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Home: from home.

Leaving Fez we start the climb to Sefrou. Florence suffers from a bout of the tajine stomach, thanks to cumin in water it is cured.   — Pitching camp that night I half expect to hear, from behind the distant slopes, the heart beat of Fez the Kairouyine mosque: never to be visited by us ‘The Unclean’ only to be heard. It has howled from deep within Fez walls since AD 857. Instead a shy shepherd spots our camp fire. He circles at a safe distance under the stars, the stars, the stars.   We have found the High Atlas at long last.

Leaving early morning long before our shepherd could muster enough courage to come and visit, we relish the sharp crispness of the early morning dry air.   Passing through Midelt, by late afternoon we have once again opted for a lunar surface camp site. It is so windswept every stone stands proud on its own pillar of earthenware red soil. Tufts of yellow-brown grass forming island after island as far as the eye can see.   Pitch: number seventeen.

The town of Rich is some ten kilometres down the road, so tomorrow we should be entering the Gorges du Ziz. This time our nomadic night neighbour disappears in the darkness with his flock of sheep and goats. A camp fire away in the distance marks his rest spot. Across the mile or so that separates our fires I can feel him looking in our direction. Not for long. Our fire attracts the magnificent seven from the nearest village.

A well-mannered bunch of kids all introduced themselves and as quick as they could, sit next to Florence for a game of dominoes.

Each dominoes game of the journey is allocated a name. Tonight’s game, ‘At Last the mountains’ is named by Florence. We are utterly disarmed by Florence’s ease with the new arrivals in the passion of the game. There is something utterly captivating in watching the circled of happiness, the banter, the smiles and frowns. We are beaten hands down. By the time we hit the sack it is late.

6.30 am the first of Florence’s’ new found friends is silhouetted against the rising dawn.   He is standing on the bank of a dry river into which Fanny has just disappeared to appease the call of nature.   Fanny gives him ‘the bums rush’ to no avail. Florence’s turn at mooning has the rest of the gang arriving rubbing the sleep from their eyes to get a better look. All are given a ride back on the bonnet’s spare tyre, on the doors steps, on the rear ladder, to their village Tehj : after braking camp.   Two twenty litre water cans are filling from the deep village well with some directions we miss the Ziz Gorge by miles, circumnavigating Er-Rachidia and end up doing the Todra Gorges back to front.

We do not have GPS.   It is worthless without the co-related maps. Without the way points, there is little point in knowing that you are in a canyon some eleven thousand feet up in the Atlas Haut. Rest assured, it is much simpler and a lot more fun to use, ‘Excuse me, is this the way to Paris?   Naam, iyeh, Naam, iyeh, yes, yes, come and have dinner, tea, Burbon.

Engaging differential, we leave the real road, eventually arriving in Amellago which is not marked on Michelin 953.

Is this the way to? Get’s a sorry, a Berber Whiskey perhaps. No thanks, we must push on. Can we get through?   ( Photo no   )   Frantic nodding confirms it’s a yes.

Nosing Williwaw into the waters of a healthy shrinking riverbed, we tack up the canyon floor. Smooth high-water marks on the rock banks confirm according to Fanny, (who is tracing a blue line on the map that denotes the Doura river,) that any downpour will see us disappearing into the sands of the Sahara. Happily there are no clouds to be seen. I am enjoying the power of Williwaw which is pushing a small bow wave up river in search of a single dirt track. Its unwieldy form can be seen hugging the course of the river cut into the canyon side.

Reaching the track the waters of the canyon are now compressed between its high rock walls far below us. In soda fountains of splashing, bubbling, jumping white water the reddish rock walls reflect in our wing mirrors. A shimmering pool looks too inviting to pass.   We stop for a High Atlas Jacuzzi.

Our next village is announced by welcoming kids, and Fanny’s shouting ‘get off ‘get the fuck off ‘.   This time the wing mirror divulges a collection of dust-covered faces all in keen competition for the back ladder of Williwaw. Around a sharp steep corner, the village emerges from its rocky landscape.   Gradually revealed against the backdrop of rock in a vale of green from its surrounding fields with the odd tree all is tucked into a small valley.   Red cactus flowers from the ramparts to the village. We stop for a mint tea. “Please come and have tea in our home.” “Thanks we will.” Down between mud baked walls, we enter a long room. Sitting Apache style we meet Moha Ousri and all his family.

Some hours later after a genuine home cooked couscous, we have put the wrongs of the world right, in English, Berber, Irish, French, Arabic, Sign Language, Body Language, with the odd Holl’a, from Moha.

