Tafraoute was great and we could easily have stayed longer. But the city of Marrakech beckoned. We know many people who have been to Marrakech and their opinions ranged from “Bloody super!” to “Horrible. Don’t go!”. Such divided opinion is exactly the sort of thing that attracts us. We love a bit of adversity, we barely notice the smells and we have no problems using the power of pointing and facial expressions to get our point across.
Our plan to get from Tafraoute to Marrakech (or Marrakesh as we foreigners call it) was to take a bus, but our tour company from the day before offered to drive us part of the way and include some tourist stops on the way. This sounded like a good way to kill two birds with one brick so we paid up.
Ali turned up at 9am after we had had our fill of a typical Moroccan Breakfast. A pile of French bread and coffee in case you were wondering. We set off into the mountains and our first stop was the beautiful village of Oumesnate.
Here we walked through the town towards a young boy singing from the window of the Maison Traditionelle, a 400 year old house which is now a museum. Until 1982 the house had been occupied by up to 20 family members of 3 separate generations. Our guide spoke very little English but plenty of French and Spanish. When it became evident that my “little Spanish” is indeed very little Ali kindly stepped in to translate for us.
The house is kept as it was when lived in, and this was an interesting insight into life in rural Morocco.
We had a tour and saw the living areas, cooking areas, sleeping areas and then we had mint tea in the guest room. I have just realised that we haven’t mentioned mint tea yet. Moroccans drink mint tea often, and a visitor is presented with it almost everywhere they go. The carpet people tried to make us have some in fact. It is usually served from an ornate metal teapot into glasses and we discovered that the taste varied a lot depending upon where we were. It got better the further north we went.
There are certain rituals and courtesies that must be adhered to. For instance the tea is poured from quite a height, and one must always pour the first glass back in the pot to cool the tea. Then the host must pour tea for the guests first. But above all it is considered rude to refuse mint tea…unless it is being offered by a carpet seller. So we had mint tea in the guest room and it was pretty rough. The curator of the museum took great delight in showing me some of his teapot collection, some of which were made in the UK. Then we went out on to the roof terrace to admire the view.
After another hour or so of driving we saw this rather impressive little kasbah so we stopped for a photo. A kasbah is an Islamic fortress just in case you didn’t know.
This is all a bit dull I suspect. “Bring back the shared taxis and fish arguments!” you are no doubt thinking. Well this journey had no shared taxis but we did see this…
Look closely. Look a little closer. Yep. That is a goat climbing an argan tree. When I explained to Ali that in the UK goats don’t climb trees he responded in a very matter of fact way, “In the UK you do not have argan trees”, as if I was some sort of idiot for not realising this. I guess he might have a point. Onwards we drove, and then we got stuck behind a traffic jam, and traffic jams always give us the hump.
Our ultimate destination was Marrakech but Ali was taking us as far as Inezgane from where we could catch a bus. After bidding Ali goodbye we strolled into the bus ticket shop to discover that the next bus left in just 40 minutes. Just enough time for some delicious spit roast chicken under the watchful eye of a local chap. Far too watchful in fact. His eyes followed Claire wherever she went, with absolutely no effort to even be subtle. As we left I used backpacker trick number 7 and “accidentally” donked him round the ears with my rucksack, following it up with a gushing apology. I could tell he got the point.
The rucksack is a useful tool. I first used a rucksack in combat in Hue Railway Station in Vietnam whilst trying to fend off a queue jumping old woman.
Incidentally nobody but the Brits queue. We are so brainwashed into the queuing mentality that when foreigners queue jump we do two things. We get gently enraged, but we also say nothing and continue to queue stoically whilst unleashing a glare or two. But to clarify, it is often difficult to queue jump past 2 backpacking adults adorned with big rucksacks.
But I digress. Soon enough we were on the bus. The guy in front, another tourist but one that spoke Arabic, tried to recline his seat. Sadly there was nowhere for his seat to recline as my lengthy legs were folded into the entirety of the space immediately behind him. Every time he tried to recline I just pushed his seat back with my knees. He got a bit agitated and eventually he and his mate complained to the bus conductor chap. The conductor took one look at me and my legs and told the guy in front to “quit complaining”. It was in Arabic of course but I suspect it was something along those lines because he sat very still from then on.
The scenery on the way to Marrakech was impressive. So of course Claire slept pretty much all the way. But I glimpsed the snow capped mountains of the High Atlas mountains so I was happy.
This journey reminded me that, often with hindsight, some of my best travelling moments have been the actual travelling between destinations. It is amazing what you see from a bus or a train, especially in a country like Morocco.