From Gourrama to Boudnib to Meski:
After the dogs and the beetles kept us awake all night, we continued east to the little dusty town of Gourrama. We followed a nearly dry, gravel-filled river bed for the most part. All along the banks, a ribbon a green followed the water course. Date palms rose above the smaller crops of wheat and peas, and oleander bushes in pink flower broke the monotone green and even spread themselves out beyond the watered areas and scattering themselves into the desert. We passed almost no cars or trucks on the road; the main transport option here, as in so many places we have passed through, is the humble donkey. Mud-brick rather than stone houses cluster into small villages which from a distance are almost lost in the dry sandy background.
In Boudnib, a larger town in the district, we stopped. Ray and Hamid wanted to see if they could locate someone who could guide us into one of the big Kasbahs at the edge of town which he had visited many years ago. We were in luck. We twisted and turned our way through laneways and alleyways to the edge of the modern town. The big vans would never have made it.
The Kasbah was where the town of Boudnib once stood but the newer parts of town had moved on. It is one of the few Kasbahs that are still occupied - people have lived here continuously for around 1850 years. Once its population was about 10 000, but now around 60 families live there. It is all mud brick and straw, but in 2008 it was severely damaged by a series of storms. Much restoration work has been done with funds from the King after the storm. We walked through the tall entrance. Tunnels ran off to each side around the thick walls. We were led through narrow pathways, some of them covered over. Once, all the paths would have been covered and it is easy to see why - it was cool! Inside the Kasbah, individual dwellings were sealed off behind high walls and old timber doors. A little shop opened onto one path, and a donkey with a young boy pushed past. Outside the Kasbah walls, a spring provided water which some young boys collected in plastic containers. Behind a courtyard wall was a millstone, up on its edge and clearly donkey-operated. The track of a small side-winder snake disappeared under a door. It was a wonderful glimpse into past and present Moroccan life without the background of tourists and guides and touts.
And so after the obligatory mint tea or coffee in new Boudnib, it was off to Meski where the other three big vans had gone the day before.
Meski campsite is right next to a little clear stream and we parked right on the bank. Unlike the other campsites, this was a bustling little place with quite a few campers, many of them in well-equipped four-wheel-drives. Half a dozen small shops selling all kinds of souvenirs spilled their colourful wares out onto their steps. The stream opened up into a large deep clear swimming pool which serviced the little town at the tops of a flight of steps cut into the cliff. After all the heat and the dust and three days of no water, showers, toilets, the pool looked wonderful! It was - but it was freezing. Paul and Liz joined us for a swim, but it seems the others had not tried it out despite the high temperatures. Their loss…
Only two of the three vans were there to greet us. It appears that Brian and Chris were not happy with the trip and took off home. We don't understand what they were looking for on this trip but clearly it did not live up to their expectations. But they didn't join in much either, deciding, for instance, not to come on the day tour of Fès with the rest of us. So now we are down to four!
Hamid's family owns one of the small shops in the campsite, so of course that was where we preferred to shop. We had seen some rugs in Fès and while on the guided tour in the old city, and had been pressured greatly to buy. Here in Hamid's shop were Berber hand-woven carpets and hangings, and Russ and I did eventually splash out on a nice older piece for the wall. (Those, of course, who know our house, will ask where we will actually find any spare wall to hang it…)