We were told by Ibrahim, a friendly policeman in Khenifra, that when in Midelt, we should go to the Restaurant Le Pin and ask for ‘Ali’. The restaurant is hard to miss, situated as it is, by the side of the N13, one of the few major roads that go north to south through the Atlas Mountains. Midelt is one of the towns (or should I say cities) that seem to have planned for expansion. There still is an old, rickety town centre, but a large and spacious road runs through it, as if in the next 20 years, it will radically change and the planners knew this when they enlarged the road. Apparently around 30% of Moroccans currently are under the age of 15. Schools abound, and when you look at the children, you see a lot of bright eyes and sharp minds, and they have a good energy. This country is probably going to change fundamentally in the next 20 years, and I sincerely hope that the young generation will put their minds to tackling the difficult issues of water shortage and pollution in a way that benefits the country as a whole, not just a few people.
We enter the complex of restaurants and little courtyards that is Le Pin, but before we can even ask for Ali, he’s by our side and welcomes us. He speaks several languages and, in our case, would love to practise his English. We have an intriguing lunch, where the first course consists of a philosophical question: ‘What is the Aim of Travelling? And we meet each subsequent encounter with Ali by plying him with another answer:
– To be able to come back home
– To broaden one’s horizon
– To promote peace by personally meeting people and thus reducing prejudice
– To exchange ideas and goods
– To learn another language
His answer is that by learning about another culture you learn something about yourself.
Ali suggests a few things to see in Midelt and decides he’s going to take us there after we’ve had our lunchtime nap.
About 4pm, we take Emma along some fairly narrow back roads to get to the Atelier Kasbah Myriem, a cooperative set up by nuns to support Berber crafts, particularly weaving. A lovely woman opens the door to the show rooms, displaying woven goods and tapestry as well as embroidered work – table-cloths, napkins etc. The work is exquisite and also quite expensive by comparison with prices we have seen in Morocco, more in keeping with what they would cost in Europe. We keep reiterating that we neither have a lot of money nor the space in our van to take anything with us. It is very interesting though to see the beautiful, high quality designs and produce. I particularly take a shine to a beautiful poncho-like woolen garment, which they allow me to model.
We postpone Ali’s further plans in favour of meeting his family… it’s getting dark and he wants to buy fish to take home. Frank and Ali go off while I stay with the van which is not quite legally parked on the main street. While they have their 10 minute adventure of getting fish and fire wood, I have four separate offers through the side window, ranging from a guided fossil tour to the mines, to a 10,000 Dirham note, planted by hand against the window – I’m not sure if this was meant to be in exchange for foreign money, my services or indeed our Emma!
For some photos of this chapter, click here
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