After staying in the kasbah last night we awoke early to a delicious breakfast that the men cooked for us: omelets, juice, bread, fruit. Then we met Zara and her family on their side of the casbah for our bread-making course. I wrote about this on a previous post so won’t write about it again. After the bread-making lesson we were getting ready to go. Since I had not been able to take pictures the day before of a specific door I had seen in the village, Mokhtar arranged it for me and Achmed, our driver, to go back together and take photos. The others walked to the bridge where we would meet them which was actually only about 1/2 mile at most. With a few other people joining Achmed and I (I now assume they joined to keep me from taking pictures because I got yelled at AGAIN even though there were no people around at all!!!). We stopped and took pictures of the door that I had seen yesterday. It looked like it was encrusted with jewels yet was only painted. Amazing! The occupants of the home this door was on were intrigued that I was taking photos and stood and stared and giggled at the goings on. People on bikes stopped to watch. It was a spectacle!
We met up with everyone after our bumpy and beautiful ride to the main road. We drove for quite awhile until we reached the Ait Benhaddou. Aït Benhaddou (Berber: Ath Benhadu, Arabic: آيت بن حدّو) is a ‘fortified city’, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ounila River and is known for its kasbahs, although they take damage with each rainstorm. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; however, ten families still live within the ksar.
Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and several films have been shot there, including;
Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Sodom And Gomorrah (1963), The Man Who Would Be King (film) (1975), The Message (film) (1976), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Time Bandits (1981), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Sheltering Sky (1990), Kundun (1997), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Alexander (2004), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Prince of Persia (2010).
We walked across the river to this most beautiful place and climbed the stairs to the top – – although I only went halfway and stopped at a place for tea and respite while the others (except Carolyn, who stayed with me) went on ahead. It was sunny and relaxing and beautiful there! I enjoyed tea and a good chat with Carolyn that I was happy to have. We walked down again sort of shopping along the way. It looked like rain so we walked through the town fairly fast but I managed to take some beautiful pictures along the way. We made it to the van just before the sky opened up on us and poured. It was a nice rainstorm that didn’t last for long.
Obviously, we were heading back toward Marrakech and this part of the journey would be over soon. There was no denying it. So we stopped along the way at some scenic spots and took some photos of Achmed and Mokhtar together. Whilst at the top of one overlook spot a guy appeared selling trinkets. He had apparently climbed all the way up from the bottom to greet us so we chose to oblige and purchased a few little things and took pictures with him. We continued on until we came to a beautiful area with white almond blossoms and a white minaret in the city. Our home for the night! What a picturesque place! It was beautiful.
Although we thought we had the place to ourselves, a biking group from Poland showed up part-way through our dinner. It was fun to see them and all their gear. One of their group, a talkative fellow, joined us for stories and eventually took our tajine (at some of our team’s urging). Turns out they had ordered couscous from the hotel but when we gave them our tajine they cancelled their couscous order. The hotel was not happy with them for that (and I suppose not happy with us). I learned of this story through some translating from Mokhtar after some very animated conversation took place.
After dinner we spread out in the large dining room/living room area and ate almonds, drank wine, and played cards. Catharine and I learned Mokhtar’s version of Rummy, a very convoluted and confusing game for us to learn. But when in Morocco, as we say. Of course Mokhtar won and kept accusing Catharine and I of somehow cheating – – because apparently he wasn’t winning by the margin he expected and thought maybe we were messing with the cards when he stepped away. Ha! We didn’t know enough to do any funny business but we let him think we just might be doing something fishy. We laughed a lot and I feel like I really got to know Catharine better on this night. It was very fun. Everyone went to bed, as usual, and Mokhtar and I stayed up in the common room talking for quite some time. Those were fun times of the day, when everyone went to bed. It gave me a chance to learn more about Morocco, about Mokhtar, and about the environment I was in. Very fun.