Rissani. Adventures off the beaten track / Przygody na niezbadanym szlaku

“How is that cow bawling!”  – says Aga when we stop in front of a gate of one of the Ksour. The cow is tied with a string and surrounded by a bunch of kids, laughing and staring at the animal with ill-concealed fascination. Such attractions are clearly not happening here everyday.

“C’est un mariage aujourd’hui!”“There is a wedding today” – we suddenly hear a boy’s words behind our back. He looks very happy for being able to reach us before his friends. His run as well as the information has to cost us a couple of dirhams obviously. A moment later, we are already following the sound of music, inside the dwelling, where a group of girls kidnaps my wife, taking her by her hands inviting her for a joint party. Singing, dancing and clapping hands. Aga, as the only foreigner must have felt like a guest of honour. At first, at least…

Try to image my facial expression, when the elder ladies, standing nearby started to show gestures of slitting one’s throat. At the same time, as a man, I was not allowed to come any closer, nor to “help” my wife in any way. Only after this moment of horror, it turned out that apart from singing and dancing, the wedding tradition involves… killing a cow. And so everything ends well (at least for us).

“Ale ta krowa się drze!” – stwierdza Aga gdy zatrzymujemy się przed bramą jednego z Ksarów. Przywiązana sznurkiem krowa, otoczona jest przez gromadę dzieci, śmiejących się i wpatrujących się w nią z nieskrywaną fascynacją. Takie atrakcje nie zdarzają się codziennie.

“C’est un mariage aujourd’hui!” – “Dziś ślub” – słyszymy nagle za plecami słowa małego chłopca, zadowolonego z faktu, że dopadł nas pierwszy, wyprzedziwszy kilku kolegów. Ten bieg i informacja kosztuje nas oczywiście kilka dirhamów. Chwilę później podążamy już za dźwiękiem muzyki do środka osady, gdzie gromada dziewczynek porywa mi żonę biorąc ją za ręce i zapraszając do wspólnej zabawy. Śpiew, taniec i klaskanie, Aga jako jedyna “obca” mogła czuć się niczym gość honorowy. Do czasu…

Wyobraźcie sobie jak zrzedła mi mina, gdy stojące obok starsze kobiety zaczęły pokazywać rękami gest podrzynanego gardła! Jednocześnie nie pozwolono mi, jako mężczyźnie zbliżyć się i wybawić żony z opresji. Po chwili niczym z horroru okazuje się, że tradycją na ślubie młodej pary prócz śpiewów i tańców jest tutaj… zabicie krowy. Wszystko więc (przynajmniej dla nas) kończy się dobrze.

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Not far away from the town of Rissani we stumble upon a “Circuit Touristique”, where… we do not meet any tourists. The road is apparently in such a bad state that only few would risk driving their car around here. Along the road stand ksour, fairytale, magical and beautiful, though time has put a stamp on them already. They are surrounded by impressive walls, as if they were some medieval castles. Most of them are still inhabited and there is life going on here, far away from the rest of the world.

After the first mile, we already have an escort. Two kids on bikes argue, who is going to be our guide once we get out of the car. Few minutes later we can boast about a whole security detail, a group in front showing us the right route and the group behind making sure we… do not turn around. We came well prepared! Our trunk is full of notebooks and pens. Before we manage to give them out, we drown in a crowd of children.

Niedaleko miasteczka Rissani trafiamy na tak zwaną  “trasę turystyczną”, na której… nie spotykamy żadnych turystów. Droga znajduje się zresztą w takim stanie, że niewielu z nich podejmuje się ryzyka przejazdu. Wzdłuż niej stoją ksary, baśniowe, magiczne, piękne, choć nadszarpnięte zębem czasu. Niczym średniowieczne grody otoczone są grubym, imponującym murem. W dużej części są wciąż zamieszkane. Toczy się tu normalne życie, z dala od reszty świata.

Po pierwszym kilometrze mamy już eskortę. Dwoje dzieciaków na rowerach kłóci się, który będzie naszym przewodnikiem gdy wysiądziemy z samochodu. Po paru minutach możemy pochwalić się już solidną obstawą, grupka z przodu wskazuje kierunek drogi, podczas gdy grupka z tyłu pilnuje… byśmy nie zawrócili. Przygotowaliśmy się. W bagażniku mamy zestaw zeszytów, pisaków i długopisów. Nim zdążymy je rozdać toniemy w tłumie kilkudziesięciu dzieci.

