On June 20th 1977 I was in Tiznit in southern Morocco. I was just passing through, glad to have left the more northern regions. Some Moroccans in Fez and Marrakech had told me that I would find things more easy and relaxed down south in the Souss and amongst the Chleuh Berber people.
I sat with a few other Europeans in the square late in the evening waiting for a bus on to Tafraoute which was due to leave at 2 in the morning. The television in the cafe had been showing BBC footage of the Queen's recent jubilee, but nobody was watching and they hadn't bothered to dub the English commentary. A man with a French registered Peugeot was trying to sell me a seat for 80 dirhams. Another man was curled up asleep near my feet, waiting for the bus. I watched young Moroccans stroll around this modernised town, a girl in modern clothes following her boyfriend/husband and his friends at a distance of a few paces. I was reading George Eliot and beginning to get homesick. I reflected on the previous few days.
I had left Marrakech with a friend on an afternoon bus which drove along the edge of the hills to the west of the city. We got out at the little town of Ijoukak, which was probably not the best idea, as there was no later bus out, and no particular reason for us to be there. I am sure tourists sometimes looked in, but it soon became clear that there was no hotel for us to stay in and the people were accordingly, understandably, suspicious of why we might have come. We found a Berber restaurant for food while people said their prayers in a corner, and later a different place to sleep, a cafe where we had a room to sleep on the floor while men said their prayers outside the door; the patron had tea and soup and a few general goods on sale; everything was at very low cost.
|Tizi N'Test Pass in 2006: Picture by Britrob, CC|
From there it took us a day and a half to reach Tiznit, a series of slow lifts over the Tizi N'Test pass and down into the valley past Taroudant. I don't remember all the details. The road through the mountains was just fine, beautiful and quite unspoilt, the local people so friendly, proud, sticking to their way. We travelled in quite a good fashion, with little steps and a variety of ways; there was a lovely ride on the top of a truck, the villages in adobe looking old and turreted across the green strip of a river, different colours in the sandstone of the mountains, greenish through to purple and plenty of flowers; even higher up there were cypress and little thorny oaks; down below there were goats climbing the argan trees in the Souss valley. Somewhere in the mountains we had a long wait: we stashed our packs under a bush and set off for an hour's walk across the dry stony hillside, with just little bushes and herbs at our feet. Later near the valley a man gave us a short lift in his van and then provided shelter for the night in his petrol station.
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