Saturday 7th May
After leaving Volubilis, we drove on south to Meknes, a small convoy of three we were not that confident to find our way through the busy streets of the large city. We finally found the large car park and saw the Desert detours van so we were happy to have found the right place. Such a busy place with people and cars going everywhere, Hamid greeted us and sent us of to find Steve in one of the many cafes lining the square for a drink. The choices are mostly, coffee, mint tea, fresh orange juice, still or fizzy water or various soft drinks. No beer or wine as it is a Muslim country. The fresh orange juice is lovely and refreshing, coffee can vary a bit, and mint tea which is refreshing but can be very sweet. After drinks, the six tourists visited the Jewish and Arab souks making our way through the narrow winding streets filled with people and all kinds of shops. None of us were really interested in buying anything but it was an interesting walk and after we had enough of the narrow streets we made our way back through the food vendors, buying some fresh dates and walnuts and enthralled with the variety of spices and sweets. We then loaded up into our vans again and headed out of Meknes to the motorway to Fes. The motorways in Morocco and not very busy and we drove on them quite easily, generally the locals can't afford to pay the tolls so they use the secondary roads and they can be very busy with all sorts of cars, trucks, taxi's, buses, horses, donkeys, scooters and three wheeled scooter carts. Then you have to watch out for the pot holes, dogs, wandering stock, children and other pedestrians, it takes a lot of concentration to drive along the roads.
Steve and Hamid had left us to find our way to the campsite in Fes, called Camping International situated outside the town and after a slight detour we were happy to find our destination. It would have been a nice campsite when it was first set up, shady with gum trees, but unfortunately the facilities need to be repaired and upgraded.
We booked in for 2 nights as we had a tour of Fes booked for the next day and after shared barbeque, instigated by Ewout most of us headed off to bed. Ewout and Clyde decided to check out the noise of drums coming from the bar located in the grounds and soon came back asking Anna and I if we would like to come and have a look at the Wedding going on. We arrived in time to see the young couple bundled into elaborately decorated canopied platforms carried by four men, and then heralded into the venue with a band blowing trumpets and beating drums. It was quite fascinating to see the bride, groom and guest's elaborately dressed. When they moved into the room we were allowed to go back stage and witness the young couple being paraded around in front of all the wedding guests. We stood and watched for a while then discreetly left while they carried on with their celebrations until the late hours of the morning.
The next morning we were met at the front gate by our guide, we climbed on the bus and headed into Fes; we first went to see the gates of the Palace and then walked around the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery. Then it was back onto the bus to drive up to a castle on a hill overlooking the old town which had a great view of the Medina. After taking a few photos it was back onto the bus to be dropped off at to look at the ceramics workshop where we were shown where the ceramic wares and tiles were made and the process of cutting of the tiles for the elaborate mosaics that we see all over the place. We then were dropped off at he gates to the Medina. Our guide took us through the maze of the old town stopping at an old building which was set up as a Carpet shop; we were then asked to sit down while we had a talk about the origins of the carpets and shown the many varied designs. They then separated us into couples and then came the hard sell, although they were very beautiful no one was really interested in buying a large rug to take home and the salesmen then seemed a bit put out. We were then ushered into a restaurant hidden away and we had a very nice lunch of local food, we were warned that we should be able to share a meal as it was more than enough as it consisted of a shared entrée of many different vegetables prepared in traditional ways served in 10 small bowls, then our main (shared) dish and fresh orange and banana sprinkled with cinnamon. This was then finished with peppermint tea and a coconut type biscuit.
After lunch we were then taken to the view the tanneries and down through the inevitable shop where they again tried to get us interested in buying something. By this time we were all a little tired of wandering the streets, looking at shops and being pressured into buying the goods. We asked to be taken back to camp, but our tour guide then tried to make go into another shop which we refused and he was not happy about this. So back onto the bus and back to camp, we were tired and a bit fed up with salespeople and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the narrow alleyways.
Meanwhile back at Camp Steve had been busy preparing us our evening meal which consisted of salad and chicken cooked in Coke. It was very nice having it made for us and appreciated not having to prepare our own meal that night.
Even thought a lot of things are already paid for there is still the expectation of an extra tip, so we feel that we always have to put our hand in our wallets and purses for everyone who does something for us.
We have a really nice small group, 2 couples from England, Anna & Clyde, and Una & Ian, all have good senses of humour and are easy to get along with. We are all pretty happy to have ended up with such a small group as it is easier to get together and a good number for around a dining table.
Monday 9th May
We left Fes about 9.00 in the morning and drove in convoy to our next campsite, stopping at the large Marjane supermarket to get more supplies. Then up through the mountains where we stopped for coffee and pancakes for morning tea. Our next campsite was an elaborate campsite set up by a Sheik, with a hotel that looks like a castle still a work in progress, elaborate mosaics and great views. The weather threatened to rain, but apart from a few brief showers it was fine and we had a quiet night where we all retired to our campers early.
Tuesday 10th May,
We left campsite about 8 am as it was to be the longest day of driving of the trip. Unfortunately Clyde had been up all night with stomach cramps and decided to stay and see if he felt better later, or would catch us up at the next campsite the next day.
We had a lovely drive, though forests, past fields, arid desert areas, up through mountains and along past craggy mountains. We found the ever-changing scenery very interesting, sometimes reminiscent of outback Australia and amazed at the amount of flowering shrubs and grasses along the roadside. We stopped for coffee about mid morning, and then had lunch on the side of the road overlooking a river lined by palm trees. We arrived at the campsite at Meski mid afternoon and set up camp under the palm trees and were immediately surrounded by children wanting us to give them something, making camels and donkeys from palm fronds and other older men wanting us to visit their shops. We have found them to be quite persistent and we have got sick of them lurking about the campsite, not even wanting to venture into the shops to look as we feel that we can't get out of buying something. We also were greeted by another of the Desert Detours staff that comes from the village, his name is Youssef and he is a very personable young man who speaks many languages and has a cheeky sense of humour. The campsite is very pleasant Oasis, surrounded by palm trees with a stream running through into the local pool (waterhole). Very basic facilities, so we are glad for the ability to use the motor home toilet and shower.
At this campsite there is a local lady who will do our washing for us for a fee and we decided to take advantage of the convenience to get our bedding done.
We were very happy to see Clyde and Anna arrive later in the day; he was feeling slightly better but still suffered with stomach cramps and after setting up camp retired to his bed to recuperate. I think they decided it would be nicer to be with everyone else even if he had to push himself to drive to join us.
One of our guides, Hamid comes from this village called Meski and he is very proud of having a shop by the campsite which is run by another man Mohammed. We did end up visiting his shop later in the afternoon and bought a traditional Moroccan scarf for Ewout and a scarf and caftan for me.
Everyone except Clyde walked up to have dinner that night at the local café/ restaurant run by Hamid's dad and enjoyed a traditional dinner of salad and chicken on skewers.
Wednesday 11th May.
Campsite - source bleue de Meski.
We walked up to the village about 10 am and met our guide, Benny Africa, a friendly berber man who showed us up and down the dirt streets past the mud brick houses, visiting a school for small children about 3 -4 yrs old, and visited Hamid's parents house, where we his wife and had orange juice, peppermint tea and cake. After leaving there he took us to see his own home, again offered tea and peanuts and being offered dates and olive oil to buy. We spent the afternoon socializing around camp, doing some chores, Youssef showed us how to wrap our scarves in the Bedouin fashion and later Ewout went for a swim in the pool with the locals. We again will go to the local Café for dinner, this time we are going to have Couscous with lamb, which we have been told is very good.