Walk with Zack
No maintenance on good buildings – theft & Vandalism
Back to Bhalil
Hangin’ with Ahmed
When we got up, we found Mother Aisha had been up since 6am carting water up to the cave for the day. There is no stopping her! Zachariah was slightly hung over from the alcohol he drank, the kif he had smoked, and the space cake he had eaten, but ready to take us for a walk to the waterfalls and around the area.
Our first stop was up in the town, where we could get a good view of the lay of the land. During summer, it is where the women sit in the evening making little silk buttons to be sown onto wedding dresses. Apparently this tradition was started by Jewish women, but is now continued by Berbers. There is a lot of people that talk about the old days when the Berbers and Jews lived together in harmony. My thoughts on this, without knowing the history or anything, is that if it worked so well together, why did they all decide to leave?
Walking out of town, we were on top of a plateau. It was undergoing cultivation, the same as any bit of land here that isn’t entirely made up of rocks. A lot of large cactuses marked out individual plots. There was one field being ploughed and seeded.
Wandering around, Zachariah took us to where a deep valley opened up. From a little distance, you would not even know it was there. Slowly winding our way down, we could see the river flowing at the bottom. About half way down we came across an irrigation canal, and followed this. The construction is fairly new, but mainly just repairs of an old Roman set up. There are even sections where they have tunnelled through the rock to keep the water flowing where they want it. As we descended we could see laundry being hung out on the other side of the valley. People here are still using small caves as their houses. Not sure if it is a temporary set up whilst looking after the flocks with another place in town, or if it is their home. Most probably it is their home year round. We cross over the river and find a lock system, still in use diverting the water off into different directions and hights. It is amazing the amount of work and knowledge used in their construction. From here, we got a peek at a building that appeared through the trees. It looked impressive. Built on the side of the hill, with a good view.
As we got closer, we found out that the building was derelict. The insides have been gutted, with everything of value being taken. I can understand this to an extent. If the building has been abandoned, and you need something for your place. However the mindless vandalism that goes with it I cannot. The building itself is near a waterfall, and when it was made, the person took their time. Constructing an elaborate series of viewing platforms and a small pool for swimming underneath. The pool is silted up, with only the stream going through, but the terraces are still there and in fairly good condition. It would have been marvellous to spend a few days there when it was in its glory. It is still a very nice place to relax for a while, and in summer would be fantastic. The person that built the place died years ago, and his children closed it down and abandoned it. A shame, but that’s the way it is. Apparently it is for sale, but would need to be demolished and rebuilt now.
From this waterfall, we walked the back way to Sefrou. It is a pretty walk, and there is water and plants everywhere. Occasionally you can see doors built into the cliff side, but there is no indicators on if they are garage’s, storage, or houses. Back in Sefrou, we could admire the walls built up around the old town. When the French were here they introduced a law saying that new constructions could only be on the hills, leaving the fertile land below for crops. This is why Sefrou was known as the Garden of Morocco. Houses on the hills, with gardens and fields surrounding it. Now, however the town is spreading out in all directions. The Medina is like most other places we have seen. Small winding streets filled with vendors and customers. Fruit & Veg stalls side by side with Mobile phone shops and tailors. There are barbers, gold and shoes on offer everywhere you look. We were given a quick tour of this by Zachariah, after he hit us up for money to go buy more alcohol.
At the end of the “tour” we were back at his place. A small room on the roof of a building. Simply laid out with a small place for cooking and his bed. Not much, but only 350Dh a month in rent. Drinking tea and by now, wanting to be out of there. Zachariah is OK, and although Anna had her alarm bells going off, we think he was harmless. Although, by now, I was thoroughly sick of the same stories being told every 5 minutes. He would keep muttering things along the lines of Janice Joplin coming back alive, and singing snippets of songs. We think that back in the day, he had a bad trip and is not all there mentally. When we could, we made our excuses and left. It was too late to move on by now, and we hadn’t planned on going to Sefrou at all. Getting lost as we tried to find the taxi station, and eventually making it back to Bhalil at dusk.
Bhalil is a pretty little town, and there is one street that has a deep canal running through the centre. Although dry at the moment, you can imagine what it would be like with fast flowing water. There are many small bridges crossing it every 20 or so meters. All the way up the hill. It gives the town a bit of special charm. The special thing about the town, other than the troglodyte dwellings (caves) is that it was founded by the Romans. There are people born here that look Irish. They have red hair and freckles. The traditional dress is still a white toga, the same as it has been for centuries.
Now we were here for another night. This was not a problem though, and Mother Aisha had cooked us dinner! When we were in Sefrou, we had gotten veggies together to cook, but we were not allowed to use them. Dinner turned out to be a chicken tanjine, and was fantastic. She was feeling better at the time, and was happy to watch us eat it all. During the night Zachariah turned up again. He had a long conversation with her. This turned to mortality, and what would happen when she left. She was worried that the cave would be abandoned, and since she was born there, and all her children were born there, she wanted someone to continue the old traditions. I think she realises that she is the last of a generation, and with her passing, a lot of the history, culture and traditions will go with her. It was a bit depressing, and we felt rather awkward being there. On that note however, she is a wonderful woman, cared for by the entire village, and we feel honoured to have had the chance to meet her.
The rest of the evening was spent with Ahmed. A sweet guy living next door that really cares for Mother Aisha. He & his wife were fantastic, and at one stage when we could get a translator, he said there was no need, as we were doing well as it was! Even though they only spoke Berber.
We were quite pleased to hear the next morning that the disturbance we had heard during the night was Zachariah misbehaving, and she had beaten the crap out of him!