Walking through the winding alleys of Marrakech in the heat of July, our good friend Sherif says, “We have to escape this heat- where should we go? The beach? the mountains? No- i want to take you somewhere you are going to like- the real Marrakech.” Ok- lets go. We had learned to just say OK and follow because all of the secrets and mysteries of this ancient place seemed to unfold before us with our trust guide, so we had only to follow. A quick phone call and we were off.
The minute we got in the car and left the city, it was already 20 degrees cooler, although still very hot. We drove about an hour and arrived at a driveway cutting straight through acres of olive trees. Laying beneath the trees were sheep and cows, there were gardens, and lots of fruit trees. A man came out to greet us and we were quickly shown the above set up waiting beneath a tree. Sherif explained that the people who lived there worked for his family to take care of 40 hectares of olive trees, and beside their work, they were left to live on the property and work whatever land was not planted with trees.
Behind the clay house was an herb garden with mint, verbena, thyme, basil, oregano and the garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables. We sat down, and his oldest son, who was 8, took to gathering the sheep to feed, and anything else his father asked. The father sat down with us and had a peacefulness on him that was noticeable. This land was not his, but he was the king of this domain. They were Berbers and lived a very traditional and rich life away from the modern life that is only 50 kilometers away. He served us the most delicious with dates and olives that were just cured on the roof of the house. Dripping with oil- i thought they were the most delicious olives I had ever eaten. After that came fresh bread and a tagine made only with carrots and peas, turmeric, and lots of that fresh olive oil. It was incredible. Next was fresh hot milk with coffee and dates and cookies.
After all that we all laid down on the carpets under the trees and my phone rang. The gentleman looked at my iphone with a childish curiosity. I showed him how to take a picture, all the numbers, texts, etc and he was not the least bit interested. He told me that everything we ate, everything he needs, he grows on this farm. He said the only thing he buys regularly are sugar and tea. Everything else is already there. You could feel his pride and his appreciation of the richness of the life he had and he was happy to share it any time.
The next day we asked our son Uma what he wanted to do and he said, “I want to go back to Africa” which we understood to be the farm. To this day we all say- when dreaming of a nap under the olive trees- me too- I want to go back to Africa too.