We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Mrs. BD had planned for us to take a cab from the port of Agadir to a kasbah in the hinterlands, out in the Atlas mountains, for a day of hiking in those mountains. As I say, she is quite a trip-planner. She was determined to hike the Atlas. Why not?
We arrived at the mountain kasbah, and a Berber shepherd met us there. He wears a blue towel on his head, hanging down his back. Naturally, he speaks only Berber (and no Arabic or French either). A humble Berber, he stays outside the kasbah. We hike along a paved road until the paving ends down towards his home village. It's about twelve mud huts, some with cinder block additions, with dirt paths and plenty or trash strewn around. Donkeys strewn around too, and goats. These mountain Berbers are materially poor, but nobody told them that yet.
He took us to the schoolhouse (which looked like an abandoned cinder block shed) and we met the teacher, a brown Berber blue-eyed beauty who spoke good French. (No photo - Berber women are too shy to be photographed.) She asked us to say hello to the little Berber kids because they have never seen an American. So I did the "Bonjours, enfants" thing.
Then, as we begin hiking up a mountain and out of this village, our guide Hamid pulls out his cell phone and calls his buddy Assam to join us. Eventually, Assam catches up with us with the slow, steady lope that mountain people use in hot climates. This was good because Assam had been to high school somewhere and spoke good French. He also knew about 50 words of English.
So as we hike I try to chat with Assam in my rusty French while he translates to Berber if needed. He is around 45, educated, has never been outside Morocco. He explained that the Berbers love Americans because the embassy is sympathetic to them. Berbers, he says, hate the Muslim "invaders" and refuse to learn Arabic although it is by law that they are supposed to. He says he, like the Berber people in general, has no religion at all. He says the Arabs oppress the Berber.
They both had their dogs with them. Mrs. BD showed them pictures of our dog and of NYC on her iPhone. They were impressed by a pic of last winter's snow at our old house.
He says that Hamid has children in the village, but he has none. He told me that his wife died ten years ago and that he has not gotten over it. Then, "Changez le sujet, please."
We saw 2 wild camels on a distant mountaintop. That was a first for me. "Voila, deux chameaux." Actually, dromedaries.
We also saw goats in trees.
As we approach a mountaintop, Assam asks me to help them collect dead branches from the Argan trees. We built a stone fireplace and had a Berber mint-tea ceremony up there. It is quite elaborate. Assam pulled out his stub of a pipe for a smoke, so I asked him if he would like an American cigarette. Of course. Never tried one before. He took a deep inhale of a Marlboro menthol, and jumped in the air. "C'est froid, c'est froid, hahaha." So Hamid had to try one too, and they both laughed their butts off. I explained that this was mint tobacco, like mint tea.
At the end of our 6-hour (pathless) rocky and desert-like hike, I gave Assam the pack of Marlboros to share with his friends. A real treat. You can not tip a Berber - in their culture it is an insult - so we asked the lady at the kasbah to explain to Hamid that my $20 to him was "a gift to his family." That was ok.
When I told a lefty friend about this adventure, she said we were crazy to go alone into the wilderness with these people. I told her she was racist.
Great story! Sometimes the world will turn and defy its own stereotypes...sometimes you just have to jump in and do it rather than play it safe (like your lefty friend - who must live with such a diminished view of life)...I had a great time in Rio de Janeiro...after hours...with local friends on the back streets of Copacabana...one of the world's great murder capitals....great time....
Bird dog, I'm really enjoying these wonderful reports of ordinary people you met in your travels. Of course they are not ordinary at all; quite extraordinary in comparison to the flotsam with which we are surrounded. My favorite thus far is the Cuban traveling sans camera. It was a nice find for me as I only wrote just the other day on why traveling without a camera is far superior. She will make a man very lucky one day.
In the tourism industry, the long time pros understand something about people: open hearts are drawn to strangers with hospitality as their intention. The study of hospitality (hospice, etc.) goes back to times before the Bible. It begins in the desert near to where you were and continues to the Benedictines (can't remember the rule number). It assures the stranger three nights of rest and food in the dessert.