On the way here to the Gorges du Dadés we had two good stops and a detour. At the first stop, the Cafe du Pont on the way in to El-Kelaa M'Gouna, The Squeeze ordered saffron tea. There was a moment’s consternation, then off went the young man to prepare it. While we waited a stream of sheep flowed across the hill behind us, down into the river, under the bridge and up onto the other side of the road, where three shepherds attempted to keep the flock tightly bunched together. The spectacle seemed as interesting to the gathered schoolchildren as it was to us tourists. We bought some rose water and essential oil from the man in the cafe, who informed us that the road to the valley of the roses, which the guide book says needs “decent transport,” had been paved last year.

So we took the detour. I must confess I had been expecting to see large fields of pale pink Isfahan roses, which would surely be needed to support the extensive local industry. Instead there seemed to be little more than the occasional rose hedge dividing plots along the river’s edge, with a very occasional pink bloom visible. The book says “the entire area is awash with pink Persian roses” but there didn’t seem to be anywhere that could possibly be awash, even in a month’s time. Maybe we were on the wrong road.

On the way back we stopped just before rejoining the main road to take a look around. The market had pretty much wound down, but there were a few sheep carcasses being carried across the dusty yard to the various butchers. Chickens too, one per stall, hanging in the front of the counter. The Squeeze got involved with a spice trader and general wide boy who gave her a suicidally good price on some Berber necklances and then wanted to charge 40 dirhams for 100 gm of anise. That does make me a little cross, still. I, meanwhile, was off buying a couple of cucumbers and a couple of oranges at a nearby stall for 6 dirhams. I had to make a bit of a scene to extricate The Squeeze from the spice merchant, telling him loudly that I was insulted that he considered us such idiots that we would pay 40 dirhams for anise and that now I was so angry I would not buy any spices. Not even the Nigella seed, which the Berbers crush and inhale for an excellent head-clearing snort. As we left the very pleasant young man from whom I had bought the oranges and cucumbers came quietly up to tell me he had some anise for 5 dirhams. I thanked him and said we didn’t really need any. We ate the cucumbers on the way up the gorge, and they were very good; tasty and refreshing.

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