We were packed up and ready at nine a.m. sharp, and the drivers appeared as promised. The luggage was piled on a cart and we made our way through the medina to the square and to the two four-wheel drive vehicles that will carry us to the desert and back again.
In our car are Ed, Elizabeth, Phyllis and me, plus Mustafa the driver and Mustafa the guide, while the other car has Marge, Susan, Karen and Anita with Hassan the driver. (They are the talkative car!) Mustafa the driver has a lively personality but is a very careful driver. Mustafa the guide is a university graduate who tells us about what we are seeing and answers our questions with a nice sense of humor.
We had been seeing the Atlas mountains from Marrakesh for the last three days, and now we were driving towards them.
Flat plain at first, but soon enough the road began to climb. We were to cross the Tizi n’Tichka pass, a series of hairpin turns alleged to be one lane in places and with no guard rails – a slight exaggeration. Slight.
Our first stops were for views and for a little mild shopping. The views were spectacular, with the snow-capped peaks looming over us and the road winding back and forth in an alarming way. Thank goodness we are not driving! Along the way were men holding out geodes as we sped by – how can they possibly make a living doing that? But there must be enough tourists driving by to make it worth their while.
We stopped at a place that was a combination restaurant and crafts emporium.We walked up the steep stairs (there is no other kind in Morocco) to a plain room with a low table. Here we were served salad (by this time we were daring to eat raw vegetables), rice, a delicious omelet and a tagine. As always, the meal begins with olives and bread. Delicious.From here it was on to our first kasbah.