Moha has a degree in history and geography. He is twenty-nine years of age, but cannot marry until he gets work. We are presented with a pair of leather sandals. Exchanging addresses we depart with a glowing feeling of goodwill, and their reassurance that Williwaw will have no trouble in getting up over the mountain pass.

What a drive –   blue ribbon stuff with every now and then just enough roof clearance to pass under rock overhangs we cross and drive up riverbeds,. (See DVD Photo no )   Passing villages named Amellago, Imiter, that have not been seen by many Moroccans never mind us the lost intrepid adventurer we eventually arrive in Assoul a mud-baked town nestling deep in the fold of the high Atlas.

A few bottles of, “it get’s everywhere in the world” Coke which is drunk in full admiration for Williwaws abilities, we arrive at a wonderful site for pitch: number eighteen. A naturally eroded quarry cut out by a river during some of its more violent times now a gently meandering stream. Across the river, a square mud farm-house is set into the hill-side in contradiction to all that ensnared it.

In the fading light, our dirt road rises to a hilltop concealing the bare uninhabited swelling landscape beyond.   Perhaps the deep silent wonders of the Sahara are on the other side.

Pulling into the protection of the cliff walls of the quarry its floor is sandy and smooth visibly used by the farmer across the water to thrash his wheat upon. The first sunset croak warned me not to pitch too near the stream. I walk across the river to check if we are welcome to stay the night.

Following a small path up to the house I cross another gurgling spring. Taking a mental note to fill our water cans, I approach the house from the rear.

It is a flat roof one-storey square structure encircling an open middle courtyard into which the farmer’s animals are placed for the night.

There are no windows visible other than a small solitary window on the entrance side indicating the living room quarters.

Berber architecture is simple and functional and somewhat different from the mainstream architecture of Islam. It concretes on the use of the materials that are to hand – mud, earth, stone, and wood beams without the over the extravagance of symbolising and arches which adorn the Gateways, Minarets, Mosques, Medersat.

I speak to a young woman who is tending a small fire on the floor just inside the main door. There is no hope of any communication.   On leaving, I spot on the opposite side of the river, a mule approaching with two bundles of wheat balanced across its back in a pannier. By the time I arrive back we are invited to partake in tea/dinner and to meet the wife the woman I had just endeavoured to communicate with.

An hour later sitting cross-legged on the only piece of carpet it is tricky in the murky light to make out our host’s features.   There is also no sign of his wife in the flickering light shadows of his gaslight. Conversation is limited and I get the strong feeling that our host is not the most trustworthy of Arabs. Fanny has also picked up on the same feeling.   Etiquette requires that we stay at least for the tea which he is preparing beside us. Saturated in sweetness it is served in nauseating small chipped glasses. Florence is visibly turning a whiter shade of pale, with her glass of warm goat’s milk.

Half an hour passes. Etiquette or no etiquette the girls flee under the cloak of putting Florence to bed. With both of them assuring me that the river crossing is no bother to either of them.   They disappear into the night.   Through the small window, I watch their progress by the yellow beam of their torches: Picking out every sound, movement and shadow until it reaches the inner glow of the tent.

While thinking about which hand I should be using, the right or the left dinner arrives. Everything is fine until I swallow some unknown gristle which is followed by some hot unleavened bread dipped in some unseen vegetable sweet- and- sour mixture. A polite Adam’s apple swallow on my part signals course two brought in by his wife.

She does not join us to eat only entering the room on being summoned by a call from the husband. Her female aroma marks her attendance. She moves with a silence to match the darkness from which she emerges. Covered from head to toe, her headdress dowses her eyes too small silver discs that dance in the light of the gas lamp every time she bends down to take a dish away.

Some hours after the girls, I finally make my escape, Shoukran -Shoukran, thank you, thank you, ciggretts, cigarettes, tomorrow.   Stepping out into Mother Nature the last sweet-and-sour dish has me by the short and hairies. Sitting at the door a suckling sound reveals a young woman’s firm breast hard at work. The old sod has a child. There is no point in trying to express any thanks for the meal, as she does not look up from her child completely ignoring my existence.

A river douching to the laughter of the High Atlas toads and frogs brigade cleans my pallet.   Sleep is a blessing from high.

We decide to stay put for another day. Some maintenance to Williwaw is required. It is also time to fix our outside Jerry can brackets under our back windows. Two cans on either side which will remove eighty litres of fuel off the roof rack.

