MOROCCO 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

anticipation


The author is caught by Brenda's lens, having just mounted Ali Baba his faithful and thankfully cheerful camel. We are getting ready for a camel train journey into the dunes of Erg Chebbi in the sub-Saharan regions of Morocco near the Algerian border. Our objective? Simply to travel to a vantage point high in the dunes for a view of the sun setting from these African skies. It is my hope that by reading this blog you will gain at least a small glimpse of the wonders we saw and the great time we have had in Morocco. Some of my entries were done on the road when impressions of sights and events are still fresh in my mind. However it was not always easy to find the time or a connection as so I have now gone through and filled in some of the blanks, added some of the 1,200 or so photos from the comfort of our own kitchen desktop.
The troup near Merzouga, Morocco with Erg Chebbi in the background . This set of dunes which are more than seven hundred feet high are in the middle of a vast area of nothingness. Nothingness, except where there is water. Where there is water, plants can grow and people can survive, even if only temporarily as the desert is harsh and unforgiving. And yet the nomadic way of life is still alive and strong in this part of the world.


April 12 travel day - London to Casablanca



We met up with Dave, Mary and Brenda at Heathrow mid afternoon for the usual airport shuffle and after an uneventful trip arrived in Casablanca around 9 pm. It was dark by the time we got to the city and based on the fact that the driver wasn't too sure of where our hotel was located, we knew we were in for a treat. Hotel Guynemar is in an older part of the city, older and dodgier.

The driver, who knew he was close, had to phone the hotel for directions through the last few very narrow, very dirty and very busy streets. Not cars so much, but people, mostly young and male and I must confess it was a little unsettling as one fellow came down the street, obviously frightened, running hard, his feet pounding on the pavement, not even turning around to see if he was being pursued (he was not). Moments later we arrived and checked in. Fortunately we were familiar with the requirement to surrender your passport at the desk otherwise we might have turned heal and left (except that the taxi had quickly disappeared).

The friendly staff made us relax once more in the quiet tranquility once inside and off the street. Saturday is a day to let loose after Friday's prayers but the street noise abated by, oh, 1:30 or so.


Rooms plain but clean we slept well once things quieted down outside.

April 13 Casablanca

Today, the hotel owner's son, Mostafa, took us on a brief tour of the city. Our first stop was the Mosque of King Hassan II, an absolutely immense structure on the ocean that can comfortably hold 25,000 at a sitting (or kneeling) for prayers.


The square can comfotably handle 250,000 people.



Our second stop was a patisserie which was to die for, or at least the kiss of death for any thought of weightwatchers compliance....


It was interesting to listen to Mostafa differentiate Morocco and Moroccans from other muslim countries in the middle eastern region. Like Turkey, their geography puts them in between worlds and influences. Not African despite being on that continent, not European despite being a French protectorate for decades, and not middle eastern because of ethnicities. While very much a muslim country, we saw very few women in anything approaching orthodox dress in the city. While most heads are covered, colorful jilaba (the head to toe gown with a hoodie that is worn by both men and women. Women, at least muslim women, also wore their hijab over her head) is the fashion, and I had to agree with Mostafa that in many cases the term 'sexy jilaba' was the only way to describe some. The scene changed dramatically in the more rural areas, where the old ways and customs are still very much alive.


After a stroll along the Corniche we lunched at an open air restaurant. Kebabs, freshly squeezed orange juice, sunshine, warm breezes and a stunning view of the ocean - we had to pinch ourselves to make sure this was real.


A Casablancan lunch


While the Moroccan keyboard is not quite as challenging as the Turkish one, several keys are in different positions. The machine I'm on right now has a floppy drive only - no USB ports so alas photo uploads will have to wait.



I must leave you now as we are to meet with our tour group shortly for a meet and greet session. The tour begins tomorrow. As usual, I leave much unsaid but time marches on and so I leave you until next opportunity, which, Inshalla, will be soon.



April 14 - Casa to Rabat


A street in the Kasbah of Rabat

Tha hand of Fatima (the Prophet's daughter) is a symbol that is supposed to ward off evil and the evil eye. Consequently, we saw the hand on many, many doors and in many other places as well. Bering in an Islamic state was a great experience. Immersed in a non-christiuan society was very interesting as their customs and historical roots are so very different from my own Anglo-Saxon Christian roots.



