Edit Blog Post
Published: December 21st 2012
Plastic bags and bottles littered the road and tossed and bubbled in the river. Blue, green, plastic flags snagged on branches brought down by the last flow from the mountains. Icily grey water was not in fact cold, just plastic strewn.
Omar, father of 3 boys who lives 20km out of Marrakech and doesn’t see his wife much, was driving us up to the Atlas Mountains through the Ourika valley. This job meant that he might have to sleep in his shared taxi as he might not be able to get home tonight.
As we passed the Formula 2 racing track built on former agricultural land he told us about the new developments and new occupations created by the new King to bring in money.
As pleasant as Omar is, he is of course beholden to various establishments to deposit his taxi-full of tourists to ‘view and experience’ the local culture.
He was an astute judge of his clientele. No large tourist shops but an ‘authentic’ Berber house, home to a family of 10, 3 generations, of which the patriarch, a genial, kindly man, said Omar, had just died.
We looked around their shop, peeped into
their rooms of their house, somewhat voyeuristically it must be said and sat around a squat round table drinking the ubiquitous mint tea.
We were good tourists. We bought some jewellery and a platter.
Next stop was a women’s co-operative showcasing Argan oil made from the indigenous Argan nuts which thankfully now are not collected from goat droppings as in days of yore. A fairly slick process saw us through a workshop with women demonstrating how the oil is processed and up, fairly smartly, to the showroom and products produced offsite.
Some very delicious nut butter and very expensive face cream later, ‘guaranteed to make your skin younger,’ we were on our way. How we all fall for that promised miracle!
We passed chairs and tables set out down by the river and some even placed in the river.
‘It is so full of people here in the Summer you wouldn’t believe it,’ Omar told us, ‘it takes maybe one hour and a half to drive from one end of the valley to the other. People come from everywhere to cool down in the river, to work for a couple of months. They
maybe bring a small tent and put it like here.’ He gestured to a small gap between the rocky cliffs at the side of the road.
With temperatures having reached 53 degrees Celsius in Marrakech during the daytime and only cooling to 40 degrees at nighttimes this past summer, it is no wonder they thronged here in droves.
We sat next to the water enjoying our tagines, ignoring the many guides determined to take us up to the waterfall. Later we continued to dodge the gauntlet and wandered up past the village where women were washing clothes and sheets on glacial stones of the river bed as it widened before reaching confines of the village houses and the steep hillsides.
In 1995 during heavy rains in the watershed area of the High Atlas Mountains a log jam built up behind a concrete bridge further upstream. The bridge broke and a surge of water released its pents up energy on all before it. In 15 minutes it was all over. Sheer devastation with hundreds of lives lost and no guarantee that it won’t happen again.
Tot: 2.175s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 22; qc: 106; dbt: 0.0527s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.5mb