Thursday, October 13, 2005
Morocco. The Roads and People of Atlas, Valley of Drra. Several villages have watterworks financed by the EU. From the edge of the desert to the towns, the omnipresent “water associations” are a glimpse of the modernization. The people here live apparently simple and happy lives. I have not once seen the poverty stricken faces of the big cities. The people living in the mountains and on the desert’s edge are certainly not rich and some of the places I have seen there were right out desolate but it seems that the simplicity of living does in return gives a carefree and wiser outlook. Children looked healthy and happy despite the overwhelming poverty. As you go back towards Marrakech things change and poverty takes again an ugly, sad, and unacceptable shape. Villages in the mountains have the simple mud brick houses but sometimes are complex pisse style Kasbahs surrounded by the similarly earthy looking houses in close clusters. However poor all have spanking new mosques undoubtedly sponsored by the reach and more conservative Gulf states. People here have a comparatively relaxed attitude to the camera. I never imposed and though I lost many good shots I believe this is the only way.
Morocco. The Roads and People of Atlas, Valley of Drra. 1400 Km in two days. This was no slow stroll through the mountains but a mad dash to the desert and back. Still, I took as many pictures I could on the way. Every 50 km has different scenery. It is so incredibly diverse you are never bored. I chose not to use the AC in the rented Clio with odd breaks and even more dangerously looking tires. This way, when not speeding, to take advantage of the exceptionally good roads and make up distance, I could simply stop and take a shot if I liked something. People were fascinating. Kids on donkeys, women with small bundles on their back that often were babies, old men with long white beards and young men with old European suit pants and shirts – a bit like French peasants in movies, including the mustaches. The scenery at times was breathtaking. The passes up high in the Atlas are scary to drive through with a car like the one I rented but still worth the trip. You go up and up on the ever meandering road passing a Mexico like scene with cacti and oleanders. Then everything turns to stark stone and incredible crevasses that give way to eroded red mountains looking like they belong to Mars. Finally you reach the top and start descending towards the Sahara. It is still hundreds of km away but you can smell it. The air gets hotter, the road follows the valley of Drra one of the longest continuous Palm plantations in the world. Village after village and then, after passing by the UNESCO world heritage declared Ait ben Hadou Kasbah and the old French Foreign Legion garrison town of Ouarzazate with yet another spectacular if newer and palatial looking Kasbah, you reach the last town before the desert: Zagora. From there on you need a camel or a 4x4 to actually be safe.