he Berber people have been in Morocco for centuries. They make up roughly 60% of the nation and you can find Berber spoken in a large part of the country. In various parts of the country, it’s still not uncommon to see Berber people continuing to live nomadically. These families tend their herds and stay in large tents made of camel wool blankets. It’s an incredible sight to see and we were fortunate to be able to hike into the back country and experience this extraordinary part of Morocco.
This wasn’t part of our original plan when we drove up and stayed at the Kasbah Les Amis. We knew there was hiking in the area and we’d fully intended to hike around the gorge itself to see the dramatic rift in the landscape. It’s a popular tourist destination and there’s a full-fledged parking lot near the trail head where people make the ascent to the top of the gorge. However, our gracious host Mohammed (who’s Berber himself) suggested that we might instead take a couple hour hike right out the back of the Kasbah and up to the plateau behind Tamtatouche where we could wander freely and see the nomadic Berber people who lived near the town.
Anne and I made the short hike up to the plateau and very quickly ran into our first nomadic family. They’d just finished rounding up their herd of goats and were separating the yearling goats from the rest of the herd by putting them into a small rock corral. We smiled politely, made a short visit, and continued to make our way out further into the plateau. As we neared the midway point between the first camp and the next, we heard what sounded like a baby goat crying in a nearby wash. I made my way over to try and find the animal and came across what was a virtually new born goat with the umbilical cord still hanging from its belly. The goat apparently bonded with me and next thing I knew I had a little companion!
We decided to continue heading to the next camp where we would introduce ourselves and hand the baby goat over. As we reached the next tent we were greeted by a woman and her daughter. The woman was dressed in colorful clothing and scarfs and was stunning in her appearance. It was hard to think we hadn’t been made part of a National Geographic article. Communication was impossible since we didn’t speak Berber and she didn’t speak French (or English). However, we smiled and were able to take some pictures of her and her camp.
While the Nomadic people may live simply, it’s not to say they live without certain 21st century conveniences. Most striking to Anne and myself was the fact that this woman was carrying a Nokia cell phone. While we never did determine precisely how she charged it (we’re assuming a solar charger), it’s proof positive that technology is embedding itself in even the most remote cultures.
Unfortunately, our time was limited and we had to return to the Kasbah before we could do more hiking or see other camps. That said, our visit to the nomadic camps are some of our fondest memories of the trip and I regret not having had more time to spend exploring both the landscape and the unique culture.