Ouarzazate, Morocco - Polarsteps
Our last day with our bike friends was a full one. We walked into the historic ksar of Ait Benhaddou and toured around; only a few families live there these days, and it's mainly a tourist destination and a filming location-- it's played "traditional desert village" in Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and a long list of other movies and TV shows. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, one of the best-preserved examples of the traditional mud-and-straw buiding in this part of the world. Those buildings, now, are the site of shops selling all manner of art, jewelry, carpets, textiles and trinkets to tourists.
We got on the bikes sometime after 1pm and did the ride to the city of Ouarzazate, on a road that got a bit truck-heavy. We did a short stop at a completely abandoned kasbah beside the road-- we see these sometimes, and they're a mystery.
Ouarzazate is sort of the Hollywood of Africa, and we passed a big film studio on the way in, and several public monuments themed around filmmaking. We landed at a municipal campground at the far side of town, set up and took it easy for a couple of hours, and then set out to find food. Kevin had gotten a tip about a bar that offered a special called the 'Happy', where you get six beers and a tagine for dinner, and we decided that felt like the right thing.
The bar felt like a bar from back home; the waitress had dyed blonde hair and western clothes, a surprise after over a month in mainly smaller villages in a Muslim country. Sports were playing on TV and there were intensely drunk men speckled around the room, some of them with the twelve-bottle detritus of a couple of 'Happy's on the table in front of them. The man at the table nearest us, who we learned was a retired professor, had had at least a bottle of wine to himself and was swaying in his seat, calling out at random, and periodically cheerfully engaging with us; he was barely sitting up when another full bottle of wine showed up at his table.
We had a riotous night in Ouarzazate, downing beers and popcorn; the tagine showed up so late that we were starting to wonder if it was a myth. At one point the server gave Kini her phone and asked them to DJ, and for a few minutes instead of Arabic hip hop, 'Tempo' by Lizzo was blasting in this Moroccan bar. And then a little later, Kini and Juan Miguel decided on 'Funkytown', and when it started playing our professor neighbour jumped up and started shouting, "OH YES" and "I LOVE YOU" and dancing around the bar.
We parted ways a bit hungover the next morning, us south for Zagora and Kevin and Juan Miguel for the Dades Gorge and Merzouga-- actually our original route plan, but one that we've had to adjust since losing time in Taddart; we have a visit we're very excited about coming up in the north of the country, and it has us on a strict timeline to get back up there.
Kevin and Juan Miguel: You brought these three days of our trip alive like Funkytown in a bar in the Moroccan desert. OH YES. I LOVE YOU. Aventure, bitches.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