Feeling Morocco’d out in Tazzarine

Sunday traffic jam in Zagora

Zagan the motorhome has the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafting in through his windows. Around him every inch of the ground is cultivated to grow food or provide parking and relaxation areas for us motorhomers. He’s parked in Camping Amasttou in Tazzarine (N30.774953, W5.5621). But despite the best efforts of the sweet aroma to lift our spirits, both Jay and I are both feeling a bit flat, tired and a tad Morocco’d out.

camping at Tazzarine

Morocco is an amazing country. There is always something to see and always something happening, however this can wear you out. Over the last 24 hours we have felt like the ‘Pied Piper’, as a convoy of kids followed us, during Charlie’s evening walk around the palmeraie. They took it in turns to beg for money and sweets, and even after we got back to Zagan in the campsite, a couple of them tried pulling on the door to get in with us.

The Pied Piper effect

We’ve also felt ripped off by the campsite owner, who charged us double what we were expecting (and after two and half months here we have a good idea of the going rate) because we forgot to agree a price when we arrived. It was only a couple of quid more than it should have been, but it put us in a bad mood and made us wish we had gone to the nice campsite on the south of the town with a price list and warm welcome.

That said, this is Morocco and if we had stayed at the other campsite, we wouldn’t have been driving through the town to see things like this…

Chicken man on his way to the Sunday Souk
There were loads of camels heading into town today, possibly going to the souk too, while their owners cut a deal on their mobiles
Sunday traffic jam in Zagora

As we drove along we both agreed that the amazing vistas are now becoming normal to us, like a wall paper that we never pay attention to. We’ve spent the last few days crossing vast swathes of hamada, brown rocky landscapes surrounded by stony hills and very little else. Our colour palette has been reduced to brown land, blue sky (and a bit grey today), pinky orange sand and buildings, green tops of palm trees and wheat growing in the middle of nowhere. When we see people, the women are flashes of a bright colour that makes them stand out from their surroundings, while the men are part of the landscape, blending in with grey and brown robes.

This amazing landscape is now becoming normal…
..as is spotting people going out towards nowhere, like this fella in his wheelchair
Then amongst all the miles of brown you spot this, a pump providing water for the crops in the middle of nowhere
To break up the drive we stopped for a bit of fossil hunting – no luck today

The first part of the N12 from Zagora to Tazzarine has only been tarmacked for about a year. We glided along its smooth black top, raised up by a couple of metres from the brown earth around us as if we were floating. Halfway along the N12 is the town of Tarhbalt, which we assume hadn’t seen much through traffic prior to the road being done. It was like we were back on our first trip to Morocco five years ago, as children raced across fields to wave and beg from us, some even standing in the road to try and make us stop for them. Several women stood on the edge of the trickle of a river washing clothes, drying them on the dusty riverbed, while the men sat around the main street watching the world go by.

Even the local cemeteries blend into the landscape
Clothes drying on the riverbed

When we arrived at the campsite I made sure I asked how much it was this time before we settled in. Jay has been for an explore on his bike and we’ve taken Charlie for a walk around the nearby streets, this time the Pied Piper only attracted stares, waves and bonjours.

One of the local Marabouts in Tazzarine, something white in an otherwise brown town
Wheat growing in the palmeraie
These water channels run down the side of the road to the campsite with no barrier to stop you falling in – don’t drive around here at night, We spotted several ladies stood in them washing clothes among the frogs and rubbish

Tomorrow we push on for Erg Chebbi and the sand dunes; there is nothing like a sand dune to cheer you up. We have a couple of weeks left in Morocco and while I know I will miss it once we leave, I can’t wait for the anonymity we have in Spain.

Ju x

 

7 Comments

  1. We are looking forward to our two weeks in Morocco starting March 30th. It’s our first time, so we’re a little hesitant. But, we’ve been to other countries where we stand out like a sore thumb, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. Kinda wish we were doing it in a motorhome, but we’re not!

    • Hi guys. I wouldn’t worry. Moroccans are, almost all of the ones we’ve come across, decent, (overly) respectful, kind and honest people. They’re well used to mass tourism though, and given the fact we carry so much money, some of them are well used to trying to get it out of us, through honest if (eventually) tiresome means. Can’t blame ’em, but being from an entirely different culture, we can only cope with so much of it before finding ourselves wanting an escape. I find this country forces me to consider my own beliefs and values too (when you’re driving in a massive expensive motorhome past women stood washing clothes in a freezing river, just one tiny example of hundreds), which can be a tough introspection. Coming here opens a window to another world, I think, and it’s been a hugely positive experience for me. I’m still fed up with that campsite owner for ripping me off though! Cheers, Jay

  2. I’ve been to Istanbul off season and, as a red-haired bloke (not dissimilar to Jay) I became a magnet for kids selling lighters and matches, and adults selling leather belts and jackets. I think I’ll pass on Morocco. I stand out too much. Even from 100 metres I’m clearly “not from these parts”. I don’t think I could deal with the hassle. It’s good that others enjoy it though, and I love the reports. However I’m happy to live it all vicariously via the Web. I start getting nervous when the locals put Jam on their Scone before the clotted cream.

    • Our clothes, dog, transport, language, skin colour and probably the way we smell makes us stand out here. We look and act almost nothing like the locals, so there is no hiding for, pretty much, anyone of non-Moroccan origin. The hassle is mostly low-key but enduring. Very very few people are a real problem, it’s just the relentless of it all. You have to accept it, to accept these guys have always lived on their wits, and put up with it in the sure knowledge we can leave whenever we like. While we moan about the hassle, the plus points outweigh it, otherwise we’d not be here. Happy to enable a but of vicarious travel though, of course! Cheers, Jay

  3. Begging is really a problem for us who are coming from other cultural environment. I have read somewhere that the best way in Morocco to avoid situation is not looking into the begger eyes and not to talk to the person and not giving anything to them. At least such tactic does work quite well in Namibia when we were there. But in case of children …. What did you find out during your journey is most efective way to cope with such unpleasant situation here in Morocco?
    Cheers, Vesna

    • Hmmm, the situations are varied, and how to respond will depend on how you feel about each one. Men, women and children beg in towns, cities, along the road, in markets, you name it. Some seem in genuine need, but Islam requires their neighbours take care of them so our part in this is unclear. Women who’ve been divorced and are on the street with children seem in direst need, but as ever working out which are ‘professional’ beggars and which are those unable to find any other source of income is impossible for me. Children usually look well fed, if dirty and badly clothed, and in no immediate need, but have been conditioned by previous travellers to ask for small things, anything sometimes, it’s like a game in some cases, two boys once demanded our dog. Few beggars are aggressive, very very few when I think about it, but in very rare cases people act as though you owe them money, just by virtue of you being a tourist (“you can afford it, it is nothing to you”). With children we always say no unless they render a wanted service, but find we can give in another way: honking the van horn, shaking hands and asking names, making a paper aeroplane, just smiling and doing a high five. Surprisingly this often makes them smile and they look like they are happy. Given the massive wealth difference between us and them it’s a real surprise how few people beg when you look around you. If you’re really worried about it, maybe just factor in a budget for giving, and hand out a few dirhams to every beggar who asks, but before doing this I’d ask myself: am I really doing long term good here, or creating long-term harm? Cheers, Jay

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