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Published: July 20th 2015
Nothing much came to pass in Imlil, which is exactly what the gods intended when they made it, and exactly what we had hoped for when we decided to go there for a few days. After days in the thick sweltering heat of Marrakesh, we were in need of a respite. Climbing higher and higher into the sky, under the watchful eye of Jebel Toubkal – the highest peak in North Africa – we finally saw the small yellow sign for Dour Samra. We jumped out of the taxi and began the trek down into the small village to find our lodging. Douar Samra is a kind of paradise on earth - along with 6 small bohemian inspired guestrooms and a treehouse - there is a small organic garden, a loud winnowing mule, a very tubby cat, lots of chickens and three guardians – Mohammed, Omar and Rachida - who watch over the property and care for the guests.
We spent three days at Douar Samra cherishing the sweet cool breeze, playing checkers in the shade, lazily reading on the terraces, and walking around the surrounding hills. Most of our interactions were with Rachida, the cook, and with Mohammed, one
of the guardians. Mohammed seemed very at peace with his life and his job. Unlike many of our hosts, who gave the impression that they wanted to ‘serve the guest’ and be done, Mohammed wanted to hang. Even though Mohammed spoke extremely little English, and us very little Arabic or French, we had quite a few conversations with him over the time we were there. He would bring us mint tea and cookies and then launch into conversation about god-knows-what in a mixture of French and Arabic while we smiled and nodded our heads. In pantomime I tried to ask him about his family, he responded in French about Ramadan and how they couldn’t eat until day break – a subject on everyone’s mind apparently. In fact almost every time we talked to Mohammed the conversation turned to dinner, “dinner time – SEVEN” he told us, pointing to his watch. The first night, unaccustomed to being on such a tight schedule, we arrived to the terrace at 7:15pm. He looked at us sternly and repeated over and over “dinner time SEVEN. SEVEN.” Later, we discerned that the reason he was so concerned with being precise, was because he could break
his fast at 7:45pm, and thus wanted to be done serving guests by that time. We made sure not to be late again.
On our second day we decided to try to hike to the top of the mountain pass to get a better glimpse of the valley and take some photos from above. Mohammed pointed up the mountainside and said “zig zag, mules, mule poop, boutique, picture, come back, dinner time SEVEN. SEVEN.” Anxious to not be late for dinner, we took off up the mountain in the direction he pointed. Turns out his directions were extremely accurate – we zig zagged up the hill following a narrow trail blazed by mules. If we ever got lost, we could look for mule poop to find our way back to the trail. We hiked up hill for about an hour and a half, first following a small river, then through a grove of pines, past boulders, buzzing insects, and plenty of mule poop. As we approached the top of the hill, my eyes searched the skyline for the “boutique”. I was envisioning Berber women huddled over their wares – beautiful handmade jewelry, bright carpets, etc. In fact, the ‘boutique’
turned out to be a small shack, with two old men hanging out selling water. It was just as welcome a sight. There is nothing quite like hiking up a mountain in Morocco in the middle of the day in the summer, to make you appreciate the value of water. We hiked back down, and at 6:45pm Mohammed was already there, giving us the look, “dinner at SEVEN”.
On our last morning we opted to take a ride with Phillippe, a Belgium gentleman who was also staying there, to the next town over, Asni, and then find a taxi from there back to Marrakesh. Mohammed and his daughter, who was 10, caught a ride with us, as he wanted to take her to the doctor. Her right foot was in a bandage. I wandered how much the doctor cost, how they would pay for it, if she was in pain. Arriving in Asni we were bombarded with men trying to sell us things. Wanting to do something small for the daughter, I seized the opportunity to buy her a small necklace. In the chaos of the moment, she hugged me and kissed my cheeks over and over saying “merci
beaucoup, merci beaucoup”. I wish I could’ve gotten to know her better. Minutes later we were smooshed in a car with 5 other Moroccan men (3 in the front, 4 of us in back) on our way back to Marrakesh.
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