March 20, 2013

0564 MOROCCO - A Berber village on the M'Goun Mountain

The High Atlas, the greatest mountain range of North Africa, is perhaps the most beautiful and intriguing part of Morocco, with its high plateaux, its gorges and box canyons, and its peaks sometimes splintered by erosion. Several peaks exceed 4,000m, Jbel Mgoun (M'Goun Mountain) being the highest (4,068 m). The area is populated by Berbers (about who I wrote a little here and here), and it has retained a remoteness which until recent decades was virtually complete and contains villages where the way of life has changed little for centuries. Unfortunately, lately "civilization" gets also here, and an conclusive example is the road from Azilal to Ait Bougmez, tarmacked a few years ago, which led to the disappearance of traditional villages. The revenue from tourism has given villagers the means to put to one side the traditional building materials such as adobe and stone, and to instead embrace unsightly and ecologically-unfriendly alternatives such as concrete, following the false perception that modern materials and methods are always superior.

In the mountains, raising animals is economically more important than farming, so the Berbers of High Atlas are semi-nomadic shepherds who primarily raise sheep and goats, although other domestic animals are also kept. Most have a few mules and donkeys, which are used for transport. Although often on the move, none of the tribes are totally nomadic. All of them maintain permanent villages with fortified, community granaries and surrounding farmlands. The villages are never left unattended. A small number of people stay behind to guard the granaries and to plant crops such as barley, maize, wheat, rye, millet, and vegetables. Many villages are often built partially into the mountainsides, as the one from the postcard.

It's common for three or four generations to live in the same dwelling, all of the family members acknowledging a common male ancestor. The family structure is somewhat of an authoritarian democracy. While the head of the family is responsible for controlling and administering all household matters, he must come to an agreement with the rest of the family. Banishment from the family is considered the ultimate punishment.

About the stamp I wrote here.

Summit of Ighil M’goun - BootsnAll
Berber, Imazighen of Morocco - Joshua Project

sender: Hanane (direct swap)
sent from Taroudant (Morocco), on 05.02.2012

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