Tag Archives: Morocco

… Morocco adventure, fourth part …

31st Dec 2007 … The dogs must have eaten something unsavoury during their beach run. Ulla worries. Ali is unwell, though recovers during the afternoon. After fresh prepared fish meal for lunch, I consult the I Ging. It’s tempting to veer decades back into the past, a time I consulted the oracle daily during my solo trips through Italy in my VW Bus. Such free strands of associations would easily make a novel of this report.

Anyway, the I Ging brings up ‘determination. What the heck for?’ Not having to make decisions is a fascinating experience for me, if slightly unsettling. I reckon Ulla’s moods slow my futile attempt at reducing ruminating thoughts, like I puzzle over how frequently she marks events in a negative frame. ‘I knew it was going to be a bad day,’ that sort. I made the decision (ha ha, I made a decision after all)  to trust in her powerful guardian angel. The sharp way she sums up the occasional unpleasant person we meet, I fully admit, creates an instant emotional clearance, which I like, as long as an analysis of my congruence follows. I was born that way, and too easily succumbed to my mother tabooing cuss words from my vocabulary. Further, with vital exception in cases of injustice, or when pushed too far by idiots, which sparks pure anger in me, I tend to neutralise my attitude when negative reactions towards people perk up. That is to say I trained myself stepping into other people’s shoes, even when they pinch. I fully own the torture of this tricky ideology. I’d not recommend the style. Phew, that was a droll effort at self-observation.

1st January 2008 … Last night was a non-event, though a hilarious late TV show diverted me away from sulking. We wait ages for a camel dish. I’m unsure about eating the mutton of such useful and loyal creatures. The dish tastes fine, but scenes I witnessed of how animals are treated before slaughter always trouble me. Just then Ulla storms off in disgust as a truck with cramped chicken cages arrives at the restaurant. She eventually returns. Our waiter friend packs up the content of her plate for us to take along. On way back to Bou Jerif we almost turn around when another troupe of four-wheel drivers showers us with clouds of dust. Short of time, we call the fort and order a tent for me. All turns out well. I get a tower room for the price of a tent. And the manic French group leaves shortly, for whatever reason.

2nd to 3d January 2008 … After a walk following a parched river bed with patches of blooming desert, we return to an Oasis below Bou Jerif. Later Ulla takes the van to the fort to recharge batteries, while I have a hot shower, and read. Tomorrow we’ll head up the Atlantic coast.

4th – 5th   January … We get meat for the dogs in Goulimine and drive on to Sidni Ifni for a late lunch at Suerto Lorca. My choice is octopus. I’ve run out of colour film and have been using a spare black and white film for a while. We plan to shop in Tiznit. I access my email to check whether Julio has answered my query re: a room at his Marrakech Riad, Dar Pangal for the day before my flight back to London. No luck so far. Off to Tiznit. After I rent a room for the night, we have lunch and go shopping. Ulla strikes a bargain for a beautiful hand-embroidered Kaftan, intended for cushions. She frowns when the trader asks her to smile. A deal that is not sealed with smiles seems to signal disapproval here. The trader relents, is forgiving, ‘Inshallah.’

Near Agadir we stop for the night at a place called Paradise de Nomade. I’m impressed by the fresh sheets in my Berber tent. And the massive boulders in the dry riverbed nearby are an epic sight. Unfortunately the night turns noisy from 11:30 pm onwards. Four wheel drivers arrive, dogs bark, music, jolly talking … until 3 am.

Next morning we hear the sudden influx was due to a desert rally being called off at short notice, because four French tourists were murdered in Mauretania. The locals, it was said, asked the party for some money and were refused, so they killed them. Sadly, past political grievances, lack of deep listening, arrogance, and the refusal of dialogue can have terrible consequences. Morocco has a complex history and a hard won independence.

6th Jan … Images along the road to Essaouira, and some reflective thoughts … As the light, colours, food, scents, the warmth and hospitality of ordinary people in Morocco grow on me, I ponder on how outer impressions oscillate with my inner pilgrimage. Sound plays a powerful role in stirring the unconscious. The tunes I hum unawares, I realise, include folk themes, lyrics from German romantic poets set to music by Schubert, even Kurt Weil songs; melancholic echoes from childhood and teen days. Yet even then I probed the meaning of home, of belonging. Being a stranger seemed more exciting. There is a kind of accord with other strangers around the world, due to a gap in narratives, demanding keen attention, shaking up perceptions and allowing for the unfamiliar to astonish.

On this stretch of road, the predominant sound, whenever Ulla stops the engine, is the rhythmic surf of the Atlantic, Sea of the Atlas, into which many rivers flow, and which, through a narrow strait, connects to my beloved Mediterranean. The high and low tides of this expansive body of salt water, dividing Europe from North America, and Africa from South America, make up the drone to dreams criss-crossing cultures from East to West, with ancient legends adding a shimmer to images that present themselves each day. To these inter penetrating worlds a constant wind adds turbulence, creative chaos.

