Star Date:  July 2017
South Morocco: Tan Tan Beach; back up the West Coast

     
 

Hello Dear Family & Friends!

 

"Haniya" "Mazyan"
 
(How are you? - - perfect - Arabic)

 

 

 

 

 

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."

Henry Ford - U.S. businessman)

 



The barren desert region of Western Sahara, along the southern coastal area, is known by all Moroccans to be sovereign soil. It is still declared under international law to be a disputed territory.  The border with Mauritania is still undesignated.  Currently a peaceful region, the only sign that the area is disputed is a heightened presence of police, military, and continual checkpoints.

No one goes there?  Sounds like our kind of place to explore.  What an ordeal it was with one crammed shared taxi ride after another.  We spent the night in Goulemim.  This rustic outpost is one of the trading towns where the Tuareg come from the deep Sahara for supplies.  Rough and tough men sporting long robes and brilliant 20 ft. long blue or black scarves, or 'tagilmusts'; covering everything but the eyes, was an intriguing site for us.

These fierce warriors have traded their swords and guns for bundles of supplies on heavily laden camels.  They make unique jewelry with Berber silver, etching, stones, and even dark ebony from further south in the continent of Africa.  Most pieces are amulets to protect the wearer or even unique compasses for navigating the harsh, unforgiving sand dunes of the Sahara.  They trade their handiwork for supplies.  With no tourists in site it was a great place to pick up a few amulets for good luck, to remember this unique area and the majestic Tuareg.

A peaceful, noteworthy event happened 40 years ago in the disputed Southern Moroccan zone.  The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco.  We witnessed a parade in Chefchaouen, commemorating this historic event.  The demonstration of 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometers into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, and meeting very little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco later gained control over the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.  They are now having disputes on the southern border with Mauritania, a country reported to still have legalized slavery.  Did you realize that human trafficking is currently one of the biggest businesses in the world?  We  hope this disputed stunning coastline with it's narrow barren interior enjoys a time of peace soon.

Have you heard of the Barbary slave trade of white Europeans?  Usually we are told about the slave trade involving black Africans.  The Barbary slave trade refers to the white slave markets that flourished on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, or modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and western Libya, between the 16th and 19th centuries. These markets prospered while the states were nominally under Ottoman suzerainty, but in reality were mostly autonomous. The North African slave markets traded in European slaves. The European slaves were acquired by local pirates in slave raids on ships and by raids on coastal towns from Italy to Spain, Portugal, France, England and as far afield as Iceland. Men, women and children were captured to such a devastating extent that vast numbers of seacoast towns were abandoned. 

It is estimated that 1 million to 1.25 million white Christian Europeans were enslaved in North Africa from the beginning of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th century and roughly 700 Americans were held captive in this region as slaves between 1785 and 1815. The markets declined after the loss of the Barbary Wars and finally ended in the 1830s when the region was conquered by France.

We were told during an interesting conversation, "The Koran says I can't dead you."  The terrorists in the world doing all this violence are not Muslims.  They are just bad men saying they are Muslim!"  We were told this by a Berber man on the Algerian border of S Morocco.  Remember that the average Muslim of the world, contrary to the lies and propaganda fed you in the media, is just like you or I.  The media is all about selling prescription drugs, toothpaste, fear and war equipment.  There always has to be an enemy, right?Otherwise how will the corporations sell their war equipment?  Wake up and smell the gunpowder.  Follow the dollar!

Basically we humans are all alike. We all want a safe place to live, food on the table, education for our children, a peaceful existence.  There are extremists in every religion and movement.  The men setting off bombs and doing acts of violence in Europe and throughout the world are simply desperate paid criminals.  Most knew so little about the Islamic faith that their handlers had to create an "Islam for Dummies" sort of handbook.  Don't fall for that rhetoric.  Joseph has been in every Islamic country and together we have been in many in the Middle East and worldwide.  We have even chosen to spend a bit longer every year in Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic nation.  Everywhere we have gone we have been treated with kindness and courtesy.  Rethink and research what your beliefs are.  Aselam Halekum.  May the peace of Allah or God be with you.

Like the popular European Adventures of Tin Tin, we thought Plage Tan Tan (Tan Tan Beach) sounded like a fun place to check out.  We arrived after dark and even though we were now 500km. south, the desert was brutally cold at night.  The key seemed to be to find a room with warm morning sun streaming through the window.  We found a basic apartment of kind, along the windswept ocean.  After walking the mile into town we decided that this authentic little village would be a great place to stay for a few weeks and experience the real Southern Moroccan life.  We would walk into town every other day and have a bowl of their tasty lentil soup, harira, afterwards buying fruits for breakfast or vegetables  for the delicious international cuisine I cooked in the makeshift kitchen.  The key was to take a walk along the ocean at sunset and return home to fire up the gas stove while the apartment was still warm.  The heat of cooking and tea afterwards would keep things toasty until we could crawl under our thick blankets at bedtime. 

