In some countries, riding around a city in a horse and carriage is something done mostly by tourists. Who else would brave the onslaught of cars, trucks, motor bikes and scooters armed only with cameras and a guide book? In Morocco though, the horse (or mule) and carriage is another way of saying taxi – not literally, it's caleches and taxi – but if you want to go anywhere, you hail a horse.
The carriages vary, some are nothing more than a flat bed on wheels piled high with sacks of chick peas or bales of grass still with butterflies attached, the driver perched up on top of the load. Others, especially in towns, are incredibly ornate, with bells, tassels and fringes that wouldn't look out of place in Oklahoma!. Comfort levels vary too, even the most decorated might not have much in the way of suspension or cushions to sit on – but what are those thick guide books for anyway?
Sitting in our carriage in Taroudant the pace is slow and companionable. Things completely missed from a car or bus are part of the ride - the heady smell of onions, cumin and paprika from tagines cooking in pavement cafes, the scent of a hidden orchard thick with blossom. The sound of a football match from a barber shop radio, the shout of small boys as they rush home from school.
It's easy to get lost, both in the narrow streets and in time. The speed of a trot transports you back centuries. The driver points out ancient crenellated walls, once the gruesome scene of many an execution, now the home of thousands of swifts. We lean back, looking at the first stars high above the flat roofs, thinking how good this would be at home. Then we remember the size of the garage and promise instead to come back and do it again.
Posted by: Alex