The vicinity around Ouarzazate has played host to many a film. Gladiator, The Last Temptation of Christ, Babel and Alexander the Great amongst others were filmed at Atlas Studios just outside Ouarzazate. We are by no means film buffs as we hardly ever watch films or TV but we thought it would be a fun place to visit nonetheless. Well maybe we missed the point but we were completely underwhelmed by the experience.
We found out later that we could have had a guided tour included in the price of the ticket but that wasn’t mentioned to us when we paid our eighty dirhams each to go in. Maybe with a guide it might have been brought to life a bit more but after having visited so many ancient sites in Greece and other countries on our travels it was all a bit hammy.
I suppose that’s obvious as it’s the set of a film not the real thing but still I found it all a bit bizarre.
You’re free to wander around the site and clamber all over the crumbling sets but in twenty five degree heat I really couldn’t sum up much enthusiasm.
The most interesting section for me was the stable area. There were probably forty or so horses, a couple of donkeys and half a dozen camels there which are presumably used as extras in the films but I’m not sure what they have the opportunity to do in between films. They all looked bored rigid in their individual stables made for one. The stables were clean and they had plenty of protection from the heat and plenty of water but I couldn’t see anywhere around that indicated that they ever went out or were exercised at all as there were no paddocks, no hoof prints and no poo to be seen.
After an hour mooching about the different sets we’d had enough and headed for Aït Ben Haddou where we’d get to see another popular film location but this time one which existed before films were even thought of. The Kasbah of Aït Ben Haddou is one of the largest complexes of packed earth buildings in Morocco. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has undergone some restoration.
We stayed at Kasbah du Jardin, a little campsite behind an Auberge which was a bit rough and ready but after a noisy night of drumming and singing put on for a tour group at the Municipal campsite in Ouarzazate the night before we were glad to have open views and a bit of peace and quiet.
Even though Aït Ben Haddou is very touristy we found it fascinating. We spent a couple of hours early in the morning exploring all the little alleyways around the Kasbah before the bulk of visitors arrived.
We’ve found that Morocco doesn’t really come to life until after about midday so the morning is a good time to explore as even the shopkeepers tend to leave you in peace. Aït Ben Haddou was an exception though and we did have to politely refuse offers of ‘come, look, just look’ etc etc.
I did have quite a long conversation with one chap who invited us in to his shop and I learnt all about his children and what they were up to and his brothers and sisters but he really didn’t have anything I wanted to buy so I had to politely extricate myself before he got the teapot out.
I paused to look at a little carpet with a picture of a camel woven into it just long enough for the shopkeeper to pounce on me. The trouble was I really liked the little carpet with the picture of the camel woven into it. It would be perfect in between the cab seats in the van. Soooo, we started the game of the negotiations. He started at 1200 dirhams (£100) but I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to pay more than 200 dirhams. It can be a bit exhausting all this negotiating lark but I really didn’t want to budge on the top price I had in my head as we really didn’t necessarily need another carpet. After ten minutes we were on our way back to the van for some lunch with the little carpet with the camel woven into it tucked under my arm. He came down to 200 dirhams when he knew I was definitely going to walk away without it at any other price. It’s looking more and more like our fitted carpets in the van are going to be thrown out before we leave Morocco.
En route towards the coast on the N10 we had more carpet negotiations when we stopped in Tazenakht. We only stopped to pick up some bread and some eggs but as it was market day, which is always fascinating anywhere in Morocco, we had a wander around for an hour or so. Tazenakht, it turns out, is carpet city. We had a short tour, in French, at one of the co-operatives after we were invited in. I’m getting a bit more relaxed about taking up someone’s time now and not buying anything but you know as soon as a shopkeeper starts talking to you that they want you to buy something from them. After twenty minutes of being shown around and learning a bit about the ladies from different tribes who make carpets etc etc we left empty handed this time. As Tim always says to me ‘he invited us in, we don’t have to feel any obligation to buy anything, we didn’t ask to have a look’. Tim has no trouble adhering to this but I find it a bit more difficult in practice!
