Ouarzazate.. A Caravan of Moroccan Tales

Ouarzazate.. A Caravan of Moroccan Tales

The first name you read when you pass through the gate of Ouarzazate informs you of the sights and tales that will follow: The Ibn Khaldun School. It is as if you will pass through the age from which the aircraft brought you after you left it on the outskirts of the city to harass another age and a different culture with the name of the eternal sociologist, who is alive in the arteries of Arab cities, their inhabitants and their culture. There you will interpret the civilization and was before it, as you cross the land in a caravan of Moroccan tales which conveys you to Ouarzazate. It is an oasis, a city, a village, an open book that has devoted one of its pages to tales, and another to legends. Between a story and a legend are long geographical and historical paths which have been spread out by flutes ???? and desires in the heart of the desert.

Mountains and valleys, a torrent bearing alluvial mud and fertility, the sun struggling against dark clouds, thus began our journey shortly after Ouarzazate, by crossing the Golden Mansour Dam. The same images follow each other successively, time after time: mountains and valleys, torrent and sun. We pass by groups of Bedouins, and our guide for the trip says in explanation: After the winter ends, the nomads begin to disappear in the spring and go out from the places where they hide from the cold. The flocks of sheep and caravans of camels move before them and after them.

Our direction was towards the heart of the desert, and we were in it. The written contract which we had signed, my colleague and I, with Al-Jallali Mustafa, the guide who prided himself on belonging to the Awlad Jallal, traced the line of the journey as follows: We will leave Ouarzazate to Awlad Idris across the Deraa Valley and the area of the oasis, passing by Zakoura, Khazanat Tamgrout and Al-Araq Al-Yahoudi, which is a deceptive sea of sand, and is appropriately named.

We left the smooth roads, and the ascent to the surrounding mountains began, with the fear of a lethal fall. In moments began the slopes, and the curves where we could not see the end of the ascending road. I remembered that I had chosen this road instead of the dangerous Ouarzazate-Marrakesh road about which friends in Casablanca had warned. This warning had made me choose what I had believed was easier. Had I known the unknown I would have chosen realism.

Thus no sooner had we emerged from the heart of the cloud than roads encountered us, some sloping and others swept away. From afar and above the whole world a giant black old man confronted us, like a giant emerging from the bottle of desert tales. It was Mount Kisan, frowning in its dark color, welcoming us. The mountain guards Azdaz, hidden in a gray turban of clouds. Its face looks down on the oasis of Mazkita, and 27,000 hectares of land in which 27 varieties of dates grow, the best in the South. From the top of the Atlas Mountains in that region which overlooks the valley, the tops of the palm trees appear to us like everlasting roses on a table of eternal rocks.

At the bottom of Mount Kisan and its sisters, and in the heart of Wadi Deraa oasis, sleep scattered small hamlets, which you would think are uninhabited until you notice a villager walking here, or two village women standing there. It is a day in the life of the South, where time moves slowly on a cart, a bicycle or a beast of burden, and handshakes, smiles and greetings make it stop. There are small strips around the houses planted with vegetables. In the fields they grow dates, henna, wheat, barley, bananas, figs, grapes, quinces and apples, as well as sugar cane, to which there is no equal on the face of the earth in its length, breadth, sweetness and abundance of water. I know how these products helped to encourage the practice of some local professions, like weaving, which had great importance because there were raw materials there like wool. The geographer Al-Idrisi in this context tells us about the fine garments and superb robes that were produced in the region.

After descending, we passed along many dirt tracks. They were roads, but rugged. We would not have to use them on the return journey, thank God. They could not be seen at night. We passed by a cart carrying dates from the villages to wherever they were distributed in the North. Small boys gathered round us wanting to sell some dates in small containers made of palm leaves. As far as the eye could see along the road were castles or ruins of them, every tower of which had a story. Their owners were the protectors of the caravan routes. They include the castle of Awlad Othman and the castle of Al-Qaid Al-Arabi. Also as far as the eye can see were massive mural inscriptions, drawn in stone or color on the blackboards of the mountains: God Country King People with you it rises up and of you it is proud.

