Zagora

A few kilometres on from our lovely deserted spot for the night, we come to a T-junction where we turn South towards Zagora and the other desert. A few miles on, there’s a man hitching a lift with a large metal item. We stop and he climbs aboard after safely storing a broken water pump in the back of Emma. He is the head of the local cooperative and as such, in charge of getting the pump repaired or replaced. The workshop he needs to go to is some 30km further South in Zagora. We travel on and chat about this and that. Suddenly, I spot some wood by the side of the road. We never know if it’s in private or public ownership, but Brahim reassures us that we can pick up as much as we like here ( it looks like some trees had to make way for the new road, and they are just lying around). He and I jump out of Emma while Frank stays at the steering wheel, since we’ve stopped at a narrow part of the road. We pick up a few very large logs (in fact about half a tree, but there’s plenty of space in Emma, and move on. Brahim tells us about his village and invites us to pass by on our return and meet his family. We ask him to find us someone who will sell good quality, local organic dates at a reasonable price and promise to visit him in a few days’ time.

We need to get fuel, so when we get into Zagora, Brahim directs us to a fuel station. There are several young people on mopeds hanging around, one of whom approaches Frank’s window, offering a maintenance check in a garage nearby. We decline, but he’s adamant that we need it, our springs, our tyres, they can do anything he says, not taking no for an answer. Brahim tells us he’s a faux guide and not to pay any attention to him. It’s hard though to ignore him, he’s so persistent. The fuel station doesn’t take cards and we have no cash, so after saying good bye to Brahim, we drive on to get to a bank. I take my card and go to draw some money, and there’s the same guy again, obviously having followed us, now watching me take money out of the bank. I really don’t like it and I tell him so as I pass him. He completely ignores my remarks and says you need camping? Follow me! We don’t need advice on how to get to a camp-ground, we’ve already looked one up on park4night, and this guy is really getting on my nerves now.

He is in front or behind us all the time until we arrive at our chosen camp-site. He even has the audacity to walk in with me! Well if he thinks he can earn a recommendation fee from the camp-site, I’m going to spoil this for him.

I approach the two guys in the reception and tell them that we came here under our own steam, nothing to do with him. It turns out though that he’s actually employed by them! So then I change my tune and give them all a piece of my mind about hassling tourists and that we are much less inclined to stay at a place when we’re treated like this. They all nod their heads as if they understand, but I’m not sure that it’s sinking in. In the end, we decide to stay anyway – it’s late afternoon, we are tired and hungry, and, somehow I think we could be more effective if we stay and tell them not to be like this to tourists, rather than turning around and leaving.

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This is not a good camp-site. It’s called Paradis Touareq, but Frank, on his visit to the local Souq finds out that it’s been nicknamed L’enfer Touareq by the locals.

Nothing actually works – we end up having to use our own mobile hotspot, as their internet is down and either stay dirty or contend with cold showers. The place is a dusty building site and neither the owner nor the manager are exactly welcoming. Before we leave the next day, we try to give them some constructive feedback, as they have a new establishment, but we are not sure if we are heard. When it comes to payment, they extract the highest possible amount out of us, even charging us for berber tea they had offered us. This leaves a bad feeling all round.

They don’t even say good-bye. This is really bad customer service and not very clever. They should focus on giving a good service at the camp-site, not employ people to trap tourists at the entrance of the town.

We don’t take to Zagora, people in the shops are pushy too – any shop you enter, you have to fight to get back out without buying anything. This place has been destroyed by tourism. We don’t like this kind of atmosphere, so we are glad to leave it behind.

Luckily most camp-sites that we have come across have been wonderful. This is really an exception.

We tootle on for a few kilometers and then stop in the middle of nowhere by a school. Just when we’ve settled in, there is a gentle knock on the door, and a tall, slender man politely asks us for our passports. He explains that he is one of the senior members of the local community. We invite him in. He’s very well spoken, despite only a basic command of French. We spend half an hour together, pouring over maps and chatting, partly in French and partly in Arabic. We share stories about our families and our respective villages. We invite him to taste Frank’s freshly made marmalade and when we see he likes it, we give him a jar. This prompts him to scoot off across the stony fields on his moped, returning 10 minutes later with two boxes of dates, one of which is full of the Medjool variety – the best quality we have ever tasted. He leaves us his phone number, insisting that we should ring him if there is any trouble and off he goes again into the darkness.

There are no interruptions that night – we sleep soundly, appreciating the quiet space around us, after having been cooped up in a town and campsite we didn’t like.

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For more photos, click here

 


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