Wednesday, April 23, 1986

South of Marrakesh

 In April 1986 I left my studio apartment overlooking a wide Amsterdam canal for ten days in Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, and Tangier; I finished my journey with a week in Fez, courtesy Travel & Leisure magazine, which published both my articles that autumn. In Marrakesh I met the Frenchwoman who became my first wife; in Fez three years later, on our honeymoon, I met the Boston couple who introduced me to my second wife. So there was a greater point to all this travel. 

In Morocco everyone told us to keep going south. Tangier was not Morocco; Fez, that intimate labyrinth to to south, was Morocco. In Fez people said, “Ah, but you must see Marrakesh also. The great merchant crossroads. Berber traders from the mountains and valleys and desert. Head south.”

Most Westerners come to North Africa in search of atmosphere: a sensuous romance vaguely compounded of equal parts turbans, oases, casbahs, prayers, and props from old movies. In Morocco that postcard longing is easily and more deeply fulfilled. Having been independent (and practically lawless) until the first half of the century, when the French ruled briefly, it wears its originality well. For many visitors this longing casts a spell, just touched by the finger of our age, that more civilized climes cannot match. With a car and a little enthusiasm, a traveler in Morocco can safely see things nearly as strange as those the first outsiders saw a century ago, and still retire every night to a hotel’s comfort. It is the color and mystery the East is supposed to deliver, closer to home.

All places are imaginary, in the beginning and in the end. This is why we travel, and why we remember. And though the Djemaa el Fna, Marrakesh’s great square of storytellers, musicians, water sellers, and faith healers, was tumultuous enough, I was drawn to the image of a more authentic village life, far from the buzzing of a hundred would-be guides.

Beyond Marrakesh—past the towering red Koutoubia minaret that has dominated the walled palm-grove city for eight centuries, past the chaotic roofs—rise the mountains of the High Atlas. Sun-stunned, as unconvincing as a stage set, drowsing under snow in late April, they look remote and unattainable. Over those mountains, everyone said, the real Morocco might be found.

South of the High Atlas lie the first drifts of the Sahara and the mystic valleys of the Dades and Draa—twisting rivers of palms that finger their verdant way to the desert. Village after village follow that fertility south, and it is from here that many of Marrakesh’s trinkets and crafts come. My companion bought traditional spices and poisons from muttering old apothecaries in the Djemaa’s souks, but we dreamed of crossing those serene mountains.

With the helpful advice of Paul Bowles, the American writer and composer who has made Tangier his home for thirty years, we decided on our route. We would cross the High Atlas to the southeast, driving 125 miles to Ouarzazate, the French garrison town built in 1928. Then we would wind down the Valley of the Draa to Zagora (100 miles), where the Sahara begins—or ends. We would cut west, via Taliouine (220 miles) to Taroudant (60 miles), the oasis that was once the rival of Marrakesh as a southern crossroads, and finish at the famous rooms and gardens of the Hotel Gazelle’ d’Or. We would have a night in each place at an excellent hotel, with no more than four hours of necessary driving each day. That would leave time to stop and explore. It is a route hastily done in half a week; our four days sprawled easily into eight.

“For me, these are some of the most beautiful parts of Morocco,” said Bowles. At seventy-six, snowcapped himself, labeled by the critics as a “living legend.” Bowles seems from a distance as lordly and remote as the Atlas. In person he is modest, finely made, exact, and kind. “Most tourists keep away from the southern routes,” he said. “I don’t know why. It’s not a difficult journey by any means: you simply rent a car. The roads are good—far better than when I first journeyed! In those days few outsiders had ever seen those villages. Nowadays people fly to Marrakesh and think they’ve reached the south of the country. But in fact, all the palm trees in Marrakesh were transplanted there, brought up from the south, unbelievable as it sounds.”

Marrakesh began as a nomad camp, and it still retains much of that character. For centuries travelers from the south, the great Saharan camel caravans, reached up to Marrakesh to sell to the merchants of the town and the imperial cities like Fez to the north. Though the truck and the tarmac road have made the camel largely obsolete, the role of the city continues. On mornings in the central Djemaa you can sense this, as the souks go about their business as usual. The dyed cloths are displayed in a hundred bursting colors, the spices from the East overwork the air, the leather and tin bazaars are a din of repairs and insistence.

