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Day 13: Ouarzazate to Tinfou

Michael Palin - SaharaWithin seconds a crowd of competitors, none older than fourteen or fifteen, engulfs me.

It seems fun, but the force with which they fight to get near me, the intense clamour for a sale and the almost studied indifference of my driver to these skinny jostling boys give me the feeling that this is as much about survival as free enterprise. Perhaps all is not as well as it looks in the picturesque villages of the Drâa valley.

It's early afternoon when we drive into Zagora through a horseshoe-arched gateway and down Avenue Mohamed V, which, with its arcades and long line of shaded shop-fronts, has the atmosphere of a Wild West frontier town. Children walking back from school hold exercise books up to their faces to keep the sun off.

There is a scuffed, crudely painted, concrete road sign here, a child's-eye view of desert sands, camels and gleaming-eyed Touareg grouped around a grubby arrow and the words 'Tombouctou 52 Jours'. It's a reminder that Zagora is the largest town we shall see for another 1000 miles and that its tourist hotels and hard-topped roads may seem like rare luxuries in the days ahead.

After Zagora the palm groves thin out and the casbahs become fewer and farther between. The Drâa reduces to a trickle, then ceases to flow altogether. A fierce gusty wind springs up from nowhere, gathering the sand and dust into clouds that cover the sun and plunge this dazzling landscape into anonymous greyness. Progress slows and we rest up for the night at Tinfou, 20 miles south of Zagora and a few miles short of the end of the road at Mhamid.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 13
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Zagora
  • Book page no: 57

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