Rabat is now the capital of Morocco, although at different times in history the capital has been Fes as well as Casablanca and probably others. These changes have usually been at the whim of the ruling Sultan du jour. Tribal groups are important to Moroccan's identity and each tries to outdo the other - at least in the ruling classes - in erecting buildings glorifying Allah first and their families second.




April 15 - Rabat to Meknes


One of the doors into a Royal Palace. While the palaces were open top the public in years gone by, security concerns do not allow this anymore. While we remained hopeful of the opportunity to take tea with the king, the closest we got to him were these gates.


Street flower stalls in Rabat





The storks were thick at the Chella Necropolis. Abou el-Hassan - the Black Sultan - was buried here in 1351. He must have been pretty persuasive as his wife, (who also lies here) Chams el-Doha (or 'Light of the Dawn' ) was a Christian who converted to Islam. I can't recall; whether or how many other wives he had.



April 16 - Meknes to Fes





HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLAKE!



April 17 - Fes


Two days ago in Meknes I did a long update only to have the machine crash with all my data lost. This will not happen again, Inshalla, otherwise it may be several more days before I get another chance as tomorrow we head inland to the Atlas mountains and a more rural area of Morocco. Much has happened, all of it good, and I will try to hit the highlights of the last several days. The good thing is that I am typing today on an English keyboard thus all of the letters are where they should be and so I can stumble along at a better pace with only myself to blame for errors.


First I must go all the way back to our last night in Casablanca and our quest for dinner that night. Our guide that day, whose father owned the hotel we were staying in recommended - surprise! - that we should dine at the hotel, this being Sunday night and all the restaurants would be closed. Thinking he had his best interests at heart we decided to ignore his advice and hopped in two petit taxis (they hold a max of three & we were five). During the tour that day we were left with the impression that Moroccan drivers were courteous & relaxed. How wrong we were. Our driver who spoke no English drove at a frantic pace, weaving & dodging, yelling & cursing and generally having a gay old time. Pedestrians generally have to bully there way into the chaotic nightime traffic, but no one tried to do this with a petit taxi bearing down on them. We arrived at an intersection & our cabbie opened the door indicating we had arrived at our destination, however Dave, Mary & Brenda who had left before us were not there and we did not see the restaurant. After reviewing the address again, he swore, jambed the car back into gear and a few minutes later, found the other taxi sitting in front of the restaurant, which was closed. After a brief consulatation we asked to be taken to the second one on our list - also closed. Another brief consultation (and new appreciation for our guide that day) we thought it best to head back to the hotel restaurant. However partway back the two cabbies had a conversation whilst on the fly and they took us to a fish restaurant that I suspect tourists seldom set foot in. The food, while basic was tasty and infinitely better than the crow we would have eaten at the hotel.






In Rabat and Meknes we toured a number of interesting sites which will best be described once I can upload some photos.
Guards at the Royal Palace (one of several thropughout the country) in Rabat. Hence the name of the tour we are on - the Imperial Cities (and desert) tour. The current king, Mohammed VI, seems well liked by his subjects. As a descendent of the Prophet, he is one of a long line of the 'Alawis family dynasty that has ruled Morocco since the early 1600's. Well except for when the French had control.





Leaving Meknes we stopped at a hillside village called Moulay Idriss which is a very important destination as it was founded by the decendant of Mohammed that brought the Islamic faith to Morocco.These Moroccan Beasts of Burden where EVERYWHERE.










All faithful Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Mecca, however, that is unrealistic for a great many people who simply cannot afford such a journey. Maulay Idress is one of only a handful of places where those that cannot get to Mecca can fullfill this obligation - but they have to visit five times, not just once. No cars are permitted on its hilly streets - they wouldn't fit anyway. (And here I thought Cornwall's roads were narrow)

Moulay Idriss









We then went on to Volubilis - a Unesco world heritage site - the ruins of a Roman city of some 20,000 before and up to the time of Christ. Like the Roman ruins in Turkey, there has been some excavation and repair, but it is largly as it was when the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 ruined what was still standing. For me, the remarkable aspect of this site is the mosaic floors some of which remain intact and depite being exposed to the elements for two thousand years or so are still colorful and beautiful in their intricacy and design.


