As I sit here reflecting on our time in Morocco, I realize it would take one hundred blog posts to share what I've seen and learned and that still wouldn't be enough. You see, Morocco was a feeling, a feeling I have been experiencing every day since I have been back. Just like the weavings, the stories I was told while sipping mint tea, the people I learned from while sitting in a nomadic cave, and the women whom I watched create their art have been woven inside of me.
We were on our way to a remote campsite a few hours outside of Ouarzazate when our friend Abdul asked if we would like to meet a family he knew that was on the way to the camp. Of course we said yes! As it turns out, we were on our way to meet a nomadic Berber family. I was overwhelmed by what was to come.
A nomadic life is not an easy one. It may be one of the hardest ways to live physically and mentally. Families who live a nomadic life are carrying on their family tradition that dates back thousands of years. Nomads live this way because their lives revolve around their livestock. They move through the seasons with their herd so their animals, usually goats, have the proper land to graze on. If they stayed in one part of the country, the food supply for their herd would deplete in a matter of weeks. So they trek on, with their family in tow, and their herds right in front.
As we walked up to the camp we were greeted by this family's donkey--who in a way acts as their security system, always letting them know when something or someone is near. After that, a little girl walked up to us--very shy--as I could only imagine because here we are strangers arriving completely unannounced. Her name is Harrah. One of the most beautiful beings I've ever seen. Harrah is about eight years old--her mother wasn't completely sure as they do not keep track of time the way we do. Not even a few minutes go by for us without knowing the time, as we are constantly looking at our devices. Here, for a moment, time didn't matter at all.
We then met Harrah's Aunt, Fatima. The first thing I noticed about Fatima was something I didn't think I was ever going to see in my life. A little backstory--I have a deep appreciation for the art of tattooing as it is a subject I studied in university and now on my own. If you are reading this you also know I collect textiles. The patterns I am drawn to the most in Morocco are the ones that represent the symbols of facial tattoos Berber women used to have in the old days when there was a need to differentiate what tribe women came from. As a Berber woman goes through her life she may acquire more tattoos to display her marital status, if she has been divorced, and so on it goes as her story unfolds. Fatima had a line tattooed down her chin. In Marrakech, I spoke with multiple rug dealers who explained that women, even in the rural villages, no longer have these facial markings. While I sat in front of Fatima looking at her beautiful face, I just kept thinking I am looking at a woman that has carried on an ancient tradition in ways that far exceed her tattoos. An ancient way of life.
We sat with Harrah and Fatima in one of the five caves that constitutes as their home. Each cave was quite small, though one was dedicated to cooking, one was for weaving on the loom, one was for sleeping, and two larger caves were for the goats to sleep in at night. The men are gone during the day moving with the herd to find the best grazing land. The women hold down the fort at home and work on weaving rugs in their spare time, tending to their land and feeding their family. Harrah's mum was quite sick during our visit, but she had the most joyous smile. Harrah's older sister was very quiet but curious, it had me think about what life may be like as a teenager living nomadically. The girls do not go to school and it is likely their parents will arrange their marriage with another nomadic family in the area. It is a brutal lifestyle as they move through the mountains and the Sahara Desert depending on the season, but it is the life they know. The life they love. Below are photographs. I felt weary about photographing their home and their faces but through our friend Abdul who translated for us, they assured me it was quite alright. I showed Harrah this photo of herself and she had a look on her face that I have never seen before. I'm not sure if she had ever seen a photo of herself. It put life in perspective for me. We grow up and have photos of our family and friends in our homes and on our phones and social media, but this is so far from the nomadic life. They do not have running water, they have to go miles to bring it back if they do not have a well. They do not have toilets, access to a hospital, or cell phones. They cannot run to the store if they need supplies, they have to walk hundreds of miles to the weekly market in the closest town to get what they need and even those trips are very few and far between. Despite all of these obstacles and what we would see as a dangerous way to live, they have everything they need. Their family, their livelihood, their Morocco.