The Draa Expedition

By Alice Morisson

Three days ago, I saw the last running water that I will see for a month and a half. It was a salty, marshy tributary of the mighty Draa River in Morocco whose course I am following from source to sea. My trek is 1200km and I have a team of five camels and three Amazigh (Berber) camelteers with me : Brahim, Brahim and Addi.

I have been walking for a month now across very varied terrain. I started in the bleak, dark mountains of the Jebel Saghro, the mountains of drought, which felt like walking into Mordor but have their own wild and barren beauty. Nomads still roam in this area and the old rules of hospitality apply – «Duyouf Allah » Guests of God.  We were always invited to stop for sweet tea, freshly-baked bread, dates and fermented goat’s milk, which sounds horrible but is actually quite delicious. These people have almost nothing and life is very hard but they gave us their very best and urged us to eat and drink more, even though it must have depleted their supplies. In return we would leave presents of tins of sardines and biscuits.

 After the mountains, I dropped down into the heart of the Draa Valley, a paradisical oasis of lush green, filled with birdsong and elegantly waving date palms. This valley is one of the richest agricultural areas of the country and produces most of its dates – a staple part of the diet here.

The days of the long caravan camels are long since over and camels are hardly ever seen in that part of the Draa so we caused a massive stir as we passed through the small clay-built villages. The children all come running out to see the camels and the brave ones ask if they can take selfies with them with their ancient, cracked mobile phones. One Friday, we stopped in a village so that my companions could go to the mosque for Friday prayers and we could eat the traditional lunch of couscous with their friends. We unloaded the camels and set them off to graze.

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