2015 Morocco – Day 9 – Ouarzazate / Mhamid

The night at Hotel Nadia was quite strange. Maybe that was due to the shabby equipment of the room. Somehow there were bedbugs. We drove into the center on the main road, which was called Mohammed V or something like that, as always, directly at the Hotel Royal. Next to the hotel there was a coffee where we had breakfast. We sat down, ordered and somehow waited forever. Such an Omlette and, coffee is now no witchcraft and guests were also hardly there. Finally I had to go in later to pay to speed up the whole thing. Directly opposite there is a Liquor Store. It is somehow not properly hidden, but also not directly recognizable. If someone is looking for it, it is quite directly opposite the Hotel Royal. So about.

We stocked up with plenty of beer and wine for the next days. For the next days until Marrakech I didn’t know any shop anymore and maybe it shouldn’t exist any more. In the shop one sees quite many desert drivers. Afterwards we went to the old Kasbah and looked at it for maybe 20 Dh per person without a guide. Somehow the people must have been 1 m tall at that time. However they had recognized quite well how one can deal with the temperatures by building inner courtyards. The thick clay walls keep surprisingly cool what can otherwise only be achieved with complex insulation. On some ceilings there were ancient carvings. So close to the Draa it must have been an incredibly prosperous area, especially as the caravans had to pass through Timbuktu via Zagora. But maybe they didn’t go that far.

From now on it should become more interesting again. The route went out through the Neustadt in the direction of Zagora more or less along the Draa. The whole time trucks loaded with melons came towards us. Those were unbelievable many trucks over the hours of driving to Zagora. In between we stopped every now and then at interesting places. I couldn’t do that in 2011. On the left were palm trees and the Draa and on the right desert. With a small boy we stopped to buy dates. The area is known for it and the dates taste incredibly fresh. At an interesting view point we stopped again. M had planned to climb the small hill next to the road. I preferred to stay there and relax a bit and stare into the area. But that didn’t really turn out to be anything, because one of them came crawling out of a hole behind the mountain in the Bubu and wanted to turn me on a basket of peaches.

He really didn’t let go until we drove again. I could still say no so often, but he tried again and again. At some point M came back and we drove on. At another pretty vantage point over the Draa valley there were some stalls where some pottery was displayed. Far and wide nobody was to be seen. But we were more interested in the view. Sometime we arrived in Zagora. I remembered the city more provincial. This time it looked almost modern. Somehow it seemed to me that in the last years a lot of building activity must have developed. We refuelled and looked for something for lunch, but found nothing.

We still needed water and other things, but couldn’t find the supermarket either. Somewhere in the city we found a small shop and stocked up with everything and renounced lunch. Meanwhile there were a lot of 5L canisters with water in the car. But with the high temperatures and for general refreshment a lot of it went on per day. Shortly behind Zagora we stopped in a small town where nothing was going on to have a look into a pottery store. Everything was green glazed. We took small presents with us and drove on. The street was suddenly completely empty again. Somewhere in the wide valley we stopped briefly. A medium sandstorm blew and immediately covered everything with sand. We continued over a small pass over which I already drove in 2011 and which offers a great view into the desert Draa valley. But I remembered the AU view differently.

There was rubbish everywhere and rubble and stones on the slope. Somehow there was also a gate with some graffiti. We drove on. There were two signs with the inscription “Attention Desert” and some hints how to behave. At the roadside was a sign with caution camels. Shortly thereafter another village came. I remembered it differently. Somehow a strong building activity had started also here, so that this time it was a smaller town. Everything was much more desert, but the landscape wasn’t really appealing. Everything reminded more of a huge dirty construction site. We drove on to Mhamid through the desert. After a short time we reached the more overgrown zone in front of Mhamid, which was quite appealing.

Now we had to search for a hotel and arrived directly at the crossing in Mhamid. Like the last time, some people were waiting for mopeds. One of them approached us directly, but I didn’t even put the window down. We drove further south to the end of the road and wanted to turn around. The one moped driver had followed us and didn’t let up. I opened the window and he asked if we were any tourists he was expecting. Somehow he tried to turn us on some tours. We drove back to the suburbs and looked at a hotel. The hotel was run by a Frenchwoman and was quite luxurious and should cost about 50€. Included was an Arte bungalow, pool, but no WLAN. For us the price was a little too high but not excluded.

