We woke up for our first day in Ouarzazate to beautiful weather, we had opted for the room ‘on the roof’ which was right near the washing station and a bit cheaper than those below. Our hotel was a little quirky but we were excited that it had a pool and the owner was especially nice.
Ouarzazate comes from the Berber phrase “without noise,” and carries the nickname “door to the desert” because for most people it’s where to stay before heading out to the Draa Valley. Maybe it’s better to go there before the desert because coming from the desert Sister and I were not very impressed. We walked around town and found mostly touristy shops with a sort of sad repetition of all things typically considered Berber and Moroccan.
Construction site that seemed to be using the same ‘hold it up’ techniques as our desert tents.
I still have no idea why the majority of trees in Morocco were painted white at the base. If anyone knows please, tell me! It seemed to be only in towns and cities, ending on the outskirts and not happening at all in the countryside.
Man loading bread into his car.
We headed to the Kasbah, a site which is highly recomended in Ouarzazate but were a bit unimpressed there as well. Maybe it was our lack of research about Kasbah culture but other than being an interesting looking building with some beautiful ceilings it seemed to be more of the same- shops with traditional garb and shop owners constantly telling you, “Welcome, come inside take look. Only a look, please. You are welcome.”
Nearby there was a little market, most of the same desert clothing and painted pottery but one man had a sea of things that piqued my interest. I wish I had taken his picture, he was just what you’d imagine, a bit hunched with leathery skin and eyes that looked just past you. He didn’t say a word when I walked in, which was refreshing. After sifting through some of the slightly sandy treasures he had out I was feeling good about my finds, I went to pay and something rather odd happened. He laid out the odds and ends and quoted each with a price then took one of them away. I haggled for a lower price on all the items together then asked how much for the little tree he’d taken back. “No.”
Me Optimistic: “Con bien?”
Me Confused: “Por qua?”
Him: “No, not you, no this.”
Me A little offended and confused: “Why not for me?”
Him: A lot of fast French.
Me feeling/looking like I’m 5
Him: More French, laughter, a sigh “Not now, this, not for you now. Later.” then a lot more French that I didn’t understand.
I was still confused, but after a lot of gesturing and trying to purchase four different types of objects that all had trees on them I realized that this man just knew he would not sell me specifically anything having to do with the tree of knowledge. He couldn’t seem to tell me why. It just was that way. We both ended up shrugging our shoulders, I paid for my things and wondered what any of that meant.
Later we went back to the center of town and met another shop keeper, this one much less pushy (even the old man got pushy with other products in the midst of our ‘why you can’t have a tree’ conversation). My Sister and I wanted to try on some pants and we asked for a place to try them on, he said of certainly, we could change there while he went across the street to grab a pot of tea. And so he left us with his shop, closed the door, and after about ten minutes came back to share a pot of green tea with us.
First he poured the tea into the cups, then poured the cups back into the pot. He did this three times. I asked him why, expecting some romantic answer then feeling silly when he told me it was simply to mix the sugar into the tea. Later while looking at a plate I almost knocked over the entire stack, I looked at him nervously and apologized. He told me it’s good baraka when someone breaks something in your shop. I asked why. Just because it is. I wondered again about the old man, why I needed to know why something was.
Later, the shop keeper walked us to the best tagine in town (leaving his shop unattended).
The morning we left it was pouring and unfortunately during one of the many taxi strikes, but we made it just fine and boarded a nice CTM bus (like greyhound) bound for Marrakesh with plenty to think about and even more to just let be.