The houses here are an example of the recycling of environmental raw materials for industry and life: the walls of stone and mud, the roofs of wood and palm leaves. All of them are raw materials available, like water and air. Read the names of the cities, the villages, the oases, and the castles: Ouarzazat, Aflandra, Mazkita, Akdaz, Tamazmout, Tatazoulin, Tamgrout, Tazwata, Zakoura, Amhamid Al-Ghuzlan, signboards with a musical sound, even if they grate on the ear, and are hard for the mind to interpret. But you feel that you have passed by here before, not in dreams, but the image is surprisingly close to what you expect.

No sooner had we entered Zakoura than concrete houses assaulted, houses that belong to no place, that preserve virtually any of the architectural characteristics of the desert South. The two rows of houses in the place are separated by a high street, and you might steal a glance at the side streets, and the remnants of distinctive architectural features might return to you, or they might not. You will get to know the date from the signboards of some shops. It is not strange to find a hotel or a market named after Timbuctoo. From here is the beginning of the road to the South. When you arrive at Awlad Idris it is time for lunch. The cooking-pot comes, the vegetables and the meat, the banquet meal, and after it tea, which is characterized by many lumps of sugar, which does not dissolve with a spoon. On the contrary it is enough to pour it out again several times between the glass and the tea kettle. And one has to pour from a distance so that froth will form in the glass. A proverb says that tea without foam is like a Saharan without a turban. Imagine!

In the Palm of the Giant s Hand

But I came out with you from Ouarzazate without introducing you to the city, to which I had come in search of what remained of Saharan culture. Ouarzazate in the Amazighi language means without noise . Yes, its characteristic is tranquility, and other things, including the palm trees which form a wall around it and give it the green color of life. The mountains which encircle it from one side to the other look like a handful of houses in the palm of a giant s hand. Architecture here will abbreviate the palm tree so that it will be transformed into geometrical moulds, some of them on top of each other in the form of interlocking triangles representing the trunks of palm trees. The mountains in the architecture of Ouarzazate are in the gradation of steps which resembles a pyramid rising up as one platform above another.

But the most distinctive thing which led us to make this journey was the architecture of palaces which the inhabitants of the oasis of Ouarzazate had invented as defensive fortresses. I am not confusing the city with the oasis and village by mistake, because Ouarzazate combines all that, or it is all that! These palaces which I mentioned are varied according to their functions, some tribal, which are under the ownership of tribes and based on production, palaces which are religious hospices owned by the Sheikhs and the Sufi orders and built on culture, and government-controlled palaces in the hands of the Sultans, leaders and Caliphs, which are concerned with political affairs.

One can summarize the historic buildings, sites and areas that are classified as antiquities in the district of Ouarzazate as being ??? (Dades), heights (Boughafir), the two valleys of Makoun and Toudra, the valleys of the oases (at their edges), as well as sites, the two castles of Taourert and Tafultout, the Commander s Castle at Al-Judaida in the community of Akdaz in the province of Zakoura and its dependencies (which in the local dialect there are pronounced Ajdaz and Zajoura respectively.

Shall I describe to you the palace castle? It looks like a marvelous maze inhabited by cooing pigeons, or in its earthy color is like a monochrome carpet. Perhaps you think when you see it from the outside that it is three floors high, but inside you will see how other floors are born, until they amount to seven, increasing on one side and diminishing on another. The castles are architectural boxes with sunken carvings and protruding decorations, windows, ventilation openings, sometimes leading to broad space which enables you to see it from its high location always and at another time leading to an imaginary open sky, whether illuminated by the sun from outside, or lit by the lights of lanterns from the interior, the eye does not discern its inhabitants who are guarded from curious or prying eyes, at times thanks to a high wall, blank except for arched doorways and supporting walls, and at other times because the building is too far from the road.

