Morocco

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Marrakech, Morocco, December 2006. Beaucoup de photos d’enfants lors de ce 2ème séjour, notamment ceux dans la famille de notre ami Khalid.

Lots more chances to shoot children during this second trip, not least at our friend Khalid’s whose daughter and a cousin are sitting at the gated window. From there, one can see the hammam where I went with my friend for a scene right out of Charlie Chaplin’s La cure, I watched a man vigorously rub my friend’s whole body with a coarse sponge, leaving no part unturned, to the point it became all red. Then was the “massage” proper, he pulled and pinched the arms, did the same with the legs, pulling as far as he could, firmly holding the trunk flat on the floor with his feet. It was too late for me to get out of this, I simply told the executioner to avoid the last part, as I just had the hernia! but my beauty spots remained crimson for weeks.

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Marrakech, Morocco, December 2006.

Our friend’s brother Said and his own daughter. We should have stayed with him, at the paternal house, but Khalid, the big brother, had authoritatively taken us to his own house, rather his wife’s, where his widowed mother-in-law and four sisters-in-law lived. That was fine as long as it was his days off, then he properly threw us out, ’cause foreigners, and a man at that, could not stay in a house full of women without a male chaperon around. That was a replay of our Amman visit at a Palestinian refugees’ house, the women had taken us in, friendly chatter, including with the Canada-bound father, even took some photos of these gorgeous creatures, then mayhem, the brother was coming, we were expelled, and the girls thoroughly beaten (so much for the progressive Palestinian struggle). But here, we were supposedly at a friend’s and it was his house, Khalid had repeated so many times “Soyez les bienvenus”, with his trademark smile, at every comment we made. I was particularly pissed off because he had strongly insisted on taking us away from the cute Gazelle Hotel, near the main square of the city, and stay at his house, he had come with his motorbike to fetch us with all our luggage. Some customs!

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Tizi n’Tichka Pass, Morocco, December 2006. On the way in, it was summerlike, on the way out, two days later, the pass was blocked by a snowstorm. Temps doux et ensoleillé en partant, la passe était bloquée par la neige lors de notre retour, deux jours plus tard.

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Bou Trarar, Morocco, December 2006. Owner and family of a popular — albeit empty — guesthouse in the Central High Atlas range. Le propriétaire et la famille d’une pension très populaire, mais vide en cette période, dans le haut Atlas central.

I think we have a kind of curse with this Vallée des Roses. The first time, the frail, rented Renault did not make it to the small pass, the rocks threatened to tear apart its bottom. The second time, we had few days left, it took time to get there by public transportation, and after taking what I thought was great photo ops of this picturesque valley where they make rose-water from cultivation, I discovered there was no film in the camera. Some photographer! This was our third attempt. I had prepared it well, at a Belgian bookstore I had torn two pages with a map and description of the various paths from a huge hiking book on Morocco, detailed with GPS and all, I had completed them with info from the internet, it was going to be nice, at 1800 or so meters altitude. We get there on a sunny and warm afternoon. I open the door the next morning, and there is a snowstorm.

We barely escaped in a minivan with 17 other people, driving inside the wet bed of a mountain stream full of oversize rocks, sand, snow, the path making sharp jumps, taking us up and down. Actually you could only imagine a path, big Lahcen was creating it, often two young men had to get out and clear big stones. How many times I thought that was it, this is a minivan, not a 4×4, not a bulldozer, overflowing with close to twenty people, but the giant was an excellent driver, and would pull out of the most incredible spots, mouth open, then he turned back to us with a great laughter. Thanks to some straight sections on a plateau, it took us only an hour to make the 11 kilometers to the paved road passing through the beautiful Dadès Gorge.

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Bou Trarar, Morocco, December 2006. Deux jours bloqués à l’intérieur par la neige, forcés de regarder la TV au lieu de se ballader dans cette belle vallée.

Instead of hiking, we stayed two days blocked inside, enveloped in bitter cold, with no more than tennis shoes and a couple of sweaters, unprepared as usual (but, hey, we were heading for the Sahara), either in bed under four blankets, fully dressed, with sweaters and my Moroccan jacket, or in a windowless room with Hussein’s extended family, crowding around a charcoal fire. They were all exchanging over and over the 8-year old snapshots we had brought them from our second attempt, and giggling, giggling.When not looking at the photos they watched TV, anything from Polanski awarding, under pouring rain down at the Marrakech International Film Festival, the Etoile d’Or for Best Film to Dominik Graf’s drama Der Rote Kakadu / The Red Cockatoo, a love story set in 1961 Dresden – couldn’t seem farther than where we were – to the 100-ton Baluchithirium (literally the Wild Beast of Baluchistan) who lived 39 million years ago when a piece of Africa detached and created India and the Himalayas – farther in time but closer in space – the most complete skeleton was discovered by French palaeontologists in Baluchistan, now a desert and one of the hottest places on earth – farther away in terms of temperature. In-between were plenty of documentaries, Arabic soap operas, and news, news, news, from upwards of twenty channels, but no weather bulletin! Something still spurned in the so-called third world, and with good reason. What do they care how the weather will be? They’ll be in the same shit anyway, toiling for the same shit, eating shit from everywhere, so what’s the point of being deluged by useless info like in Belgium where the weather is the main subject of daily conversation and appears at prime time on TV, La météo vous est offerte par la mayonnaise Mayo…

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