May 22nd - 26th
So we decided to escape the ever welcoming clutches of Kareem in Meknes and head south to the small town of Azrou. Azrou is set in the hills of the Middle Atlas, surrounded by Cedar forests which are inhabited by Barbary Apes (which are actually monkeys). Luckily we arrived in time for the weekly souk which covers about 2sq. Km just out of town. We skillfully managed to dodge the carpet sellers and zhenia practiced her french/arabic while picking up some tasty melon and tomatoes.
Back at the hotel we made friends with Mohammad Kellal, a local ex-mountain guide now residing in California selling steak. He gave us loads of advice and recommended (at our request) his friend, Jaouad, to take us up into the mountains the next day.
Our 23km trek took us up to the 2000m summit for lunch and down through the Cedar forest hunting for monkeys. We also had fun turning rocks looking for scorpions with some success. Jaouad turned out to be a really great, funny mountain man and now good friend. He didn't ask for any money but we paid him well and gave him the novel zhenia had finished with so he could practice his english.
Over the next few days we did very little, Enjoying the relaxed, genuinely hassle free enviroment that only comes when everyone in town recognizes you. We ate THE BEST kefta we've ever tasted and even took tomatoes from the market to be grilled with the meat. We spent a lot of the time drinking mint tea while hustling tourists to go into the mountains with Jaouad. Had dinner at Mohammad's family home eating fabulous Cous Cous with a bunch of grumpy french monkey nerd film makers. And hung out with DJ roubla "Number 1 DJ in the world". We also went to the Hammam, the Moroccan version of turkish baths. We got a serious scrubbing down, i mean an almost naked (or completely naked in zhenia's case), complete no holds barred scrub down.
Unfortunately, the road was beckoning us south so we said farewell to our new friends and caught the bus towards the desert.
P.S. I grew this fabulous moustache but zhenia wouldn't come near my advances so it had to go.....