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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 21 Apr 2016

Location: Foum Zguid, Morocco

MapTafraoute is obviously in a strict Muslim area. Yesterday we had lunch at small hillside village, with a short main street of the usual shops and a couple of rows of houses in the back streets behind them. Sitting and observing whilst waiting for lunch, we did not see any women. Not a single female walked the main street. Hundreds of men tended their shops, did deliveries, walked and chatted with each other. The one-sided social populace was disheartening, but then again quite rare in our travels. We guessed that the women folk were housebound doing the chores, but they must’ve been around because we saw plenty of young children in the streets (all boys). The lunch of tagine and lentils from the tiny cafe, by the way, was delicious. It’s quite amusing for us to observe the chaos that we create when twelve hungry tourists rocking up to these small village cafes. They are never organised to cope for such a sudden influx, and the first thing they all do is rush nextdoor to the butcher to buy fresh meat and the baker for bread. We benefit, of course, by having the freshest lunch possible.

Leaving Tafraoute to travel further into the south-east of the country, we passed through more mountain passes. This is getting quite ridiculous. Even the “World on Wheels” travel notes for this tour apologises for Day 11 – “Sorry, but more picturesque riding on great roads, through more mountains”. I’m getting a callous on my right index finger from the constant pressing of my camera shutter. This scenery is beyond words, but I’ll try.

The morning to Igherm passes through, and over, another mountain range. We spend some time crossing a valley floor, before ascending a steep incline in twisting curves and then descending in similar fashion. There are mountains beside us that risk a cricked neck to look at their peaks. Almost close enough to reach out and touch, giant rocks rise up from the valley floor, in sharp relief from the rising morning sun. There are more mountains behind these ones, and still more beyond them, so we can see a three-dimensional painting of ranges that seem to go on forever.

In the afternoon, the landscape settles down to become a flat valley floor with steep cliffs on either side. The only vegetation is the occasional tree, about man-height, growing from an obviously sandy soil. The barren rocky terrain has given way to a barren sandy one. Soon we see a herd of wild camels, and we know that we’re in place that’s totally foreign. We stay the night in what must be termed an oasis in this harsh environment – a hotel about 5 kms outside the small village of Foum Zguid, and it has a swimming pool. While our brains try to decipher how this can be, our swim is oh so delightful in this thirty-degree heat.

The next day, tour guide Mike tells us that our next night’s stay, Agdz, is only an hour’s drive away, and that’s not proper use of valuable daylight hours, so let’s take the long way round and explore. What starts out as the shortest travel day becomes the longest of the trip so far – nearly 400 kms. From Foum Zguid to Amzraou, Ouiad Drias, and finally lunch in a tiny village called Mhamid. Which is just as well because this is where the road ends – beyond this village is desert. Just over the hill, about 20 kms away, is the Algerian border. This is an oasis on the edge of the Sahara, and its café had delicious chicken kebabs, fresh bread, real orange juice, and WiFi. It was hard to believe. Our driver Javier described it quite aptly as the end of the world.