Approaching Essaouira, we’re both a bit tense. Neither of us slept well at Paradis de Nomade. We search a hotel for me, after Ulla missed the earmarked camping place. She has the beach in mind, to give Ali and Leila their deserved run. Her stress and impatience adding to mine, I accept a hotel at the outskirts of Essaouira. The receptionist makes to pretence about relishing my embarrassment when I mistake E120 for 120 Dirham. A shock, considering my dwindling finances, but I can’t just walk out and sit on the curb. Overcoming the inner struggle, I decide to switch attitude, enjoy a hot shower and have sublimely quiet night.

7th of Jan 2008 … I find my kind of place, affordable and relaxed, in the Medina of Essaouira. At Hotel Souiri my inner harmony is restored. Ulla and I meet at 2 pm for a meal of irresistible fresh-smoked sardines at the harbour. The dogs enjoy a walk along the fortress walls, but are less pleased when we trundle through narrow streets in search for bargains. We both find items after appropriate spans of haggling. I buy a carpet runner to cheer up my kitchen at home. The labyrinth Medina has a lively and friendly atmosphere, and a well sustained patina of hippy charm, inviting a longer stay, but not this time, since I must catch a plane in two days.

Ulla offers to drive me to Marrakech.  In hindsight, I should’ve made the decision to refuse and organised a bus. Marrakech does not welcome dogs, which traditionalists consider unclean in Morocco. We were rejected at the outside table of a restaurant at central market place, Jemaa el-Fnaa,  even while sitting on the fringe, because our lovely friends, Ali and Leila were unwelcome. It was a sad downer.

In all, the journey reminded how moving to England in 1978 marked a departure from my crazy life in Germany, with all its professional successes and private failures, opening another crazy section of my life, with equal successes and failures, coinciding with a change of my name. The bridge I crossed then, offered a deep learning, and it allowed me eventually, through another language, to find my way back to writing. But that’s a story in itself.

My friend and travel companion, I must add, while inclined to retreat into her shell, is to my heart an iridescent pearl. I’m grateful she suggested the pilgrimage, and thank her for her companionship during these remarkable weeks.

Note: Please ignore grammar quirks in this spontaneous sharing. Thanks .Also, the underlined blue words in this text open safe links to Wikipedia, and bring up a separate screen.

Blessings for 2021. Wishing you, us, a better year ahead, one that makes pilgrimages possible again.

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… Morocco adventure, second part …

21st Dec,. 2007. Ulla and I head to Tiznit, and on to Playa Aglou, where I book into a hotel at the beach for two nights at reduced price. I sleep well after two glasses of red from the bottle I brought along from Agadir. We have a morning walk under spectacular skies along the coast.

Here happens the image for the title of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ with clouds brilliantly reflecting on the water. The dogs race on the moist sand. Late afternoon it rains a little. Next day we make a short trip south, exploring hidden bays with otherworldly rocks.

22nd Dec. We go shopping in Tiznit, for candles, water, yogurt and postcards. The souk is empty, maybe because of the holiday. Afternoon we walk along the coast, with two, three, four bands of surf under a misty sunset with pink clouds, and also stroll along Aglou promenade.  We contemplate renting a flat for a few days. A Moroccan scout suggests a few, but they’re all in a dire state … half functioning appliances, smelly and dirty, nothing that couldn’t be righted with a little effort, but we are in conflict whether to commit to one place or push on.

23d Dec. Massive rainfall, through which I run to make it dry to the breakfast terrace. The sky clears quickly. By lunchtime we drive on towards Sidi Ifni,  stopping in Mirleft for lunch. As only customers we are served like royalty.

Later on I hold my breath, while Ulla, seemingly fearless, navigates the heavy van descending a scary steep rubble track, the last stretch bringing us to the legendary Legzira beach. This heart stopping moment brings back a time when I had my own, smaller VW bus, and got stuck ascending a vertical narrow road in the mountains of South Tirol. I was younger then, with more guts. I relied on my handbrake to exit the car and put rocks under the back tires, mainly to gain time and catch my breath. In the end you do what needs doing. Once you’re on a sheer slope you keep your nerve. Gliders have most excellent nerves around here and, for us, Legzira’s red rocks were well worth the  effort.

Sidi Ifni was relinquished back to Morocco by Spain in 1969. The beach is massively dirty, yet overall the place has an odd charm, and seems to have escaped mass tourism.

I book into Suerte Loca. It’s a full moon night. My room is shared with one lazy fly, which, in my dream, I pursue with a formidable army of girls, equipped with arrows.

