Ourtzargh to Fes

At 8am the next morning, we’re on the road again, winding our way up and down a few hills on rickety roads, mostly in first or second gear and always with the reservoir to our right. Finally we leave the reservoir and turn southwards. The landscape changes to more and more brown-tones. We climb up one long hill and when we turn a corner, suddenly there is a moment of magic in the landscape that stops us in our tracks. We park Emma by the side of the road and for the next two hours we delve into the grand silence of these mountains that look just like giant sand dunes but are more like stone or maybe clay, to the touch.

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We climb up one long hill and when we turn a corner, suddenly there is a moment of magic in the landscape that stops us in our tracks. We park Emma by the side of the road and for the next two hours we delve into the grand silence of these mountains that look just like giant sand dunes but are more like stone or maybe clay, to the touch.

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I take the opportunity of a sunny, quiet morning to do a whole lot of admin regarding the Bandoneon Days I’m organizing in Germany next April, as well as the Tango Mango next August (for which the booking lines aren’t yet open though the programme is shaping up nicely). What a spectacular ‘office’! An older guy in a brown Djellaba joins me at the top of the hill and sits down some 20m from me, remaining in one position for over an hour while I’m on the phone to various people and moving about – sitting down, getting up, walking around and sitting down again. How can he sit still for so long, and in such an awkward position???

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Note the shape of the random piece of plastic (don’t get me going on plastic here, it’s another whole chapter in its own right!), also in the Moroccan reclining position!

Eventually, two little kids appear over the brow of the hill and he gets up and walks away with them. Maybe he’s their grandfather and he was waiting for them to come out of Kindergarten. They can only have been 4 and 6 years old at the most.

The air in Morocco is special in general (except in the cities of course), but up here in particular. Somehow, it goes deeper into the lungs… it’s hard to describe.

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After our sunny stop on what feels like the top of the world, we descend into a large plain. We are passing a field where a family has stopped their work of ploughing and sowing to share a big tagine between them. They wave at us and motion us to stop and join them, so we do. We grab a few fruits, oranges, tomatoes etc. and join them. They are so friendly, everyone smiling and welcoming us to their meal and to Morocco in general. The food is most delicious, a large plate of couscous and a chicken on top. Then that gets pushed aside and out comes another dish, equally delicious, artichoke stems and beef. Of course it’s Friday, which is their Sunday, hence the special nature of the meal and possibly also the very open invitation for others to join. We’re not the only ones who get invited. Any passing car gets flagged down, everyone stops to share food or just for a chat. We speak with each other in a mixture of french, arabic, hands and feet. The mother of the family, the cook, stands a little off to one side, having brought the meal, laughing and joking. She oozes joy. It can’t be an easy life, but the people look content.

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An hour later, they pack the food away, the men return to the plough and the sacks full of beans to sow, the matriarch takes her granddaughter by the hand and walks off down a long straight field path back to the house in the distance and we drive on, full of food and good feelings.

For those who wonder which road we’ve been following during the last few days, it was the R419, and as we come up to where it joins the National road to Fes, we feel like we are leaving a magical world, like waking from a dream.

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For all photos of this chapter, click here


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