(Top Tip: The idea of the brackets is good as it redistributes the weight off the roof making the vehicle a lot more stable.)

Changing yet another slow puncture I curse my stupidity for not having invested in a good set of tyres. It is one of the mistakes I could have avoided.   Williwaw has her original six Avon Rangers which I should have cashed in for six Michelin xxx, or six Bridgestone.   (Top TIP: Invest in a good set of Tyres.)

Every move is watched from afar by our host who is getting his mule ready for the day’s works. All the activity leads to a complete repack one of my pet hates.   Even thought Williwaws interior space is not vast you would be surprised at the amount of gear, the equipment it contains. Re-packs can take up to two hours with the inevitable arguments as to where to put the shampoo.

It is not long before our host ventures over to have a look. Our initial feelings of the need to keep a weather eye on him are not wrong. I watched him note every item that is waiting to be repacked.   I am now more than certain that the thieving little bastard could not be trusted.   In some strange way, he seemed to be standing outside himself. Sleazy, untrustworthy, slit your throat, smiling gold teeth, with a set of shifty eyes, and a grasshopper brain, our Arab is straight out of a Dan Dare comic. Not a Sister Concepta, and that’s for sure.

He helps himself to a packet of fags and disappears in the direction of the gurgling water. With the sun barely over the yard-arm – he is back with his brother, an accountant who has come up to help him with the harvest. The brother is a soft-spoken gentleman.

I am winding down from the repack when all of a sudden there is explosion of sound. Sleaze has put Florence on the back of his mule.   In a nightmare flash of a paralysed child sitting in a wheelchair brain-dead, I am frozen to the ground. The mule has bolted. All that is stopping it from doing a Houdini is a shoddy piece of rope.   Sleaze bucket is holding onto it for his dear life.   Florence God bless her cotton socks is also holding on for dear life.

Fortune smiles on us. I unfreeze, charge over I manage to grab her free of the mule.   She is stunned and badly bruised up her back from one of the metal baskets. Dazed but unharmed Florence takes an instant dislike of mules which I think will last her for the rest of her life. Even sleaze-bucket looks relieved.

That evening a distant rumble promises rain. Rain it did.

Morning arrives with tea at eleven; fresh-baked level bread, a bag of sugar cones in retribution for the mule antics, and a few photos. Fanny takes the wheel of Williwaw for some off-piste driving. We slowly leave behind rippled majestic mountains that begin to show off their lower slopes dressed in a hue of late spring colours of browns and reds.   Bathing in splashes of gold and green the river is now necklace by intense farming of wheat, corn, mint, scallions and fruit. The small fields forming a patchwork quilt, locked within their Ancestral masters, the High Atlas.

The skies darken. Every outstretched hand for a stilo, bon-bon, or dirham is not satisfied.

We arrive at Tidrine which sports two buildings totally out of character with the rest of the village. In amongst the flat mud baked roofs that stand in tiers of pale flecked browns, a wailing tower in the process of being built – it sticks out like fresh icing on a cake. The other building is a small hotel. Built-in cement and painted white and green with large Bedouin tents attached to its sides it looks like something that has forced itself out of the ground.

We stop for tea. To Fanny’s disappointment and later rage I turned down an offer from the owner of the café to camp in the car park. Fanny from her side of the sexual fence is still suffering from the need for security.   She has not yet quite settled mind wise into the beauty of camping in the wild. God knows how she is going to handle deeper dark Africa where there is no need for car parks. For me, the mountains win every time against a car park.   Four kilometres further down the road, she is sitting in the cab of Williwaw blowing up our air beds.   The skies have opened and all those children that did not get a stilo, pen, or bon-bon, are crying.

Pitch: number nineteen is very wet, windy and cold. It is not a night to remember with me digging trenches around the tent during the night to keep us from being swept away.

Five am: Florence has wet her sleeping bag. Can’t blame her, the storm is extremely violent.   A major swap around for sleeping positions is undertaken.     Florence is once more secure and warm and sound asleep.   Early morning, the extent of the downpour is visible for all to see. Thank God we had not camped near the river. Looking down from our high pitch, serious grey roller coasters of water are rushing down the river in a headlong mad rush to get to the Sahara.   Our campsite has been turned into a smooth mud quagmire. The night trenches are now deep wounds full of water hammering their way down to join the roaring waters below us. I have the twitters, and according to Fanny, Florence a slight touch of cystitis.   We dry out in a gentle warming breeze.

