Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Close Tie with Paradise

The Oasis
The drive from Merzouga to Dades proved to be another treat. Between the Atlas Mountains is Tineghir; a wonderful oasis. It was difficult to fathom miles and miles of lush, green vegetation blossoming right in the middle of what had seemed to be a barren, God-forsaken desert! Our driver stopped the bus along a steep cliff to allow us to take pictures. Wow, how can I describe this paradox? It looked as if God took Her finger and carved her name into the hard, rocky, earth forming deep, winding canyons (much like we’ve all done on a much smaller scale in the sand at the beach). Except, everywhere Her finger touched, produced a thick blanket of palm trees. If this vision I see before me were in a competition, it would run a close tie with “paradise.”
Shortly after, we met our guide, Said (pronounced Sah-eed), which is Arabic for “happy.” I found his name very appropriate for his disposition. He greeted us alongside the road with his camels. I remembered that one’s name was Jimi Hendrix, and he suspiciously stared at me from the corner of his eye as if to say, “Come a little closer so that I can show you how accurately I can spit on tourist.” I moved in a little closer to take a picture, but quickly recognized the hint for him to maintain his space. As we descended with Said into the canyon, I noticed how the temperature comfortably dropped to provide relief. Among the rich foliage were alfalfa plants used to feed the animals, fresh mint for the tea that has been our staple beverage, rows of cabbage, corn stalks, and peach and pomegranate trees. We walked carefully along the narrow dirt path that was accompanied by the serene sounds of the irrigation stream that nourished the crops. While we walked, Said would occasionally stop to pull fronds from trees in between jokes, songs, and chat to weave the ladies in our group flowers or snakes, which we proudly adorned our heads. I was so impressed to learn that he spoke several languages: Tamazight, Arabic, French, Spanish, as well as a little Italian and Japanese. It made me wonder why I had spent so much time in school, but never bothered to acquire another language. Here he was in the middle of “nowhere” and could communicate easily with people from all over the world, while I have accented my wall at home with college degrees and pray most of the time somebody speaks English. Hell, my own students can linguistically “leave me in the dust.”
The Ice Cream Man
Anyway, I was totally immersed in the sounds, fragrances, and light-hearted conversation. From a distance, I could hear a man cry out on a loud speaker to the surrounding homes embedded in the sides of the cliffs. We asked Said if it was a call for prayer, as is customary in all of the cities we visited. His response was cute. “No, he is asking the women to shop at his store,” he replied. I’m pretty sure he was serious, but it would have been great sarcasm if he wasn’t. I thought to myself, “The Loud-Speaker Man functions like the Ice Cream Man without the annoying muffled Disney show tunes.” It brought back memories of scurrying around the house to find an adult to take me to the ice cream truck. I wonder if that experience was happening in a similar way in one of those cliff side houses. I imagine that it probably does. Perhaps in a small, beautiful village in the middle of a Moroccan oasis, a child is running to meet “The Ice Cream Man.”

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