June 19, 2011

Into the desert we go!


After moaning about the lack of air conditioning in our room, both Chris and I slept like babies before the dreaded alarm went off at 6 am. Up you get kids, time for a desert treck!

We piled into a mini van (air-conditioned of course) and began our 10 journey into the Sahara. Not quite Lawrence of Arabia but it was the best we could get on a budget. We made stops along the way thankfully and lunch was a two hour break in Tatoutian kasbah, a city built around the Hollywood film industry; Gladiator, Babel, Black Hawk Down, Prince of Persia and the more recent Cleopatra are just a few of the blockbusters filmed here.

Men in the village grow long hair and beards to be cast as extras and the economy booms when there are 4,000+ people here for filming. I can’t imagine a movie star dealing with the extreme heat very well, though they could just stay in one of the 5 star hotels built for the occasion. On the way in to the city we passed two ‘studios’ plonked in the desert and a huge set (apparently used for “Troy”) visible in the distance.
As for the ‘kasbah’ itself, the word means ‘fortified village’ and it was built in the 17th century just for soldiers to live in. The people here use indigo to protect their faces
from the sun and also grow henna and dates to be sold in cities such as Marrakech. Our “guide” showed us the home of a villager who was involved in the casting for some of the films and he had bits and pieces from the movie sets in his living room, such as a gladiators armour from ‘Gladiator.’. No television though, so I wonder if he’s ever actually seen the films that drive his local economy?

Outside, children play with a hose in the communal bathing area, a women sprinkles water outside of her front door to keep the dust at bay and the villagers stream into the mosque for midday prayers.

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