At Volubilis we were amazed at what good condition these mosiac floors were still in despite being exposed to the elements for so many centuries. This was the most southerly Roman outpost and is quite far from the sea. While the Romans had perhaps three centuries of domination in this area the Berber tribes that have inhabited these part pushed them out and had things more or less to themselves until the arabs came west in the 8th century planting Islamic seeds which took root and flourished.




The Romans loved their nymphs, didn't they? Here they are with Diana as she receives water from Pegasus.

Hercules was about the only one on our trip that didn't mind the snakes.






After a picnic lunch we headed on to Fes. Another Unesco site, this amazing city has just celebrated its twelfth century of existence.


As some of you know, Julie's hairdresser was born and raised in Fes and we had the pleasure of being invited to his mother's home for dinner the night we arrived. Lala Tamou lives with one of her daughters Hanane and her son Mostafa inside the walls of the medina. Speaking some french we were warmly welcomed and treated like the king of Morocco was with us. The couscous, the sweets, the mint tea and the fruits were heavenly after several days of restaurant ho-hum.



Lala Tamou's feast






Hanane was married seven years ago. Her husband, like many Moroccans, is living and working in Germany and she is waiting for an entry visa so that they can be a family again. Julie spoke with Mostafa (her hairdresser) and teased him a bit as Lala Tamou revealed that the couscous dish we were eating is his favourite (and I can see why).



The medina in Fes






We spent the day today meandering through the medina in which a million people live. Our guide Abdul is a boyhood friend of Mostafa's and makes his living guiding. He and his wife also own and operate a coffee shop in the 'new town'. Many of the buildings in the medina - the walled city - date back to the 14th century. Many of them are still largley original. The narrow, winding passageways are like a maze.



Everywhere we went - such limited inventory, really!






The wall of slipper's, many of which now wait for the feel of someone's toes wriggling inside them in our front hall.






Words cannot do justice and so I beg patience until I can show you some photos. While the Romans weren't bad at ceramics and mosaics, their designs now seem brutish compared to what we saw today. While much of the work is for the glory of God and king, the riads and houses of the wealthy were equally stunning. The colours and designs are simply brethtaking. With mosaic walls and floors, rich carpets and vibrant fabrics the effect is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. This with the narrow, crowded streets where workers, donkeys, school children and tourists jostle about it was truly a day we will not soon forget. The Unesco designation is helping fund restoration and maintenance. It has also helped raise the profile of the city with foreign investors and thus the future is positive. Do not turn down the opportunity to come here - just do it with a guide so you can enjoy the sights and sounds without the anxiety of worrying where you are or how to find your way out.







We saw and engaged with many artisans at work: Bread being baked in wood fired ovens that have been in use for hundreds of years. A 700 year old tannery which has been a family cooperative for many generations (and yes my wallet was considerably lighter by the time we left). Two men who have been doing embroidery together for over thirty years - one working on clothing for women the other for men. Two songbirds were their only distraction and distraction they were with there beautiful tunes, one calling to the other. Weavers, carpet makers, woodworkers, potters - the list is long, but alas, again my time runs short and so I must sign off until next time.


Believe it or not, we bought (many) leather goods in this shop which has been using these vats to cure the hides for about 700 years. (smelled that way too)







April 20 - Tinerhir near Todra Gorge






Leaving the amazing city of Fes we have travelled through the middle and then high Atlas mountains south towards the Algerian border, somewhere close to the end of the earth. This dry, hot desert area is home to few. Many still live a nomadic life moving their goat or camel herds to different areas depending on the season and where it may have rained lately - ie in the last year or so. In addition to nomads, this is the land of Berbers, Bedouins and other tribes originally from southern Africa brought here as slaves or as mercenaries hired by some Arab aquisitor.





The drive on the 18th was very long - ten hours in the bus. We were travelling a route that the king (Hassan II) was to pass and so the national flag festooned just about everything and the police were everywhere. Moroc is stable politically but no chances are taken. The drive through the mountain passes was long, tedious and frustrating. There were several amazing vistas but it became clear that our bus driver knew nothing about photography as our rest stops were either just before of just after the rights spots to try to capture the vistas. Ah well, our guide redeemed him the very next day. (I have tried several times to upload images but without success).





Our long drive took us as far as Erfoud. On the 19th we set off for Merzouga, a small desert town, basically at the end of the road - I mean this literally as beyond Merzouga is the beginning of the Sahara desert.