Another attack of the twitters brought on by hot toast and tea has me observing a colony of ants repairing the night’s damage to their nest. My high open-air loo looks out over the valley floor into a set of folding mountains out of which a black moving speck start to grow bigger, and bigger.   Passing in silence away below me he (the speck) is swallowed by the folds of the landscape for the fifth time to the cry from Florence in the tent,   ‘I found Wally.’

All is dry as we pass through Tamtattouchte. The track is littered with rocks where the river has burst its banks. There are sections of the track/road washed away together with the odd mud house returned to the soil.   We are having some trepidation as to what lies in front of us – The Gorge of Todra.   The river water changes colour as if caught in a kaleidoscope of soils.   We have been told that road through the Gorge is narrow and dangerous especially after a downpour.

The gorge follows the river Todra between walls over nine hundred and eighty feet high (300 meters) and sixty odd feet wide in places, (10 meters).

Fanny earmarks Marrakesh on the map, but the S bends have other destinations on their mind, some of which take your breath away. A meeting with a truck that sideswipes us while trying to squeezing past gives us a heart- stopping adrenalin moment – otherwise, it causes little damage.   We finally pull in safely at the point of tourist bus penetration into the Gorge Hotel – Yasmina, and Hotel Les Roches.

From here on in it is downhill all the way to Tinerhir, and then on to Boulemane du Dadès, El Kelaa M’ Gouna in the Dadès Valley. The skies have once again opened but even as the mountains bleed into the rivers we don’t care. The road is asphalt.

Around and before every turn and twist of the road the Geology or as it is now called the earth science of Morocco is on sale in all colours of the rainbow mile and miles of it. The Atlas Mountains are made from sweets says Florence. With only one investigation of a sound that turned out to be a zipper flapping in the wind, we eventually reach pitch: number twenty. We all put in a rock solid restful night.

After a good breakfast, on we go to Ouarzazate. Here we stop outside the five-star Berber Hotel called the Berber.   On entering, I enquired as to the rate of a double room. The receptionist looks at me in disbelief, an unshaven, oil-smeared, porcelain mud statue smelling like a polecat I am far from her ideal potential resident.   We settled for a coffee a handful of soft toilet rolls, and a long rest in the lobby.

Ouarzazate is on the way to Aït Benhaddou that has one of the best preserved kasbahs in the whole of the Atlas region. Footage of Lawrence of Arabia and Jesus of Nazareth was shot here. Whether UNESCO classified it as one more cultural treasures of the world before or after Hollywood had finished with it, I don’t know.

What I do know is that it was Hollywood who built the main gate to the town. Set on a hill with high fortified walls fronting onto a river called Mellah (salt) it is a David Lean setting well worth a visit.

The river is normally dry as a bone, but today after the rains it requires a camel crossing much to Florence’s horror. In her eyes after her narrow escape, all camels are Berber mules, whether they are buff coloured or just plain brown, one hump or two.   With large quantities of TLC, I get her aboard the ship of the desert. Lurching forwards and backwards and upwards, I swear to Flo that it is not in bucking mode and that it is only getting to its feet. Arriving on the opposite bank I hold her tight for the slow-motion whiplash dismount.

Looking up at Aït Benhaddou with its mud granaries standing at different heights behind its large theatrical entrance gate, is what can only be called a surreal experience, perhaps the more so because of its contamination with Hollywood. I cannot stop myself from looking for a sign pointing to Timbuktu, or a kneeling Charles Atlas holding the world on this back.

The Atlas Mountains themselves are named by the ancient Greeks, after a legendary Giant who did much the same as Charles Atlas.

Before facing the camel ride back which required a promise of a necklace from one of the many hard tourist hassle shops that eagerly awaiting our return we spend some time reliving Lawrence of Arabia, with the village’s five inhabitants.

Arriving back safe and sound Florence puts her new-found trading skills to the test. The necklace procured a young Lawrence hitches a lift back to Ouarzazate on Williwaws doorstep. (Thirty odd kilometres back up the dusty road) Why he preferred to hang on outside in the dust I can only put down to his desire to be in ‘Lawrence Rides Again’. Outside Ouarzazate, we turn right to continue our descent of the Lower Atlas to Marrakesh. He dismounts looking just right for the part.

Williwaw has other ideas about reaching Marrakesh. On one the many glorious scenic windswept bends the handbrake seizes. She screeches to a halt. It’s out with the breakdown triangles, stick a rock or two under the wheels and wait.   The first car to arrive is a group of young tourists who agree to bring Fanny and Flo down to the nearest town to look for a mechanic. By the time the next car stops, I am no mood for Arab humour. He has a good look, makes a gesture towards Allah and leaves.