The architectural design of the castles outsmarts the sternness of geometry with the suppleness of art. The rooms of the castle open into each other, and hardly any room resembles any other in size, design, the location of the windows and their proximity to the ceilings or their distance from the floors. The rooms are connected to each other sometimes by raised steps, or a narrow passage at times, which you would think was only made for children. Difference is a common feature between the rooms which are united only by the wooden ceiling. And here the difference begins again between a ceiling weighed down with magnificent decorations and another that is economical and only reveals dumb white gypsum formations.

I will talk to you about the metal bolts of the doors of rooms of the castle of Taourert. In spite of their hardness, their ends are in the form of beaks of birds, which pick up the conversation from behind the short doors. These doors force people of tall stature to bend down when they enter. Inside the castle we will pass the stairs and the corridors, and the higher we go the more the decorations on the ceilings and walls increase. They are decorations in natural colors. The ceilings are called tatawi, after the province of Tata, and they are made of bamboo, palm and willow wood, while the wall cupboards are made of cedar wood. There is a strange thing about the windows. Those on the lower floors are near to the ceiling, whereas those on the higher floors are almost touching the floor. Perhaps that design is a protection for the adobe ??? of the castles. A feature of these windows is that they are arched like the windows of a mosque. The decorative units of any two windows hardly agree with each other at all. From one of them you will see in the direction of the desert, and at the top of one of the distant towers is a stalk s nest, which looks like a giant turban of straw.

This castle, according to a study by the researcher Hussein Akyuh, is considered one of the government-controlled palaces which were under the control of the commander Al-Kilawi (whose name is pronounced Al-Jilawi) in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. The Lord of the Atlas, which was his title, obtained legitimacy for his rule, as well as firearms which enabled him to establish a strict regime which included Al-Hawz, the Atlas and the valley and oasis of Deraa, so that when the French protectorate came, Al-Kilawi was one of those employed by France, so that his kingdom would not be a haven for refugees who had fled, or a probable way station for the Germans.

Legends of Al-Kilawi

When the French armies arrived in Taourert, where we stand in Al-Kilawi's main castle in Ouarzazate in 1928, they set up a camp which included an airfield, barracks for the soldiers and places for activities which included the integration of Europeans in the local environment. They surrounded the neighboring tribes who resisted, including the tribes of Ait Ata (which means the children of Ata in Amazighi) in similar centers. So when the French came out, and Al-Kilawi and the Jews with them, Ouarzazate was left with a vacuum which the new Development Administration began to try to fill. The Golden Mansour Dam was built to encourage agriculture, but this dam itself buried a large area of the oasis and displaced many peasants, who went to the surrounding areas. The oasis was turned into a tourist resort with government encouragement. Commercial and service activities appeared which were able to attract the inhabitants, whose number reached 40,000 in the 1992 census.

Many stories about Al-Kilawi renew the strength of folk tales about that ruler who was able to do everything, among them monitoring all the commercial caravans simultaneously through his widespread castles. Some people related that he had 1001 castles built on the summits of hills overlooking the caravan routes, so that they would not pass until they paid the duty (as the fee was called). The expression duty is still used to this day, you will hear it from the sentry who sits to collect the duty from visitors who come to see the castle.

Al-Kilawi s wives, who were four, were accustomed to watching the celebrations held in the courtyard of the castle from behind the windows, which concealed them from the people outside. The wives, both the three who were placed on the second floor, or Al-Kilawi s favorite one because she bore him a son, and so he chose her an upper floor would assemble in the bath, where hot water flowed from pipes above. They would mix it with cold water, which came from below. The bathroom adjoined a room for undressing, and the children had another room. One of the rooms of the castle was set aside as a mosque for the women, as they did not have the right to go out. Also rooms behind others, dozens of rooms. UNESCO only repaired just over thirty of them, which would be enough for us to grasp the pattern of life in those castles about two centuries ago. The soldiers here had several rooms with loopholes suitable for observation and firing from the barrels of rifles to defend the castle.

