Monday, May 22, 2017

The Birds of the Air


    It's been there for years, this wooden box nailed to our fence. It's long sat empty, waiting for a pair of birds to claim it as their own. Made by little hands, nailed and fastened together, it's been full of nothing but hope as seasons have come and gone. But early this spring, as rains continued to fall from cold, grey Oregon skies, little voices excitedly proclaimed that they'd seen birds flying in and out of that box.

    For the last six weeks, we've watched with delight as this little mama and papa sparrow have day after day flown in and out carrying bits of this and that. We've laughed as one approached the nesting box carrying a twig far too big to fit through the little hole, watched with amusement as Papa Sparrow  sat for a moment on top before reluctantly releasing his prize twig and fluttering off in search of something not quite so grand. The kids have been thrilled to see them picking up tufts of fur from our bunnies or bits of horsehair that have migrated home from the ranch.
    And then one day an egg was spied by a pair of peeking eyes. Some helpful child took a roll of packing tape and fastened the box so no one else would be tempted to open it and disturb this little family in the making. We watched with great anticipation as this faithful Mama and Papa took turns sitting on their clutch of eggs, flying back and forth all day long. And finally, about a week ago, we heard the first faint cheeping sounds coming from the box, and we've listened happily as the nearly constant cries have grown stronger.

    It's been a hard season for our family, a walking through trials that threaten to swallow us up. My faith has been stretched and tried and stretched some more. At times I am tempted to give up, but like Peter I say, "To whom would I go?" My mind often falls into the familiar groove of worry, my stomach knotting with anxiety and fear. How many times I have stood at my kitchen window and watched these little birds! And the gentle voice of my Jesus comes, bidding me to cast my cares on Him, reminding me to look at the birds of the air.

    Is it any coincidence that this year, of all years, this little pair of sparrows made their home not six feet from my kitchen sink?  They are a gift, a reminder to my weary soul that if our Father cares for these little birds, how much more does He care for me and mine? Like Elijah's ravens, I believe they were sent to minister to my soul, to nourish and sustain my faith in a time when I've been tempted to despair. I have listened intently over the last week, hearing the persistent cheeping of tiny birds we've not yet seen. Their voices have changed swiftly from faint little chirps to loud and confident cries. Their Mama and Papa are continually flying back and forth to keep their brood fed.

    And I am reminded, again and again, that I cannot add anything to my life by being anxious. What I can do is join my voice to the chorus that is taking place outside my window, waiting confidently, trusting that I and my family are of much more worth than those little sparrows. If our Father cares for them, then how much more will He care for us and hold us close? If these little birds hunger and are sustained, then how much more will we, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, be filled? Soon that box will be empty again, and yet for me, it will still hold the reminder of the gift that has dwelt in it through this difficult season.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25)

Friday, May 19, 2017

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

Sahara Desert, Morocco, 2017

     I don't recall when I first became "acquainted" with Tsh Oxenreider, but I remember going through her book Organized Simplicity years ago and loving what she wrote about crafting a statement that defines who you are as a family. That helped me as I sorted, organized, and pared down in preparation for selling our home and traveling in 2012. I've since enjoyed her blog, podcast, and other book, Notes From a Blue Bike. Her love of travel, simplicity, and faith have often left me feeling like she's a kindred spirit, and more than once I've felt like she's written words that are in my heart.

Chichen Itza, Mexico, 2007. There's a baby Raphael tucked inside.

    Little did I know at the time, but Tsh and her family lived just a few hours away from us before they too sold them home and embarked on nine months of world travel. Her newest book, At Home in the World, chronicles their journey as she and her husband Kyle, together with their three children embark on a round-the-world adventure. More than a travel memoir, it's one family's search for belonging and becoming, of seeking to discover the meaning of home and to reconcile one's wanderlust with the need to make a home in this world.

Santa Barbara, California, 2012, our tiny home on wheels. I loved the freedom we had to explore with the security of having our own little home wherever we went. 

“Earth's crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God, 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    Like Tsh, I long to wander this earth, to explore the beauty that is so lavishly spread upon its seas and continents. I want to experience different cultures, languages, ways of life. I love to be in a place where the language is unfamiliar, where I'm half guessing at whatever I do. But at the same time, I and my family need the stability of a place to call home; we need to put down roots and sprout wings. I too live with the tension so well described in At Home in the World and struggle to reconcile my wanderlust with my love of keeping a home and filling it with memories and security.

