Day 232 – 6th March 2011
Ait Baha – Tafroute, Morocco, Africa
A cacophony of horns broke the early morning peacefulness, long before I was ready to open my eyes, but I fell into my slumber again quickly. We dined on the terrace at the only table bathed in sunshine. Dan had a bit of a cold and was glad of the warmth of the sun.
I drove to Tafroute (otherwise we might still be driving), passing ground squirrels (none of which had been captured). We stopped to look at the argan trees, though none had the goats climbing in them.
Warning! Battery Exhausted! The camera died just as it did when I first saw dolphins, only this time there was the most spectacular view of the valley below. I drove up a terrifically steep hill which we hoped would lead to an interesting looking village. We were the only visitors. I drove as far as I could, before having to reverse all the way to the top of the hill to the village where the only space I could park was. I got an approving nod that it would be ok to do so from the local men who were guarding the entrance. Ladies came out for a shy look and bid us “Bonjour!” There were big circular flat areas surrounded by stones which it transpired were for thrashing wheat with animal assistance. The view was astounding!
Just as we were about to leave, one of the men asked if we’d like to go and see the monument. Oui, oui! I thought “I wonder what the guide rate is here?” as I followed my well fed guide along the track. Another man, dressed in a brown Djelaba rushed off to get the key. Soon, well fed man (The Voice) and brown Djelaba man were joined by white satin Djelaba man (Sunday Best) and we all made our way to the monument! A huge studded wooden door opened and we were inside the fortress walls. The entrance to the fortress was next to an almond bush. We were given green almonds to eat and I immediately tried to open mine to get the nut. I got a demonstration of what to do – eat the whole thing, the whole pale green nut with a peach like fur. It had an interesting flavour so I ate a couple more, but let’s just say I was in no rush to buy a kilo! Tangy and creamy, and they say the ground squirrels get their sweet taste from eating these and argan nuts. I fancied a ground squirrel Tanjiia for dinner! A second door opened. Whoa! I couldn’t believe what was there, a total surprise. This was a 9th Century bank! It was a long stone building with about 3 stories of doors, each numbered and padlocked! The original safety deposit storage system! Thin slate like rocks jutted from the walls creating steps to access the higher doors. One at a time we scrambled up to Number 30 to see Well Fed man’s door. He stored his family heirlooms inside, some people stored wheat. There were about 80 or so of these vaults, each measuring about 6m x 2m. Soon it was time to leave the village of Ighir Ifran. It was time to continue. Dan told me later that a group of women had gathered around in a circle to watch me park. Perhaps they’ll be inspired to try driving!
We continued slowly along the winding scenic route admiring the villages en route. The scenery was like a scene from a western. Was this like the Badlands of South Dakota as Paul Bowles described? Suddenly the Kasbah de Tizourgan appeared – the one we’d searched for the night before. 5km, more like 45km away from Ait Baha. We went for a look around and it was fabulous. Perhaps another time?
On our arrival in Tafroute, a carpet seller, with one eye looking at me and the other looking for me, stopped me at the roundabout. I bade him a firm “Au Revoir. Monsieur” on discovering his true motive for stopping me. We stopped in the town for a cup of tea in the only café in Morocco I was in that didn’t have anything to eat! My tummy was grumbling, crankiness was setting in. In the next café we had a hard boiled egg in bread quenching our thirst with an avocado and orange juice.
We drove about 5km away from Tafroute to stay in the Ameln Valley. We stayed at Yamina’s, a traditional Berber home owned by Jacques and Yamina. We had dinner there too sharing the surprise fixed menu with the other 6 guests. Dan of course had a vegetarian surprise! Dinner was quite a formal affair with Jacques standing supervising the staff and us too I think. Wine was offered and we took the last glass up the clay ramp to our room, ducking to avoid getting our heads bumped on the low ceilings. We took a big quilt outside to our roof terrace sofas and wrapped ourselves up while we enjoyed a starlit sky and listened to the crickets singing. Dan was feeling a bit rough due to his ‘Man Flu’ so went to bed. I sat outside and finished reading ‘Going West’ and gave Dan the final rundown.
Breakfast – Pain au chocolat, Bread, butter, argan oil, triangle cheese (very popular in morocco with adults) café au lait and Orange juice
Lunch – Philadelhia style cheese and apple sandwich and a banana
Dinner – Harira and a sweet sticky thing, Chicken with cous cous and an argan oil dip, Dan had a tagine, followed by an eggy crêpey affair with honey and strawberries, mint tea and biscuits and a bottle of red
Snacks – Avocado and almond yogurt drink, the a la menthe, egg sandwich, orange juice and an avocado.