Monday, April 29, 2013

Salaam Alaikum Morocco

Our night of wonder in the desert brought a morning with another glorious sunrise.  After an early coffee in the cook tent with my new friends, communicating as only those with no common language can, we packed up and trekked out of the desert.  Two days on a camel convinced me I could not ride again, so I walked the knife edge dunes while the camels walked below.

We left the desert with regret, and headed to the mountains.  After a wonderful night in a hotel with hot showers in Boumalne Dades, We drove through the valley of a thousand Kasbahs, and hiked in the M’Goun Valley.  Our home for the next two nights was in the small Berber village of Bou Tharar.  On treks around the Valley of the roses, we forded streams, and walked through villages of irrigated plots and water wheels.  Each village had a painted wall that was used for voting in elections, a simple system that we should consider in the US.
We found joy in the mountains too.  Our second day of hiking was tough for me, it was rainy and cold.  Back at our small Kasbah hotel, it was good to rest.  There was an old TV in the kitchen/dining area, and we began to get text messages about Hurricane Sandy.  A number of our group were concerned about the danger to their friends, homes and businesses.  One of the drivers managed to find a snowy BBC English language station, but the news blurb was only a few minutes and it repeated the same images. 
Dinner that night was in the cozy dining area next to the kitchen.  I think the word had spread in the village that we were worried about our homes.  A few people from the village came and brought drums.  Our drivers played them and again we listened to the sounds of music.
Then they gave Ruth the drum, and she began to try to play, but the beat was complex and hard to follow.  Ruth said she felt like Lucy crashing Ricky’s show.  That was when we learned our second Berber word. 
I shouted to Ruth over the drums, play Babalou.  Omar and the rest of our Berber friends looked at me, and Omar asked why I said that word.  I knew we had another discovery and asked him what it meant.  He said he could not say.  I told him he had to tell us.  Omar reminded me of the other Berber word we had learned, “you remember what hold on means”.  I said yes, the Berber word for “balls”.  Well, he said, Babalou is the word for the other part.  What are the odds that the only two Berber words we would learn would completely describe the male anatomy?
It was a jolly night, and messages came through by morning telling our group their homes and friends were safe.  We went on a cold wet climb in the mountains, and then continued our journey.  We stopped and visited with nomads, we went through Ouarzazate when they were filming Game of Thrones, we saw mountain passes and salt mines and ancient mosques and new ones that had the same ceramics and woods.  We walked the Ounila Valley and got an ancient Berber man to take the first picture of his life, a final picture of our group with all of us, and Omar and the drivers.
 Although we had a little time ahead of us, I think we had passed the peak of the journey when we left the Atlas Mountains. Our journey ended in Marrakech, a city of lights and spice and souks.
For me, Morocco was imprinted with three key days, the souk in the medina in Fez, the night in the desert in the feast of Eid al-Adha, and the night we waited for news, with friends and drums in the Mount M’Goun Inn in Bou Tharar.
There is joy in the sights you see on a journey like this, but there is greater joy when you feel a connection to a place and its people, however brief.  I was lucky to find that connection in the people who journeyed with me.
Salaam alaikum Morocco.
A new journey awaits me.

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