My camera lens, I need to report, the only victim of yesterday’s foray across the Merja Zerga, is still languishing in its bag of rice.
I’ve checked it again and despite a tender 20 minutes spent cleaning it with earbuds last night, it is still showing signs of moisture. On the boat, I had just changed from my long lens to everyday lens and as I was doing it saying, “this is like a braai, guaranteed to call the rain. I bet something exciting….”, but didn’t even get to finish my sentence as the family of Ospreys appeared. In my hast to change back to my long lens, I stood the other up on end on the seat. But you’re on a boat, I hear you cry, it’ll topple off. I should have listened to you, because that’s exactly what it did. A few seconds of standing up to photograph the Ospreys sent the lens rolling gently and quietly into the bilge sinking into a mixture of seawater and oil. Fuck! I grabbed it out and dried it as best I could after sitting down but I thought it was tickets…..
So we’ve stowed everything away today as it’s moving day. Time to try something a little different. We’re off to stay over at a vineyard…..in Morocco! Yes. They make wine in Morocco and we didn’t know that. So we set our track for Hacienda Cigognes (Stork Estate – Jalil’s grandmother is Spanish hence the name) and away we go. No further stories of driving through markets or narrow roads to tell or regale you with today, sorry. Just a straight drive to our next stop.
We recognise the vineyard from the photos we have seen and the long driveway flanked by date palms is pretty impressive.
We meet Jalil & Wafae (Jalil is the son of the owner Karim) who are now running the company and farm. Married for just 4 months and, as we stand there on the top of a hill, we look around 360 degrees to see the vines planted all around as far as the eye can see, and they are managing it all. A massive area of planting. But it is the perfect Mediterranean weather and ideal soil for grapevines. We’ve been passing field after field of olive trees being cultivated for Moroccan olive oil that attests to this as well.
We find a perfect spot in a grove of trees to park Kaya up and with Wafae’s invitation to use their shower and toilet and take what water we need, we also take up their offer of a cooked meal that night. Although they take nothing for our stay there, the meal is a fairly hefty MAD200 for a simple meal of Salade du Maroc with the addition of tuna, a chicken tagine but with some wonderful cheese (who knew cumin in cheese could be so devastatingly good!) for afters, all accompanied by a full bottle of their wine. And the wine is a huge surprise, a Merlot that is wonderful to drink and would stand up proudly to its French counterparts. Who the hell knew??? And on second thoughts, the MAD200 for the meal is no longer hefty so we included a tip as well.
Of particular interest to me was that fact that Wafae was more than happy for me to spend time in the kitchen with her to pick up any cooking tips.
During our time in the kitchen as we chatted together, I mentioned that I wanted to buy a local tagine with brazier. We downed tools as she called Jalil and asked if he would take us all to the local craftsman selling just such tagines.
Our tagine (the chicken dish!) was set to low as we piled in their car and set off for destinations unknown. But not 5 minutes later, a stand selling all manner of clay dishes appeared on our left.
With much examination, turning over, discarding those with blemishes, Wafae settled on a tagine for me. Completely unvarnished, with no finish but with a metal plate and ring welded to the underside (for cooking directly on gas) and the haggling commenced. At one stage it all sounded a bit angry (turns out that it wasn’t at all, just normal run of the mill discussion between friends!), but they were undeterred and eventually the stall owner gifted us with our olive dish and a set of mini tagines for salt & cumin, and we were charged MAD100 for the tagine and brazier. WOW!! What a bargain. Hands firmly shook and efusive thanks for the stall owner. As we left the owner called out to Jalil and Wafae saying that had we not been with them he would have made more money and would have got at least MAD300 for what we had bought! As it is everywhere in the world, it’s not what you know, hey!
Back to the vineyard for supper which Jalil and Wafae served us and then off to bed, cutting across the farmhouse courtyard under a million twinkling stars and wishing the nightwatchman a good night as he stirred the fire and the cats and dogs curled up around it blinked lazily at us.