07 November 2012

Immigration paperwork
Bus to Zagora
Chez Ali

Meet up with Omar
Hassan and the rest

Meet up with other Omar

Today we set out to get our paperwork for immigration done..again.. So far we had not been very lucky with it. The people either did not speak English or the offices we needed were closed. It is however Monday and everything should be open here. We explained our problems to the hotelier and he got his friend from the next door shop to help us out. He translated the bit of the stat dec that needed signing in Arabic. This way, even if the police officer does not speak much English, he might still understand what we were after.
We walked over to the main police station with high hopes. The officers studied the form and the Arabic translation and seemed to get the point. They are only signing off on witnessing us sign the paperwork. It has nothing to do with Morocco, it is from Australia, going to Australia.
One friendly officer was getting it and we started to believe we will actually get a signature from him. Then he picks up the phone and makes some calls. Afterwards he tells us that we are at the wrong station and he has called to the other one to expect us. They will be able to help. Oh…
This is the station on the other side of town that we already tried yesterday. But this time they are expecting us, all has already been explained to them, so it should be easy then. We grab a petit taxi and cruise over. On arrival we get ushered into the waiting hall and they take the forms of us. This office appears to be for visa extensions. Nobody talks to us and we are starting to think we are getting a visa extension for free. Eventually they ask us to come in to the office and to explain what we want. (?) We thought the other police had done this over the phone…
Again we do the whole story and show the Arabic translation. We don’t seem to be doing it very well, as the officer now thinks that we want to get married.. Therefore we are at the wrong place and need to go to the civil office down town. Even after telling him multiple times that we do not want to get married, he insists that we are at the wrong place. (How hard is it to get a signature witnessed? The concept seems foreign to Morocco.) The next office is just back up the street at the second traffic lights. “Not that far” It turns out to be all the way back, past our hotel, more than 3 km. Sigh.. Ok then, let try this one more time!
This time we don’t even make it inside. The doorman asks if we are after a stamp. We said “yes”. And we are send next door. By now we are loosing our cool. Are they going to send us all over town? Again?
Here we see one official looking dude and asks him where we should go. As it turns out, he works at the airport. If we cannot get it witnessed here, he said, come to the airport and he will try to help us. At the moment he is just trying to get his paperwork done, same as us. We line up at the office marked as Stamps and Signatures. Sounds like the right place.

Stampity Stamp. Imagine doing this all day long!

A little old lady sees us tourists and starts to push us forward in the line, shouting at the other people. Not sure what’s happening, but before we know it we are up next. Again we explain what we want and proudly show the Arabic. This does not help here, this officer would like it in French. With his few bits of English and our three words of French we seem to get there. He does do a lot of stamping and while we are talking many documents pass his desk. We are told that he will need a copy of the form and we have to get that copy ourselves from the library next door. Easily done. Back in line we do not have the little old lady any more, but by now we get how it is done. Weasel your way into the office and towards the desk, ignoring anybody else. We make it back and again go over how the form is to be filled out. He missed a few points, but we do get it done and with many, many official looking stamps. Maybe not quite what the Australian Immigration is after, but it as as good as it is going to get in Morocco. And it only cost us 4 Dirham and 3,5 hours! We go back to the hotel to email it off. Hallelujah! Lets hope this is the last of that paperwork.

Omar. Your friendly couch surfer.

A quick lunch and taxi to the bus. We cannot get the 16.oo bus to Zagora as it is full, but there is another at 17.00. This gives us a few hours to wander around a different part of town. Ouarzazate is growing quickly and everything new near the Kasbah seems to be big expensive hotels. Tourism business must be booming here.
The bus ride was pretty average. Half way though we meet Omar. He works at a hotel in Zagora and invites us to stay there. “With swimming pool, but good prices! 30 Dirham a person.” That does sound good and we agree to have a look.

You got something for me?

The place is Chez Ali and is beautifully set up. Gardens, pool, peacocks, great little areas to hang out and stunning rooms. We are shown the deluxe one to start with and although beautiful, out of our price range. Unfortunately the cheap 30 DH rooms are full so we settle for a midrange. Very nice room still, with a true Moroccan feel (Mattress on the floor). We are also offered the different tours of the desert dunes, but nothing that was appealing and affordable. We might see if they get cheaper in a town closer to the desert. Zagora is the last reasonable sized town before the sahara, so a lot of people book from here, but the smaller towns do tours too. Omar is kind enough to give Andrew a lift on his bike to grab some quick dinner and we turn in for the night.  The bike ride was interesting, as it is an over-powered push bike.  These are very common in Morocco.  It is a small engine attached to a bike.  You start the engine by peddling, or the Moroccan way of running beside the bike until the engine kicks in.  Made for one, but it is possible to sit on the back.  Uncomfortable, and nowhere to put your legs, yet it gets you there.

