Sometimes there’s no other way to get to those off-the-beaten-track places. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for sitting out under the stars, on a hand-made stool, by a wood fire, eating fresh-baked bread and listening to the muleteers or cameliers singing call and response songs accompanied by a motley assortment of improvised percussion instruments. (“Where did my big soup pot go?!”, shouts the cook, Samir – “and where’s the big washing up bowl and my best wooden spoon, for goodness sake?”
Yup, sometimes you’ve just got to let go of fear of insects, face your apparently dyspraxic inability to master tent pitching (or just let a crew member do it!) and take the plunge. It’ll be fine. Really. You’re not the first, or will be the last, to find the idea of a few nights under canvas daunting. But you’re about to join the club of I-didn’t-know-I’d-like-it-till-I-tried-it. Welcome! مرحبا Marhbaa! Think the sunniest Glastonbury you can imagine with far less people and no mud. Think Berber kilims and cushions, tajines and mint tea. Think of waking up to the sound of the sea, the chirruping call of the bulbul or goat bells tinkling on the hillside. Oh, alright, you might get woken by someone tripping over the end of your sleeping bag if you’re sleeping in the chaima, rather than tucked up in a one/two person tent – but then they may well fetch you a cup of coffee or tea to sip while you gather your thoughts ready for the day.
Our camps are managed with typical Berber panache – these people have been nomadic or semi-nomadic for millennia – and it’s an unbeatable experience of this ancient way of life, as well as a means of getting to those before mentioned off-the-beaten-track places.
If I’ve inspired you enough and you want to give it a go here’s some information on our easy Morocco trek (with some moderate bits). Quote Marhbaa (welcome in Moroccan arabic) and we’ll extend the early bird discount to you…. Go on! You know you want to!
Taking a draught of water in the Jebel Siroua – bismillah!
Bismillah! – if you’ve trekked in Morocco you’ll have heard it – it’s used like bon appetit in French or ¡que aproveche! in Spanish. In reply people often say hamdullah or alhamdulillah. These are all terms expressing thanks and gratitude for what we’re about to receive. Bismillah, meaning “In the name of Allah” or “In the name of God” is the shortened form of the Basmalah. This is a full Arabic phrase: Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim meaning “In the name of God the Most Gracious the Most Merciful“. Alhamdulillah, translated as “All Praise and Thanks to God” is used so frequently in Arabic-speaking countries that it might better be understood as meaning “thankfully,” “thank goodness,” or “thank God” as used in English. Which is to say that not all Arabic speakers who use the phrase are consciously praising God when they say it. Hamdullah teams up so naturally with bismillah that it swings in like bitte after danke, and prego after grazie.
The Basmalah rendered into arabic script
Cool or what: The Iranian authorities permitted an album of songs by the English rock band Queen to be released in Iran in August 2004, partly because the song Bohemian Rhapsody contained several exclamations of the word Bismillah. Freddie Mercury (known by the snappy moniker Farrokh Bulsara to his family) was born in Zanzibar to Indian Parsi parents and was proud of his Persian ancestry. Other rockers and rappers have also used the Basmala – from the Wu Tang Clan to Mos Def at the beginning of each of his albums, Lupe Fiasco in Food and Liquor and Rakim on his track from the 8 Mile soundtrack. On a more controversal and irreverent note Busta Rhyme sampled the Basmala in the chorus of his single release Arab Money.
Here’s another one for you – insha’Allah: “God willing”. Any European asking for specific weather prediction, precise times of departure, or just what might exactly be happening when we arrive at… will often be delivered an insha’Allah as part of the possibly hazy reply. We have a version in Spain – ¡ojala! – which paired with mañana gives you some idea of the relaxed cultural attitude you can expect both in the Iberian Peninsular and in the Maghreb.