1102 Night in a Desert Port Town (Mor 344)

Trip Start Aug 15, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  , Guelmim-Es Smara,
Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 048: 8 hours,

Back in Tiznit, I duck into the old medina to grab my favorite South Moroccan breakfast: beid o matisha—eggs with grated tomato.   Tiznit in the daytime seems sort of dull and sterile, in contrast with my adventure here back in 2008 when Youssef and I happened on the costume festival.  I don't really feel the urge to wander around and count this as a "Post-visit", so I go ahead and head over to the main drag to grab a bus or collective taxi heading on south.

It turns out that Tiznit, despite being a sizeable provincial capital, is a lousy place for finding transportation.  Very few buses originate here, and the ones passing through are all full… and to make matters worse, many of the collective taxi drivers are still taking their annual Eid Kbir vacation

It seems a number of people are in the same predicament as me—and I notice a couple of guys trying to hitch a ride with the truckers… and they finally succeed.  I don’t really care for hitchhiking here in Morocco… as there are people who will try to really screw you over if they see you’re in a desperate situation… but I guess it’s a last ditch option.

Finally I find a taxi that’s heading as far as Goulmim… so it looks like I’ll have to do this trip in segments.

I reach Goulmim, where again I find all the buses full, so it’s another ass-numbing stretch to Tan Tan, sitting four to a seat in an antique Mercedes.   I’m starting to wonder if this trip was really such a good idea.  Taking this stretch of road was pretty exotic the first and second time… but now it’s the 7th time I’ve crossed this endless wasteland, and it’s starting to feel like a bit of a drag.

We reach Tan Tan in the late afternoon, pass the 2 camel statues where I took my video clip on my Morocco-Gambia trip back in 2009.    Once in town, I’m still hungry to discover new territory.  So I hop on yet another collective taxi to a place called “Tan Tan Beach” or El Ouarti, some 40 kms away, hoping it’ll be a separate town… AND it’ll have someplace to stay the night…

Reaching El Ouarti

We pass what looks like a sizeable town, and I decide to stay on the taxi to its final destination.  It ends at a gated port which doesn’t look very welcoming… so I’ll have to hike back to the town.  It’s a stretch with a dodgy feel… abandoned buildings, some tough looking characters walking up the road.   This port it seems is a source of employment—but the people who work here are single guys living far from their families and probably in pretty bad conditions.   There’s something that’s not quite right about this  grundgy, middle of nowhere fishing port town.

But once I reach the town proper, things brighten up a bit.  The houses are painted sea blue and white… there’s a decent looking hotel… a campground for caravans and a nice little boardwalk along the beach.  It’s not Essaouira by any means, but it does seem that El Ouarti is a nice place for Moroccans and foreigners who just want a place where they can disconnect from it all. 

I stroll along the boardwalk, where there are a couple of out of towners sitting in a handful of cafes.  I find a spot to take my video clip before sunset, with the foggy coast behind me… After spending most of the day sitting in cramped collective taxis, El Ouarti is a breath of fresh air.

And when I leave the coast, the town has even more life to it, with Saharawi ladies chatting cheerfully in front of their homes, and children running home from school.  The town is particularly alive right now with elections coming up, and groups of women walking down the streets chanting and tossing flyers about,  advertising this party or that… Clearly this “forgotten” town has not been forgotten by the politicians!

One candidate it seems really went overboard, with a parade of 5 identical, brand new cars each painted with his portrait and the logo of the party… looks like someone’s really got some money to spend on his campaign! 

Higher up the ridge is a little “downtown” stretch, with a beautiful mosque, and a row of shops and meat grillers.  There’s a homey atmosphere… in fact this actually feels like I place that would be nice to live in if you’re, say, a writer and just want to get away from it all—and still enjoy the basic amenities.  I find a cheap little hotel, go out to look for something to eat.  Not a lot of variety, so I settle for lentils and harira soup… then head back down to the boardwalk to play some music.

The boardwalk is empty—which makes me a little uneasy, remembering the dodgy looking fellows I saw near the port… but the guys who come to listen are polite and friendly listeners. They live here, and seem to like their little town although they know that to get anywhere in life they’re going to have to pursue their fortunes elsewhere...

And so ends my “sandwich day”—it had a nice start, a dreary middle and a nice finish…
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