Fatigued by Marrakesh, we make our way to the bus station for a trip to Essaouira, a town on the Atlantic coast. We get in the bus. It is a "luxury coach," meaning that it is clean, air conditioned, and the seats are soft. There is no bathroom, but that is fine as there is no stink. After about a fifteen minute wait, we pull out of the station and head out of town. The further away we get from the heart of the city, the more run down the buildings. The furthest out and the buildings look like they've been through a war. And then there is dirt.
About two miles out of town, we are driving along a palm grove. Next to the grove is what looks like a resort under siege. A nice building is surrounded by a high red wall. On top of the wall is razor wire. Flood lights are mounted at the corners. The compound disappears and we are back to dirt.
The land is yellow. At times it is coarse. At times it is sandy. Every so often a clutch of sticks poke up from the ground, some times a stump. We pass a couple trees - gray, haunted sculptures, skeletal hands rising out of the earth. But most of what we travel through is dirt.
Parallel to the road runs a fence. It is short and made of wood. The construction is unusual. Thick posts emerge at an angle and at each post's top is a plank. The plank runs to the base of the next post. With the ground as the base, the fence is row after row of obtuse-angled, scalene triangles. Occasionally a string of barbed wire is attached to a post, but never is it strung taught to the next. Often the wire just hangs down, sometimes lazily draped over a plank. What this fence is trying to keep in or out is a mystery. Maybe it is a line of demarcation. Before I have time to really dig at the fence's meaning, it is gone. We are back to dirt.
I've driven this road many, many times before. It is the Highway 50 through Nevada. It cuts through the center of Wyoming. It is the road from Spokane to Yakima, from Amarillo to Oklahoma City, from Barstow to Las Vegas. It is one long black strip through dirt. Mile after mile of the same - dirt, stumps, sticks, and fences that make no sense. As soon as I start to write this land off as "we could be anywhere," I see a man jockeying a donkey cart.
Every ten miles or so we pass a village. Sometimes the village is far off, a white bump rising up from the yellow and framed by blue. Closer up, the village is a half dozen squat buildings, huddled around a dirt court yard. The buildings are utilitarian, square and without windows. What is inside could be a palace or it could be a repair shop. The outside hints at nothing. The buildings are as uneventful as the landscape, as the dirt.
We drive through Chichaoua or Sidi Mokhtar or Taffechi. I don't know where we are. All these towns look the same. Two story buildings line the street. The first floor of each building, behind a roll up door, is a shop. If it is a repair shop, oil stains the ground, mopeds and scooters are scattered about. If it is a butcher shop, blood stains the ground, hunks of meat hang, swaying back and forth. Wedged between the two is a cafe. Tables are grouped on the sidewalk, chairs turned toward the street. We slowly creep by. Men drinking tea watch us pass.
Behind the shops are homes. Because we are moving, I can only get a quick glace at town life. Frame by frame, I get a peak down each street. Frame: Kids playing soccer. Frame: Women hang clothes on the line. Frame: Moped passes donkey cart. Fade into: Dirt.
The road is in disrepair. The bus slows for large potholes. A few time it turns onto to dirt roads to bypass road construction or, more likely, stalled road construction. This two hour has turned into three and a half. The long time sitting, the swaying of the bus, the mile after mile of yellow against the light blue sky has tranced me out. The only thing keeping me awake is the faint sound of Neil Young coming through my earphones. We pull into a road stop. We get out to stretch our legs and get something to drink. Fifteen minutes and filled with sugar and caffeine, we are on the road again. Back to the dirt.
Finally after three and a half hours we pull into Essaouria. A man with a cart is waiting for us. He has a sign with Susan's name on it. We find him and through our bags into his cart and start the walk into town.
Today, you get a couple tracks from a 7" entitled "Awad Souss". I am guessing that Awad means "group" or "folk group." Souss is reference to the Souss Valley region, an area a bit south of the road described above. The sounds on this recording are generally called "Village Music" and, in this case, judging from the flute and drum combo and lack of vocals, made for a ritual of some type. To be honest, this is all educated guesswork, based on very scant resources. Unfortunately, there is very little if any information on-line in English or another European language.
Awad Souss 7" (Koutoubiaphone, 19??)
This is my first comment. My wife & I are thinking of going to Morocco & I love these posts. I went to Tunisia back in 2000 and had a great time, very much looking forward to the trip and I think you're a solid writer who painted a cool portrait of the country - keep up the great work.
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.
just saw your blog from 2005 about whack the dolphin.
I have a master tape of this record.
in 1982 i was asked to do a remix of it. they hated my remix so it never went anywhere.