Saturday was spent in the souks in Marrakesh, somewhere I have been twice before so it was not such a shock to the system.It really is full on sell in there and they are experts at the game. The sellers can see exactly where your eyes are looking and pull the item off the shelf, hook, rack or whatever it is displayed on to show you and to tell you that they will allow you to have it at a very good price.They speak a variety of languages and know something about everywhere. Last time I came they were saying their prices were as good as Asda price, this time they were proudly announcing that they were as cheap as Primark! The souk is off the main square,Djemaa El-Fna ,and is a maze of narrow lanes selling an array of stuff-leather, wood, spices, carpets, silver etc. We already have a lot of stuff from abroad, so only wanted one or two things therefore had to avoid being enticed into hundreds of shops with the plea "looking is free"!
I have learned a few Arabic words and gestures and people are delighted when you make the effort. One gesture is touching your heart after greeting someone, although I seem to have taken this a little to far and pat my heart vigorously, with a lot of enthusiasm (what a surprise!) after I have greeted someone. Gav commented it looks like I am having a coronary, indeed, I have seen a few worried looks.Another phrase which I have learned is “Thalla Frasek” which means take care of yourself. It took a while to get the pronunciation, but now I have I am using it all over the place. Quite often, I get kissed on the head after I have said it, followed by more heart patting!
The people are lovely. Everywhere we drive we are greeted by waves and huge smiles and shouts of “bonjour” (French is the second language due to colonization). On Sunday, on a long drive which covered some really high mountain passes, we had to pull over to let someone pass, with the massive drop on our side, and 2 of our wheel teetering precariously close to the edge,the driver of the other car wound down his window and said "hello, how are you?". "Fine" I yelled and urged Gav to hurry up and get past him! Sometimes pleasantries come second to safety!
On Sunday we left Marrakesh to take the pistes to Cascades d`Ouzoud, about 90 miles away, but the route we took was a lot longer. We started off in Demnate, before heading into the mountain pistes of Ait Blel and Ait Bougomez valleys. The views got more spectacular as the miles past, with small houses and mosques clinging on to the sides of the hills. The roads were steep and windy, with huge drops at times.One of the valleys is also known as Happy Valley and used to be snowbound and inaccessible for 4 months a year until 2001.Some roads are still only accessible here by mule or 4x4.Villages are built from rock and clay quarried on the spot, it is stunning but very remote.Villagers have to work hard to put food on the table and send their children to school.To ensure the well being of future generations, locals have undertaken ambitious initiatives to end illiteracy, food insecurity and poverty-including girls` schools, organic farming cooperatives, woodworking collectives and tourism initiatives.
We are now camping at the Zebra campsite, near the Cascades D`Ouzoud.It is owned by a really interesting Dutch couple who traveled around Africa for 4 years before settling here in Morocco. Tomorrow we head towards the Atlantic coast and the town of Essaouria, where Gav plans to catch our tea as it is a fishing town. There is chicken in the fridge if we need a plan B!