Our guide Abdulsadiq Onil, who had a degree in economics from Marrakesh University, accompanied us around the rooms without tiring. He had a logical justification, which explained everything that we saw. There were three windows in the women's room because the women in it were three. The doors were low in order to preserve the moderate warmth of the rooms, both in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The windows are close to the floor in the dining room because the men were accustomed to sitting on the ground to eat their meals and to watch what was going on. The stairways were high because Al-Kilawi and his men were tall. The stone bases of the windows had holes in them down to the lower part of the building so that air could come in if the wooden shutters were closed when the sandstorms blew over Ouarzazate, which frequently happened. They were air conditioners invented by the architecture of these castles. Al-Kilawi s balcony was at the front of the castle so that he could watch the caravans as they went past, and nothing would escape his knowledge when he ordered the fees to be collected and the safety of the caravans to be ensured. The gypsum inscriptions represented verses of the Holy Quran and prayers, since Islam had forbidden pictures. (In Taourert Castle they were signed in the name of the calligrapher Muhammad Ibn Al-Jailani Al-Marrakeshi). The light shaft is located in the middle of the building, because it is regarded as an ideal way to convey messages. It was the telephone of Oarzazate, by which voice messages were sent throughout the height of the whole building. Loopholes were distributed around the corners of the rooms, which were lit up when the lanterns were lit, the space of the whole place would be illuminated, and we would see and contemplate how some of the tourists had left their names behind on the walls.

We were astonished to find drawings in one of the halls. They represented six fishes with their heads together in a decorative circle. We were amazed how the fish had reached the heart of the desert. Abdulsadiq - whose name on his graduation certificate, which he insisted we must see, was written as Abdulsadeeq"- told us that

the makers of the film Jewel of the Nile, some of whose scenes had been filmed in the castle, had wanted this, and they had what they wanted, even history is at the service of the cinema! I looked for another reason after seeing the same picture repeated on earthenware vessels which are made and sold in Ouarzazate. I learnt that some fish from the streams in the valleys come to swim in the water from the floods and the rains which collects behind the Golden Mansour Dam on the edge of Ouarzazate, which was built thirty years ago. This year the valley was filled with rain, and the date harvest in Ouarzazate was the best of any year in the last ten years. The fishermen, who come shortly before dawn to the Golden Mansour Dam, were able to gain something of a livelihood.

The Old Village

Behind the castle of Taourert, in the distance between the Golden Mansour Dam and the city, and like arteries throbbing with a low sound and a tranquil picture, the contiguous roads are distributed in the body of the old village in Ouarzazate. We went along roads which twisted like a child's scrawl on the blackboard of life. The roads are roofed over at times, and open at others. We passed along the village high street, sometimes with the rain spraying us, and sometimes with wooden roofs sheltering us, through which we would hear footsteps of inhabitants above, as if they were in magic boxes. Our suspicion would be confirmed by a cat appearing here or disappearing there. We were surprised that nearly half the places were shops to meet the needs of tourists for souvenirs. After the caravans had become obsolete, here were its leftovers side by side with folk handicrafts.

We passed by a square which was the largest, in the heart of the small village. Boys were playing, with the tolerance of the Imam of the mosque, who had come to open the door for prayers. The mosque had a giant arched door, it still preserved the ancient wooden door, contrary to many houses here which had substituted metal doors for their wooden doors. Iron doors are dumb, except for a few colors here, or several inscriptions there. The local people have found greater protection in metal, while the ancient doors have found a place for themselves among things sold by antique sellers. In the heart of the village a businessman bought two houses, which he renovated and built a high bridge between them. He made them into a hotel and restaurant. Our companion said that he attracted Spanish groups directly, before their tours of the village and the castles began, and afterwards.

In the Sunday Market, Al-Maghili comes to Ouarzazate to visit his niece in the hospital, but he believes that the visit can be advantageous and affectionate at the same time. So he brought his elder sister with him to the Sunday Market, so that she could sell some of her goods as well. Old Moroccan coins, including some that had been minted in England. A few coins and plenty of jewelry. The Bedouin women used to make these pieces of jewelry as economic, social and also aesthetic capital, and they are now material value that they have as an inheritance. Indeed, they are offered for sale in the markets, in exchange for the means of sustenance. But they hardly ever go outside the limits of daily use to ??? ??? ??? A woman goes past in her stylish, flowing and also distinctive Moroccan dress. She asks about a silver bracelet like the one on her wrist, but does not find one. She asks about the price of another bracelet on offer with several links. Three thousand riyals, the salesman replies. She leaves us, and I ask him as I drink green tea, The prices of antiques are all in riyals. Where is the dirham (the official Moroccan currency) here? He answered with a smile, Old ladies and ordinary people don t know how to calculate the dirham easily. The riyal is older. They do their transactions in dirhams only, but they know that a dirham is equivalent to twenty riyals.

