So we drove for hours from the airport, through scrubby desert, past villages straggling either side of the heat-shimmered road. Watermelons. Goats in trees.
‘Are they for real?’ said Rachel.
‘The goats? You know, I’m not entirely sure,’ I said.
‘Taxidermied more like,’ I said. ‘Superglued to the branches.’
The road became a track and the track became a dust devil. Every so often we lurched off to one side, narrowly avoiding a truck carrying watermelons.
‘Oh yum,’ said Rachel. ‘I love watermelon.’
Then the dust became sand. A beach, stretching either way to infinity. Haze on the water. Camels. Horses. Donkeys. Dogs. Comatose cats. A sidling of buildings. Big waves.
‘It’s the beach at the end of the world,’ I said.
‘Don’t say that,’ said Rachel.
‘I like it,’ I said. ‘It’s…desolate.’
And it did indeed possess a stark beauty, Sidi Kaouki. A Berber village named after a marabout, a wandering holy man.
‘Dad would hate it,’ said James.
I looked around and had to agree. There were groups of men hanging around, selling camel rides, or bracelets or who knows what. But they weren’t remotely aggressive or pushy. I pointed this out to James and he shrugged. ‘I was thinking more of the poo,’ he said.
So we walked along the beach, away from the camels and the surfers. And we walked and walked and the landscape became even more lunar, yet more desolate. And I loved it even more.
Eventually we were stopped by dogs. A pack of curs, skinny, curious, bit of this, bit of that dogs. The kind of mongrels you just don’t see in the UK any more. They ran up barking.
‘They’ll be fine,’ I said.
‘They’ll have rabies,’ said Rachel firmly, turning back.
So we picked an alternate route over rocks.
‘Is that some kind of café?’
Perched up on the rocks, there were cushions piled on benches. Wind chimes made of shells blew in the wind. A vast spine arched over the ledge behind, alongside a skull, horned. An ossary café? A bone bar?
We sat down and a woman emerged, bringing olives and flatbread, placing a short menu of local fish in front of us. And we drank mint tea and watched the waves crash against the rocks. And the woman threw a bucket of fish scraps out onto the rocks and there was suddenly a moithering of dogs.
‘Ils sont sauvages,’ she said with a shrug.
Les chiens sauvages a la fin du monde. How perfect.