Beyond Fez to the Middle Atlas Mountains

I am at the end of a trying and complete week. Learning to be a director; producer; camera operator and sound man all at once has its challenges add in a beuracracy that makes getting a film permit in Los Angeles a piece of cake. I have drank a hundred cups of sweet tea, great for the blood sugar levels, and made several trips to the same office. Lookilg at the map and checking the bus schedules it seemed like the better part of valor was to rent a car for this portion of the trip. Driving out of Fez was a bit of a challenge but I made it to Iifrhan, Google Maps is great, which is a French ski resort, A little lunch and turn south towards Azaru and on to the small mountain town of Ain Leuh to meet up with the coop leader and the PCV that is working with them. She is my guide and Assistant Producer on this project. The belief was that all of the permissions were in place. Like a lot of projects this was the surprise; after severl trips back and forth to Iifrihan, two meetings with the govenor, a mee’ting with the minister of Artisans, a meeting with the regional director, a letter hastily written in English and translated via Google to French, several cups of tea and coverrsations that heavilly involved God, En Shaw la, we were set, except for a visit to the City manager. By now it was Friday afternoon prayers and cosecose time. Late in the day we had our permissions, nothing in writing but all the wheels were turning to assure the local police that all was well with the crazy Americans. I began shooting some exterior shots of the new Artisansa center while the AD went to check on inside possibilities. Most things were closed up so after a cup of strong Moroccan coffee I began to plan a shot list for the next day. My quarters are clean and simple, no double wide trailer for this top director,  and a place to plug in the various battery chargers to keep every thing going. Meals are good and simple with a couple of stops to buy local apples and pomagranits which are in season.

The thing about traveling is the people you meet; on the other hand its the people you meet. I have met some really helpful local inn keepers and merchants that remind you why solo travel offers a unique perspective on the world.  At the same time western tourists have created this class of aggressive GUIDES, that can turn one sour on the whole experience. I try to keep this in perspective, they are trying scratch out a living in a tough environment, but there are times that lead to severe withdrawalls from the world.

Saturday morning I picked up my AD and we headed to Azarue to film at the Artisanas center, The director of the center was supposed to be there, of course he wasn;t and we started talking with the various crafts people. One problem, no electricity, my batteries hadent charged like I thought they had and no lights, Second problem the weavers did not want to cooperate and refused any photos. OK revise the script. We got several shots of the various craftsman and ran our batteries down. There were a couple of other PCVs at the center so we talked a little and headed back to Ain Leuh to meet with the president of the coop and tour their facility. This gave me a chance to mentally map out my shot list for Monday. It was agreeded that Sunday the coop would be closed and that the show room needed some cleaning and restocking to show well on video. Sunday I headed off to visit Makenes and Valumbis, aninchaint Roman ruins, the westerly outpost of the Roman empire.

These are interesting mountain communities on the edge of high plains.  Climbing higher and higher in narrow streets and closed passage ways led to a great panoramic view of the town and the fertile planes beyond.  It is said that the Romans cut down all the tree to plant grain in the area.  Much of the marble from the ruins was looted by later occupiers of the region to build the palace in Mekinis to the west.  I;m afraid my Arabic/French keyboard is getting the best of me.  Unfortunately I am ten days behind but will try and get the rest of the story posted soon.  Sorry about the spelling of the Moroccan cities will have to get the map out and get them spelled correctly.  El Vagabondo


About thaineha

I am a returned peace Corps Volunteer, North Borneo (Sabah) Malaysia 1962-64 I am making my first trip to Africa. I will spend two weeks in Morocco, and about three weeks in Senegal and Mali. I plan to travel overland from Dakar to Bamako. I hope to meet a few Peace Corps Volunteers along the way and learn how Peace Corps service has changed over the years. I live in California and spent most of my working life as a health economist working in rural health care development throughout the US, California and a variety of international projects.
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2 Responses to Beyond Fez to the Middle Atlas Mountains

  1. Robert says:

    You are too funny and of course without trying. I feel like I am there with you, though my “vagabondo” moment was in Switzerland or Spain or Italy or Brazil. It does not matter where you are, they always do things differently then we do them here at home. You are right, it is important to learn how the other culture works, plan ahead and then expect Murphy to be sitting there in the seat next to you. I guess the best mindset is to go with the flow and of course drink all the coffee and tea that you can.
    Robert Birds

  2. maggie says:

    “drink all the coffee and tea that you can”….absolutely! Love following your adventure and loved the new headshot you emailed. You wear it well….

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