The airline control tower people went on strike. Of all people and all days to unite for a common cause. Of course all we cared about was catching our flight successfully and pondered who was filling in the the control tower people. The flight was delayed but after just a short while we boarded and over 3 hours flew over the cities that we just read about at home. The flight hit some turbulence as the heat rose from the brown earth finally we made a bouncy landing onto the terrain of North Africa. Much to our astonishment the passangers burst into a spirited clapping applause - was it really that scary or were we honouring the pilot? Just another unanswered question of life.
We checked into our riad. Its covered in mosaic and exotic. In the centre is a deep blue pool surrounded by gardens and birds singing, a white cat that sniffs any baggage left around and an aimless tortoise that chugs around the pool. It's cool and calm oasis away from the bustle and heat of the old city.
We hit the streets and immediately the pressure starts. Its negotiating the labyrinth of tunnels that are streets. Its the touts that ask you to ride a horse or buy this and that. Its the "Best Price" in every shop. Its crazy!
A white coated muslim attaches himself to us and leads us around for a bit and we end up at a roof top terrace restaurant. Its blue skies and terracotta flat roofs we look out on and a vaporised mist swirls around us to drop the temperatures. Bowls of olives glistening in oil, huge discs of golden flat bread, crispy brown on the outside, tagine's of lamb and prunes and chicken with lemon in terracotta bowls. Platters of fruits, ruby red water melons, sweet plums, nectarines with golden juicy flesh, dark plums burst with flavours. Fragrant mint tea in glasses poured with style from a ornate silver pot. Spicy Moroccan biscuits stuffed with almonds or coconut. For his troubles we buy him lunch - although he wraps up most of it to take home to his mother. (does he I wonder?)
Lets go camel riding - we said to ourselves this evening. Some slow negotiations with various taxi services to find the appropriate cab at the right price and we were off. Seems that the taxi driver had no idea about camels either and a U turn and a few conferences with locals lurking around on the road side finally had our taxi driver pulling over at the side of the road. By this time the sky is deepest blue and silhouetting the clusters of palms. out of the darkness come 4 young men and after some more negotiations the camels are woken up and brought to us. They kneel and bray and heave to their feet with us clinging madly to their backs. Padded seats and a huge handle to hold we settled in comfortably for an hour ride around the oasis. The 4 young men snapped photos and laughed and chatted and we gently rocked back and forwards and laughed at each other, admired the crescent moon and the long shadows we threw on the ground. Apparently tourists don't generally turn up in the dark shadows and ask for rides! They sleep there, on site these 4 young men in little tents, neat and tidy (yes I had a flash light tour of their home) and camels sleep next to them. Camels were amazing! friendly and not adverse to a good long neck rub.
We came back to the square, huge with a perimeter of bright lit stalls, thousands of Moroccans in the middle gathered in clusters, listening or dancing to drums, playing music (one sole violinist amongst them all playing haunting music) playing games of skill or chance. Eating around barrows of fresh cut pineapple and coconut fresh. It was sensory overload. and breathtaking.