It’s a Wednesday that feels like a Tuesday. I don’t know why, but I have that Tuesday kind of feeling. I guess now is as good a time as any to head back to Morocco. Specifically to the day we drove from Todgha Gorge to Ait Beni Haddou via the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs. Of course, we didn’t stop at all of them.
In fact, we really only stopped at Amridil Kasbah, which was presented to us as a kind of additional attraction by our guide. If we hadn’t visited, this day would have been very short indeed. It’s hard to gauge how popular this kasbah is because we were the only visitors during the 45 minutes we toured it. According to the Lonely Planet, this is Morocco’s “most coveted” Kasbah. It appears on the 50 dirham note, so that is some indication of its importance to modern Morocco.
We met our very enthusiastic local guide at the door and he took us through the rabbit warren of rooms.
Now I’m thinking in hindsight, I really remember very little from the tour. I remember how excited our guide was to highlight some of the ingenuities of kasbah life. The fact that the kasbah has about four kitchens, being one of them. The kitchens kept the house warm in winter and closing kitchens kept it cool in summer. Comparing it to Volubilis, life changed very little in Morocco. This kasbah had an olive press, an internal well, locks and ovens, very much the same as Roman Mauretania Tingitana.
I just googled the site and found a video of the guide who took us around, but he’s speaking Italian. The comments section says he speaks four languages. Particularly impressive as the tour sounds fluent to me. He even has the same delivery gestures. Just watching it made me chuckle at the memory. Unfortunately, I lagged behind on his fast moving tour for photos and didn’t catch everything he said. There was even one point where I got lost with one of the guys on tour. We walked around in several circles only to reach the group just as they were moving off from the kasbah’s most spectacular terrace! I just couldn’t win.
It seemed like no time at all before we were back in the van. We’d swapped one sick girl for another. The seat nearest the door was informally chosen as the sick person seat and those feeling under the weather seemed to make their way there at some point.
Other Rachel was the sick person on this leg of the journey and I was so sad for her when she missed our walking tour at Ait Benhaddou. She didn’t seem perturbed, but I’m sure that’s because she was so sick and only wanted to sleep! While she was transferred to the hotel the rest of us set out on foot. Perhaps I am simply more excited for the early history and prehistory sites and that is a bit out of place in a country renowned for its mosaics. I guess places like Amridil and Ait Benhaddou can see architecturally plain by comparison. Ait Benhaddou was an important stop on the caravan trail between the Sahara and Marrakech. Once upon a time, all of the town’s inhabitants lived within the walls of the kasbahs and ksars. Now, only four families remain living in the remnants of an ancient world.
In my opinion, there was quite a bit of hassle in Ait Benhaddou, people grabbing at you and trying to sell you things. Fortunately our guide was walking us so fast passed the rows of street vendors that they didn’t have a second to start a sales pitch. We really didn’t get that many shopping opportunities en route outside the crafts people we went to see in Fes. A bit of a shame.
Before I crossed the river to the fortified city (yet another UNESCO site) Knox showed me a little card she’d managed to haggle for even as we flew down the street. It was a couple of camels against a desert background. Lemon, she said. Burning lemon juice into spectacular scenes seems to be the art du jour of Ait Benhaddou. Acknowledging our curiosity, our guide put together a hasty demonstration from a local vendor. The picture was complete before I had a chance to see what he was doing, that’s how quick they put these together.
We were eventually dragged away from the shops. Our guide was under pressure to get us a sunset, particularly after the desert had been so hazy. Although we practically bolted to the top of the city, we had to leave before the sun went down so we’d be at the hotel in time for Moroccan Cooking Class! That’s right, I can now cook a Moroccan tagine, despite our guide really interfering instead of letting me learn. The food I cooked myself was some of the best of the trip. Now I wish I’d bought a tagine so I can make it at home in Belfast. Perhaps I can put it together in a saucepan? Afterall, it’s just slow cooking…
MAD150 for the cooking class that doubled as our dinner
MAD25 for pizza at lunch
MAD10 to tour Amridil Kasbah
This day I chose a maxi dress and ballet flats. Another dose of hindsight says that ballet flats were not the most practical shoes for the sandy riverbank around Ait Benhaddou. Dress was paired with a long cardi and scarf. Probably my favourite outfit of the trip!