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Day 12: Marrakesh to Ouarzazate

Aït Benhaddou 
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Aït Benhaddou. Impressive and elegant towers below, thanks to Hollywood and Unesco, but the neglected old fortification at the top of the hill is half reduced to ruin by rain and wind.
Michael Palin - SaharaIt is late in the afternoon, and as we near Ouarzazate the landscape is spectacular in the declining sunshine. Rock faces twisted like muscles in spasm are scoured by a low sunlight that picks out every nuance of colour until they glow like smouldering coal.

And all at once I see my first mirage. It's an ancient and glittering citadel rearing up out of nowhere, part fortress, part palace. On closer inspection it proves to be the city of Jerusalem, and on even closer inspection it proves to be held up by scaffolding.

Shouts of 'Dino!' and the smell of fresh paint fill the desert air as an Italian construction crew go about their business putting the finishing touches to marble urns, copper braziers and plasterboard loggias.

'Jesus and Judas,' reads the windscreen sticker on one of their vans. At the Berber Palace Hotel in Ouarzazate this evening a young Englishman introduces himself. He's an actor, playing John the Disciple in an ABC television version of the New Testament currently being shot in the Moroccan Jerusalem. A short curly haired American, naked save for a towel around his waist, passes through the lobby exclaiming loudly, 'Boy, that hammam has knocked me out! Wow!'

My friend calls him over.

'Michael, meet Jesus.'

This is a historic moment, but all I'm worried about is that if he shakes hands his towel will fall off.

So we just say 'Hi!', and Jesus hurries away to change.

'There's a whole lot of us here,' says my friend. 'We're all disciples.' Sure enough I notice them later in the restaurant, all with identical beards. At a table for twelve.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 12
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Ourzazate
  • Book page no: 55

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