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June 25, 2004

Profit Mohammed

DAY 247: The Sahara, the world's largest desert sprawling all over northern Africa, gets extremely hot in the daytime. (Perhaps that's why they call it the desert, huh?) To combat the heat, our tour was set up to avoid the hottest part of the day, by first bringing us in at sunset the day before, and leading us out at sunrise that morning.


The fourteen of us were all awake in our desert camp and ready to go by 6:30 in the morning, just as the sun was making its way over the dunes -- all us us except for Mazza who had a slower start than the rest of us with stomach problems. Eventually, he mounted his camel as did the rest of us. Omar and Mohammed led us back to Merzouga in two smaller caravans. The angle of the sun elongated our shadows as we trekked across the dunes (picture above), bouncing our prostate up and down on the hump of a camel. A couple of hours and a sore groin later, we were out of the Sahara and back in the minibus headed back the way we came.

THE RIDE BACK TO MARRAKESH was a long and tiring one, and not so exciting since we had seen all the sights already on the way to the Sahara. In the town of Erfoud, we dropped off Steve, Lucy and Miguel, who all hopped on a transport to the northern city of Fez, while the rest of us continued, stopping in a familiar place.

"Where are we?" Coral asked me.

"In that town where they tried to sell us carpets." I answered. We were back in Tinghir for an early lunch break, which wasn't so early because our food took over an hour to be prepared.

"That guy's probably going to come back," Coral said, referring to Mohammed 0, who tried to sell us rugs during a "weaving demonstration" the day before. I put "weaving demonstration" in quotes because it was more like a subtle sales pitch for his business.

"He was probably wearing Levi's under his [traditional Berber] clothes," Hendrik said.

"YOU OKAY?" I asked Mazza. He was lying on a couch in the corner looking like he was in a lot of pain from his stomach illness. He managed to raise his head up for a brief moment to say, "Yeah, yeah," and then went back into his uncomfortable looking state.

The rest of us just waited around, wondering when our food would come, or when Hassan would come back to pick us up. Kim asked around and found out that our minibus needed servicing and that the reason for our extended lunch hour was to kill time in town while the necessary repairs were made for the long drive home. Or was that the real reason?

"Hello, remember me?" a man said as he sat down on a cushion in the rooftop dining area we were in. The stranger was wearing a collared shirt, jeans and sneakers. His face was a familiar one; it was Mohammed 0 after all, the sneaky Moroccan carpet salesman trying to make a profit again. Hendrik was right about the clothes.

According to Waddah, who spoke with Mohammed 0 in Arabic, Mohammed 0 just so happened to get wind that our group was back in town, took a shower and changed into plain clothes thinking that a more Western appearance would convince us to buy a rug. "I told him that since I am a guest in his country, he should give me a gift," Waddah explained to me after Mohammed 0 had given up after a continued lack of sales and gone downstairs. "He said he would give me a gift if I buy a carpet from him. I said that's not a gift, that's a trade."

EVENTUALLY WE LEFT TOWN of the sneaky carpet salesman and continued our way back through the Valley of A Thousand Kasbahs. Mazza continuned to wallow in pain despite my several offers for medicine, always remaining positive with his apparent catch phrase, "Yeah, yeah." We passed the time not doing much of anything but sleep or stare out the window. We stopped for pee breaks and one grocery store stop back in the town of Ouarzazate, conveniently for Russ so he could stock up on beers before the beer availability deadline of eight o'clock in Marrakesh. "The driver stopped just for me," he joked.

The only other highlight of the day (if you could call it that) was when we were stopped by a cop at a regular routine checkpoint. The cop suspected our handbrake lights didn't work, so Hassan had Waddah press down on the regular foot brake to keep the light on while Hassan argued with the police outside that the light did in fact "work." I suppose the police were just doing their job, inspecting vehicles for safety; when darkness fell, we witnessed the results of two car accidents: one truck was flipped over, presumably by a tourist driver who fell asleep at the wheel; and another had been driven off the side of a bridge and into a river, when it swerved to get out of the way of an oncoming person. (I'm told the driver survived.)

