Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the road in Morocco

Having done a bit of research we had worked out 2 things, 1) driving wasn't supposed to be too bad if you were used to NZ roads and 2) the Moroccans had a reputation for awful driving. Number 1 proved to be completely true and number 2 partly true. Even though they weren't model drivers they weren't too bad. They do tend to ignore the centre line and drift wherever they want on the road, grande taxis do not have to obey the same rules as other drivers and if you see a bicycle it is guaranteed to swerve randomly in front of you at some stage.

 

Once out of Marrakech city limits we headed in the direction of Skoura 245km South-East, a drive of 5 and a half hours. In the middle was a pass across the High Atlas at an elevation of 2,260 m (7,415 ft).

 

Along the way the scenery switched from semi-arid, to dry as dust, with occasional patches of fertile green when an oasis was seen. The level of subsistence living was amazing. We constantly wondered how people made a living or just existed in such harsh conditions. But given we passed through village after village, they were indeed surviving

 

 

Our destination for two nights was Skoura, 45 minutes out of the movie set town of Ouzazarte. Movies such as Star Wars, Sex in the City, Lawrence of Arabia and numerous others have taken advantage of the scenery, old Kashbahs and lower cost of labour. Our host in Fes said that last year US 120 million came into the country directly from film making, and that doesn't include supplementary expenditure on accomodation, meals, etc.

 

Skoura is an oasis town and not a huge amount happens there. We were happy to relax by the pool, visit a local kasbah and generally just observe.

Speed limits were prominently displayed and traffic police, standing on the side of the road and with hand held radars were a common sight as you came to larger towns. You had to slow to 20 km/h to pass them and they stopped those they were interested in and waved everyone else on.
At one point we were waved over by the traffic police. The policeman said in French we had been travelling at 67km/h in a 60km zone. We looked blank. They asked if we spoke French and we smiled and immediately said we spoke none. He repeated it in slow English and asked where we were from. When we said NZ that was either enough to make us OK or the idea of trying to extract a fine from us in English looked too hard, so they told us to go on, but to drive slower. Phew! That said, Andrew, who drove most of the way, was very good at keeping to the speed limits, and was lucky to have me looking at the speedo to remind him when he crept over the limit.
Our accomodation was in a modern Kashbahs, Dar Es Salam. The hosts were so kind and accommodating.

Growing everywhere in the oasis were dates, and on later trips we started seeing people selling dates by the roadside.

 

Being an Islamic country, alcohol is not commonly sold. You can buy from supermarkets and licenced stores, but didn't see any of those outside the two main cities of Marrakech and Fes. Andrew stocked up on a few bottles of Morrocan wine, with varying degrees of drinkability. What would have been divine would have been a ice-cold beer at the end of the day. Instead we consumed a lot of water and sodas.

 
 

 

 

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