 

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“Venez avec moi!” – a school-age boy with his pitch-black hair cut short encourages us to follow him. I have no idea where we are going and what might be the reason. My French language skills help me as much as to recognize the world “go”. We cross the gate of ksar Asserghine and soon find ourselves squeezing through the narrow streets of the city of sand.

Our little friend leads us to his own home, where he introduces us to his parents and offers… to watch some TV together. You have to know that the ksar dwellers might be poor, but a TV set and a family mobile phone are essential. A moment later, a small table in front of us gets filled with a feast of kings – tea, cookies, nuts, almonds and mutton. The meat is dried, totally inedible as well as drowned in not-that-well fried eggs, yet our hunger takes the best of us. We eat it all. We have no other choice by the way, since the boy’s father encourages and insists, then watches in pride when we give back empty plates.

Time goes by in a nice and friendly atmosphere. A typical house party. We show each other photos that we store on our mobiles, we chat, we laugh at our jokes, although noone can understand what they’re about. Our host boast to us about his personal ID which makes me show him mine as well… this almost gets me to lose it, while the father tries to take it away from me thinking it is my gift for him ;-)

Yet a few months after coming back home, we receive a mysterious phone call. It comes from a… ksar Asserghine. Our little friend asks about a postcard that we promised to send from Poland. It is already sent, though most likely the mail-donkey is still on his way…

“Venez avec moi!” – chłopiec w wieku szkolnym, o  krótko ostrzyżonych, czarnych jak smoła włosach zachęca nas byśmy poszli za nim. Nie wiem gdzie idziemy i po co. Mój francuski pozwala mi rozpoznać bowiem tylko słowo “iść”. Przekraczamy bramę ksaru Asserghine i wkrótce przeciskamy się przez wąskie korytarze piaskowego miasta.

Nasz mały przyjaciel prowadzi nas do swojego domu, gdzie przedstawia nas rodzicom i zaprasza do… wspólnego oglądania telewizji. Musicie wiedzieć, że mieszkańcy ksarów mogą nie mieć niczego, ale telewizor i rodzinna komórka to absolutne życiowe minimum. Chwilę później na stolik przed nami trafia królewska uczta – herbata, ciastka, orzeszki, migdały oraz baranina. Mięsko jest co prawda suszone, zupełnie niejadalne oraz utopione w niedosmażonej jajecznicy, ale jesteśmy tak głodni, że zjadamy całą porcję ze smakiem. Zresztą ojciec chłopca zachęca i nalega, po czym z dumą patrzy gdy oddajemy pusty talerz.

Czas upływa nam w miłej atmosferze, jak na typowej domówce. Pokazujemy sobie wzajemnie zdjęcia na komórkach, rozmawiamy, śmiejąc się ze swoich żartów, choć nikt i tak niczego nie rozumie. Nasz gospodarz chwali się swoim dowodem osobistym, na co ja odwdzięczam się pokazując mu swój… na co on pyta czy to prezent dla niego i próbuje mi go zabrać ;-) Ot, towarzyskie spotkanie.

Jeszcze parę miesięcy po powrocie do domu dostajemy tajemniczy telefon z… ksaru Asserghine z pytaniem o obiecaną kartkę z Polski. Wysłana już dawno, ale zapewne osiołek pocztowy jest dopiero w połowie drogi…

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68 thoughts on “Rissani. Adventures off the beaten track / Przygody na niezbadanym szlaku

    1. Thank you! I was wondering what the reaction might be for the “cow story”. We felt sorry for her too, while we did recognize and respect the tradition. After all, we did not really have time to think about that, I was more scared of what might happen to my wife ;-)

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    1. Right, much different. Cultural differences tend to be shocking at times. But then, who we are to judge that :-) It’s interesting to get to know other people as well as their customs. Teaches us about the world a great deal. Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true! The young one was so happy to talk with us, even if in breaking French. Obviously the cow was less happy about the whole situation. We did not stay that long though.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. If you are afraid, you don’t see so much, if you are not afraid, you meet locals, eat local food and mabe get your wife kidnapped. That is a problem :-).
    I really admire your courage to go with locals, and most of all you courage to eat those foods.(I almost died to salmonella in quite clean country, Israel.)
    Those locai inhabitants seemed to be friendly, I don’t think about the cow.
    This series of the northern Africa has been really interesting, and the photos are always perfect.

