Edit Blog Post
Published: March 20th 2010
After 4 days in Tanger with Zakaria the plan was to catch a bus or hitch to Fés for a few nights and then head directly to Mauritania, but as 'luck' would have it Mohamed, whose brother was the groom at one of the weddings I attended, saw me walking out of the city and offered a ride. We visited Chefchaouen, a little blue tourist village, then went to see some of his family in a tiny village nearby in the mountains. After plenty of tea, a Moroccan crepe dinner cooked over an open fire, and plenty of laughing at our attempts to communicate I accepted their invitation to stay for a day or two, which turned out to be two weeks.
Besides the occasional hike into the mountains with Moha's cousin, most of my time was spent following the women around attemping to help but mostly just getting in the way and providing a good source of laughter as I tried to learn a little of their way of life. Everything is done from scratch; even the olive oil and flour are harvested nearby the village. They had many efficient systems for living off the land with limited/unreliale electricity
and without running water (drinking water is carried a kilometer from a well, always by women, and generally about 25 litres per load). One of these 'systems' is once a week a group of women get up early to hike a few miles up the side of a mountain to reach a gorge where a certain type of bush grows. They hack them apart, bundle them on their backs in loads at least 150% their size, and hike back (despite my constant slipping on the wet rocks on route to the gorge they reluctantly let me carry back a small bundle). The bundles are fed to the goats who eat off all the leaves, leaving bundles of perfect firewood which is in turn used to cook everything from the giant loaves of bread baked daily to the stews and Friday couscous we shared in a communal dish for every meal.
Besides spending time with Aicha and Hasnaa, the wives of Moha's two cousins, the 6 kids were a great source of fun despite the solid language barrier (not a single person spoke anything but Arabic). Ahmed, Fatimazora, Hafida, Heba, Mohamed and Yassier, between 3 and 11, did their best
to teach me games and the language, and I recipricated with karate lessons and many hours of carrying them around playing rollercoaster.
Id like to write more about the village life and the plenty of time I had for reflections, but time is short so overall all I can say is that it was an incredible experience with amazingly warm and welcoming people ; taking in a complete stranger who speaks none of your language for two weeks and constantly insisting they get the best of everthing is quite the comendable task, and I can say I learned a lot about hospitality.
Mohamed had gone back home to Spain after the first night, but he ended up coming back down to pick me up and we toured more of northern Morocco together. Visited a friend of his who owns a very interesting farm whose product I wont detail here, but I quite enjoyed learning the very praticular ways cette product is harvested, packaged, and shipped into Europe. It explained all the expensive houses and wealth of the region.
The next day was back north to Tetouan for one more visit to the Mediteranean, then down to Fés
for a night with another friend of Mohamed's who gave us a first class tour of the Medina part of the city including an insiders tour of where most of Moroccan leather hides are skinned, tanned and dried; Ill never look at a purse the same.
Next we drove to Rabat, slept in the car and did the tourist route in the morning including visiting yet another giant palace belonging to the King of Morocco who is more popular a celebrity here than any star is in Hollywood. Then headed to Casablanca, which sounds like it might be charming but is actually a sprawling city of 7 million people and the polluted factory centre of Morocco. Nevertheless we spent 2 nights there with yet another friend of Moha, this time one who owns a cafe and bakery, and I was quite content with the baking lessons and freedom to sample as I pleased...mmmmm 😊
After a great week of touring with Moha it was time for me to continue my journey, and finding the Mauritanean embassy in Rabat and arranging for me to stay with a family their, Moha headed back to Madrid and I was on my
own again. Got my visa the next day and found a ride leaving from the embassy south towards the Marrakesh (the Mauritanean embadssy is a great place to hitch a ride from - everyone is driving to Senegal and apparetly people leave daily who are going directly to Senegal to sell cars bought in Europe). Samba dropped me just outside Marrakesh and I very easily hitched a ride to the other side of the city.
After turning down 3 rides within 10 minutes (not because I felt unconfotable but because I figured I'd wait for one going all the way to the next city), I accepted a ride from Aziz who I have ended up staying with for the past two nights 10 km north of Zagora in a Casbah on the edge of a giant oasis of palm trees in the desert. Its absolutely beautiful here, a mix of Arab, Berber and Haratine cultures with houses built of sand and camel caravans for the desert leaving daily (there's a sign on the edge of town saying its 52 days in camel caravan to Timboctou). We met some of Aziz's family and hiked through the oasis, and today we
drove to M'Hamid, the last village before the Sahara literally located at the end of the road. We went with a guide friend of his for a 3 hour camel tour and came within about 20 km from the Algerian border, seeing a nomad family and lots of sand dunes littered with Acacia trees along the way. The Sahara is absolutely gorgeous and at this time of year the weather is perfect, although with the strength of the sun I have been quite happy to wear the full Tuareg type scarf as many of the local women do, so no tan for me 😊
Hope this was a good update, and yes it was rather overdue 😊 Hope to write again soon, next its further along the road towards Mauritania!!
Tot: 0.032s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 10; qc: 19; dbt: 0.0052s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb