out to village
We were up early again this morning, as we needed an early start to go out to the villages with the trip Lahcen had planned for us. Meeting him at the hotel we walked out to the main gates. This is where the local busses leave from. It is not where we were dropped off by the grand taxi, or even the normal bus station. When we got there, it started to drizzle a little, but not a problem. Lahcen met a friend there, and it turned out that his father was a potter and also catching the same bus as us. On the way out, the father offered for us to come to his house to have tea. We thought this would be a good idea, as he is a potter, and we can see life in a traditional village. It is what we are here for anyway. After about half an hour in the bus, we come to a village and disembark. Apparently this bus stops here anyway, as everyone got off. It was better than a grand taxi, as it was only 15DH for the three of us. Anna & I had decided that if Lahcen was willing to take the time to show us around, knowing we did not have the money to pay him, the least we could do was make sure it did not cost him anything.
From this town, we walked down into a dry riverbed. You can see that there has been lots of water in this place at one stage or another, as it is quite wide, and very rocky with smooth river rocks. It looks like they are creating a new road to connect the villages on either side to each other. This is a good idea, as the sprinkle of ran we were having was enough to turn the ground into a very slippery clay/mud. A few puddles were starting to form, and as we went up the bank on the other side we entered the next village. Winding our way up the narrow laneways between houses, we came across another house, where they make soap. Invited in, we went and sat down. Everyone was very welcoming, and although we were only in part of the house that was under construction, it was dry and cozy. The different soaps came out, beautifully pressed and wrapped. There were citrus, almond, argon and amber scented ones. We are still not sure what Amber is,as it is not the sap from fossilised trees? Here it seems to be a plant.
We were told how the ingredients are just collected from in the village, and there are over 300 types of herbs in the area. Thinking it would be nice to have a good scented soap (as they were good) we asked the price. It was a bit of a shock to find that the starting price was 200DH. AU$22! WTF? They are not that good are they? I suppose they could have been lovingly handcrafted by virgins (I doubt it, we met the mother that made them, and she was sweet, but…) using water from the fountain of youth (I think that is supposed to be east of the mediterranean though) and essences of divine beauty (This at least could be possible, as there are some stunningly beautiful people here, and they do age well). But even if all this was true, they were out of our price range. On leaving Anna was presented with one of these beautiful soaps as a present and welcome to the village.
From the house of soap, we made our way uphill, and started to see broken shards of pottery lining the pathway, so we knew we were close. By this time it had started to rain properly, so we were glad to be there, and could wait for the rain to stop in comfort. As Omar Haida (the potter) has his property on top of the hill, it overlooks the valley, and on a clear day you can see Taroudant in the distance. However today, you could could see the mountains disappearing into the clouds. It was still an impressive sight.
On entering the building, we were greeted with a large courtyard with two trees in the middle. The buildings surrounded it, and each had their own entrances off the courtyard. It was a traditional Riad. Led into the closest doorway, we came into a long building, the length of the courtyard. It was simply furnished, with rugs on the floor, and pillows around the wall. Long, and narrow considering its length. There was a window looking out into the courtyard, and a smaller one high up on the opposite wall. The ceiling was large wooden beams with smaller bamboo like reeds covering the roof. We found out that it is a traditional Adobe building. Made by hard-pressed clay, and earthen roof above the reeds. Plastered in white. It is very well done, and the entire structure would suit Mimili well. Thick walls for insulation, and simple to build.
On arriving, we sat and talked for a bit. Lahcen acting as translator for Omar. It was a little hard at times, but quite enjoyable. The tea arrived, and we sat there drinking it. Omar’s wife came in for a bit, and his daughter in law. Wee did the usual of explaining where we came from, and what we were doing in Morocco, where we had seen, which at this stage was very little, and where we were going. The rain had picked up a bit, but it was very good here. The daughter was making fresh bread, and we were treated to breakfast of still warm flat bread (the best we have had in Morocco!), olive oil and honey. There were olives on offer as well, but we had to explain that our taste buds had not grown up with olives, and they are too strong a flavour for us. After this, Omar decided to give us a display of his skills.
