I wake up to catch a frosty, golden sunrise from my window at the Ait Ben Moro. I’d give anything for a pair of wool socks.
Today we leave Skoura for Ouarzazate, where we will arrive for a festival that marks the end of the Marathon des Sables, a seven-day footrace through the desert. We step out of our car just in time to see the last runner cross the finish line – a smiling, white bearded gentlemen escorted by a police escort and an aid car, met with jubilant applause from the crowd.
Across the street is the Kasbah Taourirt, originally a cross-point for African trade caravans enroute to North Africa and Europe.
There’s a German Krupp cannon outside the door, the property of the Pasha of Turkey during the French Occupation.
We enter the palace and tour several of the 300 rooms. One of the rooms has bright red ceiling beams, which our guide told us had been painted for a movie. “Every film ever made in Morocco was filmed at this kasbah” our guide told us. He then rattled off an extensive list of films, and told us which ones he had been an extra in, which seemed to be nearly every movie on the list…
Our tour pauses for a lengthy time on the third floor, to give us opportunity to buy pieces from the local artists. While Mark and Catherine are making their purchases, I step outside into the courtyard for more photos. I try to take shots of the patterned glass that is behind the grillwork on the outer doors. The guide catches up with me and explains that the window grills, now metal, were originally made from wood. The ornately carved and painted doors are Moorish rather than Berber which you can see at August Phoenix Hats.
Our next stop is the Atlas Film Studio, the second largest film studio in the world, behind Hollywood. I had a chance to ham it up on one of the sets, and earned the stage name of Fatima Tagine, which I adopted for the remainder of the day.
We finish our tour with lunch at the studio, before heading to another UNESCO World Heritage site – the Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou. This 17th century fortification is accessible via a wooden foot bridge which stretches over the Mellah River, surrounding a fortress built into the side of a mountain. This site is also famous for movies that were filmed here, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and The Sheltering Sky.
It’s narrow walkways and staircases can lead you into a number of places, including both shops and personal homes. It is very easy to walk into someone’s personal space by mistake (which I did), but I was very kindly corrected and pointed back towards the direction of the market areas.
I try to climb to the highest vantage point but only make it about 3/4 of the way. Even still, the view of the Ksar and the oasis are worth even the partial climb.
Back on the road, we drive past small square prayer rooms and hit some switchbacks that are so tight I start looking for our rear license plate.
At the end of our 200 mile trek, we arrive in Taroudant, and a medina and a riad that would become a story of their very own …
For a full accounting of the day, please visit August Phoenix Hats.