Morocco, 2017, having tea with a semi-nomadic Berber family. There are all kinds of homes in this world, and our lives were enriched by the generosity and kindness of this family who welcomed us into their humble cave.
   The Oxenreiders left home without knowing where they would land at the end of their journey. We did the same thing, having sold our home and pulled up stakes in Oregon, we set out into the unknown, trusting that when the time was right, we would know where to settle down. We assumed it would be in a different country, and were surprised to find ourselves back in our hometown a little over a year later, starting over in many ways. Although it wasn't what we had envisioned, it was definitely where we needed to be. Tsh and her family ended up in a familiar place as well, and for largely the same reason - community. 

Thailand, 2015. Pearl makes friends wherever we go.

     Our children need to grow up not only as part of a global family, but as an integrated part of our local community. We often connect with people while traveling, but for us, there is something to be said for the deep roots that we have put down at home. Being near family and friends who know and love us is something we can't replicate anywhere else in the world.  We need to see the world and experience her beauty and culture, but at the end of the day (or the trip), it's good to have a place to call home. I have come to the same conclusion as Tsh, that in the end, we will always long for more, always have lingering feelings that maybe we should be somewhere else. As C.S. Lewis put it, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explantation is that we were made for another world."

London, England, 2017. The Dr. Who fans among us were pretty excited to find the TARDIS! Having one of these would make travel so much easier! 

      I loved reading about the Oxenreider's adventures as they traipsed around the world. It's always fun to meet other traveling families, and though we've never met them in real life, I feel like they're our kind of people, people crazy enough to take risks like selling their home and traveling with a family! Whether you are a jet-setter or armchair traveler, At Home in the World is both a fun and thought provoking read on what it means to find your place on this planet. 

Panama, 2013. We stayed overnight in a floating house on Lake Gatun, part of the Panama Canal waterway. Caimans and monkeys and parrots, oh my!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Atlas Film Studios: In Which we Detour to Tibet and Ancient Egypt

I gasped in surprise and delight as we stepped from the bright desert sunlight of Morocco into the dim interior of the Tibetan monastery used in the film Kundun, about the Dalai Lama and his escape to India. It's a film I've seen several times, and the Tibetan people are dear to my heart after spending time amongst them in Nepal and in Mcleod Gang, India, current home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Before our trip I had learned of the presence of Atlas Film Studios in Morocco, and thought that if we were nearby it might be fun to visit. Peregrine has a keen interest in filmmaking, and when we learned that our trip to the desert would take us through Oaurzazette, we asked our guide if we could tour the studio. It was only about ten minutes away from where we stayed the first night, so the next morning we were excited to go check it out. Our tour guide was quite a character and had clearly given the tour a time or two (thousand). He was full of interesting bits of information and had quite a sense of humor. 

The books in the beautiful nooks of the monastery walls weren't books at all, but props made of something like dense foam. It was interesting to knock on "rock" walls, only to find them flimsy and hollow. The set designers are quite amazing! I look forward to watching this film again and spotting some of the places we saw. Our guide told us a cast of 300 Tibetans was on site filming over the course of a couple months. The Atlas mountains, not nearly as high as the Himalaya, served as a decent stand-in! 

The courtyard of the monastery.

Pearlie and me in front of the gate into the monastery courtyard.

Leaving Tibet, we stepped into a village that might be ancient Jerusalem. Movies such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Last Temptation of Christ, and Gladiator, and Ben Hur have all been filmed here. 

Raphi exploring the "village".

It was interesting to see behind the scenes, as many of the sets are built to be filmed from only one side. Again, we were so impressed with the sets and how realistic they looked! I want to watch some of the movies filmed here now.

Traveling back in time, we entered ancient Egypt! This was a massive hall full of pillars, the court of some Pharaoh or another. Moses, Jewel of the Nile, Cleopatra, and The Mummy have all been filmed here.

Kids, we're not in Kansas anymore! This one reminded me a little of the Lincoln Memorial!
We had such a fun time strolling through history and learning a little bit about filmmaking in the process. I'm so glad we took the time to visit Atlas Film Studios. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Off to the Desert: Imlil to Oaurzazette

Tizi n'Tichka is one of the highest paved passes in the High Atlas. The road leading to the pass was winding and narrow in places, but well maintained, and our driver was cautious and attentive.

