We still haven’t heard any Moroccan music, so this morning we are heading towards a little village on the Southern end of the Erg Chebbi desert, where we’ve been told of a music association, based in a cafe, with live music day and night. I’m curious about this permanent jam session…

We’re pootling along the dead straight Route Nationale 13, flat, stony desert on both sides. In my thoughts I’m still reminiscing about the morning’s dawn walk all the way up to a high dune with stunning panoramic views all round…


A minibus is approaching the road from the left, going very slowly on a dirt track. There is no explanation as to why the driver may not have seen us, but we are really close when we realise he isn’t going to stop. There is no more time to break to avoid a crash – Frank has to swerve hard to the right to avoid him, but then counter-steer hard to the left to prevent Emma from hurtling off the road down a bank. It doesn’t bear thinking about. When we come to a stop, we can see that we have avoided the crash on the left and a somersault into a field on the right, by only 5cm each side. The driver makes some very apologetic gestures and we motion him to drive on. Frank and I are shaken. I have a slight whiplash in my neck and he’s pulled a muscle or tendon in his hand from wrestling with the steering wheel. Some things in the back of Emma have shifted position, but apart from that, everything is ok.

That was a very narrow escape!

I feel the fragility of life – how one moment can change everything.

This Christmas has had more than its fair share of tragic news from family and friends – which did not end as happily as our near accident, and they all rush into my mind there and then, making me feel close to the harsh finality of those moments.


We stop a little while by the roadside to regain our composure and then move on to Khamlia. Everything feels bizarrely remote now. Before I can go into the cafe, I need to walk off the shock. We meander through this sandy village, the houses partially eaten by sand (a French artist who runs a cafe here tells us that the dunes are slowly moving towards the village). I marvel at the strength of trees to grow to such a magnificent size despite the obvious lack of water.


We stop by a man selling beautifully embroidered shawls. Finally, we are ready to return to the cafe.

The musicians are actually from a tribe that is not native to Morocco but further south, I think Mali. They wait until they have a contingent of tourists and then they present three or four songs, complete with drumming and dancing. It’s nice what they are doing, but after watching it repeat a few times, I realise, it’s not really much fun for them but hard graft with few breaks, because even when no-one is there, they need to go and sit out the front to attract the next batch of Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, Americans….etc.


Frank and I stay for lunch – eating out is a rare occasion for us but today we have reason to celebrate, so we treat ourselves to a delicious Berber Pizza and two different kinds of Salads.

for more photos of this chapter, click here

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