I try driving Williwaw to see if the drum would release itself, no way Josephine.   Now it is scalding hot, but hey presto a flash of genius. I fill a pot with our kitchen basket with cold water, pour it onto the drum, and hit it a whack of a hammer. It springs clear.   In no time, having disconnected the cable I am trundling downhill after my brood. Luckily I spot them. An hour later we arrive with our new-found friends in the outskirts of Marrakesh.

What a wonderful sounding name: Marrakesh. It was once described by a Moroccan Sociologist named Fatima Mornissi, as a city where black and white legends met, where languages are melted down. Where religions stumbled, testing their permanence against the undisturbed silence of the dancing sands.

It is the most southerly Arabian garrison town in North Africa, positioned at the doorway to the Sahara. It still has the same magical draw it had for me back in the sixties. In those times it shattered the silent void of the desert each evening with a circus of life, so varied that it could rival any show on earth. It will be interesting to see the changes. If the large open square, its pulse named Djemaa el Fnawithin (Congregation of the Departed) has departed from within its walls.

In the rain, I have no hope of finding the square never mind the stopover spot recommended by Kev of Fez. Changed it sure has visually.   Fanny at once comes to the rescue.   Hopping out of Williwaw into the lashing rain she stops a Taxi, “follow me.”   Marrakesh swallows us whole.

It is not possible to get Williwaw up the small street to Hotel Essaouira. It is a walk, carry and lug the bags job. Our newly found affluent friends who had given the girls a lift have long fled to a hotel for the better-heeled called the Mamounia Hotel where Churchill, Richard Nixon, and Orson Welles had stayed. We never meet again.

I am looking forward to dining at one of the many stalls in the square. First, it’s the hassle, the battle, to get to our Hotel in one piece. Then to find Williwaw a parking place for the night. Armed with just the bare essentials, passports, cameras, handbag and Barbie doll we struggle up the street to the hotel.   It is as Kev said a little gem hidden down a foul-smelling alleyway with a roof bar, clean rooms, a small courtyard and a welcoming owner.

Leaving the ladies to settle in, I return to find Williwaw now surrounded by a whirlpool of hopefuls.   The luck of the Irish comes to my rescue – there is a lock-up garage just behind where I am parked. Reversing, I make it in by the skin of my patients and the paint of the roof rack.

Returning to the hotel rather than being presented with a menu in French, which to me would be like going to New York and not having a hot dog from a hot dog stand I haul the girls downstairs. It’s the Square for dinner.

Marrakesh has indeed changed.   Less red earth more tarmac. The call of the Djemaa el Fna water carriers “Lmaa, Lmaa” Water, Water, lacks the dust cloud to make you stop and have a small golden or silver cup full. He has turned into a tourist illusion. Back in the sixties, the square’s nightlife exuded the unknown, the unexpected, the strange, and fear. It left you with the euphoria of growing up without time passing. Now the tourists sit or walk among the numbered and licensed stalls (most of which are beyond the pocket of the ordinary hippies daily allowance) looking like they have just left London a few hours ago. They have tamed Marrakesh with their credit cards and have taken away the menace and mystery of the cooking pots. The absence of rising dust has changed its chemistry – cobras hustlers looked leaner/ meaner the bread seller sitting on their warm flat loafs have disappeared – I am older. Fanny in a state of near panic overwhelmed by the Marrakesh barbarity to earn a dollar at any cost.

(Top Tip: Have the road Signe STOP in Arabic put on to the palm of your hand in Henna. When you’re being hassled too much all you have to do is extend your hand in good old fashion traffic cop style. It worked a treat.)

Surfacing from the square I am sent to get three wash bags and two large kit bags from Williwaw. I shove and battle my way back to a welcome drink on the Hotel roof. By Marrakesh standards, we crash out very early.

Next day our hotel Essaouira (the name of which I had thought up to now to be a town on the coast), is buzzing with the comings and goings of a normal morning check in check out: Backpackers of all shapes and sizes. Every one them wearing shoes with soles thick enough to squash every known breed of scorpion are either struggling to untangle or re winch up their backpacks. A multitude of zips, straps, and bungees are made up, opened, and redone up with most of the female owners revealing different levels of thigh watermarks – burnt skin.   Gone are the days of moderate dress to visit Islam Morocco.   Tantalising knickers lines promising what most witchdoctors’ potions dream of achieving and what most marabouts (Holy men) pray about.