    The lure of the Sahara was too great to pass up and we knew we had to make an excursion across the Atlas in order to experience a bit of the famous desert of Africa. Many tour operators offer guided trips to the desert, and we spent a bit of time in Imlil looking at different options. In the end, we took a recommendation from someone in our family travel group and booked a four day private tour through Desert Majesty. We've never done anything like this before, usually being content to piece together our own adventures using public transportation and sometimes renting our own vehicle. We were very happy with our experience and felt it was worth every penny to have our own personal guide and driver for the excursion. We definitely saw and experienced things we wouldn't have on our own. 

    After a hearty (carb-filled) breakfast at the Riad Atlas Prestige, we loaded our bags onto a trusty mule and made our way one last time down the steep, rocky path into the village. There we met Said, who was to be our driver and guide for the next four days. Young and friendly, Said is from a Bedouin family and grew up as a nomad in the desert. At some point his family moved into town so his siblings could attend school; a few days into our excursion he took us to his family home where his lovely mother served us a delicious meal. But I'm getting ahead of things; first we have to get there.

     Our first day's journey took us down the valley from Imlil and back toward Marrakech. From there we headed up into the High Atlas and over the Tizi n'Tichka pass. We stopped for lunch at a funny place, clearly set up for tourists, the sort of place we would never eat on our own. The kids were thrilled to have french fries and omelettes, and Erik and I ordered tagines. We joked with Said how we didn't usually eat at places like this, and the next day he took us to the local place instead. Erik and I thought the food was much better, and the kids, well, the kids ate bread for lunch. Goat tagine just didn't appeal to them!

The ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou.

     We continued on our way and in the late afternoon took a little detour to stop and walk around the ksar (fortified village) of Ait-Ben-Haddou. It is situated on the southern slopes of the High Atlas along the ancient caravan route that passed through the Sahara to modern day Marrakech. Built of earthen clay, it has been beautifully restored and maintained using traditional materials, primarily earth and wood. There are still a few families that live inside the ksar, but it is mostly empty now. It is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back at least to the 17th century.

I am always struck by how people who had to work so hard just to survive put in the effort to beautify their surroundings. It inspires me to continue to create beauty in my home, even when it seems that no one appreciates it. I do believe it makes a difference! I love the decorative motifs on the walls. 

The surrounding hillsides reminded me of the American Southwest with its deserts and painted hills.
   Up, up, up we walked, on ancient stone paths worn smooth by centuries of feet. At the very top there was an additional fortification and a large building that we were told served as a storage facility for food. Each family would contribute to the store, and it was kept for times of drought or siege. Looking out at the surrounding hillsides, I was amazed that people could bring life out of what appeared to be so barren. 

My familia! 

Across the river is the "new" town. You can see that Ait-Ben-Haddou is built above an oasis. Morocco is a beautiful country of contrasts, with snow capped mountains rising from the desert!
     It's quite likely that you've seen Ait-Ben-Haddou, as it's been the setting of quite a few movies. Morocco has a thriving movie industry, and the next day we visited one of the big movie studios in nearby Oaurzazette. This ksar, being so well preserved and complete, looks like something straight out of the Bible, and has been used as a film set in such movies as The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, The Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, and more recently, some episodes of Game of Thrones. It's easy to see why this is a favorite location for such movies!

This must be the "yard" of one of few inhabited homes remaining in Ait-Ben-Haddou. Many Berber families still live in close proximity with their animals. 

Erik could walk around all day photographing the beautiful doors of Morocco. 

One final glimpse of Ait-Ben-Haddou as we crossed back over the bridge to the new village to continue on our journey. I'm so grateful to have seen this place. Many Moroccan villages still blend into their surroundings like this, with walls that match the reddish earth.

As we walked back to our car I was struck by the light on the blossoming trees, their delicate fragrance filling the late afternoon air.
The center of our riad in Oaurzazette.   The picture doesn't do justice to the grand scale of the archway.
Five course meal? Yes, this is the way we travel when Desert Majesty books our accommodations! 

