The CTM bus to Ouarzazate was interesting to say the least… The lady in front of us vomited into various containers the whole way. We all sighed with great relief when she got off the bus in the middle of nowhere about half way to Ouarzazate. Everyone made sure she took her container collection with her. After winding through the mountains for awhile longer, we stopped for a break in a dusty mountain village full of buzzing flies and crowds of Kefta-eating Moroccans. It's not surprising a week after the slaughter of the lambs, people are getting sick from the unrefrigerated leftovers!
We managed to pass the time by hiding inside a Weeping Willow trees’ branches, and smoking our Sipsi. A very bizarre German woman came by and struck up a conversation with us. She was carrying a small pet rabbit in her arms, had a shaved head wrapped in a turban, and wore mainly Moroccan rags. Tres chic. The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, and the air-conditioning worked wonderfully.
Ouarzazate is the film capital of Morocco, with everything from Lawrence of Arabia to The Mountains of the Moon and Star Wars being filmed there. The studio outside town is an impressive sight, and open to the public for tours. Of course the town has its share of luxury hotels, expensive restaurants and shops. The Kasbah is very nice, recently restored and has been used as a movie set many times. The shopping here is pricey, and the merchants inflexible. The town has an Artisans Cooperative with some nice rugs worth seeing.
Our balcony at the Hotel Palmyrie, on the second floor, overlooked the attractive pool and gardens. The food was the usual, Tagine or couscous, how boring! After dinner the guests were treated to a display of Moroccan singing and dancing by the pool. Accompanied by drums, a large group of women in traditional Moroccan dress sang and wailed their way through the evening.
Our next day was spent arranging a grand taxi to take us to Zagora and back. We found a guy to take us for $80 round trip. We left around two, after lunching at Dimitri’s, the oldest restaurant in Morocco (from 1928). It was a nice send-off for our desert journey – the fresh pasta was great, the wine nice and the salad fabulous.
We returned to the same hotel. The food was the same, barely edible; so we eat out as often as possible during the next two days. Of course, Dimitri’s pasta was a relief, and another place nearby had pizza in a setting with movie posters from every film made in Ouarzazate.
Walking through town is strange, everything is so new and bland. Acres of paved roads and lots of huge hotel complexes. The surrounding valley has lots of date palms and some irrigated farming. The surrounding mountains are stark, and dry. A bit of snow was clinging to the peaks, providing a spectacular backdrop in the distance.
I felt really good in Ouarzazate
as the clean dry desert air is soothing on my asthmatic lungs.
Our next stop is Zagora!