Like most trading crossroads, Marrakesh has had an uneasy history of changing hands through ruling dynasties. This is evident at the vast ruin of the El Badi palace. Built not quite four centuries ago by a Saadian sultan named Ahmed el Mansour, it was once the glory of the country. Mansour’s successor, Moulay Ismael, was jealous of the glory of the place (imported Italian marble, gold from the Sudan, mosaics by the finest workers of Fez) and ordered it destroyed. Now it looks like a bare stone remnant of a far more ancient time. Though the huge reflecting pools brim with water, save one that has been turned into an orangery, the only denizens are several families of storks nesting on the ramparts. The ruin seems to telescope a lot of Moroccan history into one scene: it took twelve years to wreck and strip the place, fulfilling a prophecy of the builder’s court jester. When asked by his sultan what he thought of the completed palace, the jester, no fool, said: “Well, one day it will make a lovely ruin.”

The tombs of the Saadian princes, from the 16th century, give an idea of what El Badi must have been. In the filigree of their carved-wood portals, so lacelike it seems to float, and in the delicacy of their mosaics, the tombs are reminiscent of the Alhambra. High-columned chambers with dignified marble slabs adorning the tiles mark the more important graves. A young Swiss architect kept bringing me back and forth down the mazelike stone corridor into the tombs. He said, “You see how they marked the passage from the world of the living to the world of the dead? With moments when you’re in neither one nor the other, only between.” 

One morning, for about fifty cents, I took a share-taxi out to a town called Amizmiz, built impressively in the green hills facing the Atlas. A share-taxi is the most sensible and efficient way to travel short distances in Morocco. For a half hour I wedged myself in with several Morroccan old ladies and children and a herdsman in one back seat, while three sheep bleated in the trunk. We coasted along toward the mountains. Amizmiz was emptying out after the day’s market, but kilns all through the town were busy turning out hundreds of tajins, the cooking pots that are the foundation of the national cuisine. They are simple and beautiful, they hold enough to feed five or six, and they are practically indestructible. Here they cost pennies.

An old gentleman took me aside and reminisced about being a young man and spending a night walking with a donkey to sell his tajins in Marrakesh. “Where the Club Med is now,” he said, “there was a great spreading tree, oh, forty years ago, more. I don’t know what happened to it. That’s where the Djemaa started—the travelers telling stories. It’s just a big place by the souks where people gathered. You mustn’t think we put this together on purpose. But the tree got cut down and suddenly the whole world  arrived. I loved spending the night down there after selling my tajins, listening to all the news from far away.” 

My friend and I were luxuriously quartered at the Hotel La Mamounia—the reason some people go to Marrakesh in the first place. (The French fly down for a long weekend of sun the way New Yorkers jet down to Florida.) The serene Mamouinia is famous for having been Churchill’s favorite hotel; he loved to paint in its vast private gardens, and his suite still contains an Olympic-size bed. The hotel itself, built in 1923 at the height of French rule and recently renovated, is considered one of the finest in the world: a polished-marble colonial setting of fine carpets, tapestries, and mosaics. When the day’s heat was at its summit and the rest of the town dozed, it was easy to spend an afternoon languishing by the pool and palms, waiting for Marrakesh to awaken again.

It is a city that lives for its late afternoons. At four o’clock a thrummimg murmer begins, the concentrated din of thousands of voices whispering and shouting and gossiping all at once, backed by furious drumming. You hear the Djemaa el Fna long before you reach it; the fellow plucking at your sleeve and admonishing you in five languages that you are heading the wrong way lets you know you are nearly there. Then the crowd is pulling you along, dividing into circles around a fire-eater, a soothsayer with cards, three chanting blind men tap-tapping canes—or a family of acrobats in white, whirling and leaping to the peroompety poom poom of a solemn drum. And if you have wondered how it feels to be flypaper, the Djemaa is just the place to find out.

“Hello, m’sieu. You are French? Espagnol? Want guide? American? German? First time in Marrakesh? Anglais? I show you Djemaa, come on. Sir. You are lost. No problem, this way.  You are French, m’sieu. This way. Very well, I spit on you. The French are a dirty race.”

There were more poetic approaches:

“Sir, my pockets are sick.”

“Sick from what?”

“Sick from being empty, sir.”