This was great. We were led back to the entrance, where his potters wheel is discreetly positioned. We had missed it on coming in. There is a hole in the ground that he jumped into, half dissapearing. Everything is arrayed around him, and in easy reach. The top of the wheel is flush with the ground, and the kick wheel underneath. It was an interesting sight when he got started, as all you can see is him from the waist up, and part of the ground spinning around! He showed his skill as a craftsman, by the speed and dexterity of organising the clay, separating some off, kneading it, and placing it on an upturned bowl. This he then smoothed over the bowl, adding bits, and cutting off others, and in a matter of moments he had created a good sized bowl with decorations. This was the first style he showed us. It is one half of a large urn, and he would create a mirror image of it, and join the two together. Then he did some more traditional (well, like the stuff they tried to teach me at school) pieces.
Within minutes he had created a jug, cup and other pieces. It was a real pleasure to watch him work. I think he knew how impressed we were, as he said this was nothing, and started pulling out pieces that we thought were just there drying, and started assembling them. It was a fountain that was as tall as he was! It is a custom order, and apparently when finished worth 1500DH. Worth every cent if he doubled the price! It was magnificent. Then we had a demonstration of glazing, and the patterns he uses. All natural oxides are used, and he paints them on using a brush, while spinning the plates around on the wheel.
The rain had not eased up yet, so he invited us to stay for lunch. This turned out to be Tangine. Mostly meat with oils in the bottom. Perfect for soaking up in more fresh bread. It was delicious. The family joined us again in the afternoon, and while talking, they said they were ashamed they did not speak english, as we were the guests, and they wanted to be able to freely talk to us. This made us feel bad, as we are in their country, and they feel bad for not speaking our language? We should speak theirs, and said so. This turned into an Arabic lesson. Lahcen went to sleep while Anna and I played a mixture of Pictionary, Charades and guess the word, as we learnt a little arabic. The numbers were easy to work out (but not remember) but finding out the word for Rain, a lot harder. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, and we got to learn a lot from it (we can now order black or white tea & coffee in Arabic!).
The rain continued on obliviously. At some stage in the afternoon, we found out that the river was running! We mentioned that we should get going so as to not get stuck here, but this was out of the question. We had to stay until the rain stopped. Aziz, Omars son came in after dark, and said the river was flooded, and he had walked all the way upstream to another crossing, then come back through the mountains. It looked like we were here for the night. Aziz is great. He speaks french,and although it is another language we dont understand (well Anna gets a bit of it) we had a ball taking to him. It did sound as though the trip is long and dangerous though. Dinner was another tangine, and we slipped Omar 50DH, as we did not want him out of pocket. We are already imposing a lot. Tea had turned into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and staying overnight! The poor bloke. With their hospitality, it also felt as if guests couldn’t be left alone, so there was always somebody with us, and they probably had things they wanted to do, but couldn’t, because of the stranded tourists.
Mattresses were set up for us for the night. This dislodged a scorpion, that was happily living in one of the folds. It put us a bit on edge, but we were told the big black scorpions were happy, and would not attack. It is the small yellow ones you have to look out for! Thanks. It is pouring down rain outside. Everything is saturated, and the water is coming up out of the ground. Where are these small yellow scorpions going to go?
We turned in for the night, and reacted to every unexpected brush of the blankets. During the night Anna woke up with something on her feet. Thinking it was a cat, she kicked it off, and went back to sleep. Later, there was a heavy weight up above her knees. She freaked out a bit, and called out “Andrew, Andrew, whats on me?!” I grabbed the torch and shone it onto Anna’s legs. There was nothing there, and I went back to sleep. In the mean time, Anna was completely freaking out. Anna could not sleep well after that, and again, felt something crawling up the left side of her leg (Andrew was on the right), she shone her torch at it, and found it was Lahcen. Turning to Andrew, she said “Oh Fork, its him!” Lahcen then got up and started throwing pillows around the room. Had a cigarette, and moved his mattress. Then he started playing with his torch, and set it to some kind of disco setting that threw coloured lights around the room! Anna then resolved not to sleep any more tonight, and spent the next few hours sitting upright, jealously looking at Andrew snoring away. Worried about the next time the guy would try to crawl into her bed. Thinking about how she would smack the daylights out of him. Her only company was hearing the patter of the rain all night.