The N10 from Ouarzazate to Agadir is about 340 kilometres. The dry arid landscape from Ouarzazate gets greener the further west you travel.
From carpet land in Tazenakht we reached saffron land at Taliouine.
It is said the best saffron in Morocco is grown here. Apart from a Saffron Co-operative there wasn’t much else in Taliouine. We walked into the town on a Friday afternoon past the crumbling Kasbah.
Nearly everything was closed but we really enjoyed wandering around the closed up souk to be able to take photos of all the little booths which burst into life on souk day.
West of Taliouine we encountered a steady increase in the amount of traffic on the road.
It was definitely overload day. Overloaded lorries. Overloaded vans. Overloaded tractors. Overloaded motorcycles. Overloaded bikes. Overloaded carts. Overloaded donkeys and overloaded ladies. We saw more overloaded forms of transport in one afternoon than we’d seen in the past two weeks.
On the outskirts of nearly every town we drive through there is a police checkpoint where you need to slow down and stop if asked to by the local gendarme. To date we haven’t been stopped but I just wonder what they are checking for. I presume vehicle insurance is a thing here but I’m not sure about an equivalent of an MOT as most vehicles fall into the over thirty years old category and are frequently falling to bits and overloaded with people. We’ve seen some of the old Mercedes taxis carrying about nine people. Overloading a vehicle doesn’t seem to be a problem here but maybe not having the right paperwork is. I don’t know?!
Whilst on our way to Taroudant, where we’d planned to stay at a little campsite a couple of kilometres from the town, I spotted a new campsite on the park4night app that had recently opened that had really good reviews, had a restaurant, a pool and a washing machine and was alongside the N10 so easy to just pull into for the night. It was, in fact excellent, definitely to a European standard, with individually marked out bays separated by flowerbeds. Sorry I forgot to take a photo! The restaurant, it turned out, was next door at the service station but we had an excellent meal there in the shaded garden area which cost just under £10 for the two of us.
Breakfast the next morning of omelettes, coffee and a banana smoothie was less than £5. It’s a shame the campsite is right next to the busy road as it was really noisy with traffic and didn’t turn out to be as relaxing as we’d hoped. Instead of staying another night and getting a bus into Taroudant, which is famous for its red-brown crenellated walls, we decided to drive in and park for a couple of hours just outside the walls for a look see before heading to the coast at Agadir.
Seeing as I’ve already bought two small carpets for the van and it’s looking increasingly like we’ll go the whole hog and replace our ageing fitted carpets with Moroccan ones I was all ready to make another purchase for the kitchen area. After measuring up we set off into the medina within the walls. Going from the calm of our parking spot outside the city walls through one of the gates to the medina was like going into another world again. Donkeys, carts, mopeds, tuk tuks, car, vans and……………………people, so many people. Workshops spill out onto the pavements. If there’s a workshop repairing mopeds or bikes there’s usually a cluster of men gathered round something that’s being taken to bits or put back together. The workshops, whether for mechanics, carpentry, metal or whatever are just full of stuff. There seems to be no order and how they find anything is beyond me. But it is all totally absorbing as well and creates so many questions that pop into my head all the time. What’s this, What’s that or Why this or Why that or How on earth…………? It can be exhausting mentally as my little brain is on the go all the time.
We spent an hour aimlessly wandering about taking it all in before we decided it was about time we found the souk so I could peruse the carpets. Well after half an hour, and with the help of Maps.Me, we eventually found one of the two souks but it must have been the wrong one because all that was on sale was some western style clothing, a lot of plastic and fruit and veg. Meh. By that time it was pushing thirty degrees and I’d peaked so didn’t have it in me to find the other souk which sells, amongst other things, leather goods and carpets. Even if we’d found it I wouldn’t have had the energy for the whole bargaining thing so walked back to the van and got on the road to Agadir. The carpet in the kitchen lives to fight another day!
Onwards then to Agadir.
تصبح على خير!