017, Joan and I met our GAdventures group in Madrid, and travelled with them to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, and Ronda, (and around on our own) for a week, then spent the next week staying in Air B&Bs in Sevilla, Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona.
This morning the remaining four of us caught a taxi over to the Yve st. Laurent gardens (jardin Majorelle) and enjoyed its cool brilliance and even had a small lunch -I had grilled fresh sardines and ice cream, pistachio and amalou which is a nut ice cream made with Argan oil (?). And now I am on the train back to Casa, for a last night and hopefully a good soak at the Moroccan House hotel.
It has been one of the most interesting trips I have been on in a while. A very different culture yet one that seems to be adapting to modern architecture, modern infrastructure. But most women still wear the jabala and many men do as well, there is almost no alcohol visible..ONE hotel we have stayed in had a bar, and we bought some wine at a supermarket (Carrefours) before riding off into the desert.
There are so many constants among the lands that gird the equator. I always refer to the 'bougainvillea belt" and certainly they are in abundance, in many colors, but then you also have the plastic chairs at the sidewalk cafes, the tiny tabacs crammed with goods, the motor scooters. And in the countryside the flocks of sheep, their alert dog guardians, and the burros being used everywhere. But some things make the countryside here different, primarily the cleanliness of it in most places. Very little roadshow litter in most places. Amazing! And the towns, even far away into the countryside, seem prosperous, the people working. In other places I have seen half finished houses that look to have been in that state for years, but here they are actually being worked on. The roads are in great shape, even in most villages. There is very little graffiti.
People were welcoming and friendly to us. One of our group is a pretty young schoolteacher from German Switzerland, and she was welcomed by the native women in Todra Gorge, shown how to make cous cous. They are CLEAN, sweeping sand away from their homes. Men seem to delight in tending children. There are washbasins everywhere, for the Muslim ritual of cleansing before praying.
Much of this has to do with the king who has been in office for fifteen years, apparently. The country seems stable. I only hope it remains so! ...
I sat at the auberge and drank orange juice and ate a hard boiled egg and some cheese and by the time the others had washed up from the camel ride, I was feeling okay, and still do. We are now at the steep steep Todra Gorge and I have showered and had a nice 'Berber omlette' cooked of course in a tagine with to,atones and peppers and onions? The others have been doing a hike along the river, I am staying in the van!
We spent Thursday night in Amadzir right at the edge of Todra Gorge, in a beautiful auberge. Yesterday morning we started a long drive south, first through the rose growing country, biggest exporter of rose water etc, with a stop to buy rose products, then through the cinema capital, complete with studios and sound stages, to lunch in ... after an informative and delightful visit to a pharmacopeia. Complete with a talk about various oils and teas etc. I bought several spices and my year's supply of saffron. After lunch we drove to ... And its well preserved medieval village there. I stayed in the lower levels at the tourist shops while the others ascended the heights, but we all had tea with a local woman who lives in the ancient casbah, one of the few families remaining.
We then went back to our hotel for a cooking lesson. We assembled our own tagines and after a wait for them to cook, consumed them. The ingredients were all prepared for us so it didn't take a lot of doing to prepare, but learning the technique and the spices was useful. And it was delicious indeed! ...
Okay. Thursday afternoon. Yesterday we stopped for a delightful lunch at an auberge run by a German woman. Several cooked vegetables, then a great meatball tagine. This was around two, so we were all full for the day. We got to Merzouga about five and to the Jasmine auberge after a bumpy ride over rocky road for about half an hour. We sat around and drank mint tea for awhile until the camels were ready and I was then with some difficulty shoved onto the back of a sitting camel. The seven camels were all tied together like when you take kids for pony rides, nose to tail. It was still pretty sunny. I had on the requisite turban but I think I still got more sun than I would have liked.
The camels are walked along ridges, up and down dunes, and it was hard but I made it. We eventually arrived at the Berber camp. While younger souls went climbing the nearest dune to see the sunset, I sat and played with balloons with young Omar, about age 9, who was home from school on vacation this week. Very sweet and polite and starting to learn French.
After the dune climbers returned we had a mostly vegetable tagine and the first wine or alcohol I have had on this trip. There is about a quarter moon but it was very bright so even after we had bundled up to sleep under the stars, the stars were obscured by its light. We could all have slept in the tents but they were hot and stuffy. Better to be outside even if it was chilly. They actually have electricity in the center courtyard, Apparently this tented enclosure, eight tents I think, isn't really where the family lives, it is just for tourists.
I didn't sleep well but once the moon went down the stars were spectacular and I could lie on my back and drink them in.
We were up at six to ride back to the auberge before the sun started blazing down. However, I was more tired than I thought and about half an hour into the ride I just couldn't hold myself onto the camel- there is a cross bar you hang onto and brace yourself against, and my arms just wouldn't brace, I collapsed forward. So dear Said and the camel driver got me off, the train went on without me, and Said and I slowly, with many stops, made it back to the auberge. Walking in the sand was quite difficult but before long we were at a dried up river bed whose floor was solid, and much easier to walk on. This is the first time I have had a real problem on the trip.
I sat at the auberge and drank orange juice and ate a hard boiled egg and some cheese and by the time the others had washed up from the camel ride, I was feeling okay, and still do. We are now at the steep steep Todra Gorge and I have showered and had a nice 'Berber omlette' cooked of course in a tagine with to,atones and peppers and onions? The others have been doing a hike along the river, I am staying in the van! ...
Meknes and the countryside on the way from Casablanca. The countryside is remarkably fertile seeming. Cork trees and olive trees. And a stork in old stables next to the waterworks building.the waterworks building. ...