Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Ice

Near the Cascades de Ozude there is a remote Berber village. A forty-minuet walk along a scattered path down to the canyon floor and back up takes you to the interconnected mud houses that climb the hillside. There is something classical about the hike through red soil almond groves and lush river bottom foliage, from a time when all human settlements could only be accessed in such a way. It feels like a local outpost of the Inca Empire or something similarly prelapsarian. 

In the village lives a man named Mohammed who, lord only knows what the authorities make up so that he can, at least on paper, have a last name. Mohammed, like almost all Moroccans, will invite any foreigner he sees into his home for tea. There in the quiet of the second floor of the mud house Mohammed will show off something he is rather proud of, a bottle of solid ice. The implications of having a bottle of ice in such a place are clear, power and wealth. Such a bottle was either brought in that day from town, showing an ability to get things with ease, or it was made there, showing the ability to afford to run a freezer in May, not the hottest or most necessary of months for refrigeration.

Of course, amongst those who know, Mohammed and his village has something to be far more proud of, some of the best olive oil in Morocco. This traditionally extracted, flavorful oil is a high mountain rarity, scratched out of steep cliffs moistened by the falls of the cascades. And yet this oil is insignificant, passé, compared to the awe inspiring sight of ice.

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