Walking the coastline of Morocco, near Imsouane, I come across some puppies, all alone in the sand dunes and melt at the sight of their button eyes looking up at me. Seeing these puppies by themselves arouses in me a motherly instinct to help them, to keep them safe from harm.
However, the puppies would hardly fit in my backpack and so I decide to find someone who can help. Moroccans are generally friendly towards stray animals and I’m sure I can get someone to take care of these little cuties.
After about half an hour sitting with the puppies, I see a woman walking by the shore. As I approach her, the puppies in tow, she instantly strikes me as a sweet lady. As we talk with hands and feet – I have yet to learn any Berber – she is energetic and laughs a lot, making me wish I did speak her language. I want to find out more about her, her life and her days.
Luckily, the woman wants to help and she goes to her home to get some pancakes for the puppies.
Continuing my journey I do not make it far before a man approaches me and asks, in broken English, if I want to join him and drink some tea. Moroccan tea (and hospitality) is something I simply can not resist!
Although the man is friendly and the tea is nice, from the moment I sit down I can’t wait to leave again because in the distance I see three women building a fire on rocks next to the sea. I want to know what they’re up to!
As I come to the rocks I see five women and a young boy working with axes and buckets. For a few seconds I wonder what they’re doing, until I see it — they’re hunting for mussels. And it’s quite a sight to behold.
The platform they’re on edges off into the sea and waves break onto it constantly. The biggest mussels, however, are on the edge of the platform and they are brave enough to try and get at them. For two hours I sit and watch the women go crazy with their axes and buckets. I see them picking, but also running for their lives if a high wave comes and tries to grab them and drag them into sea.
The little boy all the while is helping his mother clean the mussels. He’s good at it, quicker at cleaning than his mother can bring in new mussels, so we have some time to talk. Or rather, try to talk. We have fun together and I think the boy likes me as much as I like him because after a while he comes to me with a pointed shell and gives it to me. He shows, with another one, that I need to get out whatever living thing is in it and eat.
Now, I don’t eat living creatures and don’t like shell food, but the boy looks up to me with his big eyes and the next moment it’s in my mouth. The first thing I notice is the saltiness, which is not that bad, but then I feel the sliminess of this creature and try to get it down. When his mother calls the boy, I am thankful… he was about to offer me another one.
Sitting there, looking at these women, my hands ache to help them in some way. And when they move up the platform and start sorting the mussels, I grab my chance. I move to the lady who helped me with the puppies and she’s happy to let me join, although I have the feeling she thinks I’m a bit weird — a tourist offering her help.
We sort the mussels and after a while we’re almost done, when from a rock up higher a beautiful girl calls for us. We go over, it’s time to cook the mussels on the big fire she’s building. The young lady also doesn’t talk any English and I am sad we can’t share more together. It doesn’t stop her, however, from inviting me to her house.
There I meet two other friends, one of who has recently been married. It’s why she has beautiful henna all over her hands and feet. Suddenly, they over to do henna for me too. Although I told Martijn I wouldn’t be away long, I think that’ll be alright. I’ve done henna before in India and that didn’t take long at all.
Indeed, making the design doesn’t take long at all. However, when they’re done they wrap my hands in plastic and sign that I need to wait. This is taking much longer than expected. Though any thought of that disappears when they take of the wrappings — it’s beautiful! It feels like having a new tattoo.
After a quick selfie, it’s really time to go. I pass the woman who helped me with the puppies again and she loves my henna. Walking back to Imsouane I’m thankful I have seen a little of the lives of these strong Berber women.