Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As you can see, it's easy to lose track of time when you're in paradise. ;) It's been a while since free time and a decent wifi connection happened in the same place, and part of me is ok with that. My last post feels like an eternity ago, as it was our first morning in L'Mahamid, the tiny village of Aomar's family. We spent that day sweltering in 125 F heat, and although some people had to check into the hotel for health purposes, the majority of us just sweated it out and were rewarded by the evening's cool breezes and desert sunset. The next day, when we were out visiting a local women's cooperative, Aomar's brothers had the "Village Depot" guy come by and install ceiling fans in the living room. :) Can you even imagine permanently changing something in your house to accommodate guests? Yet another example of Moroccan hospitality. Despite the almost unbearable daytime heat in the village, our time was spent surrounded by laughter, special family moments, and an abundance of great food. The women taught us how to make couscous (kudos to Michelle for jumping in and burning her hands to demonstrate the process) and to Bill for daring to come into the womens' realm. I think he has a new female fan club in the village! Two more nights on the roof gave us stunning views of starry nights and amazing morning walks where we all (women) turned every head in town (the same way a bunch of Moroccans walking suddenly walking around New Meadows would!) It was truly sad to have to say goodbye to the Boum clan, and I'm only speaking for us who had cooked and cleaned and played and laughed with them for three days. I can't imagine how it felt for Tara who has become like an adopted member of the family, and certainly for Aomar himself. Leaving L'Mahamid and the Foum Zguid area was especially bitter, as we then headed to the armpit of Morocco, the place where even Aomar said was only necessary as an overnight stop before we toured the ruins of Jewish settlements in the Akka area. Tata may sound exotic and fun, but don't be fooled! It's only purpose is as a military outpost, being so close to the Algerian border, we had to check in with the authorities (three times) and stop at multiple guard checkpoints. The only hotel in town had bedbugs (or something that bit half of us into submission) and the pool was filled with murky water. Let's just say that Tata won't ever be revisited by any of us. We were so thrilled the next day to leave the armpit and experience the cool ocean breezes of Plage Blanche (the white beach that really isn't, but is at least clean) near Gulmime, and only my second ocean experience (the other was in the south China Sea when I lived in Taiwan!) My east coast travel mates laughed at that one, as they finally felt like home and the Jersey shore were within reach. :) The Gulmime camel market (I foolishly stood in the middle of a moving herd with my camera - unknowingly) provided interesting insight into such a part of Moroccan life. Only 1,000 USD for a nice camel - and I hear it's tastier than lamb and low in cholesterol! Some people got to experience the Gulmime camel fest that night, but Tara took four of us to an amazing evening of henna with her friends. The most incredibly talented artists I've ever seen took henna and decorated our hands and feet in beautiful, geometric patterns. Six hours later and with gooey toes, we wrapped up in tp for the night and have done our best to slather olive oil in order to keep the dye dark. I hope you can still see some of it when I get home. It was so refreshing to finally spend some girl time - haning out talking to women our age and status, finding them to be so similar - married, taking care of kids, contributing to their families, etc. The teenage brother came in briefly to load up on food from our feast, show us a family album slideshow and play tunes from his personal playlist - like teenage boys anywhere! Of course, the tunes were Saharawi, but no matter. Tara's Gulmime family comes from the group of souther Moroccans known for speaking Haasania Arabic, and were until the 70s a nomadic family who now enjoys wealth and status in the community, the father being called, simply, "The poet" even by his own children. Tara's research on Hassania oral poetry led her to spend weeks living with and interviewing this amazing man who uses ancient traditions to keep his culture alive. The past two nights here in the coastal town of Sidi Ifni, a Spanish colony until 1969, provided such a change from camels, villages, and heat. We all want to retire here on the coast! More tonight when we get to Touradent - the Land cruisers are loading up!