Before I take you to the desert, a small chapter from the it's a small world book when chatting at breakfast with one of our fellow travellers, Sheila, upon discovering Julie and I lived in Deep Cove wondered if we knew a Roger Brain as she is good friends with his sister Susan. So, Susan, if she has not done so already, Sheila sends her greetings.






En route we stopped to tour a 17th century Casbah. While fallen largley into disrepair, there is still one family living here. Adobe has been the construction method of choice for centuries due to its cooling ability. Modern construction is now largely brick, while cheaper and quicker, are very hot. Summer tempuratures are routinely above 40 degrees in this area. There are many of these structures falling into disrepair. Why? As far as I can understand, the desert is expanding and the water table dropping. The main export from the area is dates and it seems the date palms are dying due to an undiagnosed disease.

Dates palms carefully tended and protected. Note that the young fruit is bound with palm frond strings so to minimize bruising when the winds blow.






A day in the dunes

Midnite at the oasis? Still hours away - this was only sunset (but we could see the oasis from our vantage point).

April 21 - Tinghir or Tinerhir depending on what map you are looking at.

Finally I have succeeded in upoloading a few more photos, however, the four new ones took over an hour to do, and as always it seems, my time is limited and there are too many thjoughts I want to record before they fade (which happens quickly for me these days it seems)

So, back to April 19th and the desert. While many of us have an image of the desert much like the photo above, sand dunes themselves represent a tiny proportion. We drove for miles and miles through mostly flat terrain with blackened gravel or stones. Occasionally an oasis would appear, easily seen from a distance as you can see green things from a long way away. While nomadic people seem to make out OK in this barren terrain, villages cannot survive without water nearby. Needless to say, there is a very ancient feel to the dwellings and way of life here. It is very dry, hot and dusty - and this is still spring time. Widespread use of adobe with many buildings crumbling away seems to give the concept of standard of living no meaning, they are so far off the scale. Electricity came to the larger towns in this area starting in 1975 but there are still many villages without.




A Nomadic sheppard's tent in the desert - background looking south is Algeria





I could go on about this, but if I did I would not be able to tell you about our adventures or how Brenda managed to get lost in the dunes, after dark in the company of a man she had only met a few days before.


We arrived at our hotel mid afternoon and promptly hopped in Land Cruisers for a 3 hour circumnavigation of Ereg Chebbi, sand dunes that are up to 250 meters in height and go on for about 30 kilometers. Erg Chebbi is very popular because it is relatively easy to get to.
A bad day exploring the desert

I have many amazing photos that you will not see until I get home. After returning to camp we then proceeded to mount camels who would take us up into the dunes to witness the sunset. this was a magical time. Once again we were pinching ourselves. Were we really high up in these magnificent muticoloured dunes watching the sun depart these African skies, our camels waiting patiently to return us to a Moroccan feast? Yes we were - however - the dream dissipated a bit as our young guides took this opportunity to try to sell us the trinket-du-jour. Still even this crass commercialism could not dim a moment of great beauty and tranquility.

Dave celebrates his birthday






April 22 - Tinerhir






Now perhaps some of you noticed in the photo of she and Mary on camels that Julie was wearing a white scarf in what one might think the Muslim way, preserving her modesty. You might think that but you would be wrong. You might also have noticed the little black finger gloves. You might think she was doing this because it was cold near sunset on the desert in the spring. You mioght think this but you would be wrong. Temperatures are getting to the mid thirties during the day and cooling off to perhaps mid twenties, so the teperature at the time was perfect. No, this unusual garb was not about going native or fighting the elements, it was all about alergies. Her theory was that if she did not touch or breath camel she could enjoy the experience without the kind of alergic reaction that keeps her away from horses and other like creatures unless an potent analgesic is nearby. I am happy to report that her strategy worked. While we also had the option of spending the night in the desert sleeping in a Berber style tent (think goat skins, rugs and other like materials) she wisely drew the line at the camel ride.






Brenda, on the other hand, had no illusions that she might defeat the allergy gods and opted to walk along (or at least in the vicinity of and upwind) with the camel train. However, our beasts are much better at trudging through sand dunes and those walking found it hard going because of this and also because we were gaining quite a bit of elevation as the guides were taking us up to a ridge in the dunes where we would have a panoramic view high up in the dunes looking west back to the Atlas mountains.






