An .. uh .. typical day
She instructed me to head to the center of Agdz around 9:30 and take the transit to her village. The transit is an old blue, getaway clunker-of-a-van. I went to the spot where it was supposed to be waiting for passengers. No blue van. I called Jess, “Has it already left?!” (Options for getting to her village are limited to… well, this one van… technically.) Ask around, she instructed me. All the shops were still closed. I ran up to the cyber. The lady didn’t know. I found an old man contentedly sitting nearby. “Do you know where Omar is,” I queried? Umm… no, but he hasn’t left for Ait Semg~ yet. He kept looking toward a back street, so I just took off down the dusty alleyway in search for a blue van. (The number of vehicles in Agdz could be counted on your hands and toes, so it’s not too hard to find a specific one, if it is actually somewhere on the premises.) I found it parked on a back street, as hoped.
Omar! Are you going to Ait Semg~? Yes. Okay, should I get in now or wait back there? Just wait back there, he said… his head buried under the hood fiddling with rusted parts. Is there something wrong with the van? (Of course, looking at it, that was quite an erroneous question, but I wanted to know if something particularly was wrong that would prevent us from leaving.) No, nothing is wrong. He just swiveled his open hand back and forth (Interpret: wait a little while). I went and sat. I was wearing a summery, long white skirt and pink top … a little more dolled-up than usual… which elicited more than the usual amount of stares. Every direction I looked, any man walking along the street had his face rotated in my direction. Bother. Little girls came up and stood for ten minutes in front of me, begging “un dirham, un stilo” (a Dirham, a pen in French) with curious stares on their grubby little faces. The nice man I had queried earlier, still sitting near me, announced that the blue van had just departed. I ran out to the street and indeed the rusty old contraption was shuttling out of town towards Ait Semg~. I didn’t know what to do. Maybe he would come back? As far as I could see him, he kept rolling on. He knew I was waiting, and in
Jessica met us on the side of the road. The Moroccans grinned at us… one blonde American riding in their old transit, and meeting another American on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. It had rained the night before, and the old clay city we had to walk through was complete mud. Why did I wear this white skirt, I thought? We stopped by random houses, greeting hilarious Shilha women. One friend demanded we walk through her house to the back where it was attached to the clay city, stood next to a herd of goats in the mud, waiting for the guy we had just passed with a wheelbarrow to come by again, so we could see him. We tried to explain to her that we had already seen the man with the wheelbarrow, but she insisted we waited. Not sure why. Fifteen minutes later, and wandering down muddy narrow paths, we couldn’t find him. We assured her we had already seen him and proceeded to Jessica’s house, through dirt foot paths in the palmery. The weather was balmy and pomegranate flowers, apricots and apples scented the air. All along the way we called out to women in the fields and greeted men along the paths, each greeting taking approximately four minutes of “how are you, how is your household?” Finally we reached Jess’s clay home and I rested in her hammock while we waited for the party at 2:00.
At 2PM we showed up, expecting all the village women, music and general celebrating. What we found was half a dozen women behind a stone hut squatting around huge platters of couscous, fluffing it with their hands and oil. Other pots of chicken and a goat’s head sat boiling over palm-branch fires in the dirt. They said the men and children had just finished eating and they would eat later… (i.e. around 4ish, a couple hours later). No worries, they fixed up a platter of couscous and fatty intestine-rolled sausage of sorts. We squatted in the mud, me gathering my fluffy skirt between my knees, rolling balls of couscous in our hands, and laughing at how the “party” turned into this. An old women sat with us in the dark dirt room, demanding that we eat more and praying over us to a Sidi B~.. Jess explained that this “party” was the birthday of the founding ancestor of their village, and that I was witnessing the amalgamation of Islam and pagan shilha ancestor worship.
We finished and apologized for our rush, explaining that we had to return to Agdz for prior commitments. I needed to wash my hands, and also discovered that the back of my skirt had actually become caked in mud. One woman stood behind me, dipping my skirt in a bucket of sudsy water (that they had been rinsing all their tea cups in), another held my camera away from the water, while Jess poured Tide and water on my hands. … I felt just a touch high-maintenance for a moment.
We trekked back to the road, apologizing to neighbors all along the way that we couldn’t stay for dinner with them, as we had to get back. We hiked across muddy river beds and rocky paths and reached the paved road. A caravan of tour-guide campers roared through in their jeep and van. We waved our hands and they screeched to a hault, both parties instantly jumping out, a commotion of demands to join them in their vehicle. We chose the white jeep in front, and piled in with six elated tour guides, chatting in Arabic and Shilha all along the way.