Packing our bags to leave the city of Rabat was bittersweet as well as nerve-wracking. For starters, I was incredibly sad to be leaving our host family; our host mom and dad had been such a joy to stay with and their hospitality was above par in every way possible. Even now, several weeks after returning home, I still think about their company and their delicious meals. Additionally to the sadness I felt about leaving Rabat I was also anxious about what being in Zawiya Ahansal would be like – secluded, small, and completely disconnected from the world of technology that we live in.
The drive to Zawiya was long and absolutely beautiful. We saw camels, goats, pop-up shops on the sides of the roads, and incredible views of mountainous terrain. After a very minor washroom stop on the side of the road we arrived in Zawiya. Once we got off the bus we trekked to the Sheik’s guest house which was a good ten minute walk from where we got dropped off. By the end of this walk we were all panting and dying of the heat – this worried me because I knew we had a lot of hiking coming up in the next few days. (The hiking became much easier once we acclimatized to the altitude and got used to the terrain).
While at the Sheik’s house we had incredible meals, great company (the Sheik’s daughter was absolutely adorable!) and learned so much about what life in the mountains is like. There were many things that caught my attention during our numerous interviews in Zawiya. For starters, many of the women are illiterate and cannot read or write, or even understand what their children are learning in school. Additionally, health care is incredibly difficult to access unless you are in a higher class or within Agoudim (the main village with the clinic). I also learned that between villages, there is a lot of variation in how people feel about western biomedicine versus traditional medicine with herbs. It’s incredible to see the differences between rural and urban settings, and then within different rural villages as well.
Even though I was anxious about being disconnected from the world, and away from modern toilets for an entire week, I’d have to say that our time in Zawiya was one of my favourite parts of the entire Morocco trip. Being disconnected really let me focus on the people of the villages, as well as all of the nature and learning opportunities that are available through the Atlas Cultural Foundation and Chloe. If I could I would definitely go back and adventure in the Atlas mountains again, and hopefully run into my favourite two girls there; Noor and Saadiya!