River and Hill
Mission for today is to see more of the old ksars. According to the book, Zenaga is a big one and worth a visit. We check the map in town and even tough they have messed up north and south on this, we think we know which direction to head in. Zenaga is supposed to have a man made viewing platform that will let us look out over the town and it’s winding alley ways. The maze of streets was build this way intentionally to confuse invading armies.
It turns out to be easy to find, as we accidentally stumble upon it about a kilometre out of Figuig central.
The man made platform is a natural ridge that seems to have been used for centuries already. Zenaga is in the valley below, mountains surrounding the village and the palmery. The views are stunning. Around us the area has been sculpted into terraces and little farm plots. Irrigation channels criss-crossing the different levels. Many areas seem to be unused now, but others are freshly planted and newly farmed. It is nice to see the ancient techniques still in use and maintained.
Above the terraces are the remains of the old fortifications. It is all in fairly good condition from a distance. Several round watchtowers are still standing tall. In most of Morocco the mud built structures fade in with the landscape, but here, among the palms and the rose mountains they stand out beautifully. On closer inspection we can see the decay starting and we think in a few years time, they will be falling over as the cracks are showing. Hopefully someone will step in to save them..
From here we have a great view over all of Zenaga and the valley. A lot of agriculture is happening down there and there are patches of bright green in between the palms. Again the big basins of water, which seem to be attracting a lot of little birdies. The different plots are walled of by mud walls and walking between them is not so very different from walking through the old kasbahs. The walls are thin, but higher then us, giving us only the occasional glimpses in when there is a hole lower down. We know Figuig is and ancient oasis, but we are still surprised by all the water here, when the area around is so dry. Some of the irrigation canals have their own little tropical environment with yellow goo and brown frogs..
We make a salad sandwich for lunch in the shadow of the palms and after head towards the mosque towers of Zenaga. We wind through the narrow lanes of the fields, that flow into the narrow lanes of the old ksour. Again dark alleyways with the occasional “skylight”, a hole in the roof. The lanes here are spotless. No garbage and swept that well, that there is hardly any sand! Most of the lane ways have been resurfaces with natural stone. They have filled in the gully that used to run in the middle for the flow off of water. The drainpipes are still sticking out into the streets, but nowhere for the water to go..
The kids are on their bikes on their way to school. After a wander we end up at the main square and stop for tea. Zenaga is it’s own village, with all the facilities. We keep on going through the village and end up on the other side with a view of the mountains. We follow the palms along a dry riverbed, heading for another marabout in the distance. There sure are a lot of holy men buried in this area.. The colour of the riverbed sides are nice, soft greys and yellows.
After visiting the marabouts we decide to go up the mountain for a better view. We have seen some signposts for Ben Ounif, and wonder if there is another town further along. As it turns out, it is the border town in Algeria. We have been walking along the mountain, and accidentally almost walked into Algeria!
We now notice the guards on the road down the hill, and decide we might as well go down and say Hi!
Strangely, they are not surprised to see two foreigners pop out of shrub. As our French is still bad, we can’t talk much with the friendly guards, but we are told we cannot go any further. Photo’s are also not allowed. We knew all this anyway. It’s been fun having a look into Algeria. The town on the other side looks a lot like Figuig from a distance. Mountains with big towers, military posts and Palm trees. Although theirs seem to all have died..
Time to head back if we want to be at the hotel before dark. (It gets cold quickly once the sun sets.) Once again we have underestimated how far out of town we have gotten, and it is a long walk back.
All in all another good day in Figuig, and therefore we decide to stay longer.
Why leave a good place? We have two more days here, as the bus out to Oudja only goes every other day.
So you get to look forward to more desert and palm photos!