Morocco was a whirlwind of bikes, scooters, heat and extremely pushy/ enthusiastic merchants, selling everything from slippers to spices. It is a place where you need to watch your back for bikes; or otherwise be mowed down, and be careful of eye contact unless, that is, you really want to buy something.
On the first day the level of activity in Marrakech was frightening, from the strongest old lady I've ever encountered pulling on my arm and trying to give me a henna tattoo, to a myriad of weaving lanes stretching endlessly through the city, with everything imaginable for sale on them. Eventually though, a young guy, who was fairly easy going and friendly, directed us (my manager and I) to his spice shop. (Although, it turned out that he didn't have a spice shop at all. Like many others, he made his living by getting people to visit a particular shop and then getting a tip from the shopper. This time we happily obliged.)
The "spice shop" was in fact a venue for more than spices, it was more like a holistic stop off. Providing herbs and spices, medical advice and massages (not the dodgy kind) to both locals and tourists. They had a little demonstration area (three women on a mini production line), where the spices and medicines were ground and made; and a room packed with shelf after shelf of spices and ingredients; most of them I'd never heard of. We were shown a medley of herbs, spices and local produce and smelt poignant varieties of different fragrances.
We had two days to explore Morocco before starting to film the video but by 3pm on the second day my nerves were completely frayed by the Moroccan heat and the hard sell of the souks (open-air market places), so we headed back to the hotel to rest and get the outfits ready for the video shoot.
At 6am the following morning we took a five-hour coach trip over the mountains to Ouarzazate (pronounced 'Wazazat'). I slept most of the way and the journey passed remarkably fast. It wasn't over though and from Ouarzazate, we were collected by Martin (the producer) and taken another two hours by car to Zagora, this is where we would spend the next two days shooting the Desert Without a Stream video against the backdrop of the dunes and oases of Morocco.
All I wanted to do by this point was get in the pool at the hotel but there was no time for that; it was imperative to use what daylight we had left that day. So, hair and make-up "did", we loaded up into two cars (we met the rest of the crew, six in total, at the hotel in Zagora where they had been based for three days already to find locations for the shoot), and out we went to the sand dunes of Zagora. It was just like something out of The Jewel of the Nile; rolling hills of perfectly undisturbed sand; all with those little wavy lines on them caused by the wind.
By the time we started the shoot it was around 5pm so the sun was cooling down and it would set soon, so the first half-day of filming wasn't too sweltering. I spent the rest of the evening walking around the dunes, playing in the sand and singing into the setting sun.
The second day in Zagora would be a full day of shooting, from sun up to sun down, and it was gruelling. After a dubious night's sleep, we got up at 5am; completed hair and make-up again; had breakfast (just coffee); and headed back out into Zagora. This time we started in an oasis. Yes, one of those almost mythical places that spring up out of aridity with swathes of lush greenery and, in this case, figs; lots and lots of figs.
The crew had pulled in the services of a local man (who happened to own an oasis?!?) and his horse. It would be the horse's role in the video to lead me to salvation - from the dry and windy dunes to the abundant oasis. And so, I spent the morning, as the sun rose, following the horse around, trying to look disorientated (there was some ham acting in there), taking lots of pictures between shots, and marvelling at the beauty of Morocco. By 9pm that night, when the day's shoot was over, as you can imagine, I was so desperate to feel something other than 50-degree heat that I prayed for something like Manchester rain.
On the last day we made the trip back to Marrakech by road, it was time to go home. But, before finally being able to get in the shade, we stopped half way to film against the cracked bed of a dried river. Lying there under the heat of an African sun in August, once more, was the final test of the old endurance. The job was over, and yet there was still one more thing to do; and that was the hardest point of the entire trip.
Back home with the drizzle and the cloud, the final edit of the video is done, and it was well worth the journey. Morocco, and my sand-dune-burned feet are an indelible memory.