Saturday, October 17, 2009

Southern Reaches

I’m back in the south. The deep south this time. About as far as Peace Corps Volunteers are allowed to travel in Morocco. We cannot travel into the Western Sahara-a disputed territory that Morocco claims to be a part of their country, but its residents insist is independent. Thus our travel restriction.

I’m in a place called Tamegroute, just south of Zagora. We’re talking dusty (but not sandy), palmeries, first camels that weren’t just posing for tourists, dress is tribal and more conservative, a hint of the “blue men” of the Sahara-the men here wear a traditional light blue overshirt. It’s still hot here, thank goodness it’s fall-cannot imagine the heat of summer.

It takes 2 very long days of travel to get here. One full day to Marrakech and one full day to Zagora, with Tamegroute ½ hour south of Zagora.

My first good sign of the trip was being able to read the Arabic timetable in the train station in Fes-the first on listed was for “mraksh”-wow-I’m starting to read Arabic (started on reading just recently-don't have the entire alphabet down yet)

My PCV friend Lisa and I were supposed to meet up on the train in Rabat (3 hrs from Fes), but she missed the train, so it was another 4 hours boring riding solo. That was the bad news.

We spent the night in Marrakech and caught the bus in the morning for Zagora. Rode 5 hours to Ouarzazate thru the High Atlas Mountains. Really a beautiful ride-red clay soil, beautiful topography, all mud houses-you have to stare into the hillside to realize there’s a town there.

We stop on the way to Ouarzazate for lunch/break. I get out to stretch my legs and realize I’m not feeling so well. My system’s been a bit swiya all week, but now I’m feeling kinda like I’m seasick. How weird. Then it dawns on me. Duh. I’m carsick. Never been carsick before. Going thru the windy mountains got to me. Bummer, but at least that’s all it is. System is still swiya but the nausea will go away.

In Ouarzazate we pick up 4 more PCVs. We’re all going to a pottery workshop/focus group that PCV Soyoun has put together. We’re staying in her house-taking turns cooking, etc. We “threw” pots yesterday and cleaned them up today. Lunch every day prepared by her host family, so we eat well.

Tamegroute is on a main road to the Sahara, so it gets tour buses. There’s a Riad (small hotel in the Kasbah) just across the dirt field from Soyoun’s, and the Swiss/German woman who owns it lets us use her wireless-just costs us the price of a Diet Coke or a small dish of her unbelievably rich homemade cardamom ice cream. Hamdullah.

The people here are very welcoming, although we may have been a sight this morning when we went to souk to get veggies. Morocco is traditionally more conservative in the south, and in these parts, the women don’t go to souk-it’s men only. So I imagine it was a bit of a surprise for 5 of us to show up at souk at 7am this morning! Wish I had my camera (although I don’t tend to take photos in places like souk-seems too intrusive) to show you all the date vendors and their “wares”. This is prime date country and the variety is endless. Quite the sight.

We’ve got some downtime while we’re here. Tomorrow we’ll hike to the river where the potters get their clay, and decorate pieces w/henna-apparently henna comes in several different colors. We’ll glaze the pieces we made on Monday-they have a distinctive green manganese glaze in this area. They fire them and we leave on Wednesday morning. Inshallah there will also be time to get to see some dunes/desert just south of here, still within our travel area, as apparently we only need one night and return in the morning. Maybe Monday night?? Will let you know.

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