Breakfast is waiting for us as we return from the Sahara trip and we are surprisingly hungry. They have crepes and a dairy food yoghurt stuff and fresh bread. Fig jam, honey and coffee. The room we have been given has a bathroom but the water is cold which is refreshing…not.. and little things like the sink water runs straight out and splashes at your feet to remind you that you are in a third world country, despite the decoration and peeling facade.
An hour 4×4 trip takes us back to the city where Mustafa whisks us into the leather seats and we are off to Marakech. It will take us two days with a stop over somewhere. I’m not sure how far the drive is but it turns out to be a good six hours each day and a lot of the road is winding up and down the Atlas Mountains. Mustafa is excited for us to see that shades of the hills and mountains and rock and it is indeed beautiful.
Getting greener the further we go it is pretty incredible how families can scratch a living in these hills. Homes made from clay built into hillsides and any little flat piece cultivated. He takes us to a couple of places along the way so we see the gorges and talk about between a rock and a hard place….
“What is the name of the place we stay at tonight?” I ask. “Yes. Mustafa answers. Wazzizzat is the name of the place we stay at tonight.”
“Wazzizzat, that is the name of the place?” Gilbert starts to laugh. “Yes”, Mustafa answers unsure why this is funny but leaves us to our crazy western humour. It’s actually spelt Ouarzarate. We stop at the hotel and stiff and sore I’m really hoping the hotel has hot water and it does. It’s about a three star but the hot water is fantastique and I shower and nap before dinner at seven.
Just before we eat Mustafa comes to check we are ok. He has showered and changed too and says we will leave early please. No worries Mustafa we will be ready. Then he pauses and looks at me. “I have to ask something else. A favour.” His big brown eyes looking only at me. “Yes” I answer. “I am not feeling well, he tells me. I have chills and I wonder do you have western medicine that will help me?” “No problem, I nod, I will get you something now.” He tells me his back and head is aching. He is feeling cold and I whip out some neurofen zavance I bought in Italy when Gilbert was sick and hand him four. “Two now and two in the morning. Have dinner but No alcohol, which is a bit of a joke as these guys seem to just sip tea or coffee all day and straight back to sleep after dinner ok.” “Ok”, he nods and smiles like a little boy even though he’s about 6 foot and built like a brick… Goodnight Mustafa!
I’m sure a good camera could take photos that would show these off better than I can, but the scenes are breathtaking with their intensity of colour and sheer size. I watch with awe as we pass through the hills and Mustafa chats from time to time. I show him our family photos at one of the coffee stops and he shows me his wife Fatimah. He looks at the picture of Wheriko and says she could be a Fatimah. She is beautiful, they are all beautiful. So many children. God is with you he sighs. He would like to have five children, inshallah. I ask if marriages are arranged and he says yes but not like in some places. Here is freer. He says his Mother was worried about him as she overheard the boys talking about American girls. He tells me as an aside that “they, excuse me for saying this, but wanting to be sexing all the time and it is really bad.” He has experienced this as a tour guide. His Mother is worried he will be wanting these girls so she hassles him to get married. He tells me there are five things you must look for. You won’t get all five maybe, but there is beauty, wealth, family, culture and religion. He tells his Mother he is not worried so much about beauty but he wants a wife who is clever and educated. Someone who has good values. His Mother begins to look for him and comes back with a girl that has come from the same area as his family. Close to where we have been in the desert in fact. She has trained as a midwife and working in Fes right now. He meets her and after one year they marry. She is perfect. He said just one thing she doesn’t worry about dressing up and making herself beautiful but this is something that is not important. She is perfect to him. “And how many camels do you pay for a wife such as this?” I wonder aloud. He laughs and tells me this is still happening today but in a different way and they don’t say ‘pay’. You don’t buy your wife. No. It is a thank you gift for getting her. It’s different. Some people will choose a wife to help them get on in life by say moving into a wealthier family but he thinks other things are more important than money. It’s an interesting conversation that goes on for quite a while.
Mustafa tells us about the different dynasties and where the Emporer came from hundreds of years ago and how Fes is from the eighth century but Marakech is from the eleventh century. I am always blown away at how much history these guys know. He reels off the names of kings and their sons and who they marry. Such a rich culture bought alive with stories and respect. I think back to what we learnt in school which is pitiful really, but their stories are interwoven into their daily lessons of life, within their families and their church, as well as the schools. It’s wonderful.
We reach Marakech at about 1pm and it’s crazy busy. It’s not so much that it’s busier than Fes but it’s more frantic. We observe a fight on the street as Mustafa tries to find the right gate to the medina we will be staying in and we meet Cathy at the gate. I pass a nz$100 to Mustafa as a tip. I have no idea if that’s good or bad but it’s actually all the money we have left and need to get to an ATM for more cash. We engage a man much older than us to use his trolley to help cart our bags as the carpet one we now have is perhaps twenty kilos. Cathy, our BnB host is French and also older than us. She tells us we will need to pay him about 20 dirham and that’s about the last of my coin. She starts off at such a pace weaving through thousands of people, there’s no way we can keep up. I’m watching her head bob up ahead and there’s about twenty people between us very quickly. Gilbert has stayed with the guy with our bags who is trying to negotiate the road traffic as the path is too full. I am watching in front and behind, and the gap widens so Gilbert is disappearing. I run forward calling Cathy’s name but I actually have to grab her and ask her to wait for the men. It takes a bit to get to us but once we are all together, we head off again. The road is dirty and smelly much like Fes. Down a side ally and Cathy points up indicating I should read the sign and memorise it. Okay. Down another ally and she points again and soon we are there. Inside is an oasis of calm once again. A Riad built around a central courtyard and our room is lovely. Now I can really rest….