Wild deserts, wild mountains and wild coastline, together with some of the most wonderful people on the planet, Morocco has all the things that I look for in an adventurous destination.
It has one of the most fantastic landscapes imaginable. Huge sand dunes rising from the desert floor, constantly being sculpted by the wind and the colours changing with the setting sun.
Our tour leader Mohamed told us we had been invited to a wedding of his friend at a nearby village. Weddings in this part of the world are always several days of celebration and ceremonies, and outsiders are welcomed as honoured guests.
We all eagerly agreed and set off for what we thought would be a short journey to the village. Thirty kilometres of rough desert tracks later, we arrived at the mud brick buildings of the village.
There was a large group of men in the long white gowns and head scarfs of the desert Berber people. They greeted us all and took us into the village where the main ceremonies were taking place. The local women were dressed in black shawls adorned in embroidery and beautiful silver jewellery.
We had arrived on the climactic third day of the celebrations and there were lots of separate groups of men and women dancing and handclapping to the beat of the drums. The women of our group were taken to join in with the local ladies, while we men were taken to the groom’s house to meet the village headman and the groom. A moment of great honour for them we were told and obviously for us a real privilege.
We then set off in a procession through the streets to the centre of the village, where a sheep would be slaughtered and cooked in celebration. Our group were warned that it was not something for the squeamish to see, but little did we know that as honoured guests we would be given front row status.
The sheep was led towards the main gathering and with little fanfare a man produced a long curved blade from his robes, bent over and slit the poor animal’s throat before it – and we – knew what had happened. As the blood spilt onto the ground and everyone joined in prayers of thanks, our group tried to hide their expressions of disbelief. Thankfully we had been worded up to only show great respect for the occasion, so we all nodded and smiled to display that everything had been done to our satisfaction.
The next challenge was to extricate ourselves from the proceedings, as we were then invited to stay the night and join in on the feast they were about to enjoy. We did have a long way to drive that day, plus the thought of being given the choicest parts of the sheep, such as the eyes and testicles, didn’t really appeal to many in our group, who all of a sudden professed to being vegetarian.
Regretfully we had to bid farewell to our new friends, leaving behind gifts for the bride and groom and open invitations to join our family celebrations and weddings in our home villages, should they be passing by.
Moroccan wildlife and desert trekking with Intrepid
Jeff was travelling on Intrepid Travel’s 15 day Colours of Morocco trip from Casablanca to Marrakech. To find out more about travelling in Morocco with Intrepid visit the Intrepid Travel Store, 76 Upper St, Islington N1 0NU, or call 020 7354 6169.