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Khamlia (the edge of the Sahara):”Nomad Village”

Driving from the sands of the Sahara, we head  southwest towards one of the nomadic villages scattered across the barren landscape on the fringes of the towering sand dunes of the Sahara.  When I say village, I mean one main mudbrick house, a small kitchen that requires the woman, and it is a woman, with her child baking bread to squat while baking.  The child was demanding his breakfast so the woman had to entertain him with a toy plastic car and placate him while the bread was cooked. This is literally a picture of people making their daily bread. It’s not a saying. It’s life lived.

The traditional welcome in the lounge room of Moroccan tea while seated on gorgeous woven rugs was warm and welcoming. Moroccan families welcome visitors with an open heart. It's important not to look at the dwellings and judge the tents, cooking facilities and lifestyle. This is not a tourist attraction. It is a family settlement lived in a traditional Berber way. We are guests, albeit guests with cameras who examine the life. The Berber families agree to our visit. The welcome tea is a definitive statement that we are welcome to sit with them in their homes.

When I say they live a traditional way of life, it is also the case that they now tend towards a permanent settlement. Many nomads no longer roam the desert because they want to be close to services and schools for their children. They tend to their goats and camels on the flat arid landscape. The mudbrick house indicates that the residence is permanent rather than transportable like the richly woven tents.

In certain areas, such as around Midelt, the nomads move away from the heavy snow towards the highways and roads during winter. If you’re wondering about the water source, there are many wells dotted across the land mandated by the government to supply the nomads with water for themselves, their families and their animals. The government also has mandated that waste products are not allowed to infiltrate and pollute these wells. That’s a critical matter because no-one wants their water made unsafe.

Cultural sensitivity is paramount throughout our visit regardless of whether we are in remote locations, small villages or bustling cities and medinas. We are usually told when picture taking is not allowed and/or appropriate. During our walks, locals--both men and women--will hide their faces or turn away when we approach with cameras. People do not always want their photos taken. We are visiting their home country. When we're at home, we wouldn't appreciate having people taking our photos at random without our permission. It's a matter of courtesy, respect and privacy.

At Khamlia, photos are permitted and now it is part of the nomads' income from tourist tips. Tourism is substantial as the world opens up. They use the money to buy goats and the essentials of their lives. It's not a hand-out. Let’s face it, we were in the Berber woman's face taking photos and making videos (yes, I'm looking in the mirror on this one) that makes it intense for her and her child. We were grateful for the opportunity. A donation was a small was to say, “Shukran”.

A memorable experience

VIDEO: Khamli Nomad Life

(Press arrow to play videos)

BTW We got to taste the bread made by the Berber woman and it was delicious, a bit like a whole meal flavour. We thought it had some semolina but basically was flour and water.


Marrakech, Berbers & Culture
  • Marrakesh was part of caravan road to Timbuktu--remember, this blog is about caravanserais past and present--and the capital of the Moorish empire.

  • Berbers love vibrant colours such as orange and blue

  • Berber tattoos can serve as markers of their tribal identity, womens' marital status (singe, woman, widow), to ward off evil, and/or are used for beauty. One elderly woman we met in a medina stopped to welcome us to her country, Morocco. She mentioned that she had tattoos that originally were signs of beauty but that in a modern town setting they identified her as less sophisticated than her modern young counterparts. Times change; cultural identifiers become less desirable in a contemporary world. One thing she hadn't lost was he welcoming message and friendly demeanour. A smile and a friendly greeting communicate across cultures and societies.

The Berber flag is distinctive and states emphatically that Berbers now have their freedom like any other person in Morocco. They proudly exhibit the symbol of their freedom and use colours as powerful symbols of their connection to the land and their values.

The symbol--the first letter of the Tifinagh language developed specifically for the Berbers by a government commissioned linguist--represents freedom and red is the colour of blood. The language is seen on road signs, government building, information signs across the country alongside the Arabic and French written information. The blue of the flag is the colour of the Mediterranean, green the colour of the mountains and yellow for the desert. The symbol appears everywhere as a proud statement of their identity and that they are free.

VIDEO: Gnaoua/Gnawa songs, music and acrobatic dancing

Gnawa music is a combination of Berber, Sufi and sub Saharan African, songs rhythms and acrobatic dancing. It is rhythmic and hypnotic and easy to put you into a trance.  That indeed is part of its effect as Sufi meditation music. These musicians are from Hamlee from the southern part of North Africa, such as Senegal. The men wear white to represent peace; women wear black. Berber clothes have embroidery; Arab clothes do not have embroidery.

Modern Morocco

On the other side of the traditional lifestyle is Modern Morocco, a country moving forward industrially and technologically.

  • Many new highways are being built and narrow highways widened. We've seen it constantly as we traversed moroccos roads and highways

  • Morocco's automotive industry is growing. The Dacia is a Moroccon vehicle built in Tangir. They are ubiquitous. No, ubiquitous is not a model in the Dacia range. Ford and Tesla are also investing in Morocco, including EVs. Are you listening Australia?

  • Boeing and Airbus are a significant presence in aeronautics

  • Textiles is an active industry with major clothing brands such as Mossimo Dutti and Banana Republic. Textiles is especially important as it provides opportunities for women. Women are seen as the foundation of family and respected. White clothing for women is an indicator of respect while schoolgirls wear white during school hours as a mark of equality.

Other industries that have an impact on Morocco's economy and the livelihood of workers are pharmaceuticals, including the legalisation of cannabis for medical reasons--please, no references to Cheech and Ching's "Dave's Not Here comedy routine*; insurance; tourism; snail production that is a source of collagen for cosmetics, but not for lunch; and off-shore services (call centres) with a workforce 10,000 call centre workers.

*LISTEN (1 minute 24 seconds): Cheech and Ching's "Dave's Not Here" routine

You couldn't help yourself, could you? You had to go here. You are choosing to listen to it. Don't blame me. You either get it or you don't. What can I say, it was the Sixties, man.


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