Weekly suq at Zawiya

It was difficult to leave Rabat and my host family after spending three weeks here. We had only finally become acquainted with the city and still had much more we wanted to explore. However, we were about to embark on our trip to Zawiya Ahansal. At first I was quite nervous to enter a rural village in the middle of nowhere, and three hours away from the next city. It wasn’t until I laid eyes on the terrific landscape that I became engrossed with its grace and magnitude of beauty. When we arrived, we were greeted by Cloe Erikson who was the founder of the Atlas Cultural Foundation (ACF), Zahira and Hassan. Throughout our time here, Cloe, Zahira, Hassan and many others would be great guides and Berber translators for us. We had to take a small hike up the mountain from the post office that was located at what seemed to be the ‘town center’ of the village. We would be staying at the Sheikh’s house for the week. He was a kind, gentle and wise man. As the Sheikh of the village his responsibilities were to be the leader and mediator of issues that popped up around the village. The Sheikh’s house was large compared to many other houses in the area, as it would also be used as a guesthouse for students coming to volunteer with ACF and rock climbers from around the world. Once we were settled, we had a short orientation presented by Cloe on the mission of ACF and the behaviours to have whilst in the village. Zawiya is much more conservative and traditional compared to the city. Dressing appropriately and greeting every person that we walked by was the main message I got out of the behaviours section. The people of Zawiya are extremely hospitable and friendly. The next day we took a small tour around the village, and as it was Monday the weekly market (suq) took place. As the suq only occurred once a week, men would have to purchase the groceries and shopping items that were needed for that week. The suq was a predominantly male event, as the women of the family would be in charge of the home and the men would help out with the responsibilities by going down to the suq to collect the necessary products. The suq was extremely crowded with little boys, young and old men, and as well as a couple girls and women. Items of all sorts such as cellphones, tagine pots and watermelon would be displayed on top of a large plastic mat up and down the slope of the hill where the suq was situated. Through observation, I noticed that the produce varied in quality and size, and the meat were laid out in the heat for flies and bacteria to accumulate. This did not seem like the best method of preservation and hygiene for the meat, but I guess there was no other way. To be fair, butcher items in Hong Kong are also displayed out into the open heat, but I suppose it is not as hot as Zawiya and there are also stricter guidelines for health and safety.

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