Day Seven – Berber Whiskey

The scenery is now typical for the area: mesas, buttes and broad scrub plains. Dotted throughout it are the odd irrigated oasis wherever there’s water, with fig trees prominent amongst the foliage. They’re strikingly white against the dusty orange of the area, looking like the White Tree of Gondor to the Tolkeinites amongst us.

Today is the first of three eight hour walking days, which means vast amounts of mint tea at lunch. Mint tea fuels the Berbers in the same way that normal tea powers the British. Mint leaves are mixed with Chinese Green Tea and unfeasibly large amounts of sugar are added and the whole syrupy result drunk with relish. It’s great stuff and rejoices in the nickname of Berber Whiskey, though you can feel your teeth dissolve rather than your liver as you drink it. Big Chris meanwhile has a bottle of the real stuff bought from a supermarket in Ouarzazete, and the odd nip helps the evenings pass pleasantly. In fact, several people bought bottles of wine at the same time, so we’ve had a small glass with a few meals, though not nearly enough to maintain health and fitness as far as I’m concerned.

The cairns are interesting. Some of the pagan Berber beliefs have survived alongside Islam, and here passing men are supposed to build a cairn to increase their fertility and women build one to find a man. Mohamed says it worked for him two years ago (he now has a young daughter) and he might build one next year. I idly wonder if I need to kick one over to lower the sperm count.

And while we’re on the subject of fertility, apparently the best Berber match you can make is with your cousin, as this represents the best balance between keeping the land within the family and casting the genetic net wide. I asked about inbreeding, Mohamed said it wasn’t an issue. Hmmmm. Either the Berbers have a very different genetic stock to the rest of us, or the women have their own way of sorting things out on the quiet if you ask me.

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