    Upon our arrival in Oaurzazette, we stopped in at the Desert Majesty office to pay for our excursion and get a briefing on what to expect. We were met with a warm welcome, mint tea, and cookies. The office was right on the city square, and as it was Friday, the Muslim holiday, many families were out enjoying  the evening. The smell of popcorn hung in the air, and children raced around the square on little battery operated cars and trucks. The city seemed clean and modern and friendly.

The view from our riad in Oaurzazette, looking out over the date palm oasis to the snowy Atlas beyond. Have I mentioned that Morocco is beautiful? 

    From the Desert Majesty office we drove just a little further through Oaurzazette to the riad where we would stay that night. Our package included accommodation and meals, and we really didn't know what to expect. We pulled into a little courtyard and Said began unloading our luggage. Ripe oranges hung heavy on the limbs of a nearby tree. We walked into a beautiful hotel built in riad style, around an open courtyard. We were given two rooms, so Erik and I each took two kids for the night. We'd left Imlil with slightly damp laundry, so before long my room had clothing hanging and laying out to dry on every available surface! We made our way to the dining room and were surprised to be served a five course meal on white linens. This is definitely not our normal choice of accommodation, but we enjoyed it. The goats bleating outside the window through the night, accompanied by the occasional dog and rooster, reminded us that we were indeed still in Morocco.

    To be continued...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Imlil: In Which We Run For the Hills

The view from our guest house, the beautiful, snowy, High Atlas mountain range.

    Apart from getting us in and out of London, a one way ticket from London to Morocco, and lodgings in Marrakech, Imli was the only other accommodation I booked ahead of time. On other trips I've done far more planning in advance, but this time I decided to let the trip unfold a bit more naturally, allowing for more flexibility as we go. This was partly due to not buying our tickets until two weeks before we were leaving. I simply didn't have time to do the research necessary to plan out all the details for a two month trip that will take us to four different countries. I figured that as long as I have an internet connection and a couple of Lonely Planet guidebooks, I can keep a step or two ahead of us, booking accommodations and transportation as we go.

    From the reading I had done, I knew that a few days in Marrakech would be enough and that getting out into nature should be our next step. We engaged a grand taxi to drive us to the mountain village of Imlil, a journey that would take about two hours even though it's less than 45 miles away! From Marrakech's palm lined streets you can see the snowy Atlas mountains in the distance, a beautiful juxtaposition of landscapes. We made our way up a winding mountain road, impressed with our driver's caution, something not to be taken for granted! The village of Imlil is nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, and is the center of mountain tourism in Morocco due to its close proximity to Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. The tarmac ends in Imlil, and many people come from far and wide to trek in the High Atlas and attempt to summit Jebel Toubkal.

Pearl and the luggage got a lift! 

     We arrived in Imlil and were excited to be met by a mule who had been engaged to carry our luggage up the steep, rocky hillside to our guest house.  It was quite a trek up there, and when little Pearl began to lag behind a bit, the mule driver hoisted her up to ride the rest of the way! Before long we were flanked by two other muleteers offering their services for a mere 150 dirhams (fifteen US dollars). I declined repeatedly and firmly, but they accompanied us up the greater part of the hillside. These guys are persistent, not rude like some of the touts in Marrakech, but apparently they hold onto hope long after it's gone!  

   We arrived at the doorstep of the Riad Atlas Prestige a bit out of breath and were welcomed by Ibrahim and ushered out onto the patio where we sat in awe of the gorgeous, snowy Atlas mountains towering above us. The air was crisp and cool, but we were warmed by the sun and our exertion, and delighted to sit and rest in such a place. Over the railing was a sheer drop, and we could look out across the valley, over Imlil, and to other small villages spread out across the hillsides, the minarets over several mosques residing over each community. Ibrahim appeared a few minutes later with steaming mint tea, poured high into small glasses for each of us, and a plate heaped with nuts, raisins, and dates. Once we had rested a while we were shown to our room where we settled ourselves for the evening.

Our room came complete with slippers and jellabas, the long, hooded cloaks worn by Moroccans. Poppy and I had fun  trying them on!

