The Road to Merzouga
Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
241Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Auberge L' Oasis
From the town of Tetouan just south of Ceuta, we caught a local bus for Fez, a mostly picturesque 5-½ hour ride. We were the only non-Moroccans throughout the whole trip.
The imperial city of Fez (two others are Marrakech and Meknes). The Fez medina, where we chose to stay is like being at another place at another time. We hired a guide for a 1/2 day and were taken to places in the depths of the medina where no foreigners were seen. We visited tanneries, mosques, ancient bakeries and carpet factories. We saw for sale a meat market that still hung heads of some sort of small animal. One of the heads had been placed on the ground, beside the table where a cat was having a fine feast. Cats have the good life here. They're everywhere and not underfed. Cats are the animals that the prophet Mohammed singled out for kind treatment
The sun was beginning to set upon our arrival in Merzouga. We found a great place right in front of the highest sand dune in the area. From Auberge L'Oasis you have a breathtaking view of the dune. We chose, for $3.00 p.p. to sleep on the roof top terrace. Mats, pillows and blankets provided, our ceiling, the desert sky
That afternoon, Ellen and I mounted our camels. Along with our Arabic speaking only guide, Mustafa, we were off on a 2-½ hour trek into the Sahara. We arrived at a two bush, one-tree oasis a couple of hours before sundown. We helped Mustafa construct a 10' x 25' Berber tent, then watched as he prepared a tajine pot dinner of meat and vegetables. After a wonderful belly-filling of tagine and cheese, we were ready for bed. Mustafa had tied the camels' front legs together so they wouldn't leave us in the desert to fend for ourselves. It seemed cruel, but the thought being in the desert without camels was a much more unpleasant thought. As the sun went down so did the temperature. We had no way of knowing the actual temperature but it took five woolen blankets to keep us warm. It wasn't until about an hour after Ellen and Mustafa started sawing logs that my little pea-brain went on automatic pilot
That being said, I did fall into a deep sleep. The sun again rose at 5:30 a.m. My strong sense of bravery overtook me, I'd made it through the night. As I made my way towards the door a scorpion scampered past my bare feet. I sheepishly pointed it out to Mustafa who shrugged his shoulders as if to say "yeah, so what". After a breakfast of cheese, bread and fruit, we were on our way back to Auberge L'Oaisis. Our Saharan adventure complete, we packed and made ready for our trip back across the piste and so called civilization. The owner of the Auberge, one of many brothers (I should add that there was a total absence of women at this place) suggested that we travel back the same way that we had come. We had read in our guidebook that there was a better way of getting back, which would bring us into the town of Erfoud. Erfoud was a little further than the way we came in via Rissani, but we wanted to try it. The owner implored us not to go that way, saying that the piste was in very bad shape and that we would bet lost. He said that for only a few Dirhan (Moroccan money) he would provide us with a reliable guide; back to the safety of Rissani. Ellen and I talked it over, asked ourselves how the piste could be worse on one stretch of flat land than the other, then said thanks but no thanks to the owner. We were of course a little bit nervous about setting out on our own to Erfoud (40km), but what the hell, this was an adventure trip wasn't it? We made it, quite uneventfully, to Erfoud in about an hour. It wasn't until we reached Erfoud that we both realized the owner was essentially asking us to give his guide a ride to Rissani and then pay him as well.