[Rainstorm in Issafn, photo by John Francis Peters for The Fader]
The group blog over at our Beyond Digital: Morocco site has been lively as things accelerate. Each week John Francis Peters and I find time to join photos and text documenting some of our time here. The series is here, and you can go direct to this week’s post – Village Boys, Village Magic, and the Best Breakfast Ever.
Issafn’s empty adobe houses crumble back into the rocky landscape. It’s newer self-built cinderblock palaces line a sliver of green—date palms, figs, monstrous olive trees—around a riverbed that’s walkable barring flash-floods. Ten years ago Issafn had no electricity. Powerlines were strung when the new king came to power, and now local hiphop crews post online videos of themselves rapping in Tashelhit. Hassan and his buddies put together an hourlong DVD (that’s genre-scramble seems inspired by Bollywood’s action-romance-spy-comedy-melodrama-all-at-once attitude) that they shot in the hills. The women still haul water up from the creek pre-dawn, and the cybercafe’s sign has been around so long that it’s rusted, nearly out of legibility. What’s gonna happen in the next decade?
[The King’s Speech, photo by John Francis Peters for The Fader]
Walking around Issafn, we are the aliens. Most of our crew doesn’t speak Arabic or French, not that those would help much. Tashelhit is the first language of everybody else here, and many of the older generation don’t speak Arabic. So communication turns into gestures and patience. We learn that the Berber term for beetle is iguiliguiz, a word impossible to pronounce without smiling. We learn that a great magic bird named Baz taught people in this land how to make music. We learn that honeycomb and homemade almond paste and olive oil and round bread is the best breakfast ever.