The Imilchil Wedding Festival (for info, see last year’s entry), or more commonly known around these parts as the ‘Aydood’ (i.e. really big market party) or “Moussem n l’xotoba” (i.e. festival of engagement), was a ton of fun this year. To start it off, I convinced Helen Rose to come up to my site and hike over to Ait Haini with me. By packing more and taking a slightly stupider (but really fun) descent into Itto Fezzou via dried up stream bed, we managed to make the walk 10 hours long – luckily, there were many cars on the road due to the festival and we had no problem catching a ride to Imilchil.
The next morning, I and a few other volunteers gathered at the Eastern High Atlas National Park tent at the festival to fulfill our duties as token Tashelheet-speaking Americans, hand out brochures and answer questions about the park. The red carpet was rolled out for numerous local authorities in front of our row of tents; other displays included associations and cooperatives selling apple juice, honey, artisanal woven and carved products, and a heavily PCV laden Ministry of Health tent. For the next few hours we stood around with our brochures as the dozens of officials walked through the area with the paparazzi in tow, then I hung around for the first shift in the Park tent.
It was really windy that day, and really windy at the site of the festival means incredibly dusty as well. The whole display was being knocked over quite regularly by the wind, and so within 20 minutes of the press leaving, the Department of Water and Forest representatives decided it was time for them to exit stage left. That left us duty free for the day, so we started to wander around the massive market, finding ourselves a delicious overpriced tajine for lunch (we thought about being indignant, but then heard staff charging locals the same price), looking at the piles of second hand clothing, the fat and spices souq, livestock souq, hardware souq, etc. My favorite find in the whole festival, though, was back in that first row of tents.
I went to go get some apple juice from an Imilchil based association (15 Dh for a liter; I had missed it since the last wedding fest!), and as I was heading back to the Ministry tents I popped into a weaving tent. The woman running it looked at me and asked, in tashelheet, if I remember her. I looked at her for a second and said, ‘Zeenab?’ And it was! I had spent quite a while talking to her and eventually buying one of her blankets at the last wedding fest, and I was surprised that she remembered me and happy for her to have gotten such a prestigious tent placing this year. She had a much better array of products, and along with buying more than I had originally intended to at her tent, I also advertised her to other PCVs. I hope she did well this year.
The second day of the festival, Helen Rose and I were approached by two Australians with oversized backpacks looking to find a hotel room. We took them back to Imilchil with us, and they stayed at Charlie’s for a few days. It turns out they were from Melbourne and travelling around the world for their gap year, and we adored them. Helen Rose and I and the Australians made it up to Lake Tislit the next day (which Helen Rose has all the pictures of, I’m afraid), and we had great fun wandering around and birding – coots, great crested grebes, and black-winged stilts, oh my!
While I didn’t manage to make it to Lake Isli or catch any of the weddings that people in my town have told me are televised from the festival (I have no idea where they were), I still had a blast at the festival. For those of you reading who may be around Morocco in September 2012, I think it’s definitely worth the journey into the mountains!