Saturday, May 3, 2014

Morocco--Day 15: Tioute, a Palmerie, Taroudant Souk and Freija

Because we were out late last night, we did not leave until 9 AM.  Our first stop was a visit to an Argan Coop which is run by Berber women.  The argan tree is indigenous to the Souss Valley region, and its nut is highly prized because it can be used in many different ways.  It has only been over the past 30 or so years that the Berber women have created several coops to process the argan nut which provides jobs for the women.

After harvesting the ripe nut from the trees, the next step is to get the meat out of the shell. The technology could not be simpler--a small stone tapping on the nut that sits on a larger stone.  The Berber women are very proficient, and we discovered that Laura had a real knack for it as well.  She might not be as good at cracking the shells as she is at taking bird photos, but she certainly proved to be better than any of the rest of our group who gave it a try (all photos in today's post are mine unless indicated otherwise. Click on any photo to enlarge).

We also toured the room where the nut meat is processed to create the oil which leaves an extruded material that kind of resembles peanut butter.  The oil is used for cooking, and in many body care products.  The cream I brought back has been a big hit with my wife.

On the way out I had to take a photo of this bike since it was so handsomely decked out.  We saw lots of bicycles in Morocco, but nothing quite like this one.

It was now late morning, and we had one birding spot to work through before returning to Taroudant to visit its souk.  It was a large palmerie that we spent over 2 hours meandering through.  First up was a pair of laughing doves (photo taken by Laura).

We came across mostly small birds working the palms, and the crops of beans and barley growing under them.  There were many willow warblers, a few moussier's and 1 common redstarts.  A serin proved to be a cooperative photo op for Laura.


After about an hour we heard the soft purring of a European turtle dove, and while walking around we had several wood pigeons fly over (both photos taken by Laura).

We finally found a whitethroat warbler which had only been seen by Martin a few days earlier in a different palmerie.  In the same area, Laura snapped a photo of a female blackcap warbler. As the sun rose higher, the temps climbed so we were ready to join Mustafa for our usual lunch at a small cafe in the palmerie that allowed us to use their wisteria shaded tables in exchange for buying a drink from them.

After lunch it was time to drive back to Taroudant to visit the souk.  We spent over 2 hours wandering through the market.  At one shop many of us bought spices to take home including saffron that sells for $15/gram in the U.S., but we were able to purchase for just $4/gram.

Other items picked up during our foray included shoes, scarves, a djellaba, ceramic platters and small knickknacks.  We noticed that as we moved through the souk, we would be approached by 1 or 2 of the same sales people.  Our guide explained that many of the shop owners, who did not speak english, would use these people, who could speak english, to help sell to foreigners.  If a sale was made, then the person would get a commission.

The market was certainly a very colorful place, particularly the shops selling food like grains or spices.  We all enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time in the souk, but it had to come to an end because we needed to eat an early dinner to leave time to try for the red-necked nightjar again.

The evening meal once again was superb.  Latifa, the woman who manages la Maison Anglais, had found pigeon to make a truly authentic bisteeya for us.  It was decorated with the traditional powdered sugar, cinnamon and almonds.  Just above it is a tagine of chicken.  We also had a  vegie cous cous, and a salad of chopped cukes, tomatoes and avocado.  Dessert was a dish of apples and pears with almonds and an apricot sauce.

Both Adrian and Martin assured the group that the nightjar that we had seen poorly yesterday evening was a red-necked and not a European.  So after going over the bird day list, which had only the European turtle dove as a new trip bird, just Dan, Laura, Martin and I decided to try a second time to see this bird mainly in hopes of getting good photos.  We returned to the same location where we had found the nightjar last night, a place called Freija.  We flushed one off the gravel road.  We relocated it about 200 yards away, but in our attempts to get close enough for a photo, we flushed it again.

Fortunately, we soon found it or another one.  This time we moved very carefully as we inched towards it.  It took a good 15-20 minutes, but we finally got extremely close so that Laura and Martin were both able to take many photos of it while Mustafa, Dan and I held up bright lights.  We finally had our fill, and slowly backed away from the bird.  It watched us the whole time, but chose to stay put.  We were more than ready to get back to our beds and a good night's sleep in order to be ready for tomorrow's birding near Agadir.  Our number one target bird would be the bald ibis.  Stay tuned!

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