To Moulay Bousselham

We stop for lunch in a valley overlooking an olive plantation and a shepherd with his herd of sheep and goats. Five minutes into our lunch, a car rolls up, windows down and loud music blaring out, much to the annoyance of the shepherd who jumps up and down shouting. The two very smiley young women and a man who climb out of the car take no notice of him and instead engage in a lovely conversation with us. They are a young couple and the wife’s sister, on a day out, having left their kids with the grandparents. They laugh and joke a lot, obviously enjoying their momentary freedom from their daily responsibilities. After a while, they wish us good luck for our journey, get out their pic-nic and disappear down the valley while we return to our lunch. Strangers are so much more willing to converse with each other here, to smile at each other, to stop off and exchange stories. We will miss these encounters when we leave Morocco.

 

We join the motorway just South of Rabat, in time to cross the bridge that makes us think of Wales

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This part of Morocco is yet again very different to what we have seen before. Quite flat and full of rich fields, with the luscious green of intensively farmed crops – one could almost think we’re in northern France.

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We have a little break at a motorway station when my beady eye spots a nice bit of dead tree for our stove. I go for a recce, with saw in hand. Within minutes, two guys have appeared by my side and are offering to help. They do some sawing and also use superhuman force to just break off bits, which they take to Emma.

By nightfall, we arrive in Moulay Bousselham, but today is not Googles best day, as it directs us down a sandy road where we scrape the side of Emma as well as getting stuck in the sand. But no worries, within minutes, someone arrives, has a quick look and promises to return in a few minutes with a spade and some wood to put underneath the tyres. While we are waiting, some more people arrive and Frank has got our spade out the back too. Four guys, a spade, a shovel and several wooden struts later, we’ve been heaved out of the sandy hole and are on our way to the campsite. If you look like you need help, you’re like a magnet to a Moroccan, even if it’s not very urgent. They are always keen to help and in most situations they know a good way out of a fix. Remember the lorry driver from many chapters ago, up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, who’d lost a tyre but wasn’t at all worried in any way about help arriving? Having experienced at first hand this lovely habit to help where help is needed, we know now why he could feel so at ease in a calamitous situation…

What have we lost in our culture that we need to resort to buying costly breakdown services?

We’re going to miss this when we leave Morocco!

 

Ps.: Some people think that help in Morocco comes inevitably linked with a request for money. This may be so when someone offers to become your guide around a town centre, but the kind of help I talked about in this chapter was freely given. We parted with a handshake and smiles all round. I think they really get a buzz out of helping someone, especially a foreigner. We should try it out at home in the UK! It would make a big difference to how foreigners feel in our country. The recipe is simple: See someone struggle, with ANYTHING? Cross the road, lend a hand.


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Legfaf Souq

Abdelghani is still there in the morning when we wake up. This is a brand new fuel station and he’s probably lucky to be working here. But it’s hard: 24 hours on, 24hours off, earning 50 dh per shift. That’s not even £5! To connect it with local prices though, a kilo of potatoes is about 4dh, a loaf of bread one or two dirham – I don’t know what it costs to rent a house here.

We bundle his motorbike into the van and together we go to the souq. This is another large scale, full-throttle souq and this time we have the privilege of a guide. With so many animals all in a relatively small space, I am always amazed just how well behaved they are. Sheep for example are often not even hobbled, let along tethered, and yet, they follow their owner close to heel, right through the crowd – like well trained dogs.

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People have a very close connection to their animals here, Abdelghani says and it is indeed impressive just how little force they use, they don’t even lift their voices to shout at the animals, let alone physically subjugate them, like one can see in some European countries. The noise in a souq comes from the vendours shouting out their wares, or car horns bleating, or the odd animal calling out. Abdelghani takes us to various stalls where he makes us taste freshly cooked chickpeas and beans as he hunts for Ammlou on our behalf, although without success. He also invites us for lunch to his house some twelve km from here, but we are keen to move on northwards…by the time we say good-bye, it feels once more like we are leaving a friend behind. Abdelghani joins the list of ‘guardians’ – people we have met who subsequently stay in touch via messages to see how we are. In the weeks to come, we receive many messages from him, enquiries as to our whereabouts and our health, plus music clips etc. It seems to be a hospitality thing – once they’ve become our hosts, they continue to be so for a while after we have left. It’s a great way of improving my arabic, I have to say.

 

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for more photos of this chapter, click here


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