The links I bracelets may be common in several cultures, but the interesting thing for the Amazigh is a wedding ring, which is made of three links. The first of these represents and looks like the palm of a man s hand, while the last represents and looks like the palm of a woman s hand. The middle link has the image of a heart. When the three links are joined on a finger, they are the quintessence and symbol of the love that unites husband and wife. A man s ring is no different from a woman s ring, except that it is a larger size.

Here some traditional jewelry goes through a process of recycling, not only by using old coins, but also by transforming anklets and bracelets into boxes after securely closing the upper and lower circles, with a base and lid, thus turning them into an elegant silver box. Sturdy silver boxes which vary in size have played an important role in preserving the written heritage. They have been used to keep manuscript copies of the Holy Quran and rare books. Most of these boxes are made of silver and ingots of copper, and decorated with camels bones instead of ivory in most instances. They have rings at both ends to make it easy to carry the preserved book around one s neck with a thick piece of woolen string. Carpets also are sold. The most famous and valuable kinds of Ouarzazate carpets are the color of henna and the color of the desert. It can take six months for women to complete a carpet.

Antiques are sold in the village, or in the Old Market, which is in the middle of the city. You will not find anything in it that is different from popular markets. The rent for a patch in it is one dollar a day, and everything is sold in it that is required for daily life: clothes, spices, even cassette tapes. Those old daggers that remain to be sold are not more than fifty years old. The co-operatives now encourage people with traditional crafts, including makers of daggers, to produce them, and market them. A shaluh belt can be found in a shop which sells folk costumes. It is the belt which women dancers wear, but men buy it also so their wives can dance for them in privacy. I know that a Saharan, who is stern outside the tents, leaves his harshness with which he faces the weather when he enters his home. He turns into a heart full of kindness towards his wife, and seldom takes another wife. She enjoys a great deal of freedom and shares the space of the place and life with him, and with regard to his children who will inherit the name of the tribe. I ask about weddings, and they tell me that all the weddings are postponed until the summer. These rituals require a great deal of money, which can only be provided by those who come in the summer holidays, when a woman s weight increases in the Sahara. I remember a custom which they told me about, which is called the tiblah. This is an expression that means fattening a girl so that her body will look suitable and she will be respected. Some religious scholars in the desert have disagreed about whether this is permissible or forbidden. Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mami says that it is necessary to improve a young woman s body and prepare her for marriage.

Marriage is contracted among the people of the Sahara by reading the Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Quran in the presence of the families of the bride and bridegroom. The wedding celebration can continue for between two and seven days. The bridegroom comes in an official procession every night, while the bride hides, and seldom sits beside him during this period. The Saharans have imitated civilizations that preceded them, including the husband s brother inheriting a wife after the husband s death, and marrying her after the required waiting period is over, unless she is pregnant. This is a kind of co-partnership marriage that is not considered reprehensible.

Ahmad Al-Omari told me how he came to know his wife on one of these tours. She was outside one of those tents which he was passing by with his father in order to collect some antiques and jewelry that the women wanted to sell. He liked the girl and asked his father to ask for her to marry him. Before a year passed they were together in a family home outside Ouarzazate, into which he rode every day on his bicycle. Ahmad s wife was Amazighi. Most of the local marriages, if it is correct to all them that, are between an Arab man and an Amazighi woman. Here in marriage the pool of inheritance will widen, to gather Arab and Amazighi drops in one container. I asked our friend about the names most frequently used in the local culture. They are Muhammad, Ahmad, Abdulrahman and Mustafa, and for girls Khadija, Fatima and Safiya. These are pure Arab names that are common, that have the spirit of the Islamic Arab heritage.

