National Geographic : 1968 Jun
For two hours one song follows another. Rhythmic, they are also monotonous to European ears, but somehow so moving I do not note the passing of the hours. The people, a few at a time, drift to their homes. We are alone with the vil lage chief, whose title in Berber communities, as in much of the Moslem world, is moqqadem. He leads us to his own house, for it is one of a moqqadem's duties to render hospitality to passing strangers. We have a splendid meal-a tajine, or stew, of goat with turnips. The moqqadem retires to his bedchamber. We fall asleep in the second-floor living room, lulled by the sound of sheep rumi nating below, like the distant grumbling of rapids. Berber Woman's Day Starts Early To see village life, and to rest, I decide to remain a few days in Haodeguine. Here a winter day begins well after the sun has risen-for the men, that is; often the women are up and working before dawn. I have seen them weave until 2 a.m., take a nap, and then at 4 begin grinding barley in their primitive hand mills for the midday meal. The men who are shepherds leave for the small winter pastures about 8 o'clock; those who plow the fields, an hour later. The plowmen are back at noon and work for the rest of the day only at such small jobs as crushing date pits for animal feed. Ahmed speaks no more of Zuhra. The girls of Haodeguine are driving him out of his senses with their beauty. They are not shy with him; Berber women have more freedom than their Arab sisters. "Are you a man or a woman?" they tease, pointing to his long hair. For reply, he waggles his upper lip and twirls his mustache. He grows indignant because the girls do the hard work, while the men only watch. "You are barbarians!" he scolds the proud mountain men. I fear he will anger them, but they only smile at his tirades while the moqqadem throws me sly winks, as if to say, "One day this city boy will learn how women should be treated." The good chief shows no annoyance at our extended stay in his house. To ease my conscience, each day I buy a chicken for dinner. With this and edibles from our saddlebags, Ahmed concocts stews that send the moqqadem into ecstasies. "I shall never again be able to eat my wife's cooking," he says one evening, belching politely. "The man of Marrakech must stay here. "You also," he continues, turning to me. "You must remain and marry an Ait Haddidou girl." "This would be a great honor," I reply, "but I am already married and the father of two children." "Two children? What is that? One of our girls would give you six!" "Yes, perhaps. But have I not heard it said that Berbers never marry outside their own tribes?" "Ah, this is indeed true of the Ait Haddidou; we have no need of our neighbors' women. Compared to ours, the girls of the Ait Atta are ugly, while those of the Ait Seddrate have displeasingly dark complexions." 862 Firebrand crusts a loaf of bread in a primitive brazier. This Berber housewife places her dough on a hot stone to form a crust on one side, and sears the other with a piece of flam ing wood. Thus protected from dirt, the loaf is baked in glow ing coals for half an hour. The baker wears a necklace of am ber, a favorite of Berber women.