Our long journey today took us through what is known as the anti – Atlas range – a lower range than the high Atlas on a ride of spectacular beauty. Massively deformed bedding planes in the red hills, coupled with the ruins of an occasional Kasbah, small villages, herds of goats and sheep all along a winding river bed surrounded in many places with date palms was stunning.
I have spoken about cemeteries earlier on this blog, how bodies are aligned on their right side, head facing east and how traditionally graves are not marked except for stones. Although the practise of not marking graves with names is slowly changing – many traditional graveyards still exist. Stones are placed at the head end of the grave and at the feet of the deceased person and all graves are facing Mecca – head first. Size difference was apparent in the resting place we visited today, small distances between head and foot stone indicated children, longer spans indicative of adults. A few actual markers were also present.
Berbers or Imazighan
A good deal of the travel time was taken up with a discussion on the indigenous people of North Africa living west of the Nile Valley – who we know as the Berbers – but who are actually the Imazighen (or free people)
The connection between the Imazighen and the land is strong as is their belief in freedom. Although many have settled in towns and cities, 20% of the Berber population still practises the nomadic life- most in the Saghru mountain area in the High Atlas.
Successive waves of outside peoples entered Morroco over the centuries. The first were the Phoenicians who established trade routes, the next were the Romans who had other interests, the Romans were followed by the Arabs, then the Portuguese, Spain and France. The Berbers were named by the Romans – loosely translated it means wild ones or barbarians – who considered the nomadic indigenous people as uncivilized according to their standards….. . The language is one of the oldest in the world and was finally recognized in 2004 in Algeria and Morocco and is now taught in schools in both countries. One interesting Berber festival in the High Atlas is called the Festival of Marriage. The beginning of this festival arose from a Romeo and Juliet like a story of a boy and a girl – who wished to marry but were prevented from doing so by their families who were in conflict with one another. The young couple died from sorrow after crying for 40 days and nights – their tears creating two lakes (a version of cry me a river ). Their families reconciled after the tragedy and began the festival in the area of the two Lakes. This where nomadic boys and girls can meet. At the end of the festival all the young end up in a circle. A boy will point a stick at his bride of choice – if she accepts she takes the stick. If she does not she breaks the stick. Nice and clean in any case 🙂
Dropping down out of the Anti-Atlas took us through Saffron fields, Argon orchards, olive and citrus groves. The Moroccan oranges are right up there with the Mexican ones I have enjoyed so much during my travels there. Large herds of goats inhabit this region – some climb trees and we stopped to photograph their acrobatics. What the owners of the Argon trees they were munching away on while 20 feet above the ground thought is unknown…..\
Taroudant is our stop for the night. We are here for two nights to recuperate from our busy schedule, as well as get some laundry done. The hotel is lovely and I plan to spend sometime at and in the pool tomorrow.