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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It's all about names!

Looking over the High Atlas Mountains that we passed through on our way between Marrakesh and Fint Oasis.

  As Wi-fi is hard to come by in some of the remote parts of Morocco that we are visiting, I can only update the blog wherever possible.

  Two days ago we left Marrakesh and headed south to our next destination, Fint Oasis. It was a 188 km trip through beautiful country and mountains. On the side of road, there were many women with cloths covering their faces. These are called niqabs and are worn by some Muslim women in public areas and in front of non-mahram adult males.. Ildiko jokingly said how do they recognise each other if their faces are covered up? I thought over this and suggested that maybe it would go somethin like this. Hi Sissy! The lady with the covered face would reply 'My names not Sissy' Oh, hi Fanny!' 'Not that either' 'Joan?' 'Nop' 'Jean?' Ah ah' Vicky, Sue, Debbie?'
  An hour later. 'Stella, Ella, Bella?' Two hours later. Bill, George, Ken? Ray?' 'Ray who?' And then the lady with the mask says 'I've got to go now. Mom says dinners ready' 'Oh! I'll catch yeah tomorrow then' And you would walk off into the hills wondering who the hell was that?
  If your reading this you may think I'm crazy!

A sheperd at the side of the road

Up in the High Atlas Mountains 
View looking from the hotel

A mule and it's rider crossing the river at Fint Oasis.

  We wanted to go for a walk immediately and told Niam that well be back at 18.30 for dinner. We had a stroll along the river where there were lots of Green and Common Sandpiper, White, flava and Grey Wagtail and many stunning Moroccan Wagtail. We returned to the hotel just as it was getting dark and after waiting in the restaurant for an hour, our dinner had not arrived! However I did hear Night Herons flying into feed in the river. I asked Niam how long dinner would be? He understood and put eight fingers up. Eight minutes I guess. OK, that's good. Naim returned from the kitchen to light the fire that was centered in the middle of the room and beckoned us with his arms to come closer. We did with a family of Germans and found ourselves staring at the not so impressive fire that I've ever seen before for the next hour!! It was now 20.30 and Ildilko and I were very hungry, but we couldn't stop laughing at the situation we were all in. Niam returned to the fire and added more twigs to the now disappearing fire. He then picked up a bongo and banged on it a few times and said rather excitedly 'Music, music!' No, food first then music. And that's what happened. The food finally came out at 21.00 and when we were kind of rushed to eat it, the music began. There were five of six of them banging on bongos while another played what looked like large spoons. It was a good for ten minutes, but for the next two hours, it was sounding pretty much the same. However, we both enjoyed the hospitality, me showing them how to play the bongos sometimes, and then we made our way to bed looking forward to waking up early and walking the valley.

Fint Oasis with the authentic Berber villages in the distance
Got a surprise when the actor Brian Dennehy (First Blood and Cocoon movies) stepped up to have ago!

More interested in playing music and dancing in their Berber customs than making the bloody dinner!


Sunset over the Fint Oasis

Lots of Moroccan Wagtail feeding alon the river

  Leaving Fint Oasis, we made the long trek to the magnificent Dades Valley. While driving, I was not feeling too good at all and was beginning to think if I had food poisoning. This was confirmed when we settled into a hotel and the first thing I did was head straight to the toilet!

Dades Valley and Gorge All images taken by Ildiko Solymosi

  The following day I felt a little better and we drove towards the nearby Gorges. Truly an amazing sight as we drove along the road that funnels through the towering gorges.


This male Blue Rock Thrush performed very well by the car park

As did this Desert Lark with good numbers of White-crowned Black Weatear, Grag martins above and a single Black Redstart.