    Ibrahim asked if we wanted dinner, and as we weren't keen to walk down into the village again that day, we gladly accepted that offer. We usually prefer to eat in the little, local places, which tend to be cheaper and often better quality, but we thought for our first night it would be good to stay "in". Dinner in Morocco is usually offered between about 7 and 10 PM, so we've had to adjust to eating later than we usually do, which means the children often get to bed later as well. (Now if they would just figure out that sleeping in is acceptable!) We walked downstairs from our room, breathing in the cool mountain air, gazing in wonder as a nearly full moon rose over the Atlas, its light illuminating snow-flanked granite peaks. I love the mountains, which I attribute to being born in Canada's Rockies.
The cozy room where we ate breakfast and dinner.
    We were ushered into a curtained room lined with low couches. A wood fire crackled in the stove, spreading cozy warmth, and candlelight flickered on tables. We sat down wearily, hungrily, and helped ourselves to bread and olives, the only proper way to begin a meal in Morocco. Soon a steaming bowl of soup was placed before each of us, and we sipped its delicate broth from small, carved wooden ladles. It was delicious, and I would have been satisfied with the meal at that point, but, as it turned out, we were just getting started!

Soup of the evening... beautiful soup.

    Our soup bowls were whisked away, and in front of us was placed a still sizzling tagine. Steam billowed as the lid was lifted, releasing the tantalizing fragrance of chicken slow cooked with preserved lemons and olives, topped with a variety of vegetables. It was delicious, with surprising layers of flavors, both sweet and savory. At this point we were really, truly full and more than satisfied, but then came tea! More small glasses of sweet mint tea were sipped, followed by a platter of oranges and bananas. I had expected mediocre guest house food and instead enjoyed the most excellent meal of our trip so far. We wrangled our very tired kids upstairs for bed, with full bellies and happy hearts. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door, and one of the guest house guys was standing there with four hot water bottles for the kids!

Tangines simmer on clay braziers in front of many little shops and restaurants. For around 30  or 40 dirhams (3 or 4 dollars), you can choose the one you want, usually goat, beef, lamb, or chicken with several kinds of vegetables, served up with a basket of crusty bread.

     The next day we enjoyed breakfast in our guest house, a typical Moroccan carb-fest of bread, crepes with jam, and thankfully, hard boiled eggs and yogurt. (Sometimes it's just bread; one place served us no less than six varieties of bread at breakfast one day!) After satisfying our hearty mountain appetite, we relaxed on the patio for a while in the sun, writing postcards and working on our journals. A Moroccan family was staying at the guest house at the same time, and she and Pearl engaged in a game of Monopoly, made quite humorous by the communication and cultural gaps. (Out of money? No problem, the bank has plenty! Just take some.) I enjoyed my visits with them over the next few days, and Pearl and the little girl played together several times. After an enjoyable morning we decided to walk down into the village for lunch. 

Tiny tagines for sale in a little shop in Imlil. Pearl decided I must have one of these, and bought a turquoise one in my favorite color with her own money. She snuck it home and wrapped it up in a scarf to give me as a gift. Sweet girl. 

    We enjoyed rambling around the small village of Imlil. It reminded me so much of time spent in Nepal in 2000 and 2001, with its beautiful mountain setting and an abundance of shops organizing treks and selling used trekking gear. I never knew the Atlas were a prime trekking destination! You can do anything from a small hike nearby to a couple weeks. Given the beautiful setting, I can see why people come here to spend time in these mountains. 

These two muleteers offered us their services repeatedly as we walked around the village. When it came time to walk back up, we bartered a bit and got to ride the mules for 20 dirhams, the equivalent of two US dollars each. The kids were absolutely thrilled! (And I was glad we'd not been roped into the fifteen dollars ride the man had offered us the previous day. We must have had that "just arrived" look! I asked Ibrahim later how much a ride should be and he said 30-50 dirhams, so I guess our bartering skills are up to muster.)

I wasn't going to buy a carpet, but...

    Really, truly, I had no intention of buying a carpet! Nope, not me. We traveled with only carryon luggage, although I did plan on bringing one extra bag home with us, knowing there would be a little shopping along the way. About a third of the way up the hill was a cooperative that sold carpets and other handmade items. On our way down, the salesman invited us to come take a look, and we told him maybe later. When we walked by in the late afternoon, of course he was there waiting for us. We walked in and Mohammed began showing us some rugs while the children looked at the magic boxes, little carved cedar puzzle boxes that fascinated them. 

