Trying to do tourist circuit of Ksours
Mosque Zaouia Of Moulay Ali Shereef
Ksar D’Akbar Gate and town
Palms… Ruins, Ksars & New houses – Spot the difference.
Rissani is not the quiet town we had been lead to believe it was. It is a bustling town with plenty of activity. Although we are staying away from the town centre, there is still plenty of people around, and as we walked in, there were cars, bikes, donkeys, carts, trucks and people streaming in all directions. The main section of town is a lot quieter than yesterday though. The big area of the Souk is almost deserted, with only a few lone vegetable sellers trying to keep the dust at bay until the next market. This part of town is all but deserted now.
Cutting through a few fields, we managed to bypass a lot of the town on the way to the Route of the Ksars. At the start this is well signposted – In Arabic. However as you start to follow the road, it gets narrower, and we were not sure if we were on the right track. We did come to the Marabout and Mosque Zaouia of Moulay Ali Shereef. This is a rather grand building, although most of what you can see is the outside wall with a few guards hanging around. Knowing we are not allowed into Mosques, we didn’t even try and headed over to the first Ksar. This is Ksar D’Akbar. It has a very nice gate, and as we walked up to it, we almost got ourselves a guide. On the pretext of looking around the outside walls, we were able to avoid him attaching himself to us, and he continued on, with his blue turban bobbing along. It is a shame to say, but whenever we see someone in “Traditional dress” especially in places such as here, we always assume it is a tout, and after money in some form or another.
We have not met many people outside of the tourist business that wear desert garb so blatantly. The outside wall is a combination of new construction with remnants of the old mud brick structures still in place. It looks like a living Ksar, where most of it is still being occupied. On going through the main gate, this is confirmed, with many new buildings. Most of the old is decrepit and decaying back into dust, with barred off doorways. These are being used to house stock, with newer buildings for the families. However they are keeping the form of the Ksar. There are still tiny alleyways with buildings leaning over, or even completely across the paths. It is good to see that it is still in use, and being modernised all the time, even if the ladies, to this day, have to go outside the walls to one of the fountains and collect their daily water.
Leaving the Ksar, we headed back to the Mosque to find our way again. As we approached, a large group of tourists came out of the main doorway. Hearing that they were Spanish, we assumed they were not all Muslims, and asked one of the guards if we could go in. He was a nice guy, and we had a bit of a chat. Finding out that the internal garden was ok to visit, we entered the complex. There is a nice walled garden, with footpaths around it to the side of the mosque itself. It is a green peaceful place in comparison to the hustle & bustle of the outside world. As usual, most of the trees are functional. Pomegranates and dates, with a few roses and other smaller decorative plants around a central fountain. The tile work and doorways are as well done as most other important places we have seen in Morocco. With the nice relaxed air of the place, it was a pleasant diversion, however we could not hang around here all day, especially considering the small size of the area we are allowed to visit, and we headed back out.
The tourists were gone, and we cut through the back streets to try and find the main road again. By now it is a one lane track and the traffic has all but disappeared. There is the occasional bike whizzing past, and a few donkeys pulling their carts. Passing the sporadic buildings along the road (this being Morocco, they are still fairly close together, but not on top of each other) we came to the next Ksar. The entrance to this one was more derelict than the last, and right outside the front wall was a ruined area that had a few concrete tubs collecting dust and garbage. Our first assumption on seeing them was that it used to be a place to do washing, but on closer inspection they resembled a tannery, as the tubs were too deep to be practical for washing. Again this is a lived in Ksar, and not that different to the last. As the route is about 22km long, we decided not to continue that much further, as we think it will be more of the same, with only the very remote containing the most original features.
We passed through this Ksar, and out into the Palmerie beyond. Thinking we can cut through the fields and palms to get back to town. It was a long walk, and there were more ruins along the way. An annoying thing here, as with most of Morocco, is that you cannot tell what is old and new. If it was well built, and maintained (the exception), the original construction could be very old. However a lot of new buildings look this way, even a few years after construction. The cement used starts falling apart before the house is even finished, and it turns into a game of Spot the difference. Is it 500 years old or 5? There is no way to tell a lot of the time. Still, this is part of the charm. Even if I would never buy a house in this country (I would be worried that it would collapse within a decade)
Back in town, we decided we needed to try the Moroccan Pizza. Ordering it, we had to wait for about 45 minutes for them to prepare it. The wait was worth it, and as we walked back to the hotel, the smell was driving us mad. It smelt delicious. On arriving back, we opened the box to see something that resembled a rather large round loaf of bread. Cutting it open, we discovered the contents were a gouey combination of bread, onion and chunks of meat. It tasted as good as it smelt, and the only criticism we would have is that it needed a few veggies in it! However it was a refreshing change to eating Tanjines. Topped off with Chocolate for desert, a great finish to a long day. We just hope our feet recover for tomorrow…