Read about naming among the Amazigh. No doubt our friend Ahmad will combine his Arab rituals with his wife s rituals when she gives birth to their first child in a few months. Naming among the Ait Izdi, Ait Marghad and Ait Ata in the South-East used to begin, and still does, on the seventh day after the boy s birth, this is the occasion on which he is given his name. On this occasion the boy is brought outside the house shortly before noon, held in his mother s hands, with his face turned towards the sun. The rays of the sun arouse him, and one of the women gathered in a circle round his mother helps him to open his eyes to look directly at the sun. After the operation is completed, the mother and one of the women make a trilling sound three times in succession. At that moment the father and one of the members of the family will have prepared the sacrificial animal for slaughter, its neck turned towards Makkah and the sun. Now this sun deserves the sacrifice after it has woken the baby up from his slumber with its rays. It deserves the sacrifice after it has seen him and he has seen it. The slaughter is usually before noon. Many a lucky girl has earned the name Shams Al-Dhuha (Sun of the Forenoon) because she was born just before noon. She not only opened her eyes just before noon to see the sun, but also began her life as a whole when the sun was in its forenoon phase.

Sahara, Amazigh and Pharaohs

Return to the lines of sand in the desert, where the voice of the historian Abdulwahab Ibn Mansour rises up from his book on Moroccan Desert Excavations. These sands were not a barrier between Morocco and the other countries of Africa. On the contrary, they were a mechanism for joining and a connecting link between it and them. Yes, the Moroccan desert was a crossing point for caravan routes between the ancient commercial centers in the North and their equivalents in the South: Nawl Lamta, Takdaoust, and Oulil. Likewise the modern centers like Kalmim, Samara and Shanqit. Also the major markets and the famous seasons in Wadi Nun, Sous and the Eastern Sahara are very important in creating contact between the Amazighi and Hassani tribes, in which there is cultural continuity through trade transactions. These compel the tradesmen to know each other s languages in order to facilitate communication between the two elements.

Add to that the journeys of the spiritual guides of the religious hospices and the Sufi orders and legal scholars of the Maliki School of Islamic law to the lands of the Kadala tribe in the depths of the desert. The majority of these legal scholars are Amazighis, and the Saharan students come to the old schools to learn the Holy Quran by heart and the sciences of Islamic law at Sous. As well as the legal scholars, the Sheikhs of the Sufi orders make journeys to spread their orders, visit followers and collect gifts. Among the most notable of these Sufi orders are the Nasiriya, Qallaliya, Tijaniya, Rahhaliya and Darqawiya.

Ibn Mansour differentiates between more than one road linking Morocco to Africa. One of these is the road of the oases of Fakik and Wadi Assaouira, of which we followed the eastern part passing by Akdaz. But we did not reach the end of it, since it finishes up at the River Niger! In the Sahara at Al-Araq Al-Yahoudi, the heart of the deceptive waves, a clandestine war began between the sands and the camera. My colleague wanted to take photographs that would keep the memory of the place alive, while the sands struggled to reach the heart of the camera. Moments later, in the car, the camera would be cleaned \from inside. Now I realized the value of the abaa, a cloak which is sometimes as much as three meters long and needs a catalogue. With its distinctive sky-blue color in the midst of the golden sands, it not only has aesthetic value but also great utilitarian value, since it protects faces from burning sands. The abaa is also a source of proverbs. It is said, Whoever fastens it with his hands must unfasten it with his teeth .

Across these desert roads history and poetry relate how the Kings of Morocco and Sudan gave each other rare works of art, astonishing curiosities and strange animals, like the giraffe which one of the Kings of Sudan gave the Almohade Caliph Yaqoub Al-Mansouri. The poet Ahmad Abdulrahman Al-Waqshi Al-Kinani, who died in AH 573, said of it:

Strange animals were assembled for you

Sent from faraway countries

The most splendid of them they call a giraffe

They have rightly said that it was clearly unique

It wore clothing of an elegant brass color

Striped on its sides with ???

