Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quick Notes: Morocco

  • Did not at any point feel uncomfortable in any city or village I visited.  Sure you will probably stand out as a foreigner but the looks I got were not aggressive at all, simply observation.  Even walking back to the hotel late at night in Marrakesh was no issue for me.  I dressed conservatively -- Long pants, 3/4 sleeves. 
  • I severely underestimated the distances between interior locales even though I have experience driving through our Rocky Mountains here in Canada as well as in Colorado.  Going through the Atlas mountains took a long time.
  • Don't underestimate the dryness.  I was surprised with small signs of heat exhaustion when I thought I was doing well.  Moisture will evaporate so looking/waiting for signs of sweating won't be accurate.  Funny enough, thirst was less for me.  Again, not a good sign.  Although I took fewer rehydration tablets than in SE Asia.
  • Hotels have great signs with facts on water consumption.  Wish I had taken a picture of one.  They are very smartly done.  Seems obvious now, that a country like Morocco would be way more aware of and advanced in water conservation than we are in Canada.  
  • They are currently dealing with significant water table decreases due to the amount of agriculture they do.  I couldn't believe they grow watermelon in the desert??!!  Also the extensive export orange tree groves drink up a lot.
  • I found Moroccan family men to be so very present and dedicated to their families.  It was really lovely to witness. Felt very warm to me. 
  • Was amazed how women there could be so covered up (black!) and not be wanting to fall over from heat.  Maybe they did but I did not see it in their eyes.  Women didn't look at me at all.  They made sure they looked straight ahead when walking with their spouses who did look.  Noticed that when they would walk by other female visitors also.  I don't know what that means. 
  • Next time I visit, I will go during Feb/Mar when temperatures are much cooler.  It was mid - high 40s Celsius in the desert.  A lot fewer tourists though. 
  • I would also try and fly into Ouarzazate, hop on a 4 x 4 from there straight to the camels and fly out of Agadir.  It was wonderful to be in a "resort" city after being in the desert.
  • Fascinated with how the various nomadic Berber people have adapted to live and survive in the desert environment.  I'm drawn to harsh climates and civilizations who thrive in such extremes.  Bought a beautiful small handmade rug by a Tuareg woman.  
  • Each year rug stores personnel (many from nomadic backgrounds themselves) will go on a 3 month caravan to visit various nomadic groups to source out new rugs.  That is how many women contribute to their household.  They weave in between all the regular work.  So one piece takes months with each region having their own distinctive style and texture.  So very different from Turkish rugs.
  • I would love to participate in a desert caravan.  There is so much to learn about that type of travel and life.  For example, drinking tea vs water, using rose water to refresh (really works!), indigo dye all over which acts as sunblock and deodorant -- Thus the descriptor "Blue men of the desert".
  • Personally I do not feel a need to return to Marrakesh again.  Would like to spend more time in Casablanca.  Such extremes between the rich and poor there.
  • Having said that, the orange juice vendors in Marrakesh (Jemaa el-Fna) are a hoot.  Some come across as cheesy salesmen and some genuinely are fun loving people.  After buying a glass from a particularly friendly guy, I got to go behind his stall and climbed up on the platform so that he could give me directions to a restaurant.  (during one of the times where I took time off from the group)
  • There is a 1000 MAD currency limit in and out of the country.  It's not much and is easy to go over, like I did.  
  • Had no real issues anywhere in the country including the airports -- Always carry toilet paper, hand sanitizer.  Pharmacies are professional and helpful.  I drank tap water.
  • If you make even a small effort to speak French or Moroccan Arabic, doors open.
  • The roads are excellent!!!  I could not get over it.  We need to bring their road construction teams over to Canada.  Great, new equipment.  Beautiful paving.  (Remember I was Vietnam and Cambodia earlier this year)
  • And finally, for those like me who cannot get over/enough of the concept of goats in's a way better picture than I was able to get, courtesy of a friend.  Really shows just how strong Argan trees are to be able to support all that weight without bending much, if at all.  I can't help but smile when I look at this.

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