We drove some hundred meters further on the search for the Dar Azawd and landed directly opposite in the Kasbah Draa. The Dar Azawd should not be cheap, like all the others in the travel guide. Therefore we took a look at the Kasbah Draa, which offered a quite stylish view outside. A pretty terrace to stare at on the street and a small garden in the back. One noticed immediately that this was not so expensive. After a short question the price turned out to be acceptable. It should have been perhaps approx. 250 Dh with dinner for two persons.

The room had everything, except a TV which we didn’t need anyway. I still remember that there was no WLAN in the room. Somehow the house made a quite original impression without being too Arabic. Somehow also Europeans must be involved there in the line. There were also two of them perhaps as guests or so present. Otherwise we seemed to be the only ones. The hotel person was in any case very nice, so that I refer here gladly to the hotel: http://www.kasbahdraa-sahara.com/ The room had climate and was extremely spacious and nicely furnished. At the time we arrived it was extremely warm outside again and we switched on the climate to cool the room down for the night.

The hotel man gave us the tip to go in the direction of Draa and have a look at the old medina. That was really not a bad tip. I still remember that he asked us what we wanted here. Actually we didn’t know that. Normally only tourists come to drive into the desert and spend the night there. But we didn’t want that. We drove as far as we could towards Draa to the mentioned medina. Nowhere people were on the way, only at a canal was built. Later I looked at satellite pictures and did not notice how big this abandoned medina actually is. We parked the car directly at the entrance so that any car could get through. That was not so easy, because the Medina was already extremely narrow.

We walked straight on to the south through the dilapidated medina until we couldn’t go any further. In the end there was a kind of quay and as it turned out on the satellite pictures later actually a quay at Wadi Draa. A strong wind was blowing against us, blowing huge amounts of sand. At the quay everything was full of sand. With the view to the left and to the right one already saw something like a big wadi. To the south, however, there were only heaps of sand and isolated tamarisk bushes. Later I had pursued the Draa further on the satellite pictures. Shortly behind Zagora it was still a small brook, but there was nothing more to see of running water. The water was probably underground and not in small quantities, since here also agriculture was operated. At the time of the snow melt in the Atlas, this had to be a torrential stream that washes away all the sand.

Because of the strong sandstorm we went back to the medina where there was a sign with a museum. Unfortunately there was not a single person in the vicinity except two old women squatting somewhere. We went even further through the dilapidated city and noticed the unbelievably advantageous construction method, since here hardly a draught stirred in the narrow lanes and the sun did not get through. Strange that this once so mighty and centuries old city had apparently no more meaning and was in the eternal sand to disappear. The old loam buildings, and the medina consisted of them, are lost a little more with every rain. We went again in the direction of the car, where we met a goat shepherdess who quickly disappeared again. We had agreed with our hotel person that there should still be Tajine.

We drove the short piece again back to the hotel, put the car directly at the entrance and sat down to the road on the terrace to be able to stare a little. The garden wouldn’t have been bad either, but there was nothing to see. Opposite were some children and did something. The Tajine was apparently mediocre because I couldn’t remember it. However, I remember that it was abundant. After eating we went to a shop right at the other corner of the intersection and took the opportunity to look around the dark shop with a young salesman. There were all kinds of jewellery, pottery and other art objects which we examined extensively. I decided for a middle Tajine for 60 Dh. Such a thing had to be simply as a souvenir, particularly directly from the desert in Mhamid. Somehow such things seemed to me always quite unadorned, but it is nevertheless again and again a joy to have unusual things around one at home.

During my later cooking attempts with the Tajine I also had to find out how practical it is. Simply everything you want, let it simmer for an hour and the meal is ready, without having to worry about pots and pans, because the lower part of the tajine is the plate at the same time. M bought some more cloths or something. Everything in the shop was full of sand, but apparently new. At least the tajine was. Later I read that the tajine should be soaked in water before the first use so that it can absorb itself. The first time it did, it was clearly recognizable by the rising air bubbles from the clay/clay mixture, so dry was it in Mhamid.

Meanwhile it had become dark and we went to the room to get beer and wine and sat down on the huge roof terrace. I was still hoping to see a pretty beautiful starry sky, but it wasn’t quite as it was because there was too much light. Nevertheless everything looked quite splendid, especially with the whole oriental environment. On the roof it was warm in the beginning, but it cooled down quickly. Especially in the desert the temperature differences are considerable, which is why people sleep on the roof and not in the house. I went to the toilet to the room, where the climate was working all the time, but there were only slight differences to the