Most of those reading this blog will know that the reason why the updates suddenly stopped about a week ago was because this was when my wife, Moonira, joined me here in Morocco. We have been on vacation, both from our respective jobs - the research for the walls book being my 'work' - and, it seems, from this blog. Moonira is still traveling with me now, but I thought I should take a few minutes to let everyone know that I am still alive.
The vacation has been wonderful, though hardly relaxing. For all their wonders, Marrakesh and Fes are hardly the sorts of places where one unwinds. We spent our first few days in these cities and found ourselves in constant battle with taxi drivers, hotel touts, phony guides and vendors selling everything from carpets to hashish to the opportunity to pose with a Barbary ape on our shoulders. (We turned down all these offers). Aside from a kindly barber - Reda, who gave me the two best shaves of my life - all the Moroccans we met seemed interested only in separating us from our money.
I didn't feel at ease among the locals until Moonira and I got on the road, in the buses and grand taxis with everyday people who had better things to do than sell us junk. We traveled overnight to M'hamid, only a few kilometres from the Algerian border, where we undertook the requisite camel trek. Our voyage into the 'Dunes of the Jews' took place during a sandstorm but as my eyes filled with sand and my ass slowly turned to pulp I felt, for some reason, that this was a very Canadian thing to do.
There are many images from the last week I could write about: Drinking tea brewed from local saffron in Talouine and spiced coffee in the Marrakesh medina. Hitching a ride in Mercedes driven by a young man with stomach troubles. Drinking champagne on a Marakechi rooftop terrace. Walking through the palm groves of the Draa River valley. Sharing our taxis and buses with fabric-wrapped Saharawi ladies and Berber women clad in black shawls edged with dingle balls. Shopping for turbans and gilabas. And did I mention those wonderful shaves?