Update Required To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.
- Subscribe to Podcast [Help]
- Download as AAC or MP3 [Help]
As we booked into our room in the Hotel Baraka in Aït Benhaddou, an incredible sight pulled up outside the hotel, almost crushing our little Fiat Uno. Into the tearing wind of the desert rode a colossal bus pulling an equally colossal trailer, and branded onto the front in huge Teutonic lettering was a capital 'D'. The Germans had come to the ksar.
I don't mention the fact that they were German because I have a problem with Germans on the road. Far from it, in fact: Germans have provided me with some of the most bizarre travelling memories I have, and I love them to bits. And this bus is a case in point.
Consider the desert. It is not particularly small... or it wasn't the last time I looked. One of the biggest challenges facing countries like Mauritania and Mali is that a large proportion of their countryside is desert, and if there's one thing desert is, it's hard to live in. And this means that there's not a huge space problem; you can pretty much pitch your tent anywhere, as it were.
I only mention this because around 25 happy Germans poured out of the bus and right into our hotel, shattering the peace and clattering louder than the sirocco. 'Are they all going to fit into the hotel?' asked Peta of the proprietor.
'Oh no,' he smirked, rolling his eyes in the way that people do when confronted by buses like this, 'they all sleep on the bus.'
The trailer held the secret. About the same size as the bus, the side peeled back to reveal 24 bedrooms, each about the size of Elvis' coffin, all stacked up in two rows, each bedroom parallel to the trailer's axles. With all the expanse of the desert at their disposal, the Germans were opting to coop themselves up into a huge and indescribably hell-like stack of snoring, farting and bad dreams. My jaw still aches from where it hit the floor; I'd never met people who thought that getting into the local culture meant impersonating the chickens in the Djemaa el-Fna.
Luckily they all seemed perfectly happy, even to the point of clapping along to the night's inevitable drumming with a typically Aryan lack of timing.
Thank God for the Germans. Life would be so much duller without them.