Well, that didn’t take long. I walked all around the ‘downtown’ of Er-Rachidia and was back at my hotel in 45 minutes! The town seemed to be quite spread out, but the centro was just a few blocks each way. I stopped in at the covered market at 9:20 AM, but nothing was doing yet—everything was still covered with tarpaulins. Morocco does not get going very early! Still it was worthwhile to stay here two nights as it gave me a chance to catch up on my laundry. In the mountains where I had been it took three days for a tee shirt to dry—cool and damp weather. In the desert in Er-Rachidia it was hot and dry, so I had a chance to wash all my clothes!
At the bus depot, I waited quite some time before I got the bus for Tinerhir, the jumping off point to the Todra Gorge, which promised beautiful scenery. I struck up a friendship with some fellow waiters—one had lovely henna designs on her hands.
On the way I saw camels several times in the desert landscape, which was beautiful in its own way. The young woman that sat next to me could speak English, which was helpful. She put her phone number into my phone and asked me to call her when I arrive at my next destination, which is Ouarzazate, pronounced wahr’ –zah-zaht’.
She warned me that the people in Tinerhir were ‘dangerous’ and not to go with anybody! Well, since I would have to take a taxi to my hotel in the Todra Gorge about 14 km from Tinerhir, this presented a problem. I sort of solved it by calling my hotel while I engaged the taxi, having the hotel man speak with the taxi driver. I thought that at least somebody would know who I was with if I disappeared into thin air. Actually, it turned out to be a shared taxi and the price, according to both the taxi man and the hotel man, was 20 dirhams. Off we went. When we got to my hotel, the taximan suddenly demanded 40 dirhams for some complicated reason that I couldn’t follow. Big deal—it was irritating, but 20 d = $2.50, and 40 = $5.00. Given the room bargain, which was 150 d = $18, and that included a private bathroom plus breakfast, plus dinner, this was not a big deal! Economics of travel are funny.
There were long and short walks that one could take in amongst the Todra Gorge, viewing the lovely scenery. In the summer many people camp here.
My hotel was within the gorge, and I could look out my window to see beautiful views. I got settled, had a glass of wine (I had brought two half-bottles of wine with me) and then had a lovely chicken tagine, salad, and bread for linner. After that I went for a short walk in the gorge, which was, well gorgeous!
The next day I got more serious about exploring and took a two-hour stroll, while other serious hikers and serious rock climbers did their thing. The nearby village provided internet services (none in hotel—in fact we only had electricity via a generator, a few hours in the evening) and offered some people-watching, too.
What luck! I’ll have to remember my leaving the Todra Gorge and going to Ouarzazate when things don’t go so well, as I only waited five minutes in front of my hotel when a minibus going to Tinerhir appeared and I jumped on. Then when I got out in Tinerhir, there was the bus that was going to Ouarzazate, which I jumped on!
When I got checked into my hotel in Ouarzazate, I wanted to quickly have linner at the place that Val, my friend from CA, had told me about. It seems that Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, remember?) had eaten at the Douyria restaurant in Ouarzazate, leaving behind his recommendation for the restaurant on a napkin, which was now displayed on their website. I had a lovely meal there of rabbit with crystallized lemon. I get a kick out of the salt and pepper at table always being salt and CUMIN, never black pepper! Since I cleaned off the bones holding them in my hands, the tumeric made my fingers look like an avid nicotine addict!
Ouarzazate has made its reputation for movie sets, which have been used by some of our American high-flyers in movie making. Apparently it has ‘played’ several other exotic locations in movies. I got a yellow bus to go out into the country about seven km to visit the Atlas Film Corporation Studios. The bus was kind of complicated—after I got on, I had to make my way to the back where a cashier was in a booth who accepted my cash and gave me a ticket. Then when I got off in front, I gave the driver my ticket.
The Studio was a huge layout a half-mile from the highway. There was a hotel in the complex called the “Oscar Hotel,” where I bought my ticket for a tour of the studio. There were sets from a Martin Scorcese film called, “Kundun,” about the life of the Dalai Lama. There had been modern versions of both “Ben Hur” and “Cleopatra” that were made here. We saw Cleopatra’s milk bath (without the milk) and Ben Hur’s war chariots. A fake airplane from “The Jewel of the Nile,” starring Michael Douglas stood next to a fake sportscar which was used in an explosion, the tour guide said. Some of the movies made here were French or German. Their most recent was a German film called “The Physician.” Quite a few of the characters or extras in these films were local Ouarzazate people. I asked the tourguide if he had ever been in any films. He said that he had; he had a degree in film making. There were three wonderful Arabian horses cavorting in an enclosure. The tour guide said that sometimes they have many, many animals here.
I walked back up to the highway again, and flagged a petit taxi that ply this route (Avenue Mohammed V). They take three passengers at a time for which one pays five d. Actually, I always seemed to get some change back from a five dirham piece, but the guidebook said it cost five dirham—a mystery.
I had the petit taxi drop me at the opposite end of the ciy at the Taourirt Kasbah, a beautiful complex, which got UNESCO protection after doing a gig as a backdrop in “Star Wars.” (I visited places in Tunisia where “Star Wars” was filmed, too.)
I finally gave up in exhaustion. This was almost right next to where the previous day’s restaurant, The Douyria, was located. I crossed the street and flagged down another handy petit taxi to take me back to my hotel.
I see that Ouarzazate has many tourists compared to many of the other towns that I have visited. It’s a pretty town and most of the buildings (except in the Kashab) look quite new. Tomorrow I shall bus on to Marrakesh.