There was a public scribe who offered to trade me a pen with no ink.  A man wearing flip-flops on his ears—a clown—was chased by another brandishing a broom while a crowd howled at both. A cluster of toothless, grinning old lute-players interrogated ancient instruments. Robed men without shoes sat like yogis beneath huge umbrellas, waiting. Everyone in Marrakesh seemed to be waiting.

A cut-rate dentist squatted before a junkyard of teeth and waved gleaming pincers at passersby. A healer soothed a man’s sciatica by burning him judiciously with a poker heated on hot coals. And a monkey on a leash did a running leap and ended up with his legs around my neck and his arms around the top of my head. He let go only when I parted with a dirham.

There were boxing matches, a man dubiously slapping a suitcase and coughing at the gales of dust, and a medical professor explaining a photo of something half trout, half Hedy Lamarr. “In the old days,” he was saying, “before people ate antibiotics and deformed themselves....” Snake charmers swayed to whining music and wrapped sickly cobras—defanged and devenomed, eunuchs really—around the necks of frightened tourists.

Most popular were the storytellers, who spoke in such low voices that their audiences, straining to hear, looked like football teams in a huddle. They used the old trick of leaving a story in the middle, and the huddles groaned at having to come back tomorrow. According to Bowles these were mostly “rather grandiose stories about the Sultan and his daughter and the rich Jew who tries to get her. Very full of plot with lots of magic and transportation.” All the translators I engaged broke off after, “There was once a Sultan’s daughter...” getting too involved in the tale to care about being fired.

With dusk, dark birds flew across a swept sky toward the red Koutoubia. Men gathered on the corrugated tin roofs of the souks. Little lamps came on in the little eating stalls. The horse-buggies clopped and groaned, smoke and cooking smells swam upward from the open braziers; the throng ambled and pressed. Over the sand-colored houses flags fluttered, and the first strains of the minarets’ call to prayer moaned out, urged on by the dum! De-tam-tam of the black drummers from the southern oases. The Djemaa became an encampment of shuffling shadows carrying lanterns, hurrying toward the mosques—men who prayed five times a day and generally acted as if they never prayed at all. The mountains grew warm and soft as all light was sipped from the earth, the great yawning sky grew closer, deepening with gulfs of cloud; and then the heavens collapsed, and darkness closed on Marrakesh.

The next afternoon we drove through a colonnade of billowing firs, past fields made harvest-golden by the peaceful light. Climbing the sky ahead, riven with snow, stood the mountain walls. Nearer, on both sides, were sun-hardened villages like baked biscuits, a constant feature of the Moroccan landscape. As we stopped to watch the light change, stealing from pink to red and then to delicate blown-glass blue, we felt a prodigious solitude enclose us—and drove on, wrapped in day’s end and journey’s beginning.

As night followed us the mountains settled like some black animal fallen asleep, and the narrow road began to curve back and forth like a snake. The stars were precise and bright, but the moon was hidden by the cliffs and trees. We had picked the wrong time to drive this route’s paper-clip turns; luckily we had it to ourselves.

Every twenty miles or so the bare lights and warm mud walls of a village appeared, perhaps a dozen biscuit-houses facing each other across the road. There was always a fruit-seller open or a tailor working late, pumping his sewing machine with a foot pedal, scrutinized by his son. The shack-cafés in these mountain villages always have lavish names like the Fleur de Lis—Paris in the High Atlas.

We stopped, finally, at the Café Bellevue and sipped mint tea and ate rough hunks of bread and cheese as the night grew cold. (These hospitable cafés proved to be our lunch and rest stops. For dinner we were limited to each hotel’s restaurant, which was fine, too; Moroccan cuisine, like Italian, is almost always good wherever.) Watching us in the one-room café, as usual, was a portrait of King Hussan II. It is significant that portraits of rulers dominate countries where religion prohibits figurative representation in art—there is not a “legal” picture of a bird or man or beetle in Islam. But the ruler’s portraits cover every lamppost, every scrap of wall, every shop entrance; sometimes you even see them in bathrooms. It is as if Allah didn’t count on the arrogance of sultans and kings and sheikhs and ayatollahs, who come along and take advantage of the situation. In Morocco the portraits are invariably above eye level, so you have to look up to them.

