Sunday, May 15, 2011

Primitive Profusion

Now that I am alone in Morocco, I am moving in any direction without restraint. This morning I left Fez to travel south to Merzouga, a famous village on the edge of some great Sahara sand dunes. Before leaving Fez, I looked at a map that indicated a long day’s drive, and thought about stopping along the way. I saw a town called Midelt that interested me, but a travel guide said it was not much of an attraction, and someone advised me to go to Erfoud instead, a tourist town closer to Merzouga.

About an hour south of Fez the countryside became verdant among rolling hills. I tried to make good time and drive at the speed limit along a narrow two-lane highway. The road curved and suddenly I passed a spectacular meadow. In a second, I had to decide either to stay to my schedule and hurry to arrive at my destination before night, or hit the brakes. The poppies in the field made me stop and pull over. There was not a fence, just a steep embankment. I had sandals and shorts on, and stepping over the rocks, I was met by thorny plants and brambles. But the color called me, and no one was around. I only heard a donkey braying in the distance.

I am glad I made the choice to stop and wander in the abandoned farm field covered in poppies and wildflowers. A brook passed through and a small olive orchard stood nearby. The primitive profusion of nature was a kaleidoscope for my enchanted eyes, and I thought how my schedule was of no importance—moreover beauty can be fleeting and memories forever. My feet were cut, but the blood reminded me of the red poppies.

I eventually arrived at Midelt, a scruffy berber town on the route between destinations. Slowing for traffic near a roundabout, a young man ran up to my car and said “Where are you going?” I answered, “Merzouga” and he spoke in English that he had just come from the USA and would I please visit with him. After a short conversation, I decided to stop for the night. He set me up with a clean, comfortable room and breakfast for less than twenty dollars, took me to a local once-weekly souk (market), and then went touring with me into the hillsides. Kassem is a rug trader and goes for three-month treks with camels, visiting berber villages and trading for rugs. I asked him if he had been a goat herder as a child, since I see so many boys doing this along the roads. He said yes, and as I guessed, the sheepherders walk for days with the animals, sleeping on the ground.
At the souk.

In the morning I am going to visit a Kasbah nearby where 120 families reside within the earth walls, then continue to the desert, where a friend of Kassem’s will be waiting for me and will take me by camel into the desert.

This is THE DREAM, and the more I let go into it, the more fantastic is the journey.

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