A looong day in the saddle…..not the dromedary this time though. The Prado saw us all rotate seats for comfort and viewing during the many hours on the road from Dades to Marrakesh.
First a drive through the gorge to see the Monkey Toes rock formation…….the light threw up the varied colours of the rocks and was a very pleasant way to start the day.
The country relies heavily on tourism and the tipping culture now entrenched. The drive through towns themed to draw tourist interest saw the Rose valley with its industry of rose related products for perfume, pot pourris and cosmetics. Agriculture to supply local domestic needs intermingles with the specialty areas.
Then it was the film industry which has seen more than 20 films produced in this Atlas mountainous and desert landscape. There is a Museum dedicated to the film industry and not far down the road is the Studio where the film lots and the sets are ready for the next opportunity. Some sections of films such as The Jewel on the Nile, Gladiator and more recently Game of Thrones are on the list.
The day’s walking highlight was the UNESCO oldest fortress village at Ksar Ait Ben Haddur. The walk with our local guide and traditional Berber family member, was across a bridge over the dry river and through the tourist stalls up to his family home used in summer. The village originally had 57 Berber families and 13 Jewish families. Now there are no Jewish families and only 5 Berber families who come and spend the summers here, while living, working or studying elsewhere during the rest of the year.
UNESCO has guidelines as to what restoration can be done to maintain the integrity of the original. The cool temperature inside the house was very welcome, and it was interesting to see the traditional key used to secure the houses. (Not the contemporary key, but the nails at the end of the piece of olive wood which locks the door cunningly from the inside).
The hairpin bends and switch backs on the pass over the Atlas range was definitely an experience as the many, many road works made for narrow passing opportunities and some hairy moments. Fortunately Brahim is a very experienced and adept driver….and kept us entertained with his music and sense of fun!
T and LSM managed to keep track of the cricket Test match during the day, so they were happy. The mountains were majestic and the changes of scenery kept our minds off the stiffness in our rumps.
The first impression of Marrakesh dispelled the romantic hollywood exotic vision I had in my head. We were bombarded by the International Golf Courses and motorbikes and cyclists galore, congested traffic and a lack of parking for us to access the old city and find our riad for the next two nights. We met Brahim’s brother along the way, and walked without much grasp of the route or directions to Riad Bellamane.
I love the decorated ceiling in the dimly lit room, and the pool and courtyard will get a workout later. An oasis in the midst of the clamour outside. Only one day to see what Marrakesh has on offer so only time to see the highlights.
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