The terrace with a view up the road is lovely, though it connects with three other rooms, something I feel uneasy about. There were once plans to build an airport here, but the designated area remained empty. I like this photo I managed to take. Developers overestimated Sidi Ifni’s attraction to tourists. Some months after our visit there were violent protests by the unemployed, who blockaded the port. Maybe things changed.

24th Dec. No tinsel or jolly Christmas bells for most Moroccans. French people living in Morocco tend to spread the tradition, though not in the Oasis where we arrive today. Domain Khattab has camping facilities and a few small bungalows, all set in a desolate landscape not far from Goulimine, the gateway to the desert. I rent a little bungalow. Before bedtime Ulla serves a vegetable stew done on her camping stove. We share reminiscences. Happy Christmas, I say, with some irony. Ulla believes in nothing, and why not. Traditions that lose symbolic value degenerate. When I think of how Christmases have changed since my childhood, I despair at the monster enterprise it now stands for. It is bitter cold, hard to sleep, even under several layers of blankets. Dogs are barking on and off during the night. The place has a filthy kind of allure. Only a trickle of water in the bathroom, and the toilet doesn’t work. A helpful man brings a bucket of water, and then another for the next flush. Unfortunately the toilet bowl leaks, which I discover in the morning when I step into ice cold puddles that soaks my leg warmers. Despite all these discomforts, there is something refreshingly disorientating about travelling along unknown roads.

25th Dec. Christmas day. The sun brings a little warmth. I pay what I think is sufficient for the lack of much, which is accepted. Breakfast is delayed, because someone overslept. We meet a Swedish woman who travels alone via public transport. I admire her good faith. We are off to Goulimine to get some shopping done. A young man shows me the one place that sells wine, in a dark corner of the souk.

For our next destination we drive a dangerously bumpy track to Fort Bou Jerif. The stillness among the bare hills is eerie. Not a soul for miles on end. Lost in the desert, the fort attracts visitors because of its stunning ruins. The guest quarter, including a camping area, run by French people, has a Disney feel and lacks authenticity. Only mad tourists like us attempt this arduous journey, which should require a 4×4 vehicle. The room I book is expensive, sigh, but since everything is clean and well cared for, I anticipate the unique pleasure of a hot shower. Close by is a river with a palm grove oasis. We opt for a tagine dinner in front of Ulla’s van, prepared traditionally on a wood fire by a clever trader hiding among the bushes. It tastes delicious, and we enjoy the sunset with a full moon rising. Tomorrow we’ll explore the ruins.

26th Dec. A fairly comfortable night, for Ulla in her van, and for me in my snug room, where I sketch some furniture details. We set out to explore the crumbling ruins. Apparently the fort was built by the French around the 1930s and abandoned once Morocco obtained its independence in 1956.

The hot shower was overstated. To safe costs, I opt for a tent for the second night, spreading a sea of tiny tea lights around me for comfort. Still, the cold prevents me from sleeping, until Ulla saves me by supplying a cashmere blanket, which I wrap around my neck. It also helps to muffle the noise of barking dogs.

Choosing images is difficult, there being so many, in different folders. I hope the ones chosen add a taste to the journey. More adventures to come, hopefully to cheer those of us in lock down.

The lone warrior at Plage Blanche, back to Goulimine, and on towards Tan Tan via Ksar Tafnidilt.

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… Morocco adventure 2007, first part …

Marrakech airport, 16th Dec 2007 … new arrivals are greeted by hundreds of placards. I scan the display showing names of people, Hotels, and Riads, until I spot Dar Pangal, my Riad. In the rush my top heavy case topples and grazes a man’s toes. He shouts an avalanche of abuse, in French. I say, ‘Sorry,’ which raises his blood pressure even more. My understanding of French being embarrassingly basic, I do grasp the questions he hurls at me like projectiles. ‘Where do you come from? Why do you come here?’ His insolence finally riles me. ‘Why do you want to know?’ I ask. He snaps back in English, ‘Shut up.’ Young Saladin, who will bring me to my Riad in the Medina, casts his eyes to heaven and shrugs his shoulders, so do I.

Anything on wheels ages well here. Old bangers zip through the buzzing crowd. Some cars, and bikes, have well-fed goat tied up in the backseat. ‘Feasts are ahead,’ Saladin says, in perfect English. ‘Sacrificing goats for celebrations and sharing their mutton with family, friends and neighbours is an honoured tradition in these parts of the world.’

Turning into a narrow backstreet, we arrive at Dar Pangal. The inner courtyard is an island of peace. Julio offers a warm welcome. He’s South American, but spent years in Paris, working as a designer. He likes Werner Herzog films, and once met Klaus Kinsky. Eccentric people fascinate him. I reveal how I worked for some of these eccentric people in the past. On that wavelength we share reminiscences over mint tea. Using a mobile and texting is a new experience for me. Somewhat nervous, I practice sending messages to Ulla, Ruth and Zohra. Connections work well. A hot shower also works well, and helps me to sleep after a long day.

