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Sahara

Day 13: Ouarzazate to Tinfou

Michael Palin - SaharaOuarzazate recedes into the distance. A town of substance, a regional capital, a centre for the increasing trade in tourists who want the Desert Experience without having to go too far into the desert. It has an airport and some big hotels and a military garrison but not much else to hold us up.

The mountains are not quite done with us yet. We may have crossed the High and Middle Atlas but there's still the Anti-Atlas ahead of us. As the road climbs towards yet another pass the Land Rover coughs and splutters and we pull in to the side. Our driver opens the bonnet and releases a hissing cloud of steam. Like a priest wielding a censer, he scatters a couple of bottles of Sidi Mansour mineral water over the radiator and we set off again. A few miles later the knocking from the engine becomes so insistent that I wonder if there might not be someone trapped inside. Our driver tries manfully to ignore it, but you might as well ignore a broken leg, and reluctantly he brings us to another, and I suspect more permanent, halt.

As we're staring into the engine, two very sleek Toyotas, coming fast out of the desert, bowl down the hill towards us. Seeing our plight, the occupants stop, offer greetings in the Arab fashion, right hand lightly touching the heart, and a man in a cotton robe, face shrouded in a blue veil, comes across to us. His skin is dark and tight across his cheekbones. He appraises us with a fierce unblinking eye before reaching into his robes.

'I am a nomad. Here is my card.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 13
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Ourzazate
  • Book page no: 56

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