2008 Morocco Tour Group Journal

Day 07    Nov. 16, 2008
Rissani,  Merzuga
Submitted by Judy Wood  judywood@vzavenue.net
and  Dick Wood  richardjwood@mac.com

Our day began on the bus with Haj as the hunter of flies When one fly was found, another was around to take its place - a never ending job for Haj. 

While riding we noticed the unexpected standing water along the roads. The residents were very happy to have had the two weeks of rain before we arrived. Often they don't see rain for five to seven years. Along the way, we glimpsed a donkey taxi 

A highlight of our day was a visit to "Maison Touareg a very good shop of Moroccan crafts that displayed the contributions of the desert nomads, the Touareg. We learned that before borders were drawn between countries, huge caravans composed of whole tribes moved together across the Sahara trading. They always moved in the cool of the night when it was easier to find the right direction. One caravan could be composed of 4,000-5,000 camels. The entire tribe moved together, because if they got lost, they would never get reconnected. Their language, Tashelhit (?) (also the name of the tribe of our host) was originally written in hieroglyphics, so it could be read whether written vertically or horizontally, backwards or forwards. The Touareg may have some Viking ancestry, as well as Berber. They were matrilineal and matrilocal in social structure. Before a marriage was official, the man lived with the bride's family for a trial year (a modern echo of the tribal structure described in the account of Abraham in the book of Genesis). If it didn't work out, they continued to live as brother and sister. Since the Sahara has metal, coal, silver, gold, and copper, the Touaregs had much to work with when fashioning jewelry. 

 We saw many beautiful pieces at Maison Touareg: necklaces, brooches, hands of Fatma, keys for keeping scarves in place, many rugs, and several pieces of clothing and brass cooking implements. Berber rugs of the 17th century were often light brown, orange, and blue depicting water and valleys. The landscape rugs used green for oases, yellow for dunes, and blue for sky. A long, red rug means "we welcome you." Touaregs are often called blue men because of the color of their clothing, as blue as the sky. 
The picture by Carol Ries   They like blue because it is a cooler color and it equals prosperity. After shopping time, we were invited to hear the drummers beat their drums outside in the brown tent. Of course, after the drumming, a white rug was put down and more pieces of jewelry were laid out for our perusal and purchase.

A kebab lunch followed at a very nice restaurant where one of our group "stole" J's sunglasses. The "theft" was solved when the perpetrator realized she had two pair - one in her handbag and one on her head.

We returned for a second night to our very nice hotel, Kasba Tomboctou, which is situated at the foot of the sand dunes and is near the tiny town of Hassi Labied, 5 km north of Merzouga. Before taking the camels into the Sahara to view the changing colors of the sand as the sun set, Meli warned us to not wear hats unless they fit very well. Apparently camels can become very agitated if hats fly off into their faces or if anything else unusual happens. Our camels were handled by Ahmed  who took very good care of us and pulled out a blanket that was soon covered with items "to help my family". Several of our group hiked to the top of a sand dune to view the sea of sand.


Zee was the fastest to arrive back for the return trip on camelback (photo 5). Contrary to popular opinion, these camels were neither mean nor smelly. Is it because they are well taken care of? Following our bumpy but pleasant camel ride some of our group enjoyed the pleasures of the Hamam and dinner before retiring for the night.

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