We’d been driving in the desert looking for nomads to photograph when we found this woman and her family. They were breaking camp, well, she was. She was rushing around, her long skirts flying, as she gathered her goats and chickens. She set the goats in baskets strapped to her donkey. The chickens were simply placed atop the pack saddle. They seemed to know that they were to roost there until she took them down again.
Her baby, about 1 year old, was held in place atop the pack saddle by her husband. Her husband looked less worn than she did. He wore a navy blue suit and a rather casually tied chech (turban). He did nothing to help her, so if she looked worn out, she had a right to. (I would guess that she was in her 30′s FYI.)
This is a mountain Berber girl. We spotted her as she was washing clothes in a stream. Naturally, she was not alone. Most women in Moroccan society do not go about alone, not even to wash clothes in a stream. Her mother and children were with her. She was so young that I thought the children were her mother’s. And her mother may well have had toddlers herself.
She was dressed in her best, her necklaces in place, her earrings, her eyebrows outlined in liquid kohl and her colorful clothing fresh. It was as if she had expected her portrait to be taken on that morning. The two women were not shy about speaking to my Berber guides. Berber women are not so ‘cloistered’ as Arabized Berber women. Berbers still recall their old ways before Islam. In the past, many Berbers were Jewish.
This woman was also a mountain nomad. Her home was a tent in the High Atlas mountains. It had been a drought year, so the family had set its tent near a rough track traveled by tourists in 4×4′s. There were several families living in the tent. Most likely all were related.