A Volunteering Experience With WeBerber, Morocco
Travel diary- Tuesday 19th of June
Sweating and gasping, I arrived at the Koutoubia mosque around 11:30 am. Marakkech tends to occasionally take a temperature above 37 degrees and at those times people like me, who are not used to the heat, have a very hard time. Ideally when it is this hot you go to a swimming pool or you want to stay in a room with an ac system the whole day. But we can’t today. We are going for the atlas mountains. The purpose of this trip was to see what the berber life would look like. The previous day we had a little explanation from Ibrahim what Berbers are and what wonderful things they produce. Unfortunately, the merchants in Marrakech take advantage of those handicrafts. They pay almost nothing to the Berbers, but ask giant amounts of money to customers in the medina. Weberber, the organization we are working for today, is fighting against this injustice and is trying to set up a fair trade for the Berber products. To get a good picture of where the Berbers come from and how they live, we are going today towards their habitat in the Atlas Mountains. I was told that we would gather at the mosque for this trip, which is why I was standing in the heat of the sun in the middle of Marrakech at 11:30am.
Once everyone had arrived at the Koutoubia Mosque, the trip could begin. We walked to the big taxi stand, where Fahd made a good deal with the taxi driver, for 60 dirhams per person he would take us to the last possible village stop and then he would wait until we are done and facilitate our return to Marrakech. Once we got to the last stop with the big taxi in the mountain village, it was clear that we were not quite there yet. We wanted to go to the waterfalls in SettiFatma, but in the mountain village where we were dropped off we would have to walk 10km to get to SettiFatma…
We had been walking for a while until everyone was too unhappy with the idea of walking 2 hours. At that moment there was a van that could drive us for 5dh pp towards SettiFatma. YES, finally we were at our destination. SettiFatma is a small berber village in the Ourika Valley. It has ofcourse all the things that a berber village needs.
It is a busy place. On your left you see the water of the mountain stream and on the one side of the mountain stream you can see all sorts of restaurants. The restaurants are linked with wooden bridges with the streetside. On the streets you will find small shops with handicrafts from the berber population. Think like pots, rugs, pillows, jewelry etc are all made by hand in SettiFatma. Because everyone was hungry by that long walk, it was time to sit down at a real Berber restaurant and eat a very nice Tajine. While we sat at a table in the mountain stream, we became spontaneously relaxed and happy. It is a very nice place where you will feel completely relaxed. In addition, they served incredibly tasty tajines there. We felt very lucky.
After lunch it was time for the real test. We still wanted to head towards the waterfalls. It was not entirely clear to us that this meant that we had to do some mountain climbing. Especially Anushka had a hard time because of her fear of heights. As true mountain goats we started our journey towards the waterfalls. At times when you thought you could not go any further, you still went on, because otherwise you would feel like a loser. After what seemed like hours, we arrived at the waterfall and what a feeling of victory was that. Something that I can look back on with pride. The atmosphere by the waterfall was good. There were people drinking, swimming and making music. They were generally having fun. In this way it feels like a relaxed and special place that is definitely worth a visit.
After we had enjoyed the atmosphere there, it was time to start the descent again. It was also pretty heavy, but it felt good that we had accomplished it all.
Once we were down, it was time to take the bus back. What looked like a can of sardines with wheels, was actually our bus. The bus was way too full, but it went anyway. As soon as we reached the other mountain village, we were able to return to Marrakech by taxi. Everyone was very exhausted from this trip, they were half a sleep in the taxi. Thinking about this wonderful and special day…
- Abdelghani Hammoud