After an enjoyable couple of days we left Marrakech and headed east up into the the High Atlas Mountains which was a windy steep road. At its highest point it was 2260 metres above sea level. It took longer than we planned as many times we were stuck behind slow moving trucks and passing places were few. To make things worse they are upgrading the roads, cutting out most of the sharp corners. This also made it very dusty and we were very glad when we did get a new stretch of road to drive on and overtake slower vehicles.
Our destination for the day was Ait Ben Haddou, which we would explore in the morning. Our stop for the night was Kasbah des Jardins where we parked in a nice secluded place behind the Auberge. The facilities were adequate and it had a swimming pool. The barbeque came out and we spent a quiet evening relaxing after another busy day.
Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
An old caravanserai, situated on the side of a hill, it makes a picturesque sight. When the town started to crumble many inhabitants moved to the other side of the river. Its been extensively renovated for the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” but many other movies have used the site for shooting films, including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
On the outskirts of Ouarzazate, is an active film studio which you can visit and take a tour. The Atlas Studio tour takes about an hour and you can visit sets from the films that have been made there. Some are old and in disrepair due to them being built of temporary materials and out in the weather. Our guide has appeared in several films and most recently he played one of the unsullied in Game of Thrones. He proudly showed us some photos he had on his phone of some of the parts he played including his unsullied role. It was worth the visit and it was an insight in to how the sets were built and how real they can look, while just being fake.
Our mission today was to buy bags of ice, and soft drinks, luckily we found ice in a small supermarket in the main street, and then drove to the outskirts to find another small shop with bulk packs of drinks. The chicken in the butcher looked fresh, so we bought some for a tagine that night. As the women were shopping Ewout was dealing with some of the local children who were curious and also begging for some money, he gave them koala’s instead which they seemed very happy to get.
It was a hot day and a campsite with a pool was a great place to stop. When we read the information on the campsite and the good reviews we decided this was the place to stay for the night. We were greeted by Abdul who showed us the facilities and also gave us a welcome glass of Berber whisky, i.e. -tea with fresh mint.
Visit to the Kasbah
Abdul the campsite manager offered to take us to the local Kasbah for a tour. The place is famous and was used in fillms and on the 50 dirham note when the last king was alive. After a short walk through the Palmerie we paid our 10 dirhams entrance fee and Abdul explained many aspects of the Kasbah. His English was not good, but with some french words, we understood most of what he was explaining, it was interesting and informative. In the entrance were photos of movies that had used the Kasbah as part of their sets.
Our next stay overnight was in the Todra Gorge. The tourist buses only travel a few kilometers into the gorge and turn around as the road further is very rough. Our campsite was 20 kilometers further. Camping Baddou sits next to a village called Tamtattouchte. After setting up camp we walked through the village where we were quite the novelty. Children followed us through the streets and we were glad the they were just interested and not begging. We bought some bread at the local bakery and headed back to the campsite where we enjoyed a three course meal at the campsite restaurant, delicious and great value. In the morning we drove back through the gorge and headed east once again.
Out in the middle of nowhere, we pulled into a Berber museum, owned by a passionate local man, with an interesting collection covering many aspects of life, including agriculture, clothing, jewellery, documents, and artifacts. The natural springs that had been destroyed and full of rubbish are now running and housed in many small buildings. Along the walk were plaques and information boards with inspirational quotes in many languages to cater for tourists. “Water is life”. Well worth the visit.
Rissani take one
We visited Rissani twice this trip, the second unplanned, more about that in a future blog. As we drove through the gates of the town Jenny remembered the way to the market area. The carpark guard directed us to a place to park and a young man asked us if he could show us the sights and he would charge 20 dirhams for his service. This was less than $3 so we agreed and set off to explore. Rissani is an amazing place with an atmosphere that’s hard to describe, a town with some rough edges, a bit dirty and run down but definitely not a tourist town. Our guide took us to see the sheep sales yard, the donkey parking area, the fruit and vegetable market, the local butchers. We did some shopping along the way as our cupboards were very bare. It was getting late and we had some more driving to do before we reached our destination for the night. We paid our guide and the carpark guide and headed of towards the desert as the sun started to setl. Rissani has also featured in some movies made in the area.