The reason for stopping here is the Cité Portugaise (Portuguese fortress). This
is the original fort built in 1513 and contains a small town. It was built to supply
and protect the Portuguese caravels traveling to China for the spice trade. They
held onto it until 1769 when Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdullah laid siege to it and
forced them to leave.
I am standing on the NE bastion (fortified corner) and in the picture you can see
the far bastion of the square fortress just right of center (it is about 400 meters
[yards] square). The arch is the "water gate" through which all merchandise and
supplies passed. Back then a ship could dock at it.
Inside the town is a warren of little streets and original buildings from its construction.
This is the main entrance through the wall. You can see how thick it is. I am standing
just at the outer edge and Kathy is a few feet inside the town. This is the main
street and has several tourist shops on it. But it is not like the European tourist
streets, it only has a shop or two per block, not 30 or 40!
The other main attraction of this fortress is the cistern. Drinking water had to
be collected from the sky. All the water surrounding the fortress was seawater. They
had a system of clay pipes that drained the water into a large room under the center
of the town and it can be visited. If it looks familiar maybe you have seen the
movie "Othello" by Orson Wells. The big fight scene was filmed in this cistern. The
film won the top prize at Cannes in 1952 and has been restored and re-released by
hi daughter in 1992. Much of the rest of the movie was filmed in the town of Essaouria
to south of here.
We then walked around the souk (market area) and took some pictures before heading
on south to the Agadir area.
This is the western end of the High Atlas mountains as they fall into the Atlantic
Ocean. It is hilly and where the goats climb trees. These hills are home to the
Argan tree. It is unique to this area. The trees have a small fruit that contains
a nut that can be used for cooking and as a treatment to keep your skin looking younger. It
is becoming a fashionable anti-wrinkle cream amongst the elite.
The nut is also a favorite food of the goats in the area. They will climb into the
trees to get them. (And the kids herding the goats want you to pay them to take
pictures of them.) This tree has two in it, a black and white one near the top and
a black one below it almost hidden by the foliage.
Back to the nuts. The goats eat the nuts and digest the fruit but pass the nut unharmed. The
goat herder collects the nuts when they come out the back end of the goat and takes
them home for processing. A little roasting and a big squeeze and you have the oil. It
takes 30 kg. (nearly 70 lbs.) of the small nuts to make one liter (quart) of oil. I
wonder if the "elite" know it was picked out of goat dung.
Another interesting thing was the amount of grain grown between the trees. It grows
very sparsely and is short stemmed. And it is all picked by hand. Not harvested
with a scythe but picked as one would pick flowers, one stem at a time. (The stems
grow too far apart to pick groups of them.) The handful is tied into a bundle and
the bundles collected and loaded on a donkey for transport. Most of this was done
by women although we did see some men in the fields too. And there were hundreds
of acres of it!
That night we stayed on the south side of the High Atlas mountains in Taroudannt. This
time in a hotel inside the old city's fortified wall.