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Sahara

Day 12: Marrakesh to Ouarzazate

Marrakesh to Ourzazate, Morocco 
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By bus to the desert. Motorway catering at Tademt. Once chosen the lamb goes from slab to barbecue to mouth in less than ten minutes.
Michael Palin - SaharaEventually, with a valedictory fart of thick black smoke, our elderly Daf pulls out of the yard and begins a slow crawl round the outskirts of Marrakesh in heavy morning traffic.

At one stop I watch a man in a djellaba and straw hat scraping up donkey droppings from the middle of the road with two boards. I can't work out if he's from the council or just an opportunist. When I was growing up in Sheffield the police horses used to pass our house on some sort of exercise, and if any dung was left behind I had to watch in profound embarrassment as my father and our next door neighbour, both keen rose-growers, raced out with shovels and fought over it.

When we're finally clear of the city the driver shoves a dusty cassette into a slot on the dashboard and the bus fills with the sound of chanting. It's a tape of the Koran, played to invoke Allah's protection on our journey and recited, I'm told, by an Egyptian who is considered such a star that he intones the Holy Book at Mecca itself.

The driver seems a placid, reliable sort, rarely using his horn in anger and seemingly undistracted by a plastic vine which trails up one side of the windscreen, dangling its faded black grapes over a photograph of a woman, veiled in white, hands raised in devotional gesture, which is stuck on the windscreen above his head.

The mountains begin to close in, and, as the driver hauls the coach round a dizzying succession of hairpins, the prevailing colour of the countryside changes from rufous maroon to brown and grey. Convoys of four-wheel drive vehicles, carrying their affluent tourist cargoes towards the Desert Experience, hover impatiently behind us.
Marrakesh to Ourzazate, Morocco 
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Sleeping it off with Aït Benhaddou behind me.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 12
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Marrakesh
  • Book page no: 53

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