Over the Atlas Mountains (March 19, 2018)

Before finishing our ride over the mountains we visited a UNESCO site near our hotel: the ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou. This ksar (fortified city) is know for its burnt red earthen architecture dating from the 17th century. It is mainly a crowded, interconnected group of dwellings. It was a favorite of mine (just to recap: along with the leather dying vats and the deserted old wells). The visit amounted to getting across a small, low river by bridge or by stepping from one strategically placed sandbag to the next before an easy hike up through narrow alleyways eventually ending at the top of a bluff where an old granary was situated. The views from the top were wonderful. Parts of Lawrence of Arabia were shot here, by the way.

We shopped on the way down. Dan chose two small pill boxes for his collection and turned it over to me to bargain. The salesman asked $20 for both … I offered 5 … he was insulted … I produced the 5 … he said 18 … I paid $7 total. The box guy smiled, shook my hand, and said I bartered like a Berber. Full of myself after what I assumed was a Berber compliment, a necklace purchase went much the same. The salesman started at $20 and I paid $6. I also bought a polished stone ball. Asking price was $10; I paid $2.

Dan had his only disappointing meal of the trip: milky spaghetti drizzled with a hint of tomato sauce with mystery meat on top. He envied me my chicken kabobs which were served with rice, fries, well done veggies, and baba ganuche.

Our drive over the 7,400 foot mountain pass offered varied landscapes along a road that vacillated from having two lanes to three to an optimistic one and a half. As a matter of fact, it had been closed for snow two days prior. We applauded our driver for managing so well on the narrow roads that for the most part had no guard rails. In places we had to stop to make room for another large oncoming vehicle. No matter the width of the road, vendors were set up at every conceivable pull off. No sooner had we stopped to enjoy the view and …boom… we were approached with things they assured us we could not live without. Sometimes they were right.

We passed walnut and juniper trees, terraced fields, barren mountains, prickly pear, laundry laying on the mountainside to dry, stacked stone houses, and of all things a double decker livestock truck with cows on both levels. After a particularly long stretch of arid countryside, we came around the corner to a dazzling Ireland green as far as the eye could see. The beautiful green was from the baby wheat and barley growing in all the fields. As usual, we were always on the lookout for the cute little donkeys and mules working their little hearts out.

We had a fun run in with dogs at one comfort stop. Four dogs came lopping off the mountain when they saw us get off the bus. They just sat patiently nearby and looked up at all of us. No barking or jumping or tussling with one another. Who could resist? I started separating the cookie part from the chocolate centers of treats I had intended for myself. The little beggars were so cute and patient with how slowly I executed my task. Like all the dogs we have seen, they looked healthy and well fed. A surprise for a cat-loving society.

Some one had recorded Marrakesh Express and asked the driver to play it as we approached our destination. We were the right generation and knew some of the chorus although no one admitted to having hopped on the Marrakesh Express (think hashish) back in the day.

Moroccans are very comfortable being touched. There is a lot of two-cheek kissing, hand shaking, shoulder squinches, casual touching, and pats on the back. Including
between salesmen and customers.

All our guides, as well as Safi, have told lots of wife jokes that they seemed to enjoy telling as much as they assumed we enjoyed hearing.



One thought on “Over the Atlas Mountains (March 19, 2018)

  1. You guys drove over a lot of mountains!! Sounds like there was a lot of public kissing going on—LOL

    Matt Mongeon | Senior Business Analyst
    PMP, ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    Technology Team – Cox California
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | • matt.mongeon@cox.com


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