Rose water, rice in sweet honeyed milk, soft white custard with almonds, plump dried apricots and prunes in subtle spices echoing the melodies of far away places where date palms surround green and where white fabric blows in the desert wind…..thoughts of coming days as I ate my beautiful breakfast,
I am sitting now at a winery at Had Badchoua waiting for lunch after being escorted by the local police for 20km from Casablanca and 130 km east toward Meknes. Cheers lined the streets and men in dark blue stiff suits and official caps with red rims, blew their whistles and waved us through the intersections whilst local traffic built up flanking our cavalcade. Spirits were high and the locals didn’t seem to mind the inconvenience as they smiled and waved to us with such excitement.
Children in groups according to their size scrambled following balls across dusty field with thin tree trunks as goal posts. Washing hung from crumbling buildings like post it notes on a corporate bulletin board – yet here life was as far removed from those bulletin boards as I have ever seen.
Donkeys pulling carts filled with manure shovelled from night holding pens, skirted the highway. Women wearing coloured fabric speckled the fields as their children ran to the roads to wave to sights they had never witnessed before passing through their lives.
Structures appeared from beyond the rocky hills with red flags welcoming modern visitors from the past. Smiles beamed from oval faces wrapped in brightly coloured fabrics, aqua blue, pink and red patterns; as children were suspended in this cloth on backs walking the streets with arms laden with goods to sell on a patch of dirt alongside the highway.
The busy streets soon transformed into rolling dry hills with clumps of green trees – olives and gnarled trees which demonstrate resilience in such a dry and harsh landscape; and just as suddenly as Penny weaved her way through fascinating geology…we were once again upon communities where people here were also showing their resilience in this incredibly difficult and extreme environment.
I felt voyeuristic in a sense, so I didn’t take photographs of these areas where whole animals without their skin hung with the flies outside small dark alcoves; which were shops, and in front sieving the smoke puffing out from underneath grills of reinforcing mesh were a couple of tables and old chairs;…or where people stood selling single cigarettes…or where women squatted with loose fabric draped over their bones forming the shape of their frail bodies.
Yet as Penny carried us through this area of gut wrenching poverty, we still received heartfelt cheers and waves and such generosity of spirit filled the dusty fetid air. I often could not swallow my tears as so many smiled and put their left hand on their chest in a few repeated movements as a gesture toward us…of welcome and of connection. I acknowledge that many are hoping foreigners bring money into their struggling communities…but so many want nothing more than a connection through their eyes…and rather than feeling sorry for those whose living conditions I just cannot truly comprehend, I endeavored to celebrate the privilege of travelling in this amazing country and being so graciously welcomed to drive through their lives, by waving and genuinely connecting with their eyes and hearts.
As the darkness crept in from the east, Penny was surrounded by head lights and tail lights in a tunnel with horns honking from in front and behind. It was peak hour in Metnes and with only one lane as an entrance and exit to our accommodation there was a traffic jam of expanding proportions. Attendants wearing lime green safety vests swarmed on the road trying to direct traffic to create space for cars to maneuver..and finally the 20 vintage cars were nestled in a small enclosed square outside the most exquisite little hotel Palace Didi; a small palace which was built in the 16th century… with rose petals floating in a fountain ….and mosaic tiles paving the courtyard….silverware on white linen tables.. and coloured diamond shaped tiles which circled upward in a spiralling staircase to our room which was so far from the world in which we had driven through the day…it was not only surreal..but quite overwhelming.
Internet is sparse here so I will upload images when we have better internet.