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Morocco Part Four

Pots on a hillside made by Aziz

Morocco Wednesday

Rain falling on banana leaves woke me this morning—early enough to be the first one to breakfast and savor two cups of coffee and warm croissants. I walked around a bit, discovered a lovely municipal park with benches and flower gardens, and a playground for young children and a soccer field. We loaded up the van and started for Tiouet.

On the way, a herd of goats were climbing the argan trees to eat the nuts. They were quite amusing as they leapt up into the trees quite high and reached for nuts still higher. The nuts are then collected from their droppings, the papery husk removed, the hard kernel cracked and the internal seed pressed into oil. ( more on this later)

Our next stop was the market in Tioet. I saw no women in the market except for the occasional European women tourist arriving in groups (like us). The back row was the meat market with carcases hung from huge hooks; off to one side were all the donkeys that had brought the produce to market; hobbled, and periodically braying in disgust and frustration. Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and oranges were heaped in great piles on tarps while individual sellers weighed produce in hanging scales. A shoe maker was busy mending shoes with a metal shoe horn; one seller offered boxes of soap and oil.

I took some surreptitious photos using the view-finder and after some time decided  I needed to do sketching as that was the reason for coming to Morocco with this particular group. Almost instantly I had an audience. I drew two men loading a donkey; and then started in on a little boy that was about three. He, of course, lost interest in the whole project after about two minutes and his older brother chased him down, returned him to stand in front of me, held his arms, and then pulled his cheeks back in a smile. They all wanted to see the other pictures in my book—and then I began to teach them to count in English. They got quite upset as each time we practiced, there were more little boys, and they all thought the number they were given as I pointed to each in turn belonged to them.

My fingers became quite cold and after a bit, we all left for Fatima’s for mint tea and then lunch. We were supposed to walk down to the palm grove but the remainder of the group was quite tired out and so we remained at Fatima’s until lunch was ready. Fatima’s house consisted of several rooms with quite low doors—of course I am taller than all of them; carpets were on the floor, cushions and low tables prepared for our meal. The wall was hand-printed with a lovely blue flower. There was a roof terrace which had a spectacular view and the walls were a lovely orange with bright turquoise doors and two huge hand-forged door keys.

Lunch was prepared over a traditional Moroccan cooking arrangement—a pot of vegetables; while the couscous steamed on top. The driver made shish-ke-bob of beef and chicken over two small clay pots of coals.  Then, Fatima showed us how the argan nuts are cracked; I had to try it, and she laughed at me as I either hit them so they shot off into the pile of husks or hit my fingers. We did sample some of the oil with some bits of bread dipped in it—similar to dried tomatoes and olive oil with dried basil as served in San Francisco. It was quite nice—reminiscent of pumpkin seeds.

We then all got into the van and drove a short distance to an oasis where we could see a Kasbah—an ancient walled city, and lots of palm trees. There were dozens of red poppies blooming in the fields along with purple legumes and some sort of yellow chicory looking plant. I finally got up the courage to open up my paint box and try some painting. Palm trees are not my favorite tree and the paper was not particularly receptive to water although it claimed to be an all-media paper.

We stopped for a brief tour of the argane oil factory—where once again I got to try my hand at cracking nuts. The women all sat in a circle, their legs outstretched on pillows—some of which were feed sacks, and pounded the seeds against a rock using a smaller rock. It is a cooperative and funded by several entities—all to give women work. The building is quite lovely and the process seems well-organized. I was able to buy a small bottle of the oil to take home with me—although I should have bought large quantities as it is supposed to be low in cholesterol and fight wrinkles and remove scars.

Supper was in the hotel; the buffet contained couscous, calamari, kidneys ( I didn’t try), spicy chicken, and scalloped potatoes and buttered noodles. The dessert tray was quite fabulous featuring three different kinds of cheesecake including one with bits of green jello in it, and another with candied fruit.

Tomorrow is supposed to be our free day—and I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet—a lot will depend upon the weather.

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