Before going to Morocco I had no real concept of what a Nomad was. I didn’t even realise that nomadic families existed in Morocco. During our journey through the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara desert, we made numerous stops and spent time exploring the various changing terrains. The most memorable experience for me was the day we visited a nomadic Berber family.
We hiked for just over an hour to reach their home, as there was no road nearby, meaning we couldn’t reach them by vehicle. It was super hot, despite only being April the temperature was reaching 30 degrees. The pathway was a mixture of dusty dry land, and tall green shrubbery, dotted with the odd spring or body of water.
When we finally reached the nomadic home it wasn’t what I had expected. I think naeively, I was expecting tents or a semi-permanent set up, but what we actually found was a solid square terracotta building which blended in well with the equally terracotta dry sandy surroundings. My first thought was this isn’t big enough, surely we won’t all fit. We were a group of 8 including the guide. Well it turned out to be a terracotta tardice so I soon ate my words!
The family were very welcoming, used to having groups of tourists visit them I would assume. We were welcomed into their kitchen which was surprisingly a terracotta room with basic seats and a surface for preparing food. Our first task was to learn how to brew Berber whiskey – the only tea I have ever liked! This sweet hot mixture is basically green tea, mint, sugar cane and hot water, served into small clear glasses. I was stunned to see our host put an entire sugar cane into the tea! I knew it was sweet but wow, a glass a day of that is sure to rot your teeth!
Nest up was a cooking lesson. We started dicing the vegetables – onions, tomatoes, cucumber and were taught how to make a morocoon omelette and salad. We then all went upstairs in this deseptively large building, and sat on ornate woven rugs tucking into our feast. It tasted delicious.
There were two women in the corner of the room, weaving handmade rugs and I twigged this was where the sales pitch would be. I had seen these rugs for sale all over the mountains, on the side of roads and in the souks back in marrakech. I did really like them but didn’t quite know how to transport a rug in my backpack, in hand luggage on my flight home…
As expected the sales pitch began and after a great talk on how the rugs were made, which was actually really interesting – they dye the wool themselves and then weave every single strand to make these rugs – we were asked if we wanted to purchase one. I had my eye on a small rug but they wanted a lot of money, around £50 and I wasn’t paying it. But I was happy to barter, as is the culture in morocco, one is expected to make an offer usually around half of what is offered, and then you expect to pay slightly higher than this. I tried my luck slightly, and offered the equivalent of £20. As expected this was rejected but we eventually settled on £23 as two of my friends also wanted to purchase rugs, so they sold three rugs at £23 each, which I think was a far better deal than just one being sold. After all we are tourists sat in their living room, the easiest sale they will probably make all week!
I felt happy to pay that though, as there was clearly a lot of work going in to produce these rugs, and the family had been amazingly accommodating, helping us make our own food and opening up their home for us. They were obviously being paid by the tour company to allow us in, but still, I like to think my money went to the original source of the product which is the main thing.
Oh and as for the fitting in the backpack issue, they folded it up so small I could carry it with no issue! The photo below is me on our walk back from the nomadic house, and the item in my left hand is the rug all packaged up!
Overall it was an amazing experience, I learnt a lot about another side of the Berber culture and my culinary skills improved, even if my dentition did suffer!
Would love to know if you guys have any nomadic stories to share? Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience? As always any questions or suggestions please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!