  We were both looking forward to tomorrow as we were going to do one of the things that was going to be one of the highlights of our visit in Morocco. Camel riding in the Sahara Desert! It was crap! No, it wasn't crap, it was just not what we thought it would be and were kind of let down after all the positive things we had been told about it.
   At 15.00 we were in the village of Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara and discovered that it was one of the shittiest places that we have ever visited! While driving around, scooters were following us all over the shop and telling us to follow them. If we didn't do what they said, then they would knock on my window demanding us to tell them where we were going! I wouldn't tell them and that made them very upset and frustrated. When at last one of the scooters had left us, you would turn the corner to discover that's there's another waiting and would quickly latch onto you like a leach! I was getting very angry and wanted to tell them to all piss off! Ildiko, quite sensible, told me not to. There behaviour didn't come across as welcoming, but like they were pushing you out of the village, despite them saying all the time 'Welcome to Merzouga' I felt like saying, stick Merzouga up your ass! I hated it!

Approaching the shit town, Merzouga, where everyone tries to push you away by constantly harassing you
  We quickly moved into the next village and to our surprise came across what looked like a castle on the edge of the desert. It turned out to be a very impressive hotel. We were told we could stay, but this soon changed. If we were ready for 16.00, then we could set off on a camel and stay overnight in the desert! Wow! we couldn't miss this opportunity and found ourselves joining a group of nearly 30 other people from all over the shop!
  After ten minutes of being on Jimi Hendrix, the name of my camel, I was finding myself sliding to one side and almost falling off! Ildiko, who was on Binger-Banger behind me, that don't sound right, couldn't stop laughing. This was no laughing matter, as each time I slid to one side, I felt my balls twisting and was very uncomfortable. When I was sitting up right very briefly, I noticed that everyone else were enjoying the ride and not one was sliding to one side. Why me? An hour and half of pain, we finally arrived to where we will be sleeping for the night. I steadily and causally got off Hendrix and slowly walked off like John Wayne!

Our hotel on the edge of the Sahara Desert

Just coming back from getting the morning papers from the shop down road!

  Joining the others and in a short time, dinner was served. Like the other hotels we had stayed in, it was tagine. I was still recovering and all I could eat was the rice. What came next was a fire. Great! However, this was a big fire. I still can't figure out where they got the wood from in a desert? It looked like one of our tent poles! This was followed by music from Bongos and large spoons. Can't get better than this, can it? It was a repeat performance as what we both experienced at a few nights ago. This was a bit different, as there were a lot more people and we were in the middle of the desert!

Berbers dancing and playing music around the fire

  Then one of the Berbers shouted 'Who wants to climb a dune?' Everyone was keen and shouted back 'Yes we do!' I thought, do we? Before I knew it, Ildiko and I were wrapped up with the others climbing this steep dune. Hell man, it nearly killed us! We had not got half way up and we were dieing! We weren't the only ones. As you looked around, you could see shadows lying on the sand and hear people gasping for breath! Whose stupid idea was this?
  We decided to call it a day and return to the tent, if we could find the bloody thing! Never mind the tent, we couldn't find the camp! Then I spotted a light in the distance and we headed towards it. After stumbling in the dark, tripping over guide ropes, banging into post and god knows what else, we finally found our tent and jumped into bed. Jesus! We were cold! With four blankets over us, we tried to get some sleep. This was made impossible by the poles that hold the bed together that were digging into our backs. We were beginning to think that we had made the wrong decision in coming out here, but it wasn't, as you lay there reaching out for the stars that look so near. On occasions a shooting star would pass by and later on a vocal owl was on our tent pole! We finally went to sleep with the thought of riding Hendrix in a few hours again.
  I noticed that the Berbers walk everywhere. No, there not stupid and when I returned to the hotel, I could hardly walk, along with every other guy that came along. Never again!

This is what you expect to see while driving on the roads of Morooco

Desert road with the Atlas Mountains in the distance

As well as a few Desert Sparrows knocking around, there were also Hoopoe Larks


  1. Stunning post and shots. What a great trip.

  2. Thanks guys. it was, but a little crazy at times!

  3. Great Blog Spider,
    With all that hiking how do you find the energy to write?! :-)
    You two look like you are having a ball. How high did you go?? Its poss you were suffering a bit of altitude sickness rather than food poisoning.

    Stay safe, watch out for those stray dogs !

    Martin G

  4. Thanks Martin. We climbed up very high, but not high enough for us almost stop breathing. It was food poisoning alright I'm afraid. There's stray dogs everywhere!