315 Berber Village, Nine Years Later (Mor 148--Revisit)

Idrawin Travel Blog

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After my peaceful little tour of Tamanar, I was ready for a trip down Memory Lane.  My first stop would take me back 9 years to January of 2000.  First, let’s take a look at what happened back then…

 January, 2000

After living in Hollywood for 6 months I found myself working at Taco Bell instead of earning a living playing music as I’d originally planned.  So as soon as I saved up a little money, on an impulse I decided to go out and wander the world for a while to try out my luck elsewhere.  Tickets to Spain were cheap, so that’s where I decided to start.

Didn’t know what I would do when I got to Spain—I just felt this reckless urge to go out on a limb and see what would happen.  I had a lot of things that I hadn’t quite sorted out in my head, and figured that maybe out on the road I might be able to get things cleared up…

I landed in Madrid and felt the urge to head south… I reached Algeciras, and kept going… I crossed into Morocco and reached Casablanca…

“Essaouira” I heard the ticket guy calling out.

  I’d never been to Essaouira—so I figured that’d be a good place to start my adventure…

On the bus a young  fellow wearing a traditional djellaba and a scrawny beard struck up a conversation with me.  He said that he was a schoolteacher up in the mountains—and invited me to come with him to visit his village.  He seemed like an honest guy, so I figured, hey why not? 

We stayed the night at his parents’ house in Essaouira and early in the morning, caught a grand taxi to Smimou and began the long hike up the mountains.  Soon we left the open valley behind, and followed a dirt winding road up a narrow canyon.

  Finally after a couple of hours we reached Idrawin.

Idrawin is a very simple Berber village.  No electricity. No transportation.  No Coca cola… There’s one little store that has a black and white TV where a couple of the locals go to watch a football game from time to time… Other than that, Idrawin feels like a place completely disconnected from the rest of the world…

Jaouad and the other teachers welcome me into the two room dorm where they stay… Most of their food they have to carry all the way up from Smimou.  Sometimes they borrow a neighbour’s donkey to help with the load… The children speak very little Arabic—so teaching them is particularly challenging…

It feels like the perfect place to get my thoughts together and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life… Visiting the neighbors and getting a glimpse into the life a rural Berber family (one of the neighbors even asked if I wanted to marry his daughter!)… Trekking up and down the canyon to Smimou on foot or by donkey… Seeing what the life of a Moroccan village teacher is like… I felt like I could stay there for a long, long time…

But after a week or so, I realize it’s time for me to move on… and so I hike down that canyon one last time.

.. unaware that that Berber Village experience had helped prepare me for some very big life changing experiences up ahead…
BACK TO THE PRESENT…

Now, 9 years later, I’m heading back.  Even though Idrawin is way too small to really merit being parkbenched, I know I have to make the hike up there once again just for old times sake… So I head out of Smimou on the path that I think leads to Idrawin…

I follow the dirt road with stone walls on each side, past little hamlets and argan groves—but the road peters out into nothing… So I cut across through the groves, towards what I think is the canyon that leads to Idrawin…

I reach the canyon, and find out it’s the wrong one… Part of me wants to just turn around… but I decide to keep going.

  I figure maybe I can climb straight up the steep hillside, and follow the ridge to the next canyon… So I start climbing… On the way I find a cool couple of stone ledges that make good video clip sites… Then down then next canyon and up the other side, and down and up, down and up… finally when I decide that this will be the last canyon I’ll hike down to… I look down and… there it is—the road to Idrawin! 

I figured I’d follow along the ridge at the top all the way to Idrawin, but the hills in this area are covered with thick pine scrub—sort of a forest—except the trees are only about 10 feet high. Finally I give up on crawling my way through, and climb down towards the path.

On my way, I meet a fellow heading home with a muleload of groceries.

  He of course is curious as to why I was going to Idrawin.

“I’m going to visit a teacher who works there, Jaouad.”

“I don’t know of any Jaouad… when were you here last?”

“Nine years ago”.

He looks at me incredulously… we both know that rural schoolteachers don’t stick around very long in one place…

He fills me in a bit on the last nine years.  A few things have changed.  There’s a cell phone tower right set up in Idrawin and they have electricity now… Still no running water—in fact there’s basically no water in Idrawin, so folks have to carry it up from the valley below…

Life is still hard here.  Practically all the men go out looking for work—to Agadir, Casablanca, El Ayoun, leaving their families for months at a time.

  This year, thanks to the rain, there’s been a good wheat harvest—but I still can’t imagine that those small rocky family plots can feed a family for very long…

Finally we reach Idrawin—my new friends says that if I can’t find Jaouad, I should come over to his place to stay the night…

I climb up to the town—past the timeless stone houses—a small fort that I hadn’t remembered seeing last time… Past men threshing their wheat in the traditional manner:  Five donkeys tied to a post walking around in circle tromping on the wheat stalks—a five thousand year old method… virtually unchanged.  A young fellow come and offers to show me around... He tells me that in a few weeks a threshing machine will be brought that people can use for a small fee—yet still many prefer the old fashioned way…

I reached the school.

  Jaouad of course, is long gone… but there is still one teacher who I’d known from my last visit… My new friend invites me to his place for tea…

We also pass the house of the-girl-who-could’ve-been-my wife… She’s now married and has four kids… her husband works in Agadir…

His house is right on the edge of a steep ridge with a beautiful view.  Here I meet a couple of his brothers and cousins—all “in between jobs” chilling at home… They lay out a spread of bread tea, butter, almond butter, honey, argan oil… “Everything you see is grown and made right here in Idrawin”…

One thing that seems remarkably absent here in Idrawin are the large houses built by folks who have emigrated to Europe.

  I ask my hosts about this.
“There are some people who have emigrated abroad—but they prefer to build their houses in Smimou or Essaouira rather than here.  The main problem is the lack of water”

Yet despite its drawbacks, these people seem to really love their village, and don’t seem ready to give up on it any time soon. 

Once again, they invite me to stay the night.  The temptation to accept is strong, but in the end I opt to head on down the canyon trail again…


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Idrawin
photo by: nathanphil