Of Tents and Turbans…

As of May 2021, I am migrating most of my travel journals to Daveno Travels where I am reissuing them as Director’s Cuts, with full text and previously unpublished photos. This is an excerpt from my three weeks in Morocco in 2017.

It’s a leisurely morning in the Saharan camel camp, and I would have been happy to stay for a few more days. But I’m assured there’s still a lot to see on our Moroccan tour.  After breakfast, we mount our camels and say goodbye to the Erg Chebbe dunes, and head back to Merzouga.  

We stop at a store that sells fresh camel milk, and are invited to the pens out back. Catherine tries her hand at milking a camel, while I watch a jealous baby camel trying to get his share.  There’s a blue-eyed camel here, which Doug says is fairly rare.  

While Doug and Catherine are talking shop with the owner, I step back inside and find an open door, and step through to a ‘dinner and a show’ place that has Berber tents set around the center courtyard.  I snap a few shots of both the camels and the tents before we head out, which you will find on Pinterest.

We stop for lunch at a Berber tent set up along side the road. Doug introduces us to his friend Youssef, who has already ordered pizza for our lunch.  It’s a delicious affair, built like a 12″ calzone but with very thin crusts, stuffed with kefte, egg and almonds.  Youssef pours the obligatory tea afterward, and then takes out his drum.

His tent is divided in half at the ridgepole, with half of it serving as a restaurant, and the other half as a gift shop. I shoot more photos and then stop to admire the wares.  In spite of Youssef’s attempts to sell me a pastel colored length of cotton, I buy a Tuarag- indigo one, and, demonstrate to my travel-mates how to fashion it into a turban, after watching Moha wind his yesterday. 

I sit down and make a comment about the fun things for sale on the other side of the tent,  including a silver pipe and a daggar I’d like to bring home but thought I would not be able to get it through the airport.  “You can’t get anything through the airport,” Catherine responds, and everyone laughs at the reference to my still lost luggage.

Dinner tonight is at the home of Said, another friend of Doug’s.  His single room is enormous, with couches lining all the walls but grouped in a way that partitions the room into about five distinct seating areas.  The walls are pale and bare, the ceiling bordered with heavy, ornately carved crown moldings and a central medallion from which a lantern is suspended.  The couches are multicolored, and the floor is completely covered with Berber rugs.  We turn to meet Said.

Doug has the coolest friends!  Said is tall and thin, with sparkling eyes shadowed only by his large turban, and a smile that takes up half his face. He’s the gregarious poster child for “Happiest Man on the Planet.” He seats us and pours tea, offered with plate of wafers and nuts.  A short time later, his sisters arrive with kofte tagine, and then a huge platter of chicken skewers.  Just when we think we are done, another sister brings in a massive tagine filled with enough couscous, eggplant and carrots to feed 20 people. Fresh apples and tea are the final note to this meal. 

We return to Said’s home the next day for tea, and to visit his camels which are tethered as a road side attraction and photo op for passing tourists.  His home offers a beautiful panoramic view of a patchwork of fields in the valley, overlooked by one of the many kasbahs in this area. 

Me, Doug, Said and Said’s camel, photo courtesy of Mark Charteris

Next stops –  The Todra Gorge, and then on to Kasbah Ait Ben Moro, and a carpet shop that I will be hard-pressed to leave …

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