0193. The Coolest Village in all Morocco (Mor 042—new)

Rchida Travel Blog

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I scramble back and forth around the base up the cliff trying to find a way up.  around me are olive trees each with a trough for irrigation.  Apparently, even at these steep angles, folks have figured out a way to channel water to each of these trees... Finally I find a steep path that leads to the top of the cliff... and into a new world.

All of a sudden, instead tortured cliffs and rugged mountainside I’m in the cool, narrow alleyways of a village that seems to hav been frozen in time.  Other than the electric wires attached to the mud walls, there's no way to tell what century--or millenium I'm in.  All is silent as I wander about, determined to soak in every single inch of this place.

Suddenly a herd of little girls burst out through a doorway, breaking the solemn silence.

  They come running after me, insisting that I play a song for them.  No, that wouldn't be a good idea--I know what the taboos are in these traditional villages, and I definitely don't want to spoil this trip by getting folks angry... They can be very protective of their women and girls in these places...

But the girls keep insisting, promising me that no one will be upset... so I finally give in...

Ends up being the best decision I've made in a long time.

After a little while, a couple of young boys pop out from the ancient doorways... then some older fellows... no one seems to be angry... Finally the gesture to me to follow them through a winding tunnel that goes underneath the houses and the walls to the very edge of the precipice.

"Here's a great place for you to play" they tell me.

 

And thus begins one of my best parkbenching sessions ever... in this ancient village perched at the top of a cliff with a stunning view that goes all the way to Guercif 60 Kms away... surrounded by a very eager audience that insists that I translate and explain every song that I sing...

After a while they invite me indoors--"this used to be the home of the Q'aid (tribal leader)" I’m told.  No one is living there right now, so it became my little concert hall at they shared their freshly baked bread, tea and olive oil with me. 

I try to insist that I would pay for food and lodging for the night, but of course they refuse.  I'll have to find some other way to show my appreciation to these wonderful folks.

  We stay on the top floor, while the lifestock stayed on the bottom floor.

"We get snow here sometimes" I’m told "we have to keep livestock indoors or they'll freeze"

An older fellow, a university professor in Fes, gives me a bit of the history of the place.  "Folks in this village fought and resisted during the entire French colonial period.  While other villages accepted the French rule, Rchida never did".  Suddenly the pieces started coming together--the ruins of the French garrison... the village perched on top of a cliff fighting for their freedom... pure poetry...

A couple of the young fellows invite me for a hike up the mountains behind Rchida... so off we go... On the way we meet up with the local sheepherders who tend to the sheep of the entire village.

  "At the end of the day, each sheep and goat runs off to its home--they all know what home they belong to..."

Just two of the guys are game for finishing the hike to the top so we head on... Thunder rolled and lightning flash as a dark summer storm moves in from the valley below... But no one ever EVER complains about the rain here in Morocco...

And just as we reach the top, away from the protection of the cliffs, the rain lets loose... But the other two fellows seem to be enjoying the adventure as much as me and we don't care...

It’s definitely worth the climb.  To the east of us is the vast, semi forested Rekkem Plateau that goes on as far as the eye can see... "No one lives here" they tell me... "only an occasional nomadic herdsman with his flocks.

.. you can hike on and on for days this direction--but you'd better bring plenty of water"...

It's getting late so we head back into town to where we could drink water straight out of the spring--then they take me to the village leader to get "official permission" for me to stay there...

I made a promise to my new friends... that I’ll write a song dedicated to their village.  And it’s a promise I’m determined to keep.  After supper, we head outdoors to relax and play some more music and the song finally comes together...

THE PEOPLE OF RCHIDA

In the dry barren valley below a garrison was built by the French

Determined that they would control the village perched up on the cliff

They had fierce weapons and legionnaires they ruled almost half of the world

But the people of this land had no fear determined their culture would be preserved

///The people of Rchida

Believe in freedom///

They built their village on the top of a cliff surrounded by layers of walls

The fought resisted to the end and drank water that sprang from the rock

In the end the French gave up and left the garrison is nothing but ruins

But that village still flourishes thanks to these people who clung to their roots.

Nowadays you can visit that town, there's a path carved into the cliff

The people still noble and proud but if you come and show them respect

No matter where you are from you'll be invited into their homes

They'll treat you as a friend share with you bread and olive oil

 

I sing that song on request maybe 40 times over the next two days...

My rule of thumb is, as long as I have people eager to listen, I will be eager to sing. But in Rchida, I meet my match.  At 2 o'clock in the morning I still have folks eager to listen to my songs... Finally I decide I have to call it a day...

Next Day

At 7 in the morning my hosts are up and eager to go... so I definitely don't want to slow them down.  Today we'll go explore some of the caves at the base of the Rchida cliff.

  Don't have any flashlights... "we'll just use the glowlight from our cellphones" I suggest.  Doesn't work to well... So I try taking flash photographs on my digital camera and using the photos as a guide--only problem--no depth perception, so I don't know if I’m stepping into a deep pit or not! 

Nobody ever heard of... I dunno... candles!?

Some cool stalagtites and stalagmites... limestone "waterfalls"... and of course, best of all, the feeling that we’re really "discovering" something.  We wander about a bit more... I take some more pictures and clips for a special "Rchida music video" I promised to make...

And then... my Rchida adventure came to a close... I go with the fellows down to wait for the van.  As we wait folks from the village come to ask me to sing the song dedicated to their village.

Rchida will definitely go down in history as one of my best parkbenching adventures ever...

 

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Rchida
photo by: nathanphil