The whole night we hear the camels bleating and it’s freezing cold. One imagines a night in the Sahara more romantic. At least they gave us a candle so that we can get some light.
In the middle of the night Susanne wakes me up for the sunrise. I struggle out of the nice warm blankets into the cold and sandy mornings and follow Su up a dune. We notice tracks everywhere in the sand; a lot of animals must have been out and about during the night. Many winding tracks could be made by snakes.
We wait a long time, but it’s not really worth it. The country is not suddenly flooded with light as hoped, because the horizon is hazy and the sun only slowly creeps through the clouds until it is simply light.
If we think Berbers get up early, we’re wrong. We have to wait until nine-thirty for the first nomad to crawl out of bed. The Americans need even longer.
Until the sleepyheads wake up, Su and I roam around the area and watch a camel that, despite the handicap, makes 300 sea out of the camp. In the absence of trees to tether, one simply loops a rope around one forefoot and ties it to the neck, leaving the camel standing on three legs and just hopping around.
We have an open tent available for breakfast. The Berbers dine among themselves again. We’re given some bread, spread, and of course, sugar-soaked mint tea. But the breakfast is therefore already unique, since you are on pillows and look at the dunes.
After everyone has gathered, we say goodbye to the Berbers, thank them for their hospitality and get into the Land Cruiser. Now we heat through the desert a bit until we get firm ground under our wheels again and then drive in the direction of Mhamid. But we don’t stay there very long. Actually, we just look at another sign that says how many kilometers it is to Timbuktu. The “city” consists of a few mud houses in the middle of a scree landscape and the wind blows sand and old paper scraps through the area. There aren’t that many people here and the few you see look just as lost as donkeys or camels tied up in a corner somewhere.
We leave the settlement and thus the desert behind us and slowly drive back to the Drâa valley. We drive this route a few other junctions and are stopped by a police checkpoint. Two clean uniformed men sit under a thick olive tree and stop any passing vehicle.
Apparently there are problems with the registration or an insurance policy that is said to have expired. Two hundred dirhams later, however, the problem is solved and the officials wish us a nice day and a nice stay in Morocco. James pays the money.
Bribing the police is a calculated expense.
We drive again through the valley of the Drâa in beautiful weather through the date palms, stop at a pottery and watch the creation of the various pottery works.
In the afternoon we stop at an old Kasbah, which now has a restaurant. Su and I find a good place on the roof of the old mud wall with a magnificent view over the river and the surrounding sea of date palms. We’re pretty much the only ones. The Americans prefer to stay in the shadow of the ground floor.
Also the food is wonderful. Strengthened in body and soul we drive back and arrive back in Ouarzazate. The doorman says Ali wants to come back later around 10pm to have a drink with us. But Su and I are so exhausted from the day that we decide to take enough time with dinner that there might be a risk of missing Ali.
We say goodbye to the Americans who will be going back to Marrakech tomorrow morning and to James, whom we will see again at 8am to start the tour of the Gorges.
Su and I don’t want to eat in the restaurant near the hotel, but we go exploring. On a nearby street we see a couple of “restaurants” and we pick one out. It’s just a small shop where people sit outside at tables, eat something and stare spellbound at a television.
The news channel Al Jazeira from Dubai runs there. When we sit down there is general confusion and a nervous man comes up to us and nods at us questioningly. Since the man only speaks Arabic and also doesn’t know anything like a card, we order the usual: Tagine. The man goes to great lengths, bringing us fine cutlery, serviettes and bowls of warm water to wash our hands in. Then he serves us big casseroles of tagine and fries. The tagine here is the best of the whole trip. Su pays and gives him another coin as a tip, which now completely baffles the poor man. We leave and I ask Su why she tipped him a whopping 10 dirhams. That was more than one of the meals had cost. She is flabbergasted, rummages through her purse and realizes that she mixed up the coins. In any case, we can’t let ourselves be seen in the restaurant anymore…
The next day we will visit the Gorges.