Tag Archives: Africa

Zoology Student

20 Nov

In case you are thinking I am still in the Sahara, I had better start by saying I am not, and I haven’t even been kidnapped by nomads – I suppose I wasn’t their type. Also, I didn’t steal that camel in the end. There have been numerous animal-related adventures since I last blogged, but I have not had an opportunity to write about them, because – to my great delight – I have embarked on a zoology degree. This is what has been taking up all of my time since I returned to Scotland.

Here’s a photographic catch-up of our Moroccan sojourn.

After Morocco, I went by myself to the Greek island of Corfu, to visit my father and stepmother. They live in a hill village surrounded by ancient olive groves, and their internet connection is not ideal for blogging.

It was lovely to see my family this summer, but it was also lovely to get home and be greeted by all the furries at our wee cottage. They had been well looked after, but even so, the rabbit and cats came crowding round me with enthusiasm and affection when they saw me. The guinea pigs greeted me by clamouring noisily for food.

I am enjoying university immensely. It’s like being eighteen again, only with less angst and less inclination to party all night. I am fond of this graffito outside my faculty building:

"i LiKe MiCe"

One Night in the Sahara

20 Aug

“Thief, thief! Someone has stolen my camel!” cried Nasrudin.

Finally after the commotion was quietened someone observed, “But Nasrudin, you have no camel.”

“Shhh…” said Nasrudin, “I am hoping the thief is unaware of this and the camel will be returned.”

This is my camel, eating my hat. Her name is Nasruda, and when I say she’s my camel, I mean she was my camel for one morning. I would gladly have taken her with me when we left, but Ali the camel man might have noticed me trying to cram her into the car.

I can’t remember what Bunty’s camel was called.

We were guided into the desert south of a busy little town called Tagounite. The sun hung like a huge peach, and one could look directly at it through the haze of dust. We tried to photograph it dipping behind the dunes, but night falls quickly here, and by the time we had stopped the car and pulled out our cameras, it was nothing but a glow, and the stars were coming out.

As we waited for our evening meal of tajine, a casserole baked in clay pots, everyone gathered on rugs and cushions outside the tents for a jamming session. Daouad, in the blue djellaba, told me they do this every night.

There was a group of Eastern Europeans staying there too, speaking a language we couldn’t identify. When the Berbers had finished singing, they handed over their guitar and drums, and the Eastern Europeans played and sang gypsy songs from their own country.

What else do the Berbers do to while away their time in the desert, you might ask. They might play on the internet, that’s what.

Bunty and I turned in early, because we were to be rising at dawn to ride the camels into the dunes. Although we had a Berber tent, we followed the example of the Berbers: we spread rugs on the ground outside and slept there, wrapping our faces in cloth against the blowing sand. In true nomadic style, Bunty read himself to sleep by the light of his mobile phone, which was plugged into the car.

When he saw this photograph, he feared that he looked like a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Perhaps he should have opted for an ochre djellaba instead – then he’d have looked like one of the Sand People and could wear it to Star Wars conventions.

The sun rose as swiftly as it had set. We gathered ourselves together, mounted our camels, and Ali led us away into the dunes.

I found riding a camel to be easier than riding a horse. With horses, you have to place your feet in the stirrups just so, grip with your knees, rise to the trot, and hold your hands in the correct position for the reins. When you have M.E., this is exhausting. I can’t stay on a horse for long.

On Nasruda, I found my centre of gravity and remained secure and comfortable for the whole hour. I could spend a day on a camel, if I had to. I regretted that I didn’t have to.

Donkeys of Morocco

20 Aug

Once you stop thinking of Mirleft in terms of streets, and start thinking of it as a desert on which groups of houses are scattered like nomadic tents, you stop feeling lost. You just drive or trot across the open areas from one stretch of track to the next.

The roads being what they are, donkeys are a common mode of transport in Morocco. Some pull carts behind them. Others trot along with clusters of small children on their backs. Others carry panniers or impossibly large stacks of harvested greenery.

I took a lot of photos through our sand-encrusted windscreen during our road trip.

The first time I saw this foal, she was assisting two adults in emptying a bin of its contents and strewing them between the buildings of Mirleft, eating anything tasty that she came across.

The following day, she was tethered to a rock. She was none too happy about it.

There was no food, water or shade nearby – but then, there never is. Even when untethered, the donkeys don’t appear to seek shade, and like the sheep and goats of the area, seem entirely capable of obtaining nutrition from the barren soil.

Up on a clifftop overlooking Aftas Beach is the shell of a disused house. I found a donkey here too – can you spot it?

That’s not a homeless person lying there. The Moroccan climate is such that it is often more comfortable to sleep outside than in, and it is common to see people settling down any old where to snooze away their hours of Ramadan deprivation.