Down From the Mountains and Fes-ready
Where we were in the High Atlas
We have returned to Marrakesh after an adventure-filled four days in the High Atlas Mountains. Our challenging trek to Tizzi Oussem offered us some spectacular views around 2000 meters, and the genuine hospitality at the Berber gite (guest house) was welcome and rejuvenating. Each night, the stars were storybook-like in their abundance and glimmer. The geography, mud-brick architecture, natural surroundings, and very simple--but strenuous--lifestyle of these endearing mountain people provided us a very different dimension than our urban experiences to date. Our two days in another small village, Tassa Ouirgane, allowed us to be in a more stationary and observant frame of mind: we met scores of friendly and curious school children, the village's lone but committed teacher (who commutes from Marrakesh, about 90 minutes away), visited their wanting, windowless school, and were serenaded with a couple of songs they recently learned. Michele contributed numerous solar-powered calculators and pens that she had brought with her, and there was talk among the students of trying to raise money for some of the school's most pressing needs. We also met with four endearing Berber women in an informal roundtable and captured a glimpse of their very modest lives, needs (another cow, more rain), desires (some furniture), and dreams (visiting America got top billing here). Some of us also observed an initial meeting of the men's village association--at night, powered by gas lamp. Finally, we visited a women's carpet-making cooperative in Asni which has improved the lives of many women who were previously unemployed; in a notable gesture promoting sustainable development and ecotourism, this co-op was recently engaged by Richard Branson's new, nearby luxury property, Kasbah Tamadot, to create all its carpets.
I would suspect that most of us descended the mountains with renewed awareness of our fortune and privilege. The kindness emblematic of The High Atlas has no apparent material origin.