Medina! Medina! The words seemed to echo throughout the towering limestone walls as we walked out of the Taghia Cirque. Naema, a young girl, begins to appear her head bobbing slightly above the tops of cornhusks as she runs toward us to say goodbye. Cloe (Medina is her middle name) and I are greeted by almost everyone, around every corner, with this same smile and gratitude as we walk out from the Berber village of Taghia. Each person we pass thanks us for our time and effort spent over the course of the last month building a new roof for the school and for helping with the trail safety maintenance. It has been a long and demanding trip to this remote cirque in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, but no expedition has ever felt more rewarding and nothing has carried the same weight of emotions as the echoing voices of the village thanking us and wishing peace upon our departure.
I can’t help but think back three years to the first time Cloe and I walked into Taghia and my initial thoughts of how life stood still. With no electricity and no running water for most of the villagers, how had seven hundred years managed to speed past without notice of this one small point on the globe? Without the conveniences of the modern world, the pace of life remained tranquil, more peaceful than any other place I had ever visited. Truly, as the villagers call it, Heaven on Earth.
I felt a sense of calm as I gazed toward the summits of the towering limestone walls, anticipating that same sense of clarity one finds midway up a long free climbing route.
Climbing is the common thread between most of those who seek adventure and exploration in this remote corner of the world. We seek the experiences of the largely unexplored towering walls and the challenges they provide while discovering new routes. And we seek the lessons of a foreign people, broadening our minds through living and working side by side with the Berbers. We are all proud to have not only established a new and difficult route on one of the largest walls within the Taghia Cirque but to have given back to a community that has always welcomed us, not as foreigners, but as family.
With each passing year the village of Taghia becomes a little more familiar with the ways of the western world. Micro hydroelectric serving a handful of the houses, showers and sometimes even espresso are a few of the modern conveniences that now greet the traveler upon arrival to Taghia. Europeans, due to their proximity, began the movement and represent the greatest numbers visiting the area. But we all share the responsibility to bring with our desire for climbing a heart open to and respectful of the culture and a hand willing to help offset our impact on the village’s resources.
I encourage all who visit Taghia to, at the least, bring a small amount of basic school supplies for the school. Tarhir, the teacher, will distribute the supplies as needed to the students.