Monday was a long drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, from Fes to Erfoud. We have a larger van now, plenty of room for the six of us and our guide and all of our luggage, with a driver too. As we climbed through the hills outside of Fes, a thick fog surrounded us, but dissipated as we returned to a lower elevation. About an hour outside of Fes, we walked through a cedar forest, which was inhabited by Barbary apes. We then drove on through the Atlas Mountains which seem to abruptly rise from the flatlands, and just as abruptly, become flat again on the other side. They rise to almost 10,000 feet above sea level. and have snow on the peaks. After stops for lunch and breaks, we finally arrived at our hotel outside of Erfoud, the Kasbah Hotel, a restored medieval kasbah, and were greeted by Berber dancers and musicians in the lobby. Our room and dinner were great, and seemed like quite the Berber decor (except for the air conditioning and wonderful shower). Anne and Tom wore their new jbella and gandura to dinner and looked quite elegant.
Tuesday began with a walk through a large oasis - they are long and linear here, running along a river, unlike our preconceived notions of a little circle of palm trees. Such an oasis has millions of date palms as well as irrigated (from the river), cultivated fields. The land is privately owned, but water is common property, allocated by a system of ditches and wickets of stone and dirt, opened and closed by hand according to a formula determined according to size of the fields. This walk included a tour of a still partially-inhabited kasbah - a fortified village where families would live for protection in the older days. Many kasbahs are now in ruins from lack of use. The young people prefer to live in their own homes now. There were many kasbahs on this walk, as well as mosques with tall minarets where the muezzin would call for prayer five times each day. Morocco is a Muslim nation, and king gets his legitimacy as a direct descendent of Mohammed. After the walk we were taken to another rug store, this time with wonderful Tuareg (Berber) rugs, many of which were almost 100 years old. They have you sit down with mint tea, and then proceed to unroll carpet after carpet, which is quite dazzling! (Of course we bought one, after some bargaining with the help of our guide!)