In town, we were intercepted by Abdul, who looked at Dave’s tent pick and the bracelet on my wrist with a flicker of dismay. We agreed to come by his “house” before we left town. Of course his house turned out to be a carpet shop. He pulled out a well-worn stack of photos of various sizes and ages and showed us his family. We also pulled out the map and he showed us various places of interest in the south. And of course, we had tea.

From there it was a gentle descent into looking at his wares. None of the jewelry was to our tastes, nor did rickety daggers appeal to us. It wasn’t until the carpets were unfurled that our interest was piqued. In the end we did ok. Dave bought a kilim, A Zammoura from the high atlas. Payment was effected in a combination of traveler’s checks (a means of fundage that had proved difficult to liquidate) Euros and the newly acquired tent pick. At one point in the proceedings, Dave pulled a chapstick out of his pocket to show how empty they were. That chapstick disappeared into the folds of Abdul's cheche without further comment.

We headed out of town at the leisurely hour of 2 p.m., into Ourzazate. After some banking, a gas fill up and Dave backing into a moped, we continued east. The guide books had achieved a shrill harmony concerning the perils of the next stretch of roads. According to them, we would be pestered by hustlers and false guides in every town and at every point of interest. We would be subject to false breakdowns, police inspection, sandstorms, petrol shortages, carpet salesman and, if that weren’t enough, we were assured beyond any shadow of a doubt that we would get a flat tire. As luck would have it, none of these things happened, and if truth be told, I felt a bit cheated.

What did happen was a lovely unfurling of a landscape that was simultaneously familiar and strange. Familiar because it bore strong resemblance to the American west in scale and texture. Strange because of the details: men in djellabas (pointy hooded woolen garments), camels, signs written in Arabic and minarets popping up out of towns and villages.

We traveled up the Dades Valley, through Skoura, an oasis of palms. At El Kelaa des Mgouna we saw much of the town’s infrastructure for their rose water industry, but, alas, we were too early for the multitude of blooms for the Persian roses that support this town. We stopped to take a few photos and a somber looking girl gazed at us from the front stoop of her house. I waved at her and she broke into a grin, despite herself. No rose blossoms, but that was just as good. Further down the road we rounded a bend just in time to see an old man throwing rocks at a bunch of school kids, the children running ahead of him like flushed quail. I wonder what they did to him.

Just east of Tenerhir we stopped and poked around at the ruins of a nameless Kasbah on a hill overlooking the valley.

We finally rolled into Tenerhir just before sunset. Tenerhir is a clamorous, busy, frenetic place. Jarring after the languid rhythms of the desert. We ducked into the Hotel du Todra, a creepy place with statues of tourists here and there. A meal of tajines at the hotel restaurant, and a few flag beers made it a day.

Copyright Estate of Anthony Vail Sloan 2009