My time in Morocco is a continuing tapestry of colors, sounds and images, a wonderous wave that has me caught up and tossed me about from place to place.
I left Essaouira for Boumalne du Dades, impossible to reach by public transport in one day, so I hopped a bus back to Marrakech for the night, enjoying my favorite group of Berber musicians, along with a hot bowl of Moroccan soup and some bread (the latter for under 25 cents). At six the next morning, I was on my way.
Boumalne du Dades is a small Berber town on the high plateau of the Kasbah route, alongside the Atlas mountains. I arrived late in the day, in time to secure a room (a bed) that cost me $7.00. The next day was market day; I walked up the hill to the local market. There I met Ruben, from Spain, who had been here before, had befriended some local people, and had come back to spend his holidays with them. We decided to check out the Dades Gorge, accessible by local taxi vans. We ran into Lahcen, a Berber guide. He joined us as a friend, having nothing else to do.
We hiked the gorge, dotted by old kasbahs, caves, where nomads live in the winter, as well as local Berber families. Later that evening a few locals played the drums while Ruben improvised on his flute. Once again, I enjoyed an evening of Berber music. My music world has broadened beyond American blues and classic rock 'n roll.
I left Boumalne du Dades with Barry, a Berber whose family owns an inn in Merzouga on the edge of the Sarara Desert at the foot of the Erg Chebbi Dunes. He offered me a room at a decent price; I took him up on it. The bus we were on did not go as far as Merzouga; Barry got us a ride with an Arab in an old, white, beat up Mercedes. Eventually we were driving in the bare desert, heading towards nowhere, it seemed. We got stuck in the sand, we pushed. On and on we drove until I noted structures in the distance. In a short time, we pulled up at the entrance of the small and charming l’auberge Berbers, at the foot of magnificent sand dunes. After checking in, I went out to run on the dunes before the camel trek began. I ran and ran; I felt alive and happy. An hour into the camel trek, the camel herder, quiet and serious, dropped away to pray; Barry and I continued on.
Something about the desert makes me feel I belong there. It has captured my heart; it is in my blood.
In the morning I had something to take care of. I had carried my son's ashes, knowing I would find the right place and time. I wrote his name in the sand, mixed some of his ashes with a little of the sand and let part of him journey across the Sahara.
The following day my destination was Fez, a full day’s trip on a van taxi first to Risini, then a bus to Fez. The ride was over high plateaus and mountains, through breathtaking gorges. Time seemed to stop. We pulled into dark and rainy Fez. The driver dropped me off near where I could easily catch a taxi to an accommodation. Such kindness, and others, made me feel richly blessed in a country where I didn't speak the language, with people who had another culture.
Rabat, a beautiful coastal city, was my next travel goal. I found it to be a city with a heart (different from Fez where I did not feel welcome as a woman traveling alone). This part of Morocco is essentially Arab, as opposed to Berber territory, where I had just come from. There are few American tourists here, perhaps because of the distance, or political climate. I was well received, though. Rabat is most interesting in the evening when people converge at the entrance of the medina (a walled city, generally the older part of a city where the bazaars, markets, food stalls are located). Every hour or so the scene changes: a food stall is transformed into a stall for scarves, soup and sandwich vendors give way to snails, to bread carts and pastries. There is an ebb and flow shrouded in mystery; shifting scenery on a dark backdrop.
At 9:00 p.m., I headed back to my inn, not wanting to draw attention to the lone female on her own. My mantra became: do not make eye contact.
You can more of the author's travels at her blog.