Trip Start May 01, 2001
44Trip End Jun 30, 2001
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Day 390: 4 hours, 2.1—total: 5.7 kms
Moulay Bouazza feels very civilized and developed compared to the surrounding countryside. It has shops and cybercafés, a bank, even a tiny commercial area in the center… But hotels? I doubt it. I'm not going to worry too much, and just focus on exploring the town. The town is built on a steep narrow valley with houses climbing high up the hillside.
I come down to the central area, where the Moulay Bouazza bus is parked waiting until tomorrow for it’s trip to back to Khouribga, and figure I’d better start figuring out where I’m going to stay
A young boy overhears us and offers to find me a room. I’m kind of short on options, so I decide to accept. He takes me to an older lady who says yes, she has a room she’ll rent me for 150 dirhams a night, which is about triple what I would pay for a hotel room. I can’t help but notice the contrast between this and my last stay in the village of Tafergalt, where I was welcomed in as part of the family…
I do manage to bargain down the price a bit, but still feel I’m getting seriously overcharged for a scruffy little room with a blanket on the floor… that’s OK… at least I’ve got a place to stay.
The lady does bring me a cup of tea, and then I hear the neighbors come banging on the door. Apparently they don’t seem happy at all that this "dangerous" stranger has been given lodging in the neighbourhood
“Quiet down! He understands Arabic,” the lady responds.
I’m amused and almost flattered that they would see me as “dangerous”… and once again can’t help but notice the contrast between the distrustfulness of Moulay Bouazza and the innocence and purity of people out east.
Now, I’ll hasten to say, I’m sure there are hospitable, honest, and trusting people here in Moulay Bouazza… but the contrast in experiences is quite acute.
The neighbors finally leave, and I head out to find something to eat. I do find a friendly fellow to chat with and enjoy a decent supper. Then I find a cybercafé to try to figure out what other towns there are in this area on google maps.
Not much else to do on a dark winter evening here in Moulay Bouazza, except wander down the main road and back, explore one or two more back alleys… and that’s about it…
I get up at dawn next morning, early to make this day count to the maximum
Up ahead around a corner there’s a mosque or something that I figure I should check out. Good thing I do… if I hadn’t I would’ve missed the real Moulay Bouazza! It turns out that everything I’ve seen so far was just the uglier modern Moulay Bouazza, and the real town is up the ridge and around the corner!
See Moulay Bouazza is actually an important shrine/tomb which hosts an annual “moussem” which is part carnival, part religious pilgrimage… and part circus freak show. People come to these shrines in hopes of receiving a blessing from these saints. A lot of interesting things happen at these moussems. You’ve got henna tattoo artists, fortune tellers, music, men running on horses and shooting their guns in to the air… You can really feel like you’re travelling back in time to the days of Aladdin at one of these moussems.
But the moussem of Moulay Bouazza, I’m told, has something so bizarre that I hesitate to write it down
Anyways, right now the Old Town, which is like a tiny Old Medina perched over a cliff is quiet, and you enter through a tunnel and then up the stairs to the main mosque… then you can explore a couple more alleys before the Old town ends and the path continues on between traditional stone houses clinging to the hillside. It’s a beautiful scene—with the houses blending right in with the rugged slopes, and misty hills beyond…
My Moulay Bouazza experience has definitely redeemed itself.
Finally I head back to the new town, where I grab some breakfast and wait for a collective taxi to the next town. It seems that there’s another sizeable town that’s not on my map, heading east, Aguelmous. I figure, I can either continue on from there east to Khenifra or north towards Khemisset both of which have ample transportation and “official” lodging.
I notice a couple of “demon possessed” fellows staggering around—maybe they just stuck around after the last moussem. One of them is lying on the ground, but someone has brought him a teapot and glass on a tray...