Our driver, Jalil, drove across the center line, pulled the car over to the left shoulder of the road, stopped the car, and then he asked, “Have you ever heard of Richard Branson?”
I never heard of Richard Branson. Have you? But, of course, John, Angela, Nona, and Papa all knew immediately who Jalil was talking about, and they said all at one time, “Virgin Airlines!”
“Right!” Jalil said pointing out his driver’s side window, “and that’s his kasbah, but he’s not there now; he’s rented the place to Tom Cruise.” A kasbah is sort of a castle, I guess.
Tom Cruise? Who’s he? “Yeah, Cruise is here making another ‘Mission Impossible’ movie. A lot of movies get made here in Morocco,” Jalil explained. Then he carefully started up the car, crossed over the center line, and, once again, we headed for Imlil.
As we drove down the road, I thought, “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s go inside Branson’s kasbah and meet Tom Cruise,” but I didn’t say anything. Jalil must have read my mind, though, “Yeah, we’d stop in to say hello to Tom, but he’s not there today; he’s out shooting on location somewhere,” and he laughed. So did everyone else, but me. What’s so funny?
Anyway, it just shows what a great driver Jalil is. He really knows Morocco: he knows who lives here, who visits here, and what to see.
John, Angela, Nona, and Papa were taking me up to the High Atlas mountains of Morocco for a few days of hiking. Not long after we passed the Branson kasbah, Jalil said, “Now, we have entered Berber country. All the villages from here and up into the mountains will be Berber.
I was just about to ask Nona what’s a Berber, when Jalil read my mind again. How does he do that! “Most people don’t know that Berber actually means Barbarian. Do you know any famous Berbers?” he asked. Silence. “How about Hannibal for starters,” he answered his own question.
Nona and Papa had been home-schooling me about vocabulary. I had heard something about the word “barbarians.” Heathen, brute, ruffian, wild man or wild woman, thug. All these came to mind.
Suddenly, I called out, “Jalil, Jalil, stop the van; stop the van!” He pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. “What is it, Solbit? What’s the matter?” I said, “What’s the matter? I’ll tell you what’s the matter. We’re surrounded! By Berbers!” Jalil calmly asked me, “Well, is that a problem for you?”
I got as close to Jalil’s ear as I could, and I said, “Jalil, let me put it to you this way: GET ME OUTTA HERE! We’re all going to die. The Berbers are really barbarians, and they’re going to get us!”
Everyone, except Jalil laughed. He understood how scared I was, and he calmed me down by telling me what I didn’t know. “Solbit, the Berber people didn’t call themselves barbarians. They had their own name for themselves, Amazigh, and they are really very friendly and nice people. You’ll love them, and they will love you,” he explained.
“The Greeks and Romans called them barbarians, but that was really war propaganda to make them look like monsters,” Jalili further calmed me.
Also, “You’ve come to Berber country at just the right time, in the early fall. Now is the season of the apples and, best of all, the walnuts.
The Berbers will be busy harvesting the best apples you’ve ever tasted and the walnuts are to die for. Ooops, let me put that another way for you. The walnuts are extremely delicious.”
“They will serve you traditional mint tea with dried apricots and fresh walnuts on the side. Oh, you’ll be in heaven!” I was almost convinced until that last comment, and I said, “But I don’t want to die and go to heaven.” Everyone laughed, including Jalil. Nona interjected, “Solbit, what Jalil meant was that the walnuts will be the best that anyone has ever tasted.”
Everyone looked at me like they were waiting for me to say something. “Well?” Papa asked, “Are you ready to go into Berber country now?” I said, “Yes, let’s go, but I’m not calling the people here Berber; I’m going to call them Amazigh…if I can ever learn to pronounce it.” Jalil started the van and off we went to the Berber — I mean, Amazigh — village of Imlil.
Well, I’m sorry that Richard Branson and Tom Cruise missed seeing me? I’m sure I would have enjoyed meeting them, but the good news is that I’m going to meet the people who really live here!
I’m your friend.
*New reader? Get oriented below.
- You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
- You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”