Day 18-20 – Timbuktu to Casablanca, MoroccoSaturday, 26 November 2005
Tuesday 22 November
Day 18 – Timbuktu to Marrakech, Morocco
There’s time for a quick tour of Timbuktu in the morning – the Dyingerey Ber Mosque (which we can enter), the Sankore Mosque (which we can’t), a couple of the early European visitors’ houses, the small museum – and then it’s off to the airport and off. As quickly as possible because by noon it may be too hot to get off the ground with the heavy load of fuel we need for the four hour flight to Marrakech…
Very soon after leaving Timbuktu all sign of vegetation disappears completely and we’re crossing the endless expanse of the Sahara. It’s 700km of sand before we cross an east west track, so faint that I’d never have noticed it if I hadn’t keyed the location on to my GPS and had my eyes open for it.
I’ve only been to Morocco once before, back in 1992 when I was working on the very first edition of Mediterranean Europe. I came across on the ferry from Algerciras in Spain to Tangier, approaching Morocco as a more exotic extension of the European southern countries. Now we were arriving from the opposite direction and after the CAR or Mali, Marrakech seemed remarkably orderly and affluent.
Our hotel is a stone’s throw from Marrakech’s wonderful Djemma el-Fna, the huge square which every night turns into a combination of market and performance space, as popular with Moroccans as it is for visitors like us.
Wednesday 23 November
Day 19 – Marrakech, Morocco
Maureen and I abandon the tour group and wander Marrakech, the souqs (markets), palaces, mosques and museums ourselves.
Thursday 24 November
Day 20 – Marrakech to Casablanca, Morocco
A couple more museums and then Maureen and I spend the last few hours getting lost in the alleys and corridors of the souq. I’m knocked out by the amazing collections of vividly coloured shoes, Maureen buys a few pairs, they’re less than US$15.
Finally it’s on our trusty Convair for the last flight of the trip, to Casablanca. There’s a short pause at the gigantic Hassan II Mosque, under construction the last time I was here, and that’s the end. The next day, where I’m writing this, Maureen and I continue by ourselves to Fez, where it rains all day.