October 5 – on the way to the Sahara

Morocco is an amazingly diverse place. We started our day in the old city of Fes, teeming with schoolchildren in uniforms, women in scarves hurrying this way and that, and toothless men in robes having their morning coffee. Then, through the entirely modern European-style “new city” of Fes, just 15 minutes away by car. It is just like Las Vegas–leave one world and enter another in just a few minutes–except it is real.

And then, through a town that could have been in Austria, complete with chalets with steeply-pitched roofs and a nearby ski area, with a major university and royal palace nearby.

And then through an ancient cedar forest with enormous trees, and monkeys grooming each other and swinging through the trees. Then over the mountain pass, and down the other side into the desert. We saw the dry part—rocky plains where hardly anything grows, then a fertile valley lush with palm trees, surrounding the Ziz river.

And then past the reservoir (the Ziz is dammed a little downstream), and into the real desert—the Sahara. (OK. For those sticklers, this part of the desert is not technically the Sahara, because between this part and the “real” Sahara grows a small forest of scrub oaks. The “real” Sahara lies on the other side of the oaks. I’m not sure the Bedouins living here care much about that distinction, though.)

It's good to try to learn the local customs when you travel. We have all been spitting on each other.

It's good to try to learn the local customs when you travel. We have all been spitting on each other.

And here we are, strangers in a strange land, visiting the local denizens of this beautiful and desolate place. Some of them offered to carry us into the dunes for an overnight camping trip. I think we’ll accept!

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2 responses to “October 5 – on the way to the Sahara

  1. Tom and Diane Barrett

    Neat! We spend three of four days in Erfrod mostly on camels out in the desert and hanging out at the pool in the little hotel just outside of town and the mud fort. Great spot! Who would ever know just how uncomfortable it is to ride those damn camels!

  2. Since Tom’s comment appears not to be in English, I thought I’d translate for him. I think he meant to say that we spent 3 or 4 days in the vicinity of Erfoud. It was in Erfoud that we had to change to a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to the Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua (better known as “Michael’s”), a fabulous swimming pool with rooms in the desert near Rissani. In support of Dan’s observations about distances, I would offer that our guide there told us that it was 52 days by camel on the old salt and gold road from Timbuktu to Rissani. I’ll bet the Culhanes could make it in a month!

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