Our plan for today was to walk to a Kasbah 2 km out of town for a look, and in the afternoon taxi to one 10km out. This one is near Tamagrout and is supposed to hold some very old scrolls of the Koran. We see Omar outside and he invites us for a tea. Sure, we are not in a hurry and a tea sounds nice.

Omar & Hassan, Just another day drinking.

We walk over to a shop that belongs to his friend Hassan. We sit on the little stools and have our tea. Conversation is easy and once again we get dressed up as Berber/Nomad/Toeareg. By now more people have joined us and the shop it getting pretty full. There is Ibrahim, Ishmael, Malaga, and a few others that we never got the name of.  People dropped in and out all the time.  Hassan asks if we would like to have a tangine with him later. If everybody puts in 20DH he will make a great meal for the group. Sounds great. We thought this would be an evening meal and we could go see something and come back later. Hassan is starting preparations right away though. Oh, well. We will have something to eat here and see a Kasbah in the afternoon.

How do you peel a Tomato again?

Andrew helps with the cooking.
The topic of “special water” comes up and if we would like some. This is the locally brewed spirit. We would not mind trying some, so Hassan take Andrew on the bike to the black market. As it is still early it is not yet open, and they return with a bottle of Moroccan red wine. Nice too. After this one, another bottle appeared and was consumed. Just to explain : Today is a public holiday in all of Morocco. Everybody here is sort of having the day off and “relaxing”. This includes a bit of a relaxation on Alcohol apparently.  By now we faced the fact that we are not going anywhere today. Our new friends are enjoying showing us old party photo’s and calling overseas friends for us to speak English with. The tangine has been cooking for a few hours, but nobody seems worried about it. We didn’t think it would all take this long. Our group gets bigger and smaller, some people leave, others show up with more drinks.

Dancing the night away with Ibrahim, our new brother.

It is not interesting for anybody to read about our drinking night, so in short : The wine is not that good, the food was nice (tangine and spaghetti) and most of the people were great. The special water never turned up.  There was also an altercation between Omar & Hassan.  We assumed it was just that Omar had had a bit too much to drink.  Ibrahim was great, and tried to let us know not to worry, and that Omar just needed to sleep it off.  At about 21.00 we finally managed to get away. It had been enough for us.
Wandering back to the hotel we ran into Omar (Not the same Omar. It is a common name here)

Pick the Natives? Omar’s Family

He invites us over to see a family wedding. “I have a car, It won’t take long, It will be fun” We accept. (What were we thinking?!?) A quick drive over to his family’s house and we are filled in on his live. He is just visiting, as he is married and lives in Switzerland with his wife and daughter. His family is lovely and we enjoy hanging out a bit. Again we get dressed up and get tea and food. We get invited to come back tomorrow for dinner. Also the sister wanted to paint Anna’s hands with henna. Besides all that Omar wants to take us out to see the Kasbah’s and some small dunes around. This all sound great. He is a nice guy and speaks English really well. We might not have seen much of the town or the area today, but will make up for it tomorrow. He drives us back and we fall asleep well after 1.00.

We are to meet Omar at 11.00 and wanted to do some laundry first. We still have not washed all the clothes that got dirty with the rain in Taroudant. The great laundry facilities at the roof turn out to be just a tap, so we postpone it once again. We should mention here that the friendliness evaporated after we turned down the tours.  The cheap room that was supposed to become available was now booked solid, and we would have to pay for the laundry to be done.  There was also no internet (which we had specifically asked for)
Maybe we can just find a laundromat in M’Hamid. (the next town)

No Car? Makanoushki. Lets make some music!

At meeting Omar, we find out that he had a little accident with his car last night and it is in for repairs. It should not take long, maybe an hour. In the meantime we can have tea in his friends carpet shop.
The rest of the day was pretty boring and we wont go into all the details, as it would make for boring reading. Basically the car had run over a large rock, and put a hole in the sump.  Repairs took much longer than expected, as they had to remove the sump, and patch the hole.  We got regular updates from the mechanics next door. “It will take just one more hour, than it will be done” The car was done at 17.00… We passed the time with examining every item for sale in the shop, talking and drumming.

No rhythm, No Problem.

Omar and his friend are really good drummers and tried to teach us a bit. We are no good, but is was fun to give it a go. Unfortunately be the time the car was done, we were tired from doing nothing. Besides it is going to be dark soon. We headed back to the hotel for a rest, and met up again at 20.00 for a tea.
Goes to show, you can try to plan things, but in Morocco you just have to go with the flow. Even if it is flowing extremely slowly.. Relax! (Makanoushki – No Problem)

We have not seem anything of the area or Zagora in the last days, but will still head on to M’Hamid. There are the biggest dunes and there is supposed to be a music festival on over the weekend. We have to come back to Zagora anyway, so will try again then.



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