Running and hiking in the mountains throws up its share of pain and anguish. There are some passes that I only have to think of and my quads start burning. One of the joys, though, is the chance to see everything close at hand: the crazy geology, the baby mountain goats, the wind-blasted junipers and the Berber people living their lives in the high valleys.
We had just come over Tizi Mizk pass from Imlil for a two day walk and were staying the night with a family in Tizi Oussem. It’s a small village, crouching behind some of the great passes, but there is a dirt road not too far off and so it boasts some little shops selling coke and sardines. Terraced farms crawl up the sides of the mountains and there are sheep, goats and chicken for meat.
We had eaten a tagine with the family and heard the last call to prayer. It was dark and freezing and a long day was ahead of us, so we piled on the blankets and got ready to sleep. Then, the muezzin coughed into the mosque loud speaker and made what sounded like a long public announcement.
The next morning, as we set off, we met a whole trail of men loaded with gear coming up the hill. At the back was someone with a huge pot of hot, sweet tea and lots of little glasses. Rachid explained what was going on.
The mosque in the village needed repairs and so what we had heard the night before was a call for all the men to get together the next day to carry them out. The mosque is the physical heart of these tiny villages and community is at their core. The men had set aside the day to work together and were digging out foundations and laying concrete and compacted clay with gusto. If any of the men couldn’t come they would contribute some other way – by giving a little money or donating some materials. Nobody grudged the day spent away from their farms or businesses or the hard labour. In fact, there was a bit of a party atmosphere as everyone laughed and joked and shovelled and, of course, stopped for tea.
This is the other side of Islam. The one you don’t see online, in print and on screen. It is a million miles from ISIS.