By Jamal Bellehsen
By Jamal Bellehsen
Rabat – The magical region of Imilchil is located in the eastern Atlas Mountains; a small region bounded by mountains. In the horizon, you will find a mighty mountain telling an ancient tale. The region’s inhabitants have given each mountain a name bearing historical Amazigh connotations. In the middle of region flows a river with green banks surrounded by agriculture. Besides breeding, agriculture constitutes the population’s main source of revenue.
Economically speaking, the region is relatively poor, but rich in terms of culture and tourism. Its abundance in touristic qualifications makes Imishil a destination for many foreigners
who flock there each summer, but also Moroccans obsessed with mountain tourism; constituting a significant but seasonal source of revenue as the number of tourists dramatically decreases during winters.
One of the main attractions marking Imilshil a touristic destination par excellence is the myth its mountains tell: a love story ending with the formation of the two lakes ‘Isli’ and ‘Tislit’. The region is also famous for the engagement season organized each year after harvesting.
The origin of the word ‘Imilchil’
In the northern entrance of the region exists a place called ‘lchil’. According to its inhabitants, it was a place wheat and cereal were weighed and it is from here that the name was coined. The word ‘Imilshil’, in the Amazigh language, it is composed of two words: ‘Imi’ and ‘Shil’; literally, ‘the mouth of the weighing wheat place’. ‘Imi’ or ‘mouth’ in Amazigh is used to refer to a place in front of something, for example, the mouth of a cave. The second part of the word, ‘lshil’ means wheat.
Between mountains, a myth emerged
Less known than the romances of Romeo and Juliet, Qais and Laila, and Antar and Abla, ‘Imilchil’ is the source of an Amazigh love story. Once upon a time, there was a serious conflict between two of Ait Heddou’s most important tribes: Ait Azza and Ait Ibrahim. Their problem revolved around irrigation and pastures, leading to a radical break between the two tribes. At the height of this conflict, a young man from Ait Ibrahim fell in love with one of the girls of Ait Azza. This was considered an outright defiance against the tribes though all that the two young people aspired was that their love result in a marriage sealing their pure love. But the growing enmity between the two tribes prevented their love, forcing the lovers to flee to neighboring mountains. They burst into tears lamenting the impossibility of their union; the floods of their tears drowning them into two lakes: Isli and Tislit, forming the great tableau between the mountains. Since that time, the two tribes vigorously celebrate the marriage season, in an attempt to make up for their mistake. This tradition continues and has become known as the engagement season.
After summer time in Imilshil, the rhythm of life starts to slow and the winter brings sub-zero temperatures that cover the region with a white gown. An eerie calmness prevails and transforms what was once a crowded village into an abandoned void. The streets are empty and the only movement seems to be chimney smoke coming out from the white houses. The happy tunes of Ahydous songs are replaced by the bleating of sheep and goats struggling to survive.
In this period begins the real suffering of the inhabitants of Imilshil and neighboring regions. Roads are closed, power is cut and villages are completely isolated from the world for days. Those who did not prepare well for the cold are likely to suffer as it becomes impossible to reach the weekly market to get the most basic necessities. The sick people either live with their sickness or die and bodies are transported in a coffin on the back of an animal; an animal which plays the role of an ambulance. The sick endure their ailments if they are lucky, but some, won’t make it to the spring. Despite the challenges inherent to Imilchil, life goes on.
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