I suppose wandering through one of their hillside villages was a little bit of an intrusion. It was only later that I was told of their various taboos and the strict etiquette they followed. It was not unusual to go topless in the heat – this I was told might cause offense with the men, the women might look – "it was very bold" – like turning up on your neighbour's doorstop with out a stitch of clothing to borrow a cup of sugar.
Few people lived in this mud-brick warren and those that did melted away as I explored along the shaded alleys. In retrospect I am sure the people wondered who these oddly appearing strangers were. Dressed in La Coste sport shirts and all sorts of outlandish styles. What ancient boundaries had we crossed, whose front patio had we stood upon – uninvited?
These young children watched my companions from some short distance away. The scarfed one noticed me as I bought my camera up and uttered some sort of warning to the other two. They dashed inside, closing the door behind them.
They are people of Berber descent, a tribal group, native to North Africa. Conquered by the Arab armies in the 7th Century they converted to Islam and then surged across the straits to help capture Spain. I ambled slowly by and was scrutinized through an open plank. The faces were stacked one atop the other in ascending height. I smiled reassuringly and they screetched with laughter at the funny visitor.
The Berbers are a people of tradition and are well known for their wedding fair at Imilchil. Berber women are relatively independant and though their first marriage is arranged in their village by family, those who are unsatisfied will divorce. These unmarried women converge at Imilchil to seek a mate of their own choosing. The divorcees all wear a pointed head dress and are entirely veiled except for their eyes, the groom has little to go on aside from the advice of a friend who accompanies him.
To these people a gesture is as good as a word and much is communicated by some subtle flirtation, a nod, a wink or shrug of the shoulder. The bride's relatives shout advice throughout the meeting, nobody messes with words here. Some poor suitor hardly utters a word before an older brother or uncle might shout out "Too poor, send him packing". "Unhealthy looking wretch, doubt he can father a child".
At the invitation of the bride, a good prospect can hold her hand, thus signifying an intent to marry. In having second thoughts she might cast his hand away and the poor fellow must wander off elsewhere to find another mate.