Herding Atlas

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Shepherd's Hut, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Shepherd's Hut, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Making a living on a dry, rocky, ridgetop in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco is a daunting challenge. If you are successful, it is a living that furnishes the necessities without embellishment.

Livestock are the sole measure of wealth and success. Self-reliance and manhood are not defined by an over-sized four wheel drive truck. Actually, there is no road to parade your truck on anyway.

The struggle is to accumulate and maintain your mules and your herd of hearty sheep. The mule is the main transportation system and cargo carrier. The supplies are all brought home in the large saddlebags of your mule.

You don’t have to spend time painting your house. The house color is determined by the rock formation you have chosen to build on. Houses vary from reds, to grays, to brownish yellow. You might have to maintain the mortar that keeps the cold winter winds out of the interior.

From your shelter you can hear the calls to prayer echoing through the mountain valleys, but you have to pray alone.

There is no reality TV, only reality.

If you have learned other languages besides your native Berber you might aspire to being a mountain guide or a muleteer, providing recreation and adventure to tourists. If you knew English, French, German, and Italian you would be in demand. But then you would have to escort strangers through your childhood villages while they gawk and photograph your homes as curiosities.

Your culture and lifestyle have served your family for centuries. Only recently have minor changes begun to occur in villages nearby.

You are a Berber shepherd. You either solve problems or you perish.

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