Rissani and the edge of Sahara

Trip Start Apr 02, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, April 8, 2006

And at last to the edge of the Sahara.

It's not quite the rolling dunes of Merzouga just yet, but sand has encroached on the road in some stretches, palm trees and small wooden fences of palm leaves hold the sand back.

The Sahara is growing each year, spreading outwards and threatening to engulf small communities on its perimeter. The water table in southern Morocco has dropped because of a dam that was built. The positives of technology for the urban masses have negatively impacted the livelihoods of the rural poor. Wells have dried up as the underwater springs no longer flow. With little water life becomes harder and the landscape desertifies.

It's hard to envision in the place of minimal water, but millions of years ago the Sahara was a seabed. There are now a plethora of fossil sellers who await our custome here, both real and fake. It seems everyone has a fossil or ten to sell.

There were huge gasps when we arrived at our hotel, kasbah style with a swimming pool (trying not to think about the environmental implcations there!)

Then Ali, Berber guide dressed in blue was met an even bigger, collective gasp and a distinctly New York-accented, "Oh my, but isn't he just gorgeous!
Ali wears the Blue Man costume. The Blue Men came from the south of the sahara into Morocco, so called for the indigo dye on their clothes that left traces on their hands.

Well-educated and endlessly patient, Ali is our guide at the local kasbah. One of our group causes hilarity by mistaking wood for wheat and Ali patiently but rather baffled, endures a conversation: Wheat! No Wood!

A local Berber family have agreed to show us their home. It's a greeat honour and our group are warned that while the family are happy to have pictures taken of themselves and their home, the other families living in their neighbourhood definitely do not want to be photographed.

The children may offer to pose for a photograph in return for a sweet, dirham or pencil, but this is forbidden. I'm sad to see that even in the face of this warning one of our group attempts to phtograph using the bribery of coloured pencils, but luckily Kate puts a stop to it ... she handles it a lot less calmly than I would have. Grrrr!

I've been silly myself once or twice in the past, not thinking an action through, but surely plain english is understandable!

Inside the family home, the mother is using a heavy grinding stone to powder henna leaves. This will be mixed with eucalyptus oil and water. I get to have a go at grinding ... and have to use both hands! I don't quite have Berber strength!

On the rooftop is a hot alcove where a clay oven bakes bread. (I guess there's no local baker here as we saw in Moulay Idriss!)

Almost as hot is the carpet cooperative that we visit. There are enough carpets to furnish hundreds of Berber tents, or as they're hoping, lots of homes overseas. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I've left my credit card at home. The salesman assures me that they take a variety of otehr payment options, including leaving the credit number at my hotel but I decide no ... that might have eventuated into one of Life's Hard Lessons rather than a Tour Leader Lesson.

Luckily his sales pitch is distracted by madfoud or Berber pizza. In a strange logic, apparently carpets walked on and with bits of pizza ground in are all the more pricier.
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