The air is hot and the sky is dark. After an amazing first day Reda and I prepare our beds in the living room of his parents apartment in Rabat. I do not sleep. It's not because of Reda's impressive snoring. It's not because of the jet lag. My mind usually races at night as a rule. I make plans for business, for investing, for life, and, I think about love.
When morning begins to paint itself across the sky I finally begin to fall asleep. I know it won't last long. Everyone will be stirring soon. Reda and I had plans to get moving early in the morning. We where to leave Rabat and head towards Agadir.
Reda and I are late getting a move on as per usual. This time it is mostly my fault. His parents serve us a bountiful breakfast of homemade breads, jams, fruits and coffee.Our comfort as a group is growing yet I still feel just a bit of unease. I express my gratitude. We depart soon after this to load the car with groceries for our trip. We buy tomatoes, apples, plums, grapes, baguettes, cured meats, bananas, cheese and twenty litres of water. Everything here is grown and produced locally. We pay in dirham and the total cost equivalent to canadian currency is twenty five dollars. Split both ways at $12.50 and I call this a steal of a deal.
The drive takes us south on the Moroccon Highway on the interior of the country. We pass by Casablanca within a few hours and Marrakech a few hours later. There are many tolls along the way and we have to fill the gas tank on our borrowed Peugeot. Including gas, food and tolls the initial cost of this journey is around $70cdn each. For a lengthy five hour drive and about two days of food I consider this pretty cheap.
Although I find the beauty of Morocco evident as soon as I landed yesterday it really opens up to me as we drive further south along the highway. A few hours in and we have navigated ourselves from all the major city connection highways including Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech. The road and scenery opens up to display endless stretching farmland carved into the dry red soil that eventually gives way to rolling mountains, valleys and cliffs.
Along the highway aqueducts follow the road. They go up and down along the hills that roll along our route. The aqueducts stretch for what seems to be hundreds of miles. This time of year the aqueducts are dry and of a red clay color like most of the scenery and soil around us. I imagine that during the rainy season these waterways and sceneries must be a completely different sight to see.
We drive for more than five hours nonstop. The landscape is often fooled by similar colored villages that look like little boxes nestled together and blended against their backgrounds. The roofs of the structures are flat and the dwellings are made with red clay and cements sometimes painted white, red, or blue.
We spot dust twisters along the way. Spirals of red sand spinning in the wind are harmless tornadoes that seem common on these plains along the stretches of base mountains. One of these amazing twisters spins right across the highway while Reda and I marvel and exclaim in excitement watching bits of trees float in the air like magic.
When we turn off into the mountains and begin our ascent the road becomes much more narrow, single laned, and twists along the ridge of the mountain as we go up and up and up. Cars opposite of eachother must negotiate how to pass alongside next to these steep cliffs and every time Reda does it seems both aggressive, natural, and well practiced. As he guns the car with excitement around the blind bends he switches gears like a pro and the car climbs higher and higher. I instinctively grab the holding bar to help keep my panic down. After hours and hours on the road this is like the cherry on top of a stressful cake. I am continuously baffled of how long this mountain climb takes.
The scenery eases the stress of this ride as all around me in every direction are large mountains cutting across the horizon. The Sky is pure blue and the red clay earth is dotted and detailed with small green trees that I do not recognize and some that are told to me by Reda are fig trees rising high and looking like palms.
As luck would have it the A/C of the car runs strong and we enjoy cool air inside. Even at high speed the air outside feels warm and damp to the touch, like that of a hot air blower in which to dry one's hands.
The beautiful scenery is inspirational to photograph and gives me a chance to get to know my camera better. I become enamoured with the beauty of the journey along the mountain. I thought once we reached the mountain our journey would come to an end but instead we continue to twist and turn, ascend and descend for hours. Eventually though we reach our first destination which seems like an established rest stop. A small patch of road in the cul de sac design centered by traditional clay buildings and patios. No one is here, except the people we are meeting, and nothing is open due to the holiday that is occurring all over Morocco.
We are nestled and stopped between a few buildings situated on a cliff that overlooks a wondrous vista. Reda's sister Sihame and her fiance' Ali are there to meet us along with his brother, Ootman, sister Amina, and friend Abdollah. We are greeted with smiles and hugs and Reda engages in conversation with his family in their native tongue. It is my first time to meet any of them and we greet each other warmly and with lengthy hugs. Sihame, Ali, and Outman all speak english with me and at this point I assume that Amina and Abdullah do not speak english but we smile and greet each other with friendly gestures. A soccer game breaks out between the friends momentarily seemingly out of nowhere. I take this chance to visit the the overlooking vista that tells the story of how beautiful this region is. Our ascent brought us up to what I would guess is nearly one thousand feet. I am overlooking a great view of the mountainous region and awe struck.
When I return from the vista I exchange more smiles with everyone and tell Sihame that this place is amazingly beautiful and she smiles to tell me,
"You haven't seen anything yet!"