It was after eleven by the time we crawled down from the mountains to Ouarzazate. By street lamp it looked like a surrealist movie set, a Dalí version of a Moroccan village. The buildings were of this century, and that made them seem futuristic. Our hotel, the Karam Pasha, was, like most of Ouarzazate’s hotels, gigantically new and built to accommodate tours; it stared out over the valley. In Ouarzazate, too, there was a distinctly French accent to the wide avenues—a reminder of the years from 1912 to 1956, when most of Morocco was a French protectorate. Up until this point in our trip, nearly everyone we’d met, from Tangier south, had been able to speak French. After Ouarzazate this was not true. 

Most conversations in Morocco have an oblique quality, as if all talk is allegorical or at least political. When we settled into our hotel, we found ourselves suddenly in a play by Pinter, outmatched by an enigmatic bartender.

“Can we get a drink?”

“Of course, sir. It is not yet midnight.”

I ordered gin fizzes.

“Ah, but we are closed. I am so very sorry.”

“I thought you said you’re still open.”

“Not at all. What would you like?”

My companion murmured, as if it were a new idea, “What about two gin fizzes?”

“It is now after midnight, mademoiselle,” said our tormentor graciously. “Beneath the moon I will bring them to you directly.” And under that lunar searchlight he did, by a huge turquoise swimming pool.

Leaving Ourzazate the next day, we immediately took the wrong road. For a couple of miles we headed north and east, toward Skoura. And abruptly the Sahara began—a jumbled hard land, rock-ridden, thick in the middle distance with mirages. Mountains galloped on our left, too fat to be real and punctuated with odd trees. They were upside-down reflections of the low hills on our right.

But it was a thrill to sense the desert beginning. Each one is different, and if you are sensitive to a desert’s particular music, it renews the spirit like no other landscape. This was nothing more than a glimpse, but I remembered what Bowles had written years ago in a classic essay, Baptism of Solitude: “There is a popular misconception of the Sahara as a vast region of sand across which Arabs travel in orderly caravans from one white-domed city to another. A generalization much nearer to the truth would be to say that it is an area of rugged mountains, bare valleys and flat stony wasteland, sparsely dotted with Negro villages of mud.”

Heading back through Ouarzazate we noticed that in our momentary absence all the street lights had come on. Since it was three in the afternoon and the sun was directly overhead and dizzyingly bright, this seemed an unnecessary gesture of support. The correct and excellent road out of town, through moderately rough rock desert, was lined with scattered human debris: the desert was being used as a haphazard garbage dump. The strange thing was that the trash didn’t look out of place or ugly. It was no more detritus than the rocks, and the burning light on blue plastic containers made them lovely against the sand.

Soon, dipping and meandering up to the Tizi-n-Tinififft Pass, the land grew harsh, the way one imagines the surface of the moon, with deformed peaks rising miles away, some like leprechauns’ hats, some like potters’ molds. Tracks led off in all directions from the road, signaling hidden villages, but the desolation seemed complete and beautiful.

High up the Tizi-n-Tinififft Pass was Aït-Saoun, a dusty little upland dorp with a windup public telephone that didn’t work (“Il est malade, m’sieu”), five bored men waiting to see what might happen next, a rusty Coca-Cola sign in Arabic and an amiable little café run by a look-alike of Snow White’s Doc in a gray nightgown and red woolen cap. It was breezy and very hot. We ordered two mint teas and an omelet, and they were served on a tin plate with epic grandeur.

Afterward Doc led us up to the roof, explaining his life in Moghrebi. He understood little French, and he left us alone to look out over the compact khaki village. With its interlocking house walls, it seemed more self-protected than the previous villages. It was built in a fascinating sand-castle style, immensely wise for the climate. The Moroccans have a natural genius for urbanism under almost any circumstances, and seen from above, each house was quite large, with a central courtyard like a well that was kept shaded and cool by the slightly inward-leaning walls. The design was expansive, simple, dignified, and private. In the courtyard below, six goats were bleating in a pen built from twisted tree branches and a severed old car door.

After the steep descent to Agdz, probably the best local market for Berber carpets, there came green mountains parading in an orderly row like chorus girls with knees lifted; then, rolling hills that looked as if someone had been using a hairbrush on them. We began to thread the Valley of the Draa now, and along the river the magnificent palm groves unrolled like green prayer mats spread across the valley floor. After the desert and the pass their green fulfillment seemed miraculous, and as the day advanced mists veiled the trees.

