On the Quest: Moroccan Lava Clay AKA Ghassool: Part 2
Now that I finally made it to the bottom of the mountain, I figured the worst part of my adventure was over. I forgot, however, that I am claustrophobic. The matter of the fact is that I try not to be claustrophobic, but my mind seems to take over, not leaving with much decision in the matter. I follow the engineer and my driver, two very tall men, into the mouth of the mine. In order to do so I had to bend completely in half. I find this position a little difficult at seven months pregnant. A few feet into the mine and I am assuming the oxygen level drastically dropped. I was fine going into the mine, but all of a sudden I find myself barely breathing and I start to panic. I had to calm myself down and take purposeful deep breaths. Flashbacks came back to me from a few trips to Morocco prior. I could see myself trapped in a tiny elevator with my children, one a baby in a stroller. I remember how I had to calm myself down and force myself to breathe “normally”. I had to realize that although I was trapped in a small space that I could still breathe. Oxygen still existed in the environment although I couldn’t imagine for how long. I told myself that this mine has been here for quite some time and hasn’t caved in yet, so it “most likely” won’t cave in just because I am in it at this particular moment. I finally retook control over my mind and everything was just… fine.
Once I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to die, I then understood why I had to wear this ridiculous looking hard hat. In fact, I got to understand it several times. The hard hat definitely took the blow of me constantly banging my head against the wooden logs that supported the tunnel of the mine. Oddly, I seemed to be the only one hitting my head up against the ceiling. A few moments later we reached the end of the tunnel. There was a rounded area carved out from the walls of the cave just large enough for me to stand in. It was a little creepy and dirty, but I felt that I was in heaven. Weird, I know, even to me, but I guess it was because here I was at the very heart of something that formed millions of years ago. I know that a lot of the earth formed millions of years ago and I could just as easily feel in heaven in my own back yard, but here I was at the source of an ancient clay which I have been enamoring for well over a decade.
Here I was holding chunks of fresh ghassool clay, a clay that I have sold and recommended to thousands of people over my career. A clay unlike any other which has literally transformed the skin and lives of sufferers of many skin ailments such as acne and cracked feet. I lifted up a few chunks which were moist and somewhat shiny. They glistened in the light of our lanterns.
I picked up a pick ax from the corner of the cave and began hacking away at the soft walls. Sometimes I picked away large chunks, and sometimes only a small chunk or two. Anytime my chunk was small I got coached by the men at how to better aim with the pick. Along with the chunks of ghassool I also mined lots of gypsum. Sadly, I didn’t find any diamonds. After having my fill of mining, my new favorite occupation, I signal that it is time to leave. This has been an enchanting moment that will call for me to revisit for many years to come. Walking out of the cave is much easier than going in, although I am still the only one to continuously hit my head and be reminded why it is important for me to wear this ugly looking head gear. I also gained new found respect for hard hat wearers everywhere. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and a huge sense of relief knowing that I hadn’t died inside the mine.
Upon leaving the mine the engineer, who was now overly flattering, took us on a tour of their facility. And of course, we drank more tea. I was on cloud nine. I was very grateful to the Creator for making this event take place and moreover go smoothly without too much injury to myself.
Once we left the ghassool region, we were again back at the processing center where the ghassool is prepared for trucks to drive it all the way to Fez, many, many hours away. I got a special treat. I actually got to “make” the ghassool. We poured the large chunks into metal containers and added water to make the ghassool into a muddy slosh. The mud was then drained through fine sieves unto a large concrete slab where it was allowed to dry by the sun and air.
It was quite chilly actually, but soon enough the ghassool dried and cracked into little sheets. I was handed what looked like a garden hoe and was given the privilege of scraping the ghassool into piles.
This fulfilled my mission. I had traveled thousands of miles via air and four by four to mine with my own hands an ancient beauty remedy that has touched the lives of millions for thousands of years. I was one of a privileged few to go inside an ancient mountain to experience firsthand an archaic formation transported via camel back throughout Africa and the Middle East long before the creation of modern cleansing chemicals. And although all around me were really muddy, we all knew the secret. Just a little water and we’ll all be squeaky clean.