Being the only foreigners in town and us being genuinely friendly towards those we met, we became celebrities of sorts in a short time.  Everyone knew us by our 'good names' and warmly greeted us with broad smiles and often hugs.  Seeing maybe 4 other travelers passing through in jeeps for the day, during our whole visit of close to a month we had an unadulterated, authentic look at rural Southern Moroccan life.

It seems that the majority of the men in  Morocco are named Mohamed - being Muslim.  It is quite handy.  Instead of saying, "Hey You!" you can call Mohamed and chances are the man has that name somewhere in his long Islamic name.  It is also interesting to watch the close bonding rituals between men.  They immediately hug, then kiss cheek to cheek up to six times and walk away holding hands or embracing shoulders, laughing and catching up on the latest news.  No homophobia here.

The public domain belongs to the men. Women are seen scurrying along to the market in the morning but home is for the women and families, especially after dark.  During the day cafes are open to everyone, even women.  Foreigners have an advantage and we can pull the 'stupid tourist' card and get away with anything within reason.  Once the sun sets things change and every coffee shop or restaurant is jam packed with men, a kind of insidious domination of public spaces.  Just the way it is...........

We finally tore ourselves away from our new friends and caught the only daily shared taxi north to Sidi Ifni then Agadir.  It was like jumping into New York City after our month in Tan Tan Plage.  Actually Agadir was a pleasant little coastal city with an interesting medina.  It has an annual World Music Festival, "Timitar Festival" which builds bridges between different worlds, inviting singers and musicians from all walks of life around this planet to this huge party every Fall.

Esserioura was pleasant surprise.  Also an affable, friendly coastal town further north, we actually enjoyed a little more contact with travelers and spent time walking the beaches or the back alleys of the medina.

Traditional Moroccan houses with courtyards are called riads.  The sunlight shines in during the day and the cool air settles in at night.  Highly decorated in mosaics and bright tiles these traditional homes are the gathering places for family and friends; with the kitchen with its mats and pillows being the center of activity during the cold winter months.

Strolling the back streets of Morocco is enough to water the taste buds.  The mid day meal is the largest and ceramic pots of tajine are cooking over small fires, filling the air with aromas that make your stomach growl.  Couscous, a grain, is the base often piled high with vegetables. Lucky for us all these dishes were made without meat regularly. 

We often pulled our 'cheat sheet' out of our pocket with 'We are vegetarian' - written in Arabic.  Sans viande - no meat, also helped but we found out that it only meant no beef but that we could have chicken.  It is important to be creative when ordering overseas.  Tripe or stomach soup with beans, baked tongue or testicles, or grilled flat mountain rat is not the menu item we vegans prefer.

A favorite of ours on a cold evening was a dish of harira soup, a thick vegetable and legumes or lentils soup, with or without meat stock.  Fresh hot flat bread from a wooden oven was served on the side.  Salads are common and contain all the usual lettuce and tomatoes plus potatoes, beets, beans, onions and spicy olives.  Mint tea or fresh orange juice in season, is always available.  Described like nectar of the gods - we were often offered sweets like 'Havla' sesame paste or a type of baklava.  Dates and large cashews or pistachios, also always appeared following a satisfying hot meal.

One day after exploring the medina we ended up at the seaside.  There we met a wonderful, thin, young man with Rasta dreads, about 25, close to the fascinating but pungent fishing harbor.  He told us his religious sect was celebrating an important event that night and would we like to join him in the festivities?  We remained open to the experience and it turned out to be quite an adventure.  The only problem was that everything started at 9-10 pm in Esserioura, dinner that was.  Night life just got rolling about 11 to midnight, in the coldest part of the day.  We bundled up and met our new friend along the waterfront.  We walked for miles it seemed to a back corner of the city and entered what looked like an abandoned 3 story apartment building.  Sparsely furnished but welcoming, we decided to make a 'tajine' vegetable stew in the cone topped ceramic dish with the 7 types of vegetables we had gathered along the way.  Cooking, as previously mentioned, warms the rooms up, and a 1 hour simmer did wonders for warmth and our mood.  Other friends joined us and we had a fun evening of conversation, good food and listening to Gnanoua or ia music.  Gnanoua is renowned traditional music from around Essaouira.  It has a bluesy, joyful sound with a haunting rhythm which inspired the Rolling Stones in years past.  This heartful music began amongst the freed slaves in Marrakech in the last century.

Just when we had settled in, it was time to go find the ancient gathering place hiding behind an obscure door in the back alleys somewhere.  We just sat quietly on cushions in an ancient old room with pillars.  Slowly people began arriving and sitting quietly.  Next musicians, in traditional clothing or robes started drumming and playing slow melodic music.  'Maalame ginia' - master of 'Mahmode' directed the ceremony involving spiritual music and dancing that represented the 7 colors (chakras?), using scarves of each color.  The drumming, music, and dancing worked up to a frenzied crescendo and put everyone in a sort of trance.  Then it was suddenly done.  We walked back to our guesthouse in a bit of a haze.  We felt privileged to be the only foreigners invited to their highly important private ceremony.