Villages sprang by the dozen from mountain niches, or hovered along the road. We passed men driving sack-laden donkeys, children playing soccer among the palms, old men seated by stone irrigation canals discussing the world in earnest. Dark-skinned women swathed in scarlet and black and yellow and indigo swayed past with grave dignity, great piles of thatch balanced on their heads, their bracelets jangling as they made their way to the communal stockpile.

What was frustrating was to be separated eternally from these people by language. They ran at the sight of a camera lens, but whenever we stopped, whoever was nearest in field or village would come over in greeting. We were limited to phonetic guidebook banalities (“How many children do you have?”); they, to requests for money, and the children, to a perpetual cry of “Bonbon!” (candy) or “Stylo!” (pen). But there can be few two-hour journeys by car as beautiful as that passage down the Draa.

One man did speak French, fluently. He materialized from a field while my companion was taking a photo of the mountains bathed in lavender light.

“Three dirhams for picture of mountains.”

“They’re your mountains?”

“They are.”

“Better make it five dirhams.”



“You disapoint me m’sieu.”

“You disappoint me, too.”

This is the human lesson of Morocco: nothing is ever done without thought of reward. In a country with substantial unemployment, drought, and high military expenditures in the extreme south, this is not surprising. Still, such unrelenting opportunism is wearying.

Because we kept stopping—and always tried to drag out lunch to avoid driving in the hottest part of the day—we reached Zagora in darkness. A bearded majordomo in white assured us that the ksar hung with Christmas lights was indeed the Hotel Tinsouline. It was one of those lovely old Middle East Belle Epoque hostels that have vanished nearly everywhere except Syria, Egypt, and Istanbul, and that are always ranked with only three stars because they are missing things like telex machines and photocopiers. The Tinsouline had a beautiful pool and garden, and a lounge with attendant cats and chairs you could swim in. Our room was grand, with a huge Louis XV bed draped in crimson that looked as if it had entertained Mata Hari. Outside was an oasis of palms.

The next morning, after awakening to birds at dawn, we drove south about twelve miles. There stretched the first wind-whipped dunes of the Sahara, drifted in patches across the road as if deposited by a tide. Nearby, too, was Tamegroute, on the banks of the Draa, site of a once-great library. It held a few old Korans and a potters’ souk. Tamegroute had been extremely important for it was the home of the Naciri missionary brotherhood. From the 17th century until fairly recently the Naciri leaders were peacemakers whose civic role was to settle disputes among trading caravans coming from the desert.

We turned west, toward Taliouine, our night’s next stop, and at a gas station I fell into a conversation about my American trousers with a dark Touareg tribesman. He was tall, his face partly covered by a blue veil that he pulled back when he spoke, showing green and black teeth. He also wore Ray-Bans.

He said, “You are European. Are your pants European?”


“From which country?”

“Tell me what you think.”

“Italy.” He paused. “And you? You are French?”


“What region?”

“Alsace. Strasbourg.”

He grinned. “That explains your barbarous accent.” It was a good joke: the word comes from “Berber.”

“That explains it, yes.”

He said firmly, “You are not French. Belgian?”

I said, ”The sharp ears of the Touareg. Are your robes Italian?”

“Touareg.” He laughed. “Bonne chance!” he said, and waved as he drove off in a cloud of dust.

He had come from many miles to the south, for the Touareg are a Saharan people who have held onto the plateau of the Hoggar in the center of the desert for centuries, despite countless Arab attempts to take it. Their name means “lost souls” in Arabic, but their own name for themselves is imochagh, “the free ones.” Of all the Berber-speaking peoples, they alone have a means of writing their own language. And though principally Muslim, they are known for their separatism and pride. And their dress: French settlers in Morocco dubbed them Blue People because their robes are colored with an indigo dye that gives their skin a blue cast. In Touareg custom it is the man who is veiled, to keep away evil spirits.

On our way west to Taliouine, a good five hours’ drive, the land was like southern Spain: clumps of trees like grazing sheep covered the dumpling hills. The villages were more scattered now, and wore spiky horns on their mud ramparts to keep flying devils from settling in for a landing. Most of these villages look hundreds of years old, but they aren’t. The walls must be continually repaired, and a heavy rain can wash away an entire settlement. But the ancient look is belied by sprouting television aerials. These men and women are farmers in wild valleys that were unplumbed by strangers a half-century ago, but their children watch Transformers and He-Man just like children everywhere else. Will they be content in a few years, to stay here and farm and accept the odd dirham handout?

