We were heading for Midelt, a town on the high plain between the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas mountains. We passed fertile agricultural land where local grown pomegranates, apples, onions and nuts were sold by the roadside. As the road climbed higher the scenery became more barren. Flocks of skinny looking sheep grazed under the watchful eye of their shepherd and several times we came across sheep blocking the road and had to wait patiently for the shepherd to urge them off the highway. The shepherd folk lived in and tent-like dwellings, a tough life at that altitude. We were told the temperature could drop to -10° in the winter.
It took us four hours to drive the the eighty miles from Azrou to Midelt. We were often stuck behind slow moving HGVs belching fumes as they struggled upwards. It was impossible to overtake on the narrow winding roads – a fact that didn’t prevent vehicles in a hurry overtaking us in the most alarming fashion. We regularly pulled over to allow faster moving vehicles to pass us.
There were traffic hold ups in built up areas too. Every town had at at least one police road block, usually near a road junction or roundabout. Traffic had to slow to a crawl and you were either pulled aside or waved on – as we always were. The gendarmes were armed and had stingers at the ready. You stopped when requested!