    Mohammed is the father of seven children and lives in a nearby village, walking 30-40 minutes to work each day. He lives with his parents and a couple of his siblings and their children, a total of around 20 people in the household. Only a few of them have paying jobs, which seems to be a fairly typical situation in Morocco, and those that do financially care for the rest, who contribute to the household in other ways. I have long loved textiles, and so of course I was thrilled to look at the carpets, and Mohammed was happy to answer my many questions. They are made in the traditional way, from wool that is sheared and spun and dyed with natural pigments, the way it's been done for centuries. Often a women has a loom in her home and works on it in her found moments in between caring for children and her many other responsibilities. I delighted in seeing the colors and beautiful patterns, all the while saying I couldn't take one home with me. Erik pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted one, I could buy it. Plot twist! Being the submissive and agreeable wife I am, I settled on a medium sized rug, assured it was of the finest quality, bartered appropriately, and became the happy owner of a Moroccan carpet.  And like Mohammed said, I made him happy, and he made me happy, and now he could go and buy tea and sugar and couscous and meat and vegetables for his family! (The carpet pictured above isn't the one I ended up with. Mine is smaller and has a different design. This one was a bit out of my league!)

I'm afraid the kids are ruined for normal hiking now. Can't we just get a mule to carry us when we're tired? 

    We engaged a local guide through our guest house, and the following day he, along with a mule and muleteer, led us on a trek around the valley. It was a beautiful, clear day, and we hiked over seven miles up a steep hillside, through patches of icy snow, and across a rocky valley just beneath the snow line. We walked through an ancient Berber village, its steep stone paths worn by countless feet over the centuries. We continued along, making a wide circuit, stopping to rest among pine trees, where we ate oranges and bread left over from breakfast. The three younger kids took turns riding on the mule, and I even rode for a short time. (I like going up, but going down? Not so much.)  We came upon a little herd of baby goats that scattered, bleating, as the kids approached. In a few places we saw mules grazing contentedly, probably glad to be given a respite from the carryon of burdens. 

A glimpse of our trekking party. I was so proud of how well the kids did during our long day. 

The hillsides around Imlil. 

    Out of seemingly barren land, these hard working Berber people have fashioned terraces for growing their crops of wheat and vegetables, along with fruit trees. Apples, cherries, apricots, walnuts, and plums, their buds swelling, dotted the hillsides. In a few more weeks they will burst forth in delicate pink and white and red blossoms. I was continually amazed to see the ingenious water irrigation systems in place, diverting water from the streams and rivers. We walked alongside a concrete channel complete with several sluice gates for watering the terraces. It also powered a small mill, presumably for grinding wheat into flour.

One of the Berber villages we walked through. Though a road has been built, it doesn't appear that too much has changed here for centuries. 

Our guide, Hassain, preparing tea.

    Hassain either didn't have much sense of time, or was unused to leading parties that contain small children. We finally stopped for lunch in the mid-afternoon, hungry and tired and very ready to take a break! We were led through the dark and narrow stone passageways of a Berber home and out onto an open rooftop where a table was laid out for us. Glad to have a chance to rest, we sat down and watched as Hassain prepared the tea. As the gunpowder green tea and fresh mint leaves  brewed, he asked if we'd like sugar, and we said sure. He proceeded to grab two lumps at least the size of golf balls and throw them in the pot! Needless to say, certain children thought it was the best tea ever! 

Little boy, big tagine.

   We were grateful for the large loaves of bread and "salad" that arrived shortly after the tea. The salad consisted of chopped tomato and pepper, fresh herbs, and cumin, similar to a chunky salsa, only not spicy. It was a delicious start to our meal, and was soon followed by not one, but two steaming tangines of savory meat and vegetables. We ate as much as we could and it felt like we hardly put a dent into the food! After that was a bowl of delicious tangerines. I love that dessert in Morocco is typically fruit of some sort. There are definitely sweets to be had, and plenty of sugar, especially in the tea, but for the most part fruit is considered an adequate dessert. One of my favorites was a platter of sliced oranges sprinkled with cinnamon.

    After our trek, we had one more day to enjoy Imlil. We spent it resting up after our big outing, something we find necessary for travel with children. It doesn't pay off to push everyone too hard, and so we try to balance the big days with more restful ones. We walked into the village again, spent time visiting the Moroccan family staying at the guest house, and worked out plans for our onward journey. I loved our time in Imlil, and am so glad we were able to be there.