busing through desert and farmland
15.10.2014 - 15.10.2014 80 °F
Last night we dined at a beautiful restaurant near the square where the souks are. We ate outdoors in the courtyard of an old building that looked like a scene from "Arabian Nights". The food was pre-ordered and plate after plate was brought to the table. It was delicious. And then it happened, loud music began and a belly dancer took the floor. I guess she was very good at her craft but her Double D's were so close to falling out of her brassiere, that watching her dance was scarier than it was entertaining. She knew it too. Interestingly, she kept dancing to our two tables even though there was a table full of men on the other side of the floor. They completely ignored her so she was forced to find an audience in us. Also interesting is this additional evidence of a two-sided culture. 99.7% of the women here wear scarves to hide their hair. 95% of them wear long robes when out in public. So, why would would scantily clad exotic dancers be OK in a public restaurant? Armani will have an illogical explanation for it that will either sound like belly dancing is required in the Koran, or that H2 invented it.
Speaking of robes, a couple of days ago, on one of our "technical stops" (what Armani jokingly calls our pit stops while on the road) I saw a group of tourists in front of a big fountain posing for a photo. There were six of them, two men in western attire, a couple of kids and two women in long black robes with black veils that hid everything - even their eyes. These veils have a black netting over the eye area so they can see out, but you can't see in. So, what is the point of being in a picture that no one will ever be able to prove you were in? It's like taking a picture of a person behind a wall - all you really have is a picture of a wall. (although I will have to say that in most travel pics, I would look better hidden behind robes)
Today we traveled 230 miles to Zagora which involves ten hours on the road. Getting anywhere here takes time. The roads are pretty good, actually but they are only two lanes wide (1 1/2 sometimes) and you have to share them with trucks and donkey carts. Between Marrakesh and Zagora is the High Atlas mountain range so we climbed 7400 feet to get over that. On the other side is a valley of fertile farm land. I thought of Morocco as miles and miles of sand, but some areas are near rivers and it is amazing how much produce they grow and export: apples, dates, grapes, and oranges, to name a few. When not in an irrigated area, we were definitely in the desert, and most of us have seen pictures of it. This is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.
It was hot and intensely sunny when we stopped to visit the kasbah (walled city) of Ait Benhaddou. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that would probably have crumbled away by now were it not for UNESCO. In fairness to Morocco, it is a developing country so it has few resources available to invest in old buildings. But they could probably do more. Anyway, the point of the stop was to climb up through the old city, visit the home of one of the few families living there, and to appreciate the wonderful view - which you have also seen on Game of Thrones. It was quite a climb - up approx. 100 steep, irregular steps. The view was wonderful but most interesting was how they lived up there - a primitive existence, at best. The family seemed healthy and fed, but they are living like their ancestors did hundreds of years ago in small clay homes on several levels clinging to the hill. I was glad when the climbing was over - I was actually looking forward to getting back on the bus and settling in for a couple of hours of reading.
We didn't arrive in Zagora until after dark and had to walk down a dark lane to our riad (hotel) because the bus couldn't navigate the road. It was worth the walk though. We are only staying one night here but I bet most of us would like to hang out for a couple more. The rooms are large, and the grounds are beautiful. Of course, the first order of the evening was to find a glass of wine.