Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Morocco part 5: Erfoud and Midelt (the prettiest rocks)

Now we are heading north to the city of Midelt in the Atlas. Midelt (and the nearby mines in Mibladen) is known for fine mineral specimens.

We stop along the way in Erfoud. At Erfoud is a Devonian black fossiliferous limestone that is seen all over the world in countertops and sculptures. It contains spectacular belemnite and ammonite fossils. We visit the factory where the rock is cut, polished and made into furniture and tschotskes!

The city of Midelt is not much to look at but it is full of mineral shops with some fakes and some fine specimens:

Spectacular scarlet red vanadinite from Mibladen. We bought many pieces of this material.  Also nice green rosasite on calcite and malachite/azurite from near the Algerian border at Bou Beker.

These are some lovely blue barites, a relatively new find from Sidi Lahcen.

The mines of Koudiat, in Mibladen, a small village only a few minutes from Midelt.
These are independant miners, we visited with one man who had dug a 50 meter long shaft himself with no heavy equipment. It took him one year to dig and he took us down for a little tour.

But look what we saw! Vanadinite on barite, beautiful!

Everyone enjoyed this experience!

Next, a quick stop in Mesozoic sedimentary rocks at "Les Dalles" (meaning "slab of stones") to see dinosaur footprints.

Still in Mibladen, this is Les Eaux ("The Waters") once a commercial lead mine, now worked only by collectors for galena (PbS), cerussite and barite.

A galena-rich vein. We met a woman inside the caves who was collecting galena. She sells it in Marrakesh for "kohl" - black eyeliner! They used to make kohl from stibnite (antimony sulfide) but it is now too scarce, so they use galena. Unfortunately it is not good for your health to put lead sulfide on your eyes, hopefully better education will help stop this practice someday.

We had lunch at the home of our guide's sister. A tagine of lamb with apricots, wow!

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