Brenda, being the practical person she is, stopped well below where the camels had taken us and watched the same sunset from perhaps 50 meters lower, a small dot in the sand from where we were. Small, but bright and talkative with her flashlight. Unfortunately, none of us know semafor. We learned leter that what she was trying to say was, "Don't worry about me, but I'm going to walk back to the hotel". The only thing was that we were in the middle of the desert and because the spot where we picked up the camels was a 20 minute walk from the hotel and because the Land Rovers dropped us not at the hotel but at the Berber camp that had been set up in the dunes, she did not know the route back, just the general direction. Still, she would not be deterred. Hot, dusty and thirsty, the lure of the a shower and a drink must have been strong. (later, the shower was cold and there is no alcohol for hundreds of miles from where we were).






Anyway, back at the camp, Francis, an English gent who also walked with the camel train and had also decided to walk back to the hotel was at the camp, ready to depart, not wanting to wait for a guide. And so, for reason that are unclear, they decided to go together, even though neither knew where, exactly, to go.





Now Brenda herself will have to relate the terrors of being lost in the dunes, after dark, with a relative stranger at her side and a total stranger yelling at the in Arabic from somewhere out in the dark (well, it was a full moon but that just added to the sinister ambience), as they desperately searched for their destination.






Meanwhile, Julie & I were led back to the hotel by the camels about an hour later. After enjoying my somewhat bracing shower I went to look for Brenda as it was getting close to dinner time. You will be happy to learn that by that time her ordeal was over, but, as I was about to learn, while the ordeal itself was over, the emotion of the ordeal was not, and I think its safe to say I have new insight into the Brenda we all know and love. So does Francis.












Climbing to the dawn




A spice seller on market day in Rissani

Descending Todra Gorge





Ait Benhaddou. This Unesco World Heritage site was one of the many amazing old townsites we visited. This Kasbah is alive (and now growing again) with a few residents and many souvenier shops and several (mostly bad) artists displaying their crafts. While the commercialism could get a bit irritating it could not take away the beauty of this place. The Unesco designatiuon means there are more restoration $$ available which is a good thing because many of the sites we saw, already centuries old, are crumbling away and need help.








This is our Explore! troup discovering Ait Benhaddou. With seven Canadians, seven Australians and five Brits, the colonies had superior forces, however hostilities never broke out, not even a skirmish unless we count the time when Brenda and Francis were lost together in the desert.






April 24th - Essaoura (on the Atlantic coast)






Our desert continued as we travelled on April 20th from Merzouga to the Todra Gorge. En route we stopped in the village of Rissani where it was market day. It was similar to a market we experienced in Turkey where there were not very many outsiders there & we were defintely noticed. Still we maneged to procure some bread, veggies and fruit in preparation for our picnic later that day. I have to say that food has not been a particular highlight of this trip, but then, we were not expecting it to be. When one considers the high temperatures, lack of refridgeration and the generral standard of living in the inland areas it is not surprising that the diet is limited by western standards. The tajine, which is a circular, usually earthernwear base over which a conical top was placed is the vessel used to cook a variety of dishes. Meat, be it goat, lamb, beef or chicken is combined with a variety of root vegetables and cooked in the tajine, brout to the table on a heat resistant mat where the top is romoved with a flourish. Different spices and other bits (olives, perhaps lemon, dates, raisins) provide a variety of flavours. Sometimes the vegetables are artfully arranged and sometimes not. In every case the meat is very tender and the veggies are very cooked. Tajines are found on every menu, as is couscous. Some of the sweets have been amazing however, we have done well at resisting these caloric enticements.






As we drove towards Tinerhir and the Todra Gorge the huge roll that water plays in our survival becomes very apparent, as does mans ingenuity in its use. The soil is tremedously fertile, but without water nothing can grow.






Our hike in the gorge was great. Our guide Mohammed mentioned that we would be climbing to an elevation of about 1900 meters where we would have a nice view. He also mentioned that we would be gaining about 500 meters in elevation and suggested we pack water and suncreen and have a hat. I am glad we listened, because it was hot, dry and hot. By the time we reached the lookout, about 3 hours later I was having to conserve what was left of my litre. The effort and the thirst was woth it however as the views were spectacular. The path we took was well used by goatherds and others leading a nomadic life as they took there herds down to the river for water. Once again, you will have to wait to see the photos as my short description does not do justice.