17th Dec. 2007 … A knock on the door. 7 am and pitch dark. Latifa opens the shutters and invites me to have breakfast. Later I explore Julio’s roof terrace, with sweeping views over the medina roofs, which carry a field of satellites. Seems Marrakech is well wired up through gold vision orbs.

I find an exchange office to buy dirham cash, and then stroll through the Souk, taking my time, feasting on spicy smells and deep colours. An exotic trance battles with my intention to look purposeful, to avoid harassment. Charmed by a timeworn caravanserai, I calculate the exchange rate in my head and bargain over a holdall made from a Berber saddle back. In the process I lose a knitted hat I’d bought for my son. His taste in clothing has become refined, so maybe I should find a different present. I notice that most people don’t like to be photographed without permission, which I respect. The plenty starved cats have no objection.

18th Dec. 2007 … Saladin learns there are no places on trains to Agadir on the Atlantic coast, where I am supposed to meet my friend, Ulla, with her VW bus and her two dogs. We manage to find a seat for me in a grand taxi, an old Mercedes already cramped with Moroccan men heading to Agadir for family gatherings. To ease their fare the men wedge me into the backseat. Pressure of time cancels choice, so I trust the arrangement. Magnificent white clouds over the Atlas Mountains compensate. A short cigarette stop provides a memorable photo. After an hour being cramped together, the men invite me to mint tea and pancakes. We communicate in made-up language, hand gestures and smiles.

I meet up with Ulla, her van and her dog family, a Dalmatian, Leila, and an adorable adopted Moroccan street dog, Ali, in the parking area of Marjane Shopping Mall. I had visited Ulla’s home a year earlier, refreshing a connection from eventful past decades that combined in our memory. Besides, there was our joint mother tongue. Mine had become rusty. Being challenged to speak German brought not only forgotten words to the surface, but also forgotten experiences. Where I can be hesitant and avoid conflict, she has a no-nonsense manner, often with an edge I admire. Shouting the name ‘Ali’ down the road for your dog to behave, is potentially asking for trouble, that is, in Morocco. The predictable raised eyebrows before the penny drops remind me of childhood pranks my mother used to censor. We make an interesting pair of travellers.

Two friends Ulla met on the road, Peter and his partner, have their camper parked nearby. Peter knows everything there is to know about Morocco, including where to find my rolling tobacco, and how to achieve reduced deals for lodgings. Useful, since Ulla’s dog friends own any spare space in her van.

19th Dec 2007 … We are en route through the Anti-Atlas Mountains and along steeply winding roads, with an almost invisible turnoff towards the hidden Berber oasis of Tafraoute. I sign in at Hotel Salama. We have a fabulous meal at a tiny Berber restaurant. The owner, I learn later, married an English Writer, and back in the UK, I discovered by chance a proof copy of her novel in a charity shop. I wrote a spontaneous review.

 

 

 

 

 

The landscape surrounding Tafraout is littered with spectacular rocks. In 1984, a Belgian artist, Jean Verame, painted a cluster of rocks blue. I prefer land-art created with earth materials, not tons of paint. Still, it was done, and these rocks look as if the sky dropped a spot of its blue on them.

Our next destination was Tiznit, and from there on all the way to Tan Tan, near Mauritania, and up again along the Atlantic coast to Essaouira. Given the present surreal lock downs, I may share more episodes of this adventure.

Photography fans may like my album on Morocco at  https://500px.com/p/ashen?view=galleries

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… the golden hour …

My blog host – WordPress – has a weekly photo challenge. I spotted the theme of this week in a Twitter post … ‘The Golden Hour’ … and couldn’t resist sharing some photos of from Morocco’s Atlantic coast, where I travelled with a dear friend some years ago. The photos here were taken during late afternoon, my favourite light.

Moroc, Plage Blanche sunset - low

Morocco, Plage Blanche

Moroc, mirror clouds, birds - low

Morocco, Sidni Ifi

Moroc, Aglou, fisherman and son - low

Morocco, Aglou, fisherman and his son.

Moroc, Aglou prom,  boy - low

Morocco, Agou, boy on the prom

Moroc, Aglou, Moon, cropped - low

And the moon coming up over Anglou.

*    *    *                                                                                                                                                                                                     Morocco, with its rich variety of landscapes, is a feast of colours. Its people are warm, welcoming and serve delicious food. I hope to return again.

*    *    *

You can explore links to other people’s photos on the ‘Golden Hour’ theme here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/the-golden-hour/

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