On Morocco

Cart and wall

This is a long overdue post about our New Year’s trip to Morocco and some of my thoughts and impressions.

Why am I writing about Morocco in a blog about Spain? Basically because I believe that Spain and Morocco have a lot to do with each other. Because I would argue that, in an ideal world, more Spaniards would travel to Morocco, especially those who disdain the “moros.” To spend time in Morocco is to open your eyes and your mind to Africa, to Arabs (and Berbers), and to Islam. I found it to be a place that benefited me greatly in terms of cultural education.

Here’s a list of things that I noted about our week in Morocco.

1. There are people, everywhere at all hours. I don’t just mean in cities. I mean walking on the side of the highway, carting materials from one place to another, working or looking for work. Or just outside their houses. I remember my sister’s description of Nairobi as I tried to conjure up an image of it myself: “tons of people, all the time.” Where were they all going, she always wanted to know. Upon reflection, it seems to be an aspect of a developing country. The people are out and about because that’s where life is—not in the house in front of computers and television like in so much of the rest of the world.

Berber family

2. I became enamored of the way people dressed. Many men wear a djellaba, a long, pointy-hooded cloak. At first it reminded me a bit of the KKK, but I soon changed my mind. Djellaba come in all sorts of colors and materials and seemed like the kind of thing that is totally comfortable and good for any season. I also found the Berber women’s dress in the villages we visited in the High Atlas very stylish in its own right. They wear all sorts of scarves in their hair, skirts, sweaters, and socks, that are wonderfully colorful.


3. One of the loveliest things I saw on the whole trip were the communal ovens of Xauen. We spent a day and a half wandering around this tranquil town in a perpetual downpour. But we didn’t mind: the entire medina is painted in an amazing celestial blue that makes you feel like you are walking through a fairy tale. And we’d frequently cross paths with people carrying loaves of bread covered with dish cloths on wooden boards. We wondered where they were all going until we finally saw one descend into a low doorway. We peeked in, and there was a man tending an oven, pulling out freshly baked loaves from the hearth and putting more in. It was almost certainly the nicest thing I saw on the whole trip.

Donkey (transport)4. The way vehicles move around the country is astounding. First you’ve got the trucks, which aren’t very long but are loaded about 50 feet high with stuff. Mind-boggling. But really the preferred form of transport is donkey—with or without a cart. On the side of any road you’ll see lots of people riding donkeys loaded with whatever goods they might be transporting: olives, oil, vegetables… In general, you’ve also got a good number of people who drive the latest BMWs, Mercedes, and what have you, and then everyone else, who drive 20-year old Renaults with horrible engine problems. There are also plenty of motorbikes and regular bicycles thrown into the mix.

Traffic5. The way drivers move around the country is, simply put, suicidal. We drove on many many two-lane roads. Moroccan drivers, especially taxis and big buses, like to play a game on these roads called “get out of my way or else.” We found that oncoming traffic rarely respected any sort of rules about overtaking, and frequently had to slow down in our direction for an overtaking driver in the other direction. It’s a wonder that there aren’t more accidents, but we decided that since everyone more or less drives in this chaotic manner, it sort of works itself out.

Riad, Marrakech6. Our first morning in Morocco we found ourselves in a riad in the center of the medina in Marrakech. Imagine our surprise when, in the pitch black of 5 in the morning, we suddenly hear a very plaintive, and quite loud, wail. And it continued for a good 15 minutes or so. We quickly got accustomed to the prayer ritual and the way the town megaphone would crackle to life about five times a day

Market, Xauen

7. Seeing women in headscarves (and possibly more body-covering garments) becomes completely normal, as does seeing significantly more men than women everywhere. But women have their presence, especially at the markets.

A week is not a very long time in the end, and I think when we left I sort of felt like I was finally just getting used to the way everything worked. I’ll just have to go back.

Rue, Marrakech

2 Responses to “On Morocco”

  1. 1 Moussa Tuesday, 2 November, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    we present you the first sociale bookmarking for Moroccan web pages and Webblogs. Your page shows a lot of very nice photos, thanks. We pleased also to see your Moroccan blog on http://www.maroc-ads.com

  1. 1 Second impressions about Morocco « España Profunda Trackback on Saturday, 18 April, 2009 at 3:07 pm
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