On a hot Ramadan Sunday, Marrakech really does become a little insufferable, so I decide to leave the pink walls behind and go visit a pretty reservoir lake I had read about.
lies some 35 km south of Marrakech, and so I go to where buses and ‘grande’
collective taxis line up for places in that direction. The drivers seem vague
about buses, but grande taxis go they say. In Marrakech these taxis are all
1970s Mercedes – one of my favourite models – and all beige (in lake of Lalla Takerkoust , in keeping with
the buildings, they are all white and in Essaouira blue and white). They are
also always stuffed to the gills: four in the back, three in the front. Rabat
‘Lalla Takerhoust?’ I enquire of one of these Mercedes drivers and am directed across the road to a petrol station, where a man stands by a slightly larger and newer vehicle. I ask him and he says ‘how many?’: apparently he will take a group of me for a sum about ten times as much as the regulars go for.
No, no, I insist, ‘makein fluss’ (I have no money): I am just me and I want to go with all the others like a regular. Ok, ok, he shrugs, and so begins the usual attempt to collect others to go by shouting out loudly ‘Barraj, barraj!’. (The word for dam is ‘barrage’ in French.)
After a while, an old man with one remaining tooth, skull cap and a large sack of vegetables turns up and indicates he wants to go. But, that seems to be it … so, desperate to get there, I join in yelling out ‘Barraj, barraj’, from my standpoint in the shade by the petrol pumps with other drivers..
Eventually one more man turns up (not sure whether he is attracted by my Barraj call or the driver’s) and as we have now been here for about 40 minutes, I decide I might as well pay for two-thirds of the fare so that we can GO.
Off we set, windows all down to allow in as much hot air as possible and the driver puts some Berber music on the CD and we all clap and sway along to it. One Tooth particularly gets into the spirit of it all, as does – rather alarmingly – the driver, whose clapping means that the wheel is regularly unmanned.
Still we get to the town of
Takerkoust) in one piece and my fellow passengers instantly disappear. Not much
in this town apart from huge great barraj looming over everything – and now the
driver tells me that the actual lake is another 6km further on. In 39 degrees
of sultry heat the walk does not seem too tempting, so I accept his offer to
take me there for a further fee ... Barraj
And the lake is a real treat. Despite being man-made – the Baraj was built by the French in the 1930s to provide Marrakech with water and electricity – it is a very pretty lake with lots of twists and curves and covey inlets. Easy paths to follow, either along the shores or up and down little hills with lovely views and shady trees – no wonder the Marrakshis all normally come out here for picnics on Sundays.
The French called the lake Cavagnac (something to do with Christians immured in a cave and plunged by God into a mystic sleep), but the locals ignored that and called it Lalla Takerkoust after the lady saint protector of the area, who is buried in the nearby town of Amizmiz.
Amizmiz is near the source of the lake, where the water is reputed to have therapeutic qualities: apparently the sick of Marrakech go there and cover their feet with breadcrumbs so that they will be nibbled by the water turtles.
But today there are no picnickers and no people with sore feet (apart from me). It was Ramadan after all, and so – apart from a few fishermen, some small groups of boy swimmers and a goatherd with his goats – I have the run of the place to myself. I wander around contentedly, remembering the lake scenes from Hideous Kinky, which were definitely filmed here, and finally settle under a tree for a bit of a sleep.
The sleep does not last long as I am disturbed by the arrival of some boys on quad bikes – probably not one of the more soothing attractions at the lake. They are very well behaved BUT, well, they are noisy. And – much as I love the wilderness of my area – I do gaze longingly across the water at what looks like a restaurant from which some pedalos are lazily making their way across the water.
It is a hot sultry day, as I have already mentioned, and so I descend for a paddle and the coolish water is very welcome. I would dearly love a swim, but decide that this is Out of the Question as I a) do not have a costume and b) am the only female around. There IS some sort of a policeman making the rounds on a quieter kind of quad bike but still I decide that I will wait till the next time I come, when I will hire all of the man’s taxi and bring a group and a picnic.
From my paddling area I can see yet more trails for walking, and also a clearer view emerges of the Atlas mountain range, which would be stunning on a cooler, clearer day. Also I spot some other restaurant-type places and what looks like private beaches. But perhaps they are closed today as it is Ramadan.
The quads are long gone and so are the swimmers and so is my bottle of water. Now is time for the return journey. I set off on the road back to the town of
and am there surprisingly quickly – it is probably more like 3 than 6
Hot work, though, that walk, scorching. So the sight of a white frothy river tumbling over boulders far down below the town is just too much to resist. I race down there and douse my head in the cool clear water, much cooler than the lake. The local youth seem unfazed by my presence – all is cool, cool, cool, and Allah Akhbar.
Back up in the town of
I find that there
IS a bus service to Marrakech after all. And the fare is 7 dirhams, about one
tenth of what I paid to come out here. Taxi drivers – they are the same all
over the world … Barraj
But hey, now I know all about the lake and am looking forward to bringing a picnic party in slightly cooler weather!