Summer may be kicking off this weekend, but spring has taken a place in my heart this year and I absolutely loved it. Longer warm days, fruit trees in bloom in the Atlas Mountains, and a general sense of relief that the cold winter nights were behind us helped me out of my winter slump!
I was lucky enough to spend a week in the Ait Bougmez Valley at Touda EcoLodge in April as part of a blogger trip. Throughout the week the snow was melting, rivers were flowing and roads were reopening, providing access to the outside world. Pastures were green and farmers were preparing for the planting season. Children were once again running freely through the valley, playing with what little toys they may have.
The break is coming to an end
For women, winter provides a chance to take a bit of a break before the agricultural season begins, explains Said Marghadi, owner/operator at Touda Ecolodge. The small plots of land assigned to each family need tending to, and is often the women who do so, as this will provide food not only for the summer months, but an important stock for the long winter months as supplies are limited and roadways often blocked due to weather. There are no 24/7 shops in this valley!
What does a break for the women mean?
“It’s a time to weave carpets. And a lot of babies are conceived during this time,” Said says with a chuckle. Though this is not the region of the famous Beni Ourain carpet, the women do weave beautiful lush white wool carpets.
During our visit, we stopped by to visit a friend’s family for tea. A small central room provided the family’s winter living quarters – a space for sleeping on one side, a kitchen area on another and a loom where the wife happily spent her days weaving carpets with her mother and mother-in-law. After all, living in one space meant lower heating costs and greater warmth during those cold winter months.
The return of the nomads
With winter’s end, the nomadic Ait Atta tribes have recently to the area. A two-week trek from Southern Morocco across the Atlas Mountains leads them to the rich pastures and flowing water sources where they graze their herds for the summer and live in semi-permanent “homes”, Said explains. In fact, he tells me that he regularly organizes trekkers and journalists to join in this trans-humance journey and I think how special that must be to partake given the decline of nomadic tribes.
As we returned to Marrakech (by car) I was relaxed. Delighted that I was able to spend a special week understanding the lives of locals.