A couple of days later we stumbled upon another ceremony in a courtyard, buried back in the maze of alleys of the medina.  L'ahidous, as it is called is a group of singers and dancers in traditional costume singing and moving to the hypnotic pulsing rhythm of this North African tradition.  This dance known as 'ahidus' is a vibrant expression of the Amazigh culture.  Dancers move in solid blocks, men and women or two lines of men facing each other.  The audience is drawn into an almost trance like state by the spellbinding rhythm of their chanting.  We noted the similarities to our 'Maalame ginia' experience a few evenings previous.  Definitely a lively blend of Arabic and African.  The rich and colorful history, the very heart and soul of Morocco was revealed in these songs and dances.  The haunting melodies and hypnotic percussion remain in our hearts for years to come.

 

 

And so it goes.........................................Next we flew from Casablanca to New York to Cancun Mexico, bidding farewell to the spellbinding continent of Africa.  Until then let's remember how important our attitude is in directing our lives.  "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."  Take care and Keep in Touch!  Drop a note when you get a chance.

 

 

 

Love, Light & Laughter, 

 
xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph

 

 

Travel notes:

 

1 US Dollar equals 9.41 Moroccan Dirham

 

Tan Tan Beach:
Watia - (Arab name)
Camping Sable D" Or
phone #05 28 87 90 80  About 100 dirham per night

Great little one bedroom basic apartments along the ocean.

Hotel Cafe la Belle Vue, Blvd Mohamed V,
Right on the beach, good place to have an orange juice or snack at the cafe.  Rooms right over the beach  300 dirham

Esserioura:
Riad Chakir Mogador: 13 Rue Malek, just off the main square. Phone # 212 0 5 24 47 33 09  Great location, clean quiet, friendly and helpful staff  (book online) great place from which to explore this interesting city.  They have heaters and fireplaces to take the edge off the cold.  So wonderful we had thought we had died and gone to heaven!  We never wanted to leave.  Over 20 years in Hawaii has spoiled us.

               
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 


 

`

Robed man of the Sahara.

 


Heading through the barren desert of
S.W. Morocco.

 


Murals depicting the Western Sahara War.

 


The Green March.  In 1975 350,000 Moroccans
marched into the disputed area - declaring
independence.

 


Tuareg.  These fierce warriors have traded their
swords and guns for bundles of supplies on
 heavily laden camels.

 


Hundreds of miles of unspoiled Atlantic
 coastline.

 


This once beautiful beach has been mined
 for sand.  Sand is disappearing at alarming
rates worldwide for construction of high
rises.  Watch the documentary, "Sand"!

 


One of the rare women walking downtown.

 


Another Tuareg man from the Sahara, in town
 to collect supplies and sell jew
elry and amulets.
Most pieces are amulets to protect the wearer or
 even unique compasses for navigating the harsh,
 unforgiving sand dunes of the Sahara.  They
 trade their handiwork for supplies. 

 


Fresh grapes and tasty fruit in town.

 


Fun on Tan Tan Beach.  This desert area was
warm during the day and freezing at night.

 


Gathering mollusks.

 


Large lobsters, fresh that morning.

 


Sorting their catch.

 


One of the colorful local characters.

 


Off to mosque.

 


A lively Karate class. Look out Jackie Chan!

 


The daily fresh bread wagon.

 


One mule power delivery.

 


Magnificent nightly sunset.

 


Merlin, our driver of the shared taxi.

 


A vendor selling hot coffee.

 


The Air Conditioned section!

 

 


Our bus ride up the coast, was rich with
people of all ages.

 


Windswept coastline heading north.

 


We played with this little critter for a while,
to give his Mom a break!

 


Colorful weavings.

 


I was in the mood for a small, subtle
necklace.  Jewelry here has a deeper meaning.
 Most are amulets for protection.

 


Handy folding chairs in the market.

 


Our traditional gues
thouse in Esserioura.

 


I LOVED this fireplace!!

 


Strolling minstral.

 


An eclectic African couple we met in the park.
We miss those African smiles.

 


Lobster traps.

 


Sea food of all shapes, colors and sizes.

 


The fishing harbor of Esserioura.

 


Old fashioned wooden boats in front of
 the fort.

 


A scene right out of an ancient book!

 


Cogitating the world's affairs over
steamy coffee.

 


Meow! Just one little scrap please!

 


Our new musician friends.  Other friends
joined us and we had a fun evening of conversation,
 good food and listening to Gnanoua or ia music.

 


'Maalame ginia' - master of 'Mahmode' directed
 the ceremony involving spiritual music and dancing
 that represented the 7 colors (chakras?), using
scarves of each color.  The drumming, music,
and dancing worked up to a frenzied crescendo
and put everyone in a sort of trance. 
Then it was suddenly done.

 


Barren but beautiful coastal mountains.

 


City worker taking 5 !

 

 

 


Back to Homepage