The next town beyond Aouchtam is called Oued Laou (Pro: Wed Low) and it means The River Laou. It’s a real town, with streets, shops, many homes and apartments and each Saturday there is an open air market, called a Souk in Arabic.
While I have never been a fan or flea markets or sidewalk sales, this Souk came highly recommended as the best place to buy fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. The Berbers (one of the tribal people in Morocco) bring their produce down from the hills (usually by donkey or mule) each week. While the men do most of the selling, the women go about doing the marketing. The women wear very fanciful hats and the most colorful striped aprons that were so clean they looked brand new.
The first time I encountered a group of these women, dressed in native attire, I thought I was somewhere in the Andes Mountains of South America. Their faces, their clothes, their whole appearance reminded me of scenes I had seen in documentaries of Peru or Ecuador. I half expected to see llamas and alpacas coming along behind them.
The Souk was crowded — we had been told to go early but early comes late in our household — and we were soon being swept along with the masses, hardly able to stop and see what was being offered for sale. And what kinds of things were being offered? In a word EVERYTHING. My first purchase was two new head scarves, which I still need to learn to tie properly.
We looked at shoes, household stuff, hanging meat, live chickens and finally we arrived at the vegetable stalls. It all looked fabulous, so I just began selecting things. Two large cucumbers, six beautiful zucchini, four green peppers and about three pounds of carrots. Three dirham for the entire lot. That’s about 36 cents. I couldn’t believe it! How do they make a living?
At the next stand I chose a four-pound cauliflower, three pounds of apples and about 10 gorgeous tomatoes. The cauliflower was really expensive, 19 dirham — the farmer was almost apologetic. The whole bill came to 31 dirham, or about $4.
We passed displays of olives in five colors, piled high on silver trays. Our load was getting really
heavy, so we passed, much to Tomas’s chagrin. We won’t be passing those up next week. I was so shocked by the prices that I almost forgot one of the main items I had come for — lettuce. Suddenly, there was the lettuce and cilantro grower right in front of me and I purchased two bunches of each. A couple of days later when I went to clean these items for salad, I discovered that the bundles were tied together with strands of grass. No plastic or wire here — only what Mother Nature supplies. I was so touched, I wanted to kiss the Berbers. I know, totally inappropriate. But I did snap this photo.
I really liked the little town of Oued Laou. It had a nice feeling about it. We stopped for lunch and had fish Tajine — fish and veggies “baked” in clay pots over a fire. We ate in an enclosed patio, across from the Mediterranean and watched the people on the sidewalk and other diners who braved the breeze to eat at tables with colorful umbrellas closer to the water.
All this week we’ve been enjoying this vegetable bounty. Everything tastes so good, like I remember from my childhood. I’ve been singing the praises of the Berber people with every meal I prep. We’ll be making regular trips to the Souk on Saturdays. Bon appetit!