By the time my lot surface, a horde of plaits, nose rings, belly buttons, faces of all shapes, are passing through the door, and up the courtyard. Exhausted from puffing Kev turns up – he has overnighted it by train from Fez.   According to him a short distance away there is Hotel named Menara with a swimming pool.   Buy a beer and you can swim all day.   Just what the doctor ordered.

That night on a puff of hashish through Kev’s carved carrot pipe, a few beers, a lesson on my harmonica, we are all set to purchase some new yellow slippers: A pair of babouches, in the souk, tomorrow evening – Another early night.

We awake to an early morning chat over breakfast on the hotel roof with an American professor of cultural social and Urban Anthropology.   Her daughter, a Peace Corps volunteer has, against her wishes, just married a square trader.

Perhaps after all Marrakesh sitting on top of a massive system of underground aqueducts has not changed that much. Her animal forces remain intact. She remains the songbird of her desert surrounds: Her inhabitants a whirlwind of commerce.

Only her visitors have changed while her soul its people remains intact with the odd renegade one escaping now and again by way of a credit card, or a visa that belongs to Peace Corps virgin.   We can only hope for her future that she is wise enough to keep her throbbing Arabian style of inner city life undamaged.

Inshallah. In the end, it will be Allah’s will or be fucked by hardcore tourism. One way or the other Inshallah covers it all.   Let’s hope it does not find itself turning into a politically correct city like so many of our European cities which are now, for all intuitive purposes open-air prisons under twenty-four-hour camera surveillance.

After an extensive discussion on all mirrors of capitalism, we all come to the conclusion that we are not much bothered that our newly married Berber has found his ticket to the USA. With the evening call to prayer escaping to distant planets it is time for this group of capitalists to buy slippers.

Walking between stalls of spices, jewellery, fabric the colour of the rainbow, carvings, silver, leather, musical instruments, Africa, Black Africa, Tarzan Africa is remote and forgotten. I stop to commence trading only to hear Florence in an adjacent stall making her first solo purchase. A small necklace is under the hammer. The shop owner is on a beating to nothing. Her blue eyes, blond hair and Irish charm are all concentrating on the necklace. We watch in awe as the necklace is examined in minute detail. With the expertise of a seasoned Berber shopper, she cuts the asking price of twenty dirhams to ten dirham. We are sure a refusal will leave a far greater psychological scar than our poor Americans Professor’s daughter is exposing herself too. To our relief a beaming face confirmed victory. Allah be praised. Kev and I find an old cobbler.   Hidden in the back of his shop are two old pairs of babouches, just as we remembered them – hand stitched in soft yellow leather. We don’t do as well as the daughter.

Next day our first African king Hassen II turns up to see us off. Not in time to stop intrepid Kev securing a lift for himself and fellow traveller named Jez to Essaouira tomorrow. Essaouira, as I thought, is, after all, a coastal town with its real claim to fame dating back to 1949 when its ramparts featured in the filming of Othello.

Like a woodworms marks on timber, we watch along cortège of black Volvos arrive into the square.   Disgorging a bunch gentleman in badly cut grey suits and loud neckties. They stand constricted in their white stained collars in the evening setting sun like lighthouses. Slowly twisting their heads one way and then the other they habitual readjust their collar rigidity with an index finger while their dark reflecting shades draw circles around their temples. Security Guard. King Hassan is the one in the Roller.

We learn that occasion masks the opening of another restaurant confirming that Marrakesh wonderments are on a short fuse. Competing with the moon Macdonald’s neon sign lights up. God and Allah have mercy. Later that night the weather vents it’s disapproval against such a thing happening, fingering Marrakesh with tongs of lighting that would incinerate every Big Mac this side of Texas.

Before departure I decided a cutthroat shave is a must. I am fast learning that there are two types of shave. The bottom of the market shave: Ten dirhams. Good for one day. The top of the range: Twenty dirhams. A skin graft. Good for three days.   What makes the difference is not the price but the age of the shaver, the age of the chair, and the number of clients waiting for attention.   If you are the only client it’s a skin graft, with a nose and ears job free.   If you are not the only client it’s spare the water, the shaving cream, with no time for the nose or ears. A first-class Moroccan cutthroat shave has two stages and can take up to an hour to complete.

To be continued.


Robert Dilllon. Account no 62259189. Ulster Bank 33 College Green Dublin 2.

Sorting code: 98-50-10 )