Saturday, May 18, 2013

"A" is for...Ali!

After we made it down the mountain in one piece albeit with screaming quads, we met our driver at a restaurant where we had lunch.  There seems to be quite a bit of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" among tour providers.  The food was fair, but we were hungry so it solved an immediate need - nutrition; however, we decided that we didn't need any additional stops on our way home (I believe there was a "visit an authentic Berber house" stop planned, which falls under our idea of prurient tourism).  The driver asked if he could give his "cousin" a ride into town.  While we thought that "cousin" was just code for "friend," we didn't care.

And then we met Ali.  Talking with Ali was the highlight of our trip.  He also worked as a mountain guide (I have the feeling there'd have been less touchy-touchy if he'd been our guide) and had lived his entire life in one of the Berber villages in the mountain.  He spoke excellent English, which he'd learned from tourists along the way.  Later our driver told us he also spoke French and some Italian in addition to Berber and Arabic.  Nonetheless, Ali claimed he was uneducated.

He spoke eloquently about the way over-exportation of things like argan oil, oranges, and sardines had made them too expensive for Moroccans.  He worried about the over-investment in tourism, citing the construction of numerous golf courses (it's a desert climate) and its impact on water availability for local people.  He explained the ridiculousness of the "camel" rides offered along the route - firstly, the animals weren't camels, they were dromedaries; and secondly, they weren't indigenous to the area (they come from the Sahara), and the rocks hurt their feet so they could only walk the 100 or so metres off the side of the road.  He told us how the French brought the willow trees to the area and that you should never sit under a willow tree for a picnic without an umbrella or some kind of cover because there are microscopic bugs that drop down from the tree into your food and can make you sick.  We learned more from Ali in an hour than we had in the three days we'd spent in Morocco so far.

We felt extremely lucky to have had that time with him.  The ladyfriend would like to make a documentary about him.  I don't know if that will happen, but our visit with him is something we're unlikely to forget.

1 comment:

  1. Those random encounters make traveling worth it more than almost anything else! Glad you found someone to connect with and who wasn't a pig!