Euro Camping Emirates, a few kilometres outside Azrou in the Middle Atlas region, seems to be better known in motorhoming circles as Camping Walt Disney. There were a handful of vans staying but judging by its size it must get pretty busy in peak season.
It was a very comfortable and relaxing place to spend a few nights and at eighty dirham a night with electric (about £6.50), a free baguette delivered to the door in the morning and a fabulous yurt come tent for Tim to play in we could have stayed longer.
You don’t need to be in a hurry here. The seventy six kilometre drive from the campsite in Fèz to Azrou along the N8 took us a couple of hours. The roads we have encountered so far have been really good but it can be slow particularly when winding up long climbs behind heavily laden lorries going at twenty kilometres an hour. Fortunately, we have the luxury of time and prefer to regularly pull in along the way to let other vehicles pass us anyway. There’s plenty to see and ponder on whilst trundling along. People working in the fields, roadside stalls selling fruit, ceramics or fossils, laden donkeys, stray dogs, waving children, police check points seemingly at every village, snow topped peaks, housing ranging from that which wouldn’t look out of place in a gentile French village to basic shelters made from any resources available and everything in between. It’s a fascinating country.
There are plenty of excursions to be had around Azrou for hiking and biking but as it was market day on the Tuesday we walked the few kilometres to the town to have a gander.
Surprisingly it wasn’t particularly busy and we were able to freely wander around unencumbered.
Again, unless we asked the seller first, the pictures were all taken discreetly from waist height to give a general sense of the scene and so as not to cause offence so some are a bit wonky.
It’s tricky with the whole photo thing here. I want to be sensitive to the people and culture by not taking pictures of anyone directly unless I’ve asked them first but with so many people about it’s not an easy thing to do.
Everything is so fascinating here it’s hard not to want to share it visually whilst also trying to remain mindful of not intruding on people’s privacy. In fact, yesterday we went to a small souk in a little town and decided not to take a camera. Consequently, we had a much more enjoyable and relaxed eyeball at all that was going on. I’ll just have to describe something of what we saw in the next blog post.
Several eateries surrounded the livestock selling area so we took the plunge at one of them. A couple of hunks of beef (don’t ask me which part but maybe legs) were hanging up outside and a barbecue was on the go.
After settling on a quarter kilo to be hacked off the leg of beef (if it was a leg) we watched as it was then put through a mincer with some onion, spices and extra fat. The resulting lump was then shaped into smaller pieces and put on the barbecue.
We relaxed at one of the tables awaiting our food whilst contemplating the cow and calf tethered to a lamppost grazing on the scrubby ground a few metres beyond the entrance to the food stall. The food arrived accompanied by two flying saucers of bread and it was exceedingly good.
French isn’t as widely spoken at the markets but the sellers will just show you in coins or notes what you need to pay. When we came to pay for our food the canny chap showed us a 100 dirham note (about €10). Eh? It was double what we thought it would be and I can’t believe the locals would be paying that much. We considered quibbling but in the end paid up, put it down to experience and made a note to agree a price before eating next time. The rule of thumb that we’ve read is that you barter for most things but food, drink, supermarkets, fuel, campsites etc are all a fixed price.
Azrou is surrounded by cedar forests, home to some Barbary apes. One of the areas that they can be seen is about five kilometres from the campsite and as we needed some exercise we decided to walk. One of the great things about being here is that many people smile and say a bonjour on passing or maybe wave. We were passed by a tuk-tuk on the way up the hill to the cedar forest and the driver turned and gave us a cheery wave. On arriving a few hundred metres from the parking area there was our grinning tuk-tuk chap clutching bags of peanuts to buy to feed to the apes. Tim and I have clashed a few times since we’ve been here on what to buy and what not to buy. I proceeded to buy a bag of peanuts for five dirham knowing Tim was not amused. Our ensuing conversation went something like this.
Tim: What did you buy those for?
Me: Because they were 5 dirham, he’s a nice chap and he’s just trying to make a living.
Tim: But should you be encouraging the monkeys by feeding them?
Me: I’ve no intention of feeding them to the monkeys.
Tim: What was the point of buying them then?
Me: To support the guy selling them. And anyway is it any different than going to Longleat (Safari park in the UK) and buying something off one of the stalls there to feed the giraffes or whatever?
Tim: Yes, but you wouldn’t buy anything from something like that in the UK.
Me: I know, but that’s not the point Longleat is a big business but the chap back there was just trying to make enough to feed his family.
Tim: But you can’t buy everything.
Jane: I know that but I’ve decided that if someone has a service to offer or something to sell that’s only a small amount then I’ll consider spending or buying even if I don’t really need or want what they are offering.
Silence for a few kilometres.
Tim: I could do with some food…….we should have brought some with us.
Me: Well, the only thing we’ve got is the peanuts you don’t think I should have bought!
We ate the peanuts then on the way back down to the campsite after walking for an hour or so in the forest and they went down a treat. We saw the apes just beyond the parking area contentedly eating whatever was offered to them but there was not one ape to be seen beyond that. Consequently we have no photos of them as we walked back to the campsite a different way without passing the parking area again.
À la procahine!