With a long day’s drive ahead of us, from the Anti-Atlas Mountain town of Tafraoute to the Atlantic Ocean coastal town of Mirleft, we unfortunately did not have much time to spend walking around the town this morning.
We saw stall after stall of babouche makers, already open and making new shoes. Tali tried on a beautiful design that we hadn’t seen anywhere else, but unfortunately it didn’t fit her very comfortably.
As we made our way back to the plaza where we parked our car, there was a line of barbers’ stalls, and as they all looked clean and neat, I decided to get my head shaved again, as it needs to get done every week or so to look right. It’s always an interesting interaction with the locals when I get my head shaved, whether I’m in China, or Nepal, or here in Morocco. There are lots of skilled barbers available, unlike in the U.S. or New Zealand, where the fear of AIDS has severely restricted the number of barbers either willing or able to use a straight razor. It does seem to be a novelty, though, especially when we’re traveling in rural or remote areas, for me to go to a local barber shop…doesn’t seem like they get many tourists…
All of the barbers had clients, and as we were eager to get on the road, it seemed like I was going to be out of luck, when the parking attendant signaled for me to go into the first stall, as the barber was just chatting with a friend, not a client. This stall was the least stylish and well-lit out of the entire row, but I went in anyway, and an older gentleman with a kind face greeted me warmly and asked me to sit. Before he started to work on me, he showed me the photos he had on his wall, of his Sufi Teacher, of the Master shaving the head of a student in an outdoor garden (he also had a painting of this same scene), and of the Master leading his group of musicians during a performance.
He began, with his modest but clean tools…he worked quickly but carefully, and almost entirely by touch, allowing his fingers, rather than his eyes to tell him where he might have missed a spot on my head. All the while, he prayed, quietly, for Allah’s guidance to do a good job, one that I would be pleased with. When he finished, he asked to shave my face as well, and I had to say, “Yes,” even though we had so much driving to do today. When he finished, I felt blessed to have received his care and attention. He was a master himself, working in a humble way to be of service to others.
The drive through the Anti-Atlas was filled with incredible rock and boulder formations, the stones balanced at all kinds of improbable angles, seemingly ready to crush the houses below at a mere suggestion of a stiff breeze. As we moved along through the mountains, we saw steeply terraced hillsides, just as we did in Bali and Cambodia; we also saw Berber women, dressed in bright indigo fabrics, operating simple ploughs, each pulled by a donkey over the rocky soil.
Finally, the Mountain range ended, and we drove through rocky desert to Tiznit, a town with a strong tradition of jewelry makers not far from the coast. Because it was already late in the afternoon, we continued on, until at last we came to a bend in the road, and there was the Atlantic Ocean, with huge waves breaking on the rocky coastline. A few more kilometers drive, and we were on the outskirts of Mirleft, a very small town right on the Atlantic coast.
We spotted almost immediately one of the accommodations we were considering for our time in Mirleft – it was located on a rocky stretch of coastline, all by itself, about 5 km north of town. We decided to drive on, and see what else looked enticing, figuring we could always return if we didn’t find anything. When we got to the main intersection in town, we were surrounded by young guys offering to rent us a beachside apartment, waving the keys in front of us. On we went…and suddenly Tali spotted a beautiful and welcoming small hotel, just south of town, the Dar Najmat.
We stopped to have a look, and after seeing the clean, modern rooms, the infinity swimming pool, and the big wooden deck around the pool, all overlooking a beach with huge waves crashing on the shore, Tali declared herself in love, and we booked a room.