As if it had been partitioned when it was created

It came to you between the horses and the camels

And its two horns when it stands before us

Are two pens whose ends have been cut off

Its legs are long and so is its neck

So that it is higher than walls

It varies in its thickness, as its hindquarters

Are a third of it, while its front is two thirds.

If Morocco is like a country that summarizes the African continent in its geography, which combines forests, deserts, mountains, valleys and water flowing down to the coasts of its ocean, or with its rivers, then Ouarzazate summarizes the language of the Sahara and the history of southern Morocco together. In this desert memory is renewed with the Amazighi culture. I have read how some researchers are trying to arrive at common roots between the Amazighi civilization in the Moroccan Sahara and the Pharaonic civilization in Egypt. Ahrishi Muhammad asks in an electronic magazine: Is the Pharaonic Osiris the same as the Amazighi Anzar?

As Ahrishi says. The matter goes beyond any phonetic closeness between the two names, which may be the result of mere coincidence, to the almost total similarity of content of the two mythologies. Osiris in Pharaonic mythology was the god of resurrection and the afterlife, the god of plants and fertility and the god of the Nile. He is presented in the image of a man wrapped in a funeral shroud, with a crown on his head surrounded by two feathers, and carrying the Pharaonic serpent which represents authority. His green-colored complexion symbolizes the resurrection of the spirit on earth and its revival after death. Anzar is the rain, and the rain implies meanings of making plants grow, revival and fertility. However, Anzar in fact is not the rain itself, but rather the god of rain. He is the god of fertility and revival like Osiris. This may be confirmed by Amazighi linguistic and cultural data. Amazighi women used to go out in periods of drought to a place of water (a river or spring), remove their clothes, sing and make provocative movements towards the sky, asking for water from the sky, that is, asking for revival and fertility.

We may record here that an Amazighi bride comes in beautiful colors and splendid clothes, wishing to leave the Earth and ascend to Heaven to join her husband. Does this mean, then, that one of the women used to be presented to Anzar as a sacrifice as was the case with Osiris, for whom she used to be thrown into the Nile (the idea of the Bride of the Nile)? This is confirmed by another ancient ritual which used to be, and still is, held in periods of drought to pray for rain. In this a doll is made of reeds and clothes, adorned with the garments and jewelry of a bride and a ladle is placed in each of her hands. She is then carried around in a singing procession, which stops at every house, dancing, singing and beseeching the sky until the owners of the house sprinkle some water on it. With that, according to Amazighi elders, this doll will have been prepared for the goddess Isis in a process of supplication and using her as an intercessor with her husband Anzar, beseeching him for water and fertility, as the Pharaohs used to beseech Isis to revive the River Nile and make the dead seeds grow with her tears and her magic.

A Cinema Paradox

Thus the ideas swayed to and fro between Ouarzazate the city and the village, between the Sahara of the tale and the myth. I return to the scenes of the old village. The vision of an old man weaving woolen head coverings led me to ask about the jobs which the people of the village do. The answer astonished me: they are almost all in teams working for the cinema, those teams which work alternately in the Atlas Studio close to the city and for others. To this village agents come to attract people to work for the cinema, thousands of faces who will remain unknown although they appear in famous films. While older people keep their beards according to religious tradition, some of the young people grow their beards in different styles, to meet the director s requirement.

Everyone here has taken part in at least two films. Thus the camera in my colleague s hand did not seem strange, but the strange thing was that they were extremely sensitive in their response to it. They would be aware of the lens, and then they would disappear. Perhaps they were used to the cinema only. It is a paradox that the only cinema in Ouarzazate was up for sale, as it did not have any audience. Perhaps because all the inhabitants were busy acting. An actor in an extra s role would earn a daily wage of 170 dirhams (about $20). It would originally be 250, but after the agents took their cut it would be greatly reduced. These agents would bring groups and substitute them in the films which were shot in Ouarzazate. Work on one film requires hundreds, and perhaps thousands of extras. Their day begins at sunrise, and only ends after sunset.


Ashraf Abul-Yazid


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