Ouarzazate to Taroudant - 29 September to 1 October 07
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 Zitoune <http://www.darzitoune.com/>, 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.