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    1. Thank You ☺ now to think of it, I am not sure I would have the courage to try this food again. The ksar dwellers were super friendly. Apart from this one situation we felt very safe and welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess we all have sympathy for the cow..however it is their custom, and a celebration, I too enjoy your stories very much. travel safe.. and keep sharing.=^_^=

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A most delightful story introducing us, your avid readers, to some more cultural aspects of this exotic country. I was not overly concerned about the cow to be slaughtered for the wedding banquet. After all, each time we buy some meat at the supermarket, hidden behind the packaging is a cow that had to be slaughtered. More important was the safety of Aga for you, after she was kidnapped and it seemed that her throat was to be slit. What a story!!!

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    1. Right? Sounds strange when I write about it now, but at the moment it was quite scary indeed. Not for a moment I remembered about the poor cow outside, I did not link those two facts. I was too much worried about the signs we were given.
      You are right about supermarkets, we all (almost all) eat meat every now and then… meat comes from animals…

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  4. Beautiful pictures, loved the post! It’s amazing how endearing people are… And it’s even more amazing how the little boy connected with you.. I hope the post card reached him and brought a huge smile to his face! :-)

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    1. I certainly hope so too! We never got another call from him. He traveled to his brother, to the city, especially to make this call via Skype, as he told us. Thanks for reading!

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    1. I am so glad I helped you get to know Morocco, as it’s a fascinating country. We have spent 3 weeks there, traveling around with a car. I guess that no organized trip could take us to the places we saw.

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  5. Thank you as always for giving me a snapshot of another culture and part of the world I probably won’t get to visit this lifetime. It’s so beautiful how immersive you all get with where you go, even it’s a little scary LOL, and aren’t just traditional tourists. Much love you both.

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    1. My pleasure! More so if it helps You in any way! We tend to choose places that are sometimes off the known routes. For example, we skipped Agadir, figuring that it would be just too commercial for us. Yet, we are still only tourists. It is not possible to learn other cultures during a three week stay, even with best intentions ☺

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    1. Nie zrobiła by tego ☺ Zresztą, krowę mogą zabijać tylko mężczyźni. Okazuje się również, że dla dzieci to ogromna atrakcja, nawet tych najmłodszych!

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  6. What a delightful post, Maciek; I could feel your joy!
    To people, such as the ones you’ve highlighted, must be overjoyed to have others, such as you and Aga entering their lives. And the reverse would be true, too!
    You and Aga are opening new insights for those of us who haven’t this path of adventure. It is lovely to be a ‘fly on the wall of your journey’… :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to have such a companion as yourself on our journeys ☺ Sharing stories is as interesting as living them. I wonder if the same is with reading. This blog is also my way of preserving memories.

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  7. What a pleasure to journey with you and Aga, Maciek. The folk you’ve met on this sojourn have been wonderful. They must love to have company such as yours. I’m sure, from your words, they were delighted. :)

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    1. I am not sure it was us, Carolyn ☺ Not many people stop at Rissani, the town itself is not interesting and shanty, they drive south to get to the dessert. Hence they often miss the magical Ksour around. The family must have been happy to host us indeed ☺

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      1. See! I enjoy your posts so much I’ve responded twice!!
        Hahaa, Maciek… My comment above didn’t show so I posted this comment..
        Yes, they certainly looked very happy to entertain you. And 3 stars for accepting their hospitality; you both did so well to eat their prized food… ;)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It is great when we are able to meet the locals during our travels. What we hate the most are the places overgrown with commerce and tourism – they lose their authenticity.

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  8. I enjoyed reading this story. As I understand it, in that part of the world it’s a terrible thing not to show hospitality. I can understand your worry since you didn’t know all the customs. That was sad about the poor cow, but that’s life there. It seems the children knew the customs and what was expected of them. :) — Suzanne

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    1. Indeed, it seemed like a long-awaited attraction for the kids. But then – what other things can they do around the ksour, not much really. And they were truly happy they could host guests from outside the community. They must have been very proud of their traditions and customs.

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