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Round a bend on the beach, rocks and the first fishermen appear but the vision of cows or donkeys (depending on the day) wandering over a relatively small area is surprising.
Close by, a squatted man, surrounded with water cans is digging a hole. Puzzled, we come near. The water is fresh. We taste it and indeed there is no trace of salt; it leaves a sweetish aftertaste. The beach bears the name of this fresh water resurgence: “lmahalou”. We are told there are several of the in different places on the shore like Tafedney at about fifty kilometres from Essaouira, further south. The spring comes from the heights of the Cape and only comes out at low tide. The neighbouring inhabitants bring their animals there and come to draw their own water. We understand why the fishermen’s village is settled here. But it is high tide now, no more fresh water, we’ll have to wait!
Underwater springs have been known by fishermen and sailors for a long time. The sea has a different aspect near them because of the differences in density between salt and fresh water and also because they vary in their flow. Their origin is relatively easy to figure out as they are situated fairly near the shore at a low depth of between 0 and 50m. They are all associated to the carbonate massifs that dominate the shores.
In limy soils, the infiltrating water charged in carbon dioxide dissolves the rock and this flow creates an underground network of ducts (karst network). This underground network starts on the lowest level of limestone present in the landscape: this is the base level where the spring appears. This hydrographic phenomenon makes it possible for fishermen to have fresh water at hand.
In some other areas we saw housewives come to do their washing along the shore. When the tide goes down, the women watch for when their own flat stone will be uncovered and five minutes later when the resurgence appears and eliminates all salinity from the water, they kneel down, dig a big hole in the sand with their beetle, the hole fills quickly with fresh water and they start working. Here, on the beach leading to Cape Sim, it is a sight not to be missed!