A TRIP to meet BERBERS for a cup of good MINT TEA!
“With or without sugar?” An old guide asks the tourist group in French. We are at the center of a house, in some kind of patio, which needs to be entered through the main door from…well not exactly from the street but let’s say from outside. From there, you go to a gloomy kitchen, the bedrooms (separated for men and women) and some sort of a living room… oh, yes they have a TV there so we are in the present! The interior is only decorated with old carpets and wooden benches that serve both sitting and sleeping. We can forget about some fairy-tale palace.
BUT WHERE ARE WE? IN MOROCCO! In one of the numerous mountain villages scattered around the hillside of the Atlas Massif. This area is inhabited by Berbers since a very long time when they came to northern Africa (Large Berber communities also live in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya) even before the Arabs. It is the local majority group. It has its own culture, language (mix of Arab, Hebrew) and has its radio station and TV channel in Morocco. We got here after 2h of jeep drive from the closest town – Marrakech. During that time we drove up to nearly 2.000m above the sea level. Today, Morocco has about 30 million inhabitants from which 70% Arabs and 30% Berbers. It is a constitutional monarchy, a King governs the State, the administrative language is Arab and 98% of population is Sunnite Muslims.
… The lady of the house is serving a local Moroccan specialty: a very strong mint tea! I wonder where they can take this mint from in such a wasteland, that’s a mystery.. but the tea is truly aromatic and refreshing. Here, I can’t even imagine a beer or some kind of wine. The family who has two small children is not doing badly and look very happy. They own a house and behind it there are grazing goats, sheep, hens… The men usually drive to Marrakech for work and women take care of the household tasks and family. I have to say that this is actually some sort of a small ECOLOGICAL UNIT. No flushing toilets, dishwashers, washing machines… Recycling doesn’t have to be dealt with here.
Absolutely tired from the bumpy road on the mountainous dusty paths, I am relieved to leave the car. Now another visit awaits us! TRADITIONAL and very classic HOMEMADE COSMETICS! So, here I would like to qualify it as 100% NATURAL and ORGANIC. Rose petals, herbs, almonds and olives… the local female guide from Marrakech, a young student of French is trying to explain everything in English, when she recognize that I am not from France – I value this since in Morocco hardly none speaks English but most of the population can manage to communicate in French. I don’t hesitate and buy oils for massages, kohl eyeliner, roses masks for the face… Prices are very attractive…here they don’t have extra costs for advertisement!
AND THE BEST FOR THE END? The day is not finished yet… the trip with the local agency that we hired (by the way, tourists are a warmly welcomed source of income) has its ending in Marrakech (~700 thousand inhabitants), on the famous local market- souk!! After about half an hour, I am absolutely exhausted from the noise, the scents and salesmen activities making my head spin. Perhaps I should have bought myself a burka. Instead of that, I wear a knitted hat and got my hand tattooed with henna- some signs guaranteeing me love! A young girl claiming that it was for free then asked for around 50EUR!
In my other hand I have a bag with SPICES, which I actually wanted! Such a selection of choice cannot be seen in Europe. I bought a special Moroccan mix and cannot wait for the fragrant chickens “Moroccan tagine”, a local spicy specialty based on the fact that the chicken is sliced and put into a tiny stone oven along with vegetables. You spice it up and slowly steam it – healthy and tasty.
MINT TEA! Such a wonderful idea to start and end the day as well as our entire trip. One of the guys has brought us to a calm teahouse… Another lovely day in Morocco !