Reflections on Morocco - part I
14 October 2010 | Smir, Morocco
We have been in Morocco now for over a week and I thought i would distill for you some of our thoughts on this place for those of you who might be interested.
This is our 3rd Arab country we have visited -- after the Islamic-Christian Turkey, and Tunisia. I loved the former, but hated the latter. I am pleased to say that Morocco falls on the good side of the 'like' line. The people are very friendly and show no animosity towards Americea's 'Big Brother' foreign policy. The men are quick to make eye contact and extend a smile. The women are more reserved and most of them have their heads covered with shawls such as the Muslim religion requires.
Morocco is a very new country -- it only received its independence in 1956. It is a bit of an anomaly since we have spent the past year visiting countries with thousands and thousands of years of history. Certainly the land of Morocco has enjoyed a long history. But the country itself is only 54 years old.
It has had only 3 kings -- Mohammed V, his son Hassam II, and the present king and son of Hassam II - Mohammed VI. It hurts to see the poverty. We drove by one of the villas of King Mohammed VI. The walls of his villa extended for miles and miles along this road, with guard posts every kilometer. And this is just one of many palaces the ex-king owns. Yet the other 99.9% of the populace lives in poverty.
It is not as bad as abject poverty. There are still lots of cars and apartments and things. But you can see it is not a wealthy country -- probably cuz it has been stripped by the kings!
Morocco is more expensive than I expected. We tried to go to Tangier (called Tanger here) and the only hotels left were over 100 euro/night mega-hotels. That was online. Maybe there are small hotels available in town, but we didn't want to take that chance. The currency is the dirham (pronounced deer-ham) and runs about 8 dirhams to $1 USD (10 dirhams to the euro).
Tomorrow we travel to Chefchaouen in the interior of Morocco for a couple of days at a B&B for 65 euro/night. We'll give you the 2nd installment on these reflections when we come back.
We met a Spaniard here in the marina who offered to give us a ride 30 min. into Tetouan, the next big town. (There is absolutely nothing here in Smir.) We went to a super-size grocery store called Marjan (mar-jhan). It was like a Fred Meyers in that it also carried clothes and things. But it also had a small open market inside of it. All of the produce gets weighed and priced before you check out. This is not unusual -- most of Europe is this way. But they were also selling olives, cheese, meats, Moroccan spices, dried fruits, grains, and all kinds of things in bulk. You would also take these to be weighed and priced prior to checkout.
There are a few things that are cheap here. Oranges are apparently incredible. They are out of season right now, and the skin of Moroccan oranges is ugly and unappealing. But apparently the juice/meat of the orange is incredible. The dates and figs are also great buys. But there is no sweet milk here unless you want to buy the ultra-homogenized crap that we refuse to eat. So we are back to the same yoghurt milk that we ate/drank while in Turkey.
We'll probably take a bus to Chefchaouen, but taxis are most common use among tourists because they are so cheap. But we rather like traveling with native people, so we will use the bus tomorrow if the opportunity allows.
And we haven't heard the minarets of the mosque blaring cheap, tinny calls to prayer like we heard in Turkey. I gotta believe they have it and we are just far enough away from a mosque to not hear it. (Again, there is absolutely nothing in Smir!!)
There is a small snapshot for now. Like I said, when we get back after the weekend I expect to have a second installment.
In other news, we got word this week that one of our crew for the ARC, David from England, was forced to cancel due to a family emergency. We are greatly saddened by the timing of this cuz over the past 6 months the crew of David, Elise, and Andy have grown pretty close
So now I am working to find a replacement for David. We have had considerable interest and I hope/expect we will have something figured out by the end of next week.
But on top of that, the next Andy emailed me to tell me he also had a family emergency! He insisted it wasn't anything that would keep him from doing the ARC. But he wasn't sure about helping with the delivery down from Gib to Grand Canary. So, as usual, everything is in a state of flux and we will pray for these two families and see what comes of it.
I am not too worried about the delivery since Will and I could make it by ourselves, if we had to. (Ditto with the crossing.) But I am hoping we can pull the team together on the delivery so they will have that experience on the boat prior to the start of the ARC. I guess we'll just have to see!!!