Back to the Desert...well, the Oasis at least

After leaving Kasbah Mchaunted Max and I headed for the city of Ouarzazate (pronounced War-Zah-Zat).   I wanted to go Ouarzazate not only to get a better feel for the south and Berber culture…but also to find (and buy) one of the giant fuzzy rugs I’d heard come from the region. But culture first!

We started with a tour of the Taorirt Kasbah - former home of the infamous Glaoui brothers. The Glaoui brothers ruled the south of Morocco with an iron fist during the first half of the 20th century.  Their collusion with the French is a bit of a sore spot in Moroccan history. The brothers were ruthless, decadent, and essentially let the French do whatever they wanted in the North if they could do whatever they wanted In the south..and they did. But more on the brothers later.  You know the ultra open floor plan that everyone fell in love with a few years back? The kitchen led into the dining room into the tv room into the all purpose study area without any walls or much to separate the family's activity? Well, Kasbah’s are pretty much the exact opposite of that. I read somewhere that Kasbah house staff often devised trails of string or pebbles so that they could navigate the windy web of  corridors and staircases.

We visited Ouarzazate on a national holiday and except for a few tourist sites - including an uninspiring movie museum - almost everything else was closed. One construction worker looking man convinced us that he worked for the co-op of women with disabilities where they made rugs and when he let us into the show room with a key, we decided he seemed pretty legit. However, when it looked like we weren’t going to buy a rug afterall he moved onto other products like the “handmade” scarves sewn by blind Moroccan women. Who knew that blind Moroccan women made the Pashmina scarves you see in every Middle Eastern market all over the world? I’m no sucker.

Did I tell you that I picked our Ouarzazate hotel by going to the first listing on the “expensive” page of the guide book whilst in the haunted Kasbah? That’s not usually our style, but people make crazy decisions when they are freezing.   As luck would have it - it turned out not to be a crazy decision at all.  The dar was reasonably priced (off season) and one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed. The guide book refers to its “Labyrinthine hallways” and “1001 nights décor”.  After winding around corners and up narrow staircases you step into a curtained shoe closet where you remove your own shoes and put on Moroccan slippers to tread the rest of the way across stacks of orange and red carpets. But the place wasn’t antiseptic-hotel-fancy but crazy-old-desert-fancying-Frenchman-fancy. Every room is tucked behind rugs and heavy blue velvet curtains with a very eclectic mix of Berber handicrafts and photos.

After dropping off our bags and having a nap in a WARM room we took a little day trip out to the Skoura Oasis - an hour or so away from Ouarzazate.   The very nice desert-fancying-Frenchman drew us a map of where to go in order to see a few Kasbahs...but we ended up very lost.  All the same, we made our way through the thick trees and saw dozens of Kasbahs peaking out from the branches - most of them still inhabited.  It was really surreal actually.  ....and we are lucky our car didn't fall into any ditches as the road was often times barely wide enough for all four tires!

1 comment:

  1. I did that trip from Marrakesh into the mountains and desert...so amazing, right? Love your photos.