It was about nine o'clock when we arrived back in Marrakesh. Mazza was still feeling pretty ill and just went off to his hotel to rest, while the rest of us wandered the town at our own leisures. Back at the Hotel Ali, Sebastian and I were all set to get a hammam bath from the pizza man after sweating in a minibus all day, but it got canceled when they couldn't find the key. Instead, we wandered the always lively Place Djemaa el-Fna with Russ. Walking through the aisles of food stands, we were treated like marathon runners at a finish line by vendors all around us in order to get our business -- Sebastian and I just raised our arms in the air like we won something and moved on.

I suppose every Moroccan in the tourism industry does what they can to make a profit, whether it be from food, carpet or otherwise.

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Posted by Erik on June 25, 2004 11:01 AM
TrackBack | Category: Morocco

SORRY these latest two entries seemed rushed... I'm still behind and yet I'm on the go again, this time to the former Jimi Hendrix/Bob Marley hangout of Essaouira on the coast...

Use this time to catch up!

Posted by: Erik on June 25, 2004 07:26 AM

Outstanding desert photos!

Posted by: isa on June 25, 2004 08:33 AM

ERIK - the last entries were great as always. The dunes look so perfectly sculpted.
So, which dunes are better? Namimbia or Morocco?
Oh, I'm marking late August / early September on my calendar for the Trinidad Show's stop in Japan.

Posted by: Liz on June 25, 2004 09:15 AM

so is "walking like a moroccan" in the desert the same or different than like an egyptian?


Posted by: markyt on June 25, 2004 11:17 AM

Has anyone tried to put a Cobra around your neck yet?

Word Life.


Posted by: Moman on June 25, 2004 11:39 AM

they don't seem rushed at all! The carpet seller drama was hillarious.

Posted by: sara on June 25, 2004 12:05 PM

good title : profit mohammed

Posted by: Cheryl on June 25, 2004 02:00 PM

Amazing pics!!!

Posted by: El Zee on June 25, 2004 03:17 PM

MOMAN: I saw the guys with the snakes who sneak attack you with snakes on the shoulders for photo tips... I avoid them at all costs!

Posted by: Erik on June 25, 2004 08:48 PM

The dunes look wicked awesome - completely surreal. Question - were you all super sandy after your night in the Sahara? I hate sand in my hair, so mayhaps I shouldn't go there...

Posted by: Noelle on June 25, 2004 09:12 PM

Oh wow - did I really just type "wicked awesome?" Yikes.

Still - they are.

Posted by: Noelle on June 25, 2004 10:20 PM

Breathtaking! Is that you on the 2nd camel from the left at the bottom - taking the pic? Looks like something out of Nat'l Geographic!

Posted by: Janice on June 26, 2004 08:44 AM

NOELLE - wicked awesome huh? are you sure you're not from boston?

Posted by: markyt on June 26, 2004 02:31 PM

wicked haaardcore pictures.

Posted by: Paul on June 27, 2004 01:50 AM

SORRY I'm behind... I've been pre-occupied with some other actual work other than blog duties... plus it's a big party here in Essaouira with the music festival...

Stay tuned!

Posted by: Erik on June 27, 2004 06:10 AM

i just got your title. 'Profit Mohammed'. Hah!

Posted by: Love Penny on June 27, 2004 10:55 AM

Erik - party on then - we all need to rest and party sometime!! We understand that. Have fun!

Markyt - no, I'm not REALLY from Boston, I just lived there for a while and sometimes words like 'wicked awesome' come out. And it shocks even me...

Posted by: Noelle on June 27, 2004 11:21 AM

NOELLE - well that ain't just a wicked pissah huh?

Posted by: markyt on June 27, 2004 02:05 PM

c'mon man!!! where's the "GREETINGS FROM SPAIN" ?

Posted by: markyt on June 28, 2004 10:26 AM

MARKYT: Ugh, "Greetings from Spain" is coming tomorrow, and I'm still four days behind on Morocco! But then again, I was "jamming" with The Wailers* in Essouira.

HANG TIGHT FOLKS... I'm getting there...

*as in "Bob Marley and The..."

Posted by: Erik on June 28, 2004 08:23 PM

Markyt - yes, it is. I need to get a pizzar and to pahk the cah, brb.

Posted by: Noelle on June 29, 2004 03:01 AM

I totally scammed that caravan photo for my desktop. Very cool sleeping out in the desert under the stars.

Posted by: Christy on June 29, 2004 01:58 PM

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