Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Morocco 3 - Edge of the Desert

It took nine hours of driving to reach this chain of unhappy camels sat in the thick yellow light of the late afternoon.

Ours was one of the many long-wheelbase white tourist Transit vans climbing through the winding roads of the High Atlas. We stopped, along with the others, at the bends with the most spectacular views and were sold packets of dates and dyed geodes by small groups of souvenir sellers who waited at even the most remote curves.

The High Atlas were orange with collections of dark green shrubs that thinned with altitude. We stopped on the other side in the Dades Valley to visit the old fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, whose tight collection of mud brick castle-like square houses climb a small hillside overlooking a dry riverbed. We walked through the streets, keeping to the shadows to avoid burning in the noon-day sun, a white heat on the skin that made the sun feel within arm’s reach.

The bricks are crumbling and parts of the town look like they’re melting back into the ground. A guide told us that the first meter of each wall is a stone foundation, but above that they are made from mud bricks that last only two years before the sporadic rains wash them away. The whole town is constantly being re-built and most people have moved to the new town across the river, leaving only four families to live in the miniature city. Aït Benhaddou is a ruin being constantly re-built. The outline and form not preserved in ancient half-forgotten stones, but in ancient, half-forgotten memories, continuously being refreshed in brown earth.