NORTH AFRICA- 2007: Morocco


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Travelogue Posts from North Africa


Chellah ruins, Rabat, Morocco.

 Moroccan food: Couscous, Chicken, and vegetables.

Vendor selling goods near the pool of the egg eating eels. Chellah ruins, Morocco.

Narrow lanes of Sale, Morocco.

Political Map of North and West African Region:

Planned Route of Travel:

Above is a map of my intended route of travel through deserts, mountains, and whatever Africa is like in Senegal and southern Mauritania. I read that the overland route from Western Sahara to Mauritania is possible, but I cannot find a coastal road on this map. My hope is to meet up with a bunch of camper van travellers and hitch a ride with them. But this is not very likely, so I will just go down there and find out what happens. This is what travelling is all about, no?

First Impressions of Morocco
Casablanca, Morocco
September 7,2007

I go to bed tonight, after my first day in Morocco, full of excitement. For there is a whole world that I have not yet explored The Muslim countries stretch to the east and all of Africa is to the south Whatever fatigue of the wandering spirit that three and a half years of Asia inflicted upon me has been washed away in one day of walking through Casablanca’s winding and turning medina. And I know that this city does not even begin to represent the rest of the country

One of the most startling things that I have experienced in Casablanca is that I am left alone. That is right: I can walk through the streets without being hassled, called to, or stared at. I am not use to this. Asia and South America has taught me that, while travelling, I am on exhibition; that I am something different and should be observed, yelled at, followed, and hustled. I do not really mind this approach towards me, I even sometimes welcome it- there is no better ‘go-ahead’ to stare at someone than them staring at you. I also like the attention. But in Casablanca nobody seems to show the least bit of interest in me and, I must say, it is a welcomed relief. One of my roommates in the Youth Hostel thought that I was Arabic. I laughed about this but later while out walking I stopped to look at my reflection in a parked car’s window. I have a long black beard, dark features, and I was wearing a button up plaid shirt that I purchased in India and ambiguous cotton pants. The men here also have black beards, dark features, and wear button up plaid shirts and cotton pants. If I kept the tattoos covered I may be able to blend in here to a certain extent. Well, until I open my mouth and try to speak. But Casablanca is Morocco’s commercial city, and I expect that I will be received much differently in the countryside, where people are not as use to the presence of foreigners.

Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca also surprised me in another way: the degree of communication between people on the streets is unsurpassed anywhere that I have ever travelled. People are sitting and standing around everywhere in large groups just talking and laughing the day away. I tried so hard to find some people eating in a café where I could just point to their food and indicate that I wanted to order it. But I could only find the cafes packed with people who were not eating, or even drinking, but only talking Just sitting around talking to each other. Hundreds of people talking in large groups on the street and nothing more. It was enjoyable to observe. There are still large cities in this world where the inhabitants I communicate with each other, there are still cities that have community. I vicariously enjoyed this as I went about my walks. I am still smiling about it.
I was told a story the other day about how Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States’ independence from England. In appreciation of this the government of the newly formed USA presented the leader of Morocco with a pet lion. The Moroccan appreciated the gift but did not have enough food to feed it properly. So after some trials and tribulations he realized that he was going to have to share his own personal food supply with the hungry beast. So that is what the leader of Morocco did- he shared his meals with the lion.

Friends in Casablanca- The Brothers
Rabat, Morocco
September 10, 2007

The Brothers:

I met a pair of brothers while staying in Casablanca: one stayed at home and lived his life in Morocco, the other emigrated to the Ukraine fifteen years ago. The Moroccan was around 22 years old, slenderly built, highly refined, well-kept, and spoke in an almost dainty, eloquent way. The Ukraine brother was in his 40's, very large, rotund, bald, bearded, and spoke and moved in forceful bursts. The ways in which cultural mechanisms can alter people is simply amazing. Both brothers seemed to be very kind hearted, but the differences between the ways that they carried themselves made me . The Morocco brother seemed to be so Moroccan, while the brother who moved away to the Ukraine seemed so very Russian- I could easily picture him in a heavy wool coat swigging back vodka while engaged in a boisterous game of cards. I find it interesting how this happens? It is so interesting to me how people seem to have such a strong natural inclination to copy the rythems that flow around them. It is so amazing how adaptable humans are. Two brothers from the same home and up-bringing, separated for fifteen years by great cultural distance, reunited to realize how different they are.

“He says that he is Moroccan,” exclaimed the Moroccan brother about his long-lost kin, “but don’t listen to him, he is Ukrainian.” We all laughed at this. The Ukrainian just lifted up his arms, cocked his head, and acknowledged the fact that his little brother was correct.

Perhaps we really are just the makeup of our surroundings after all. It really makes me wonder how the continual, rapid-fire, and ever changing exposure to different cultures shapes the traveller.

It was during this conversation that I revealed myself as a writer for the first time- though I have only ever had one article published- and the impact that this had seemed to be enormous. “What do you write about?” the Moroccan brother asked. “Culture,” I said, for of lack of a better explanation.

Then, all of a sudden, our simple morning tea time conversation turned into a lesson on Moroccan history and culture. I welcomed this turn with open arms, as I knew next to nothing about Morocco. So I sat there absorbing my history lesson, enjoying the tea that the Ukrainian brother
provided me with.

I was told about the King and how he took control of the military in the 7o’s, about the politics behind marijuana production- “If they told people that they could not grow marijuana they would not be able to live”-, about the migrations and divisions of Berber tribes- “Nobody knows the origin of the Berber people, but the Berber language is very similar to German. Maybe the Berbers migrated down from Europe”, and about how football is the modern means of displaying ancient inter-cultural strife through the safe medium of competition.

“To make war in football is easy,” the Moroccan brother told me. He added to this by saying that football provided the many cultures of Morocco a way of carrying out lang standing cultural feuds vicariously through sport. “Every city (and thereby cultural sub-group) has its team.” He went on to explain, almost critically, about how football, as a spectator sport, has also taken on the form of a cultural sedative. “People watch football so that they can forget about their lives,” he told me with a painful expression. “They may not have any food but football allows them to forget about it for a moment,” he continued. He also made it a point that he did not know much about football. He seemed to be part of the young Moroccan intelligentsia. I really enjoyed his lecture.