Life at the Bottom of the Todgha Gorge

todra gorge moroccoI don’t remember the drive to Todgha Gorge. When we hit sealed road again after leaving the Sahara I decided I didn’t want to be in the van anymore and the only way to “get there faster” was to just close my eyes and go to sleep. I woke up when we pulled into a viewing point at the top of the gorge so we could look down into the fertile strip flanked with orange cliff faces.

Some of my rock climber friends will be very impressed with this place. It’s a climbers dream with 150 routes in place. I think this sporting attraction is one of the factors that has made Todgha less remote. That said, it’s not over run by tourists. There are some lovely hotels, but there are no major tourist facilities. Those in the group wanting wine had to place orders with the tour guide who used a connection to get them what he could. Alcohol is otherwise unobtainable for tourists in this area. It didn’t really affect me since I don’t, for the most part, drink. todra gorgetodra gorge moroccohotel todra gorge

So we descended into the gorge. After a brief bag-drop at the hotel, our guide took us on a walking tour of the irrigated area at the base of the canyon. We followed the river bank through almond trees and bean plants as the cliffs became more and more sheer. You can see how the land folded and pancaked back on itself sometime in prehistory. The blue, orange and green layers of land and sky were so magical and for a large part we walked in silence. I lagged behind with a small number of the group. Those ahead must have been so irritated because we had to take pictures every five steps. I can completely appreciate why my brother Jack never wants to go places with me – we really did stop for an exceptional number of photos!

almond treetodra gorgetodra gorge cartodra gorgetodra gorge

As the gorge narrowed, we climbed out of the farms up on to the sealed road. They say the last 600m of Todgha are the most spectacular and we had to stop at the beginning of this. It is certainly where we felt the smallest. The cliffs reach so high they give the appearance of almost touching at the top.

Getting back in the van the guide asked us if we wanted to visit a local weaver and see how carpets were made. There was a tentative ‘yes’ from about 80% of the group, so we went. I hadn’t bought anything up until this point and the weaver proved to be my shopping kryptonite.

We were led through winding alleys back the way we’d just hiked, into an unmarked and unremarkable building, and up to the second level. The room on level two was covered, floors and walls, with carpets in all manner of colours and designs. The owner, a man named Mustafa, came out and began a speal about how welcome we were to learn about carpet even if we didn’t buy anything. We were handed tea. This weaver is a co-operative. A group of about 15 women weave for a couple of hours a day in their homes. They are running their households at the same time and weaving is a bit of enterprise on the side for them. When they finish a carpet they bring it to this building where the co-operative sells it on their behalf. According to Mustafa, each carpet is a story unique to the woman who made it, so no two carpets are the same.

He explained the dying process and the difference between sheep and camel wool. Then they brought out the carpets. Dozens of them in different sizes and colours. Rachel, our resident textiles expert, was the first to dive in and start the bidding process. After she began quite a few people got up and found pieces they want to take home. I saw a cobalt blue carpet, my brown eyes turned blue with its reflection.

And I spent almost ₤100 on a carpet.

They took my money before I could say runner and had it wrapped up in a surprisingly light roll for me to carry home.

carpet morocco carpet morocco

My adrenaline was so high after that. I remember walking back to the bus happy, talking carpet prices with the other carpet-buyers. When we got back to the hotel we had grand plans to lounge by the pool and swap carpet stories further – and with a view like that how could you not? But first I had to tell Tiernan. The previous day he had jokingly told me not to buy a rug. We have a kind of informal spending limit agreement. Normally we can spend about €100 without informing each other. In wedding year this threshold is a lot lower. And, of course, I’d gone over it. So I rang him.

“Hey Tiernan.  I did a thing and I’m happy so you can’t be mad.”
“What did you do?”
“I bought a carpet.”
Silence. Followed by a slow laugh.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope.”
“The one thing I told you not to buy. You did it anyway?”
“Yup.”
But it was all fine. It was just typical me. Swearing black and blue I won’t do something and then doing it anyway. Like quitting fizzy drink.

After I finished the call everyone from the tour group laughed and off we went for yet another couscous dinner. And so started a solid two days of buyer’s remorse, which I’ve totally recovered from. Especially now it’s on the floor of my room! Unfortunately I suffer from very serious buyer’s remorse. The only thing I never regret buying is food (probably the reason we eat out so often).

Also, my maid of honour to be, Brigette, ended up buying the carpet off me to give us as a wedding present. So that entire emotional roller-coaster was for nothing at all! Thanks Brigette! It’s on the floor and looking fab 🙂

carpet morocco

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