By the time we were scheduled to leave the desert and return to the coast, my body was ready for less heat and more humidity. Our guide of course found this humourous given that with tempertures in the 34 - 38 degree range it wasn't even starting to get hot. We learned that in another month or so daytime temperatures will routinely exceed 40.







Getting back to the coast we had to again cross the High Atlas range and we did this via a spectacular mountain pass that took us from 3,200 m down to 400 m en route to Merrakesh. Blake, you and some of your longboarding colleagues really need to come here (although Julie is pretty sure someone would die during the descent). The grade was consistently 10% or more for I don't know how many kilometers.











Looking over the rail on the Tizi 'n Tichka pass through the Atlas mountains






The switchbacks and hairpin turns were hairaising, especially in a bus in an uncomfortably narrow road where drivers don't seem to pay mudh attention to which side of the road they are on. Anyway, our intrepid driver Abdul skillfully found his way to the bottom, much to the releif of many of us.



Once we crossed over the pass and started to decend we started to see green things again. After a hot and dusty stop for lunch in the middle of Merrakesh (where we finish our trip tomorrow) we carried on to the coast and Essouira where, with the Trade Winds blowing it was delightfully cooler and humid.

Near sunset, Essouria, Morocco


This seaside town was very popular in the sixties and with the combination of beaches, cheap food and lodgings and a fascinating maze of streets to get lost in its easy to see why.One of the many doors hiding the secrets within.





A street in the Jewish quarter






The port still has small commercial sardine fishery. For lunch you can order up all manner of fresh (sometimes still wiggling) seafood, see it cooked right there and then, served hot with pomme frites on the side. This is not a place to linger over lunch as there is usually a line up of people waiting for a (picnic) table to come free.


The beach at Essouria was long and wide but the water was coolish and did not tept us really. We spent two nights here and had rather a relaxing time of it as there were no tours or organized events and after 12 days of if not a hectic then a relentless pace we all enjoyed this unstructured time. Dave and I set off in search of alcohol - a challenging adventure in most of the places we've been in Morocco since the consumption of it is a sin for Muslims. Purchasing it certainly made you feel like a criminal as shops dispensing it were generally hidden or concealed in some way. Purchases were to be wrapped in newspaper or stowed away in a backpack or something so as to conceal the horror from innocent eyes. Very few retaurants served, even those in the main cities.






What's for lunch?




One of the many gates into the walled medina and the souks of Merrakesh, the last stop of our two week Moroccan tour.

You can get anything you want in the Merrakesh Souk



Getting lost in the Souks of Merrakesh.



The beautiful Majorelle Gardens in Marrakesh were restored by Yves St Laurent


A muezzin has been voicing the call to prayer from this mosque, five times a day, every day, for almost 900 years.



May 5th

It’s a week today that Julie and I returned home from Morocco. All week I have been trying to finish up this blog, wanting to do so while the images of events in my mind can still be recalled in some reasonable detail. Not unexpectedly, the day to day tasks associated with home, careers, family and friends can quickly crowd out those thoughts and memories that seemed so vivid at the time they occurred.

Our final days of the tour were spent in Marrakesh where it was getting hotter by the day – uncomfortably hot reaching close to 40C – but still a long way from the 50C they reach when the summer gets going. The rising heat and the knowledge that it is during the month of May that the scorpions start to come out helped with the realization that our time in Morocco was up.

We covered a lot of ground during our two week tour and have come away with a good overview of Morocco, a bit of its history, a few gifts to share at home and a lot of digital images that will help jog the grey cells when trying to recall details of this trip in future years. It was our guide Mohamed who helped us discover the true treasures we returned home with: - the treasures of new knowledge and understanding. Over the time we were there I observed, read and thought quite a bit about the unifying effects of the Islamic tradition of public prayer. Like just about anywhere else in the world, it seems that family bonds, not religious or political ones are still the strongest. It seemed everyone was proud of their ethnic heritage be it Berber, Beduin, Arab or southern African and it was interesting to have this tribal heritage become more clear to me. It’s tough to get ahead economically in a country with large areas of only marginally arable lands and a nominal social safety net. There was not much of a middle class in evidence and there are many that have left Morocco to pursue better economic opportunities elsewhere. However, all these earthly struggles can be set aside, at least for a few minutes, five times a day. This was one of the treasures I took home with me.

Eric Startup