It’s a beautiful morning, one that makes me wish for another day or two here, but instead, we mount our camels and grasp our final views of the Red Dunes as we trek back to Merzouga to pick up Mohamad and the van, for our next destination, Tinghir.
Not too far down the road, Doug stops the van at a store that sells fresh camel milk. There’s a blue-eyed camel here, which Doug says is fairly rare. While Doug and Catherine are milking camels, I step back through an open door and into a ‘dinner and a show’ plaza, surrounded by Berber tents. I have posted detail shots of this tent, and another we would encounter later on, on Pinterest.
Back on the highway, Doug points out the deep well system that sustains the farms here, and we pull off the road for a closer look. I appreciate the comprehensive picture that Doug provides of the culture here – a nice mix of new cities, old sites, everyday life and agriculture.
There’s another Berber tent, and Doug introduces us to his friend Youssef, who has already ordered pizza for our lunch – it’s like a giant calzone but with very thin crusts, stuffed with kefte, egg and almonds. After lunch, Youssef breaks out his drum while we are sipping our tea.
Youssef’s tent is part restaurant, and part gift shop. I buy an indigo dyed length of cotton which I promptly wrap into a turban like Moha had showed me yesterday. I lament about the daggars and silver pipes that I’d like to buy but didn’t think I could get through the airport.
“You can’t get anything through the airport,” Catherine responds, eluding to my lost luggage…
Our next stop is the Hotel Tomboctou, a kasbah built in 1944. Unlike most kasbahs that were built as fortifications, this one was built as a reception hall. You can read more about the history of this kasbah here.
Dinner tonight is at the home of Said, another friend of Doug’s. What can I say other than Doug has the coolest friends! Said is tall, with sparkling eyes and a smile that takes up half his face. He plies us with tea, wafers and nuts, and soon his sisters arrive with kofte tagine, chicken skewers and another massive tagine with couscous, eggplant and carrots to feed 20 people. After dinner there’s more tea, apples, drumming and being dressed up as Berber brides…
The next morning, we return to Said’s home for morning tea and photo momentos …
We set out for Todra Gorge, with its red rock canyon walls soaring 1,300 feet above your head. Some of the scenes from “Lawrence of Arabia” were filmed in this gorge. It’s a magnificent geological site, with a river running down one side, and concrete canals carrying crystal clear water to the irrigation system below.
There are two nomadic tribes who rendezvous at Saturday market here … the Haddidou and the Merghad. Today the gorge is lined with carpet hawkers and jewelry vendors.
We backtrack to Tingher and the Ikelane mosque. The ruined mosques are the only ones non-Muslims can visit here, so we take our time exploring. It’s not very old, thought to have been rebuilt during 19th century but abandoned in 1998. It was destroyed during heavy rains and flooding in December 2006. I was happy to later discover that the Hotel Tomboctu is involved in its restoration.
Next stop – Skoura and the Kasbah Ait Ben Moro, and a carpet shop that I will be hard-pressed to leave …
For a detailed account of the day and additional photos, please visit August Phoenix Hats.