We did have a brief stop in the tourist resort of Agadir for some ice cream, but the driver seemed rather unimpressed with the place, and only laughed when I asked if there was an older part of town. It was not far inland to the much more historic settlement of Taroudannt, and yet again we encountered a couple of police road blocks, presumably only dealing with routine driving infringements, rather than the death of an Australian tourist.
Our initial impressions of the small walled town were good, with long palm-fringed boulevards running in front of crumbling fortifications, and in the distance the inspiring sight of the western High Atlas Mountains. There was plenty of motorised traffic, but also quite a few horse-drawn carriages waiting patiently in the heat and dust for tourists or more affluent locals.
After the romantic riad of Essaouira it was slightly disappointing to find that our next pre-booked accommodation was more like a drab English bed and breakfast, and set in an uninspiring residential area; but after the unfortunate events involving our camel trekking companion we were relieved to move on to a new place for a few days. One excellent feature of our hotel in Taroudannt was the high roof terrace, which offered 360-degree views of the town and surrounding countryside, though we often found the mountains were obscured by dust storms. Locals were acutely aware there had been no rain in the last few years, which inevitably had an impact on the fertile soil of the Souss Valley, and the produce traded at the lively markets.
‘This room is rather modern and tacky.’
‘It seems clean enough’ Jess replied.
Our assessment of the facilities was interrupted by an invitation to ascend the narrow metal stairway for some coffee and a variety of small cakes; we were close to at least two mosques, which suddenly commenced the deafening call to prayer.
‘It’s great to be so high above the town’ Jess shouted.
‘I’m not so sure about the quality of construction - that wall is very thin considering there’s a hundred foot drop.’
‘Don’t lean on it then.’
Jess was happy to close her eyes and sit back after the long taxi ride, but I was keen to look at the view from every angle, despite all the dirt and sand that was being whipped-up and gradually suffocating the town in a wall of swirling particles.