After about a two and a half hour drive we arrived at Ouarzazate
airport. While Angela started to pack up the plane, Flemming went to the
tower to pay the landing fee and check whether the authorization had
arrived from the governor of Taroudant. It seems that Allah did not wish
it so there was still nothing! However, the tower controller seemed
confident that the authorization had been issued even though he didn’t
have a written copy of it, so let us go.
The first half of the 55-minute flight over the Atlas was pretty bumpy,
even when we climbed to 8500 ft, and Angela just grunted when Flemming
pointed out the pretty villages perched on the mountainsides.
On our arrival at Taroudant’s gravel strip we were met first by the
caretaker, who lives in situ with his wife and children. Miraculously,
he was clutching the precious authorization from the governor’s office.
He was followed closely by the local representative of the governor who
wanted to see our passports and noted down all the particulars of the
plane as well as us. Next, the chauffeur from Hotel Dar Zitoune arrived
to pick us up. We were just about to drive off when the local police
arrived and the whole process of checking our passports and noting down
particulars was repeated.
On our arrival at the very attractive and reasonably priced Riad Dar
>, we were greeted most cordially by
Monaime, the assistant to the owner, who told us that we had been
upgraded to a suite. Then we met the owner, a Lausannois called Marc.
The hotel only opened two and a half years ago. It is very well managed
with a lovely garden full of citrus fruit trees, hibiscus and jasmine
and a good-sized pool with plenty of comfortable bed-chairs, and
broadband internet access in the rooms.
Before the Dar Zitoune opened, the best hotel in town was the overpriced
Gazelle d’Or, built by a Belgian baron in the 1960s, and which counted
the likes of Jacques Chirac among its customers. Monaime told us that he
and other members of the Dar Zitoune staff had left the Gazelle d’Or to
work for Marc and we got the impression that some of the gold had worn
off the gazelle. Nevertheless, we were curious to see the place and make
our own comparisons and decided to lunch there the next day. If the Dar
Zitoune has a pleasant garden, the Gazelle d’Or has a park. The grounds
are huge! However, there was a certain sadness about the place and only
a few clients to be seen. The buffet lunch was nothing special either.
Sunday is market day in Taroudant, so we took a taxi to go and check it
out. Unlike Skoura market, they trade mostly in sheep and cows here.
Also, unlike Marrakesh or Fez, Taroudant is reasonably tout-free. Still,
we were accosted by a young man called Mustafa who said he would like to
practice his English. He pointed out some interesting wares such as
powder to kill scorpions. We decided to let him guide us through the
medina and took another taxi into the centre of town. With him, we
visited oil merchants (argan oil, used in massaging, is a local
speciality), spice sellers and, of course, the ubiquitous carpet
sellers. Fortunately, we’ve already bought all the Moroccan carpets we
can house on previous trips, so we weren’t tempted by the wonderful
array that the salesman showed us while we sipped our mint tea. Later
Mustafa took us to an antique shop in an old riad, where they amongst
other items had superb old Berber doors. Poor Mustafa’s face dropped as
the morning wore on and the only purchase we made was a few grams of
sandalwood. We rounded off the morning with a half-hour ride in a
calèche round the old 16^th century walls of Taroudant. We then gave
Mustafa a tip, although he would have preferred an ‘old pair’ of
Flemming’s trousers or my Swatch, and then took a taxi the Gazelle d’Or.