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Friday 22 May 2009

an amazing weekend

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in the Atlas Mountains visiting some of the girls at their homes in the mountain villages. On Saturday, Latifa, a couple of the girls- Hayat and Saida, Latifa Maatalla (our beloved cook at Dar Asni), and I marched down to the Souk to grab the next van headed to the mountains. We ended up sharing a Mercedes van with about 10 other people, a couple of dead goats and a chicken. A bit of a tight squeeze, as were some of the roads we had to navigate, but we all made it unscathed. After a couple of hours and lots of stops, we were the only ones left in the van, and we finally arrived at Saida and Zahra’s village, where we met Zahra.

It is a really incredibly beautiful village. Both their families were so warm and welcoming; mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, grandparents and all. I had a hard time trying not to kidnap some younger siblings. We were fed fresh bread and butter and honey and mint tea til we couldn’t handle any more. Their houses sit just above the valley which is beautiful and green this time of year, and look onto the still snow-capped tops of the mountains. But it was amazing to see how they actually live at home, without things that I take so much for granted- enough beds for everyone living in the house, fridges, ovens, showers, toilets… And I was surprised to see that Zahra’s kitchen is in fact a 5 minute walk from the rest of her house, on a path fit perhaps for mountain goats (which we did actually share the path with). It was very humbling to see that people with so little could share so much, and it really puts into perspective what Dar Asni means to the girls; not only access to an education but the opportunity to live and learn about a different way of life, and a home away from home.

We spent the afternoon walking around the countryside, where the girls showed off their new handstand and cart-wheeling skills, and watched the sun set over the Atlas Mountains; not something I do everyday. After a delicious tajine for dinner and a bit of Arabic television (hmmm), 5 of us were made very cosy in a little bedroom overlooking the valley.

The next day, after 3 generous helpings of breakfasts, the Latifas, Hayat, Zahra and I (Saida stayed with her family), embarked on a 2 hour hike through the mountains to Fatiha’s village. More amazing views, singing and laughter. Soon Fatiha’s village emerged out of the valley. There was lots of shouting across the valley before we got that close, as Fatiha saw us coming from her house a mile away. When we were nearer we scrambled (scrambled; fell, tumbled, whichever) down the side of the mountain from the road to meet her. We were fed more bread and honey, and then Latifa, Fatiha and I went for a wander down through the valley. We were much lower down than in Saida and Zahra’s village so everything was very green, and there were ladybeetles everywhere! Back to Fatiha’s for lunch, then on the road again…

It was another couple of hours walk to Khadija Aitmed’s village, but on the way we passed some cherry trees, and stocked up. More amazing views, including one of Okeimden, pretty cool. And as the sun was setting we came to Khadija's village. More honey and bread, as well as fresh milk from their cow, and we got to meet the newest member of the family, little Hind, a very cute little sister for Khadija.

Through each village, Latifa and I had the opportunity to meet new applicants for Dar Asni for the next school year, which included some of the girls’ younger sisters, and students of the local primary schools. It’s fantastic to see that Dar Asni will be growing and filling up in the next school year, with more girls from rural Morocco receiving a secondary education.
We had an early last night, and got up early the next morning to get back in time for school. A bit more walking (my legs were pretty sore the next day), but once we got to the main road there was a Peugeot station wagon waiting for us to take us the rest of the way back to Dar Asni. We, 6 of us, shared it with 3 other passengers and picked up another couple on the way. But we managed to arrive each in one piece. It was really an amazing weekend that bought to light a whole new way of life… Thank you so much to Latifa and the girls for such a wonderful experience.

Posted by Zoe (not Linda)