The Hotel Ibn Toumert at Taliouine, abutting the ruined Claoui Casbah, was modern and empty. We had missed dinner and we barely made the closing of the bar. We were considering a night swim by moonlight—it was not yet ten—when the hotel clerk suddenly appeared and pressed two stubby lit candles into our hands. Just then the electricity went off.

“I inform you, madame and m’sieu, there will be no electricity until she is morning.”

The morning was breezeless and hot, and postponing the inevitable, we swam and watched the ducks potter about the casbah’s tiled terraces. A village shimmered deceptively near, at the foot of the chipped mountains—hours and hours away. It was like an image of the “real” Morocco, always out of reach, always within sight, alternately infuriating and beautiful. It seemed a country you could come back to again and again, if your patience held, and still not begin to understand: and I could see why Bowles had stayed.

On the road to Taroundant we learned the worth of a dirham—ostensibly about ten cents. Just back from the side of the road in a dusty field, we came across an impromptu market: a barber in a tent, a butcher with several carcasses, a steward serving bread and tea, a toothless fellow with vegetables and fresh fat oranges spread on a blanket, scampering children and a gray horse standing impassively by brambly trees. We wanted to buy only a few oranges. It was too hot to negotiate or haggle; Taroudant was still hours away. I asked for three oranges; he insisted on a kilo. Very well, I thought, be done with it.

He dragged out a rusted scale. Set it up. Started piling on oranges. They kept toppling off, for there wasn’t enough room in the pan, then skittering on the ground. The children were laughing. The gray horse flicked its tail. I said, “Enough, enough,” but of course I didn’t speak Moghrebi. In the end there were more than twenty oranges, most still on the vine. It was ludicrous; we wanted one for her, one for me, one to divide.

The merchant looked at me wearily, held up a moistened finger. “Un dirham.”

So this was what people were always demanding. It was real, living currency: it bought twenty delicious oranges that could take all the heat and fury off the day. Possibly it bought even more if one weren’t a stranger. Extreme poverty always shames the stranger who has not chosen to be wealthy. I tried to give the merchant the coin with as much dignity as he had shown when he asked for it.

Taroudant seemed a self-important place, with an air of great expectation: if at any moment all Marrakesh’s tourists came flooding in, it would be ready. A century ago it was a city entirely forbidden to Christians, but then its power and importance shrank, and in recent years it has become a center for Berber rugs and Eskimo-like sandstone carvings. Encircled by remnants of walls, it was designed for calamity. Simply trying to pass through town, we got inextricably lost, and trying to get simple directions we fended off two would-be guides who ended up in a fight. Every street was packed with dentists, their signs showing disembodied teeth grinning ghoulishly.

But the sky held whipped clouds, and the air had a new lightness: we were only forty-five miles from the sea. And we found our oasis just outside of town. An innocuous road led through a field to a great gate with an audaciously preening gazelle on it, and a robed sentry standing guard. Down the path, in a sequence of twenty pastel villas surrounded by lavish, tranquil gardens, was the Hotel Gazelle d’Or. It was hard to believe that beyond the stately palms with bunched heads like tropical islands, beyond the ardor of the birds’ liquid songs, beyond the honey-colored stone walls and the men working at the flower beds and the privacy of one’s own cottage, beyond the spread fans of travelers’-trees and the strains, so rich and strange, of Ravel dispersing across the gardens—hard to believe that beyond all this lay the mountains and deserts of North Africa. We had intended to pass only one night here; we stayed for four. It was as if the place were yours alone—if you ran into someone else, it was by accident. In those gardens seemed to be all the ease and elegance and calm of the world, and each afternoon when the turbaned bartender unlocked the grand piano to let me fumble through Mozart, he wore an expression of infinite patience, and he distracted me with a constant flow of tea.

Days later—a lifetime later, it seemed—on the road back north, we drove quickly down the High Atlas. Then lightning came, and pummeling rain: it was like crossing a frontier. The fields near Marrakesh were covered with frost—but this was early May! No wonder the palms had to be transplanted. Thick mists unfurled down the road, and phantom wagons pulled by phantom horses crossed the mists from field to field. As we neared the city, it grew hot again; the country seemed to evaporate. We ate our remaining oranges as the frost melted, all the way to Marrakesh.

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