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Land of Kasbahs

April 11, 2007

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We left Hassi Labiad and headed west towards the Todra Gorge and “road of 1000 Kasbah’s” with the same kind driver who brought us on the eight hour ride from Fez. The drive to our kasbah for the night would be six hours, but we had acclimated to this wild mode of transportation and thankfully this route was not thru any of the many mountain ranges in Morocco. We were ready for more adventure, invigorated by our Sahara sojourn.

There is a mystic beauty to southern sub Sahara Morocco, with its landscape of dusty browns and coppery reds with the snow capped High Atlas mountains as a breathtaking backdrop. We went passed the Todra Gorge, a deep chasm cutting through the desert mountains, often compared to the Grand Canyon.

The Kasbahs are large fortified homes and castle complexes made from Pise or sun dried mud bricks often designed around crenellated towers, they were a stronghold for ruling families serving domestic and military purposes. The picturesque Dades valley is filled with scattered kasbahs, mesas and palm
grove oases.

The labyrinth ochre colored kasbahs are square flat dwellings that are like cubes of clay boxes that are a haven from the unrelenting, scorching sun. Many are in ruins and crumbling, some with storks on their nests atop towers, thus adding a romantic air to another portion of Morocco.

We eventually made our way to Quarzazate (pronounced “war-za -sat”) home of Atlas studios where many movies like “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Romancing the Stone” and “Gladiator” were filmed. Then onto Tamdaght area for the night right next to the proud and still used, but crumbling and infamous Kasbah of Glaoui.

Our driver was kind and patient, but did not speak much English (and we did not speak his Berber, Arab or French), yet we still managed to communicate our needs. He suddenly stopped at one point, got something out of his trunk and disappeared as he seemed to indicate that he would not be long. We noticed he went into a Mosque. Since we hadn’t seen him do that on the first leg, we were curious until I remembered that it was Friday and I had read that was like their day of worship like Christian’s Sunday.

A few hours later, he pulled over in the middle of no where, went to his trunk, pulled out his prayer rug and walked a few feet into the desert and must have been facing Mecca as he put it down and began his prayer ritual. Since this is a rare sight for me which I have never seen in person, I took a quick picture, then allowed him some privacy for his time with his God, while other cars whizzed by. 

I used the opportunity to talk about Islam to Mozart as she was curious too. One can not miss the muezzins call to prayer five times a day anywhere in Morocco, so this was not our first discussion and I was grateful to be able to expose her to more of this ancient religion. I found our mysterious Berber traveling companion praying alone in this rocky desert landscape, a striking and ruminating image.

Mozart slept part of the way on my lap as we enjoyed the views. Alessandra had told us that the people eat grass here and in deed we saw lots of women carrying huge bundles of grass on their backs. Camels and donkeys of course were seen regularly along with the famous Berber rugs. We were definitely not in Kansas.

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