Rather than portraying each zaouia as a separate blog entry I have decided to present them in groups. Here are zaouias I have visited over the last week or so. They are located in the vicinity of Akermoud and Telmest, almost the furthest that the bus travels north of Morocco. I am quite restricted by the bus times and must take the lighting conditions as I find them.
These are traditionally near the beginning of the Regraga pilgrimage; Sidi Bou Ali is the second zaouia to be visited in the Daour.
Sidi Ali Ben Bou Ali (Bouâli)
This zaouia is a part of a mosque complex and is located just outside of Akermoud, on the A2207 road to Talmest; turn left up a track and the zaouia, easily seen from the main road, is at the end of the track.
It is a delightful zaouia, with very unusual ceramic tiles and a colourful shrine.
I believe this shrine is Lalla Taouirt and the visit here directly follows the visit to Sidi Bou Ali above. I underestimated the distance to Talmest, tried to walk along the A2207 it but it began raining so I hitched a lift with a group of young lads on a school run. I was planning to stop at Sidi Ali El Kourati (Sidi Alla Krati,Loukrati) but it was too far off the A2207 and on the top of a crest. They kindly agreed to stop at this shrine though which I believe is ( though am not totally sure ) Lalla Taouirt. They reassured me it was a Regraga shrine though were in a hurry so I literally grabbed a handful of photographs and we resumed our journey.
Sidi Hamou Ben Hmida
The lads continued to Talmest with me gratefully on board; the rain was heavy and as it was by then mid-late afternoon it was also quite dark. In Talmest I enquired after Sidi M´hamed ben Abdeljalil and Sidi Hamou Ben Hmida zaouias. There was only time to see one of them so I decided to visit the closer, Sidi Hamou Ben Hmida, which was not as straightforward as I imagined.
I managed to secure a return trip for 40 MAD in an old car and we set off up the hill to the little village alongside Talmest and parked at the top of the village. The zaouia was a part of a mosque, and the only way into the zaouia was through the mosque. Fearful i would not be allowed entry, I was reassured that it would be ok, and I was led through the mosque and into a large courtyard where a doorway led into the tomb. However the door was locked and, although my driver enquired, no-one had a key.
We returned back to Talmest and as we entered the town my driver saw the gardien of the shrine. We stopped and he introduced me to him and the gardien agreed to take me back to the mosque and unlock the shrine. On the way he stopped and collected 2 students of the Qur’anic school associated with the mosque and together we entered the shrine area. Inside there was a large room of tombs which they told me were the ‘grand-peres’ which I assumed to mean former senior members of the complex.
They showed me a collection of wooden ‘tablets’ where either texts from the Qur’an are written or learnt, or students write texts to aid their learning. I had walked past many of these scattered on the floor in the mosque just outside, and in this room there was a small alcove with a store of written tablets ( see below ) and one of the students illustrated writing on a blank one using a small wooden spatula with dyed water; there were few books in evidence.
The lighting inside was entirely by electric lighting, hence the colour cast. The tomb of Sidi Hamou Ben Hmida was in a much smaller room and beautifully presented under a green cloth with golden seams and pronounced Arabic writing proclaiming Allah. They explained that the zaouia predates the mosque, and when the mosque and Qur’anic school was built, the whole site was modernised and the zaouia internalised within the newer complex.
It certainly had a different feel than the other more rustic shrines. A number of zaouia had Qur’anic schools attached to them ( Had Dra and Sidi M´hamed ben Abdeljalil – the latter I saw the following day ) where students came from all over the Islamic world to study.
The students ( one from France and the other from Guinea ) agreed to be photographed before I exited through the mosque and the official looking front doorway. The driver/